From Our Correspondent
Veteran Akali leader and Rajya Sabha MP, Gurcharan Singh Tohra, who passed away in New Delhi on April 1 following a cardiac arrest, was cremated at his village Tohra in Patiala district of Punjab with full state honour. Vice President of India, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, Union Ministers, Arun Jaitley, Vinod Khanna and Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, Punjab Chief Minister, Amarinder Singh, SAD president, Prakash Singh Badal were among the prominent personalities who attended the funeral.
Gurcharan Singh Tohra headed the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) for 27 years. Having become a member of the SGPC in 1960, he was elected to the executive a year later and became its president in 1973. He remained ensconced in that position till 1986. He was often called panth da roshan dimag (enlightened mind of the Sikh community) and ?Pope of the Sikh?. Only a fortnight ago he was re-nominated to the Rajya Sabha. Earlier he was elected to Rajya Sabha in 1969, 1980 and 1998.
During the Emergency in 1975, he was imprisoned under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA) despite being a Rajya Sabha member. The real test for Tohra'sleadership came in the late 1970s when the control of the Golden Temple passed into the hands of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and other separatist elements. Following the 1984 riots, he refused to accept the Punjab accord signed between the then Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) chief, Sant Harchand Singh Longowal. He called upon the hardliners to demolish the Akal Takht building which was repaired by the pro-government religious leaders. The building was rebuilt after several years. When Tohra and Prakash Singh Badal came together in 1977, the Akalis formed the government, which fell apart in 1980 when they split. Tohra again joined hands with Badal in 1996 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the SAD. The party made a clean sweep in the assembly polls of 1997.
Paying tributes in New Delhi, former president of Rashtriya Sikh Sangat, Sardar Chiranjiv Singh and present president, Sardar Gurcharan Singh Gill, described Tohra as an undisputed personality who dominated the Akali politics for years. ?As supremo of the SGPC, he continued to guide the Sikh Panth with great devotion and unparallel ability. In times of controversies and difficulties he stood like a rock and continued to be the beacon light of Sikh Panth. He was spotless in the present scenario of corruption. Although he had differences with the Rashtriya Sikh Sangat on certain issues, we preferred not to enter into any controversy with the great leader. We fully extend our sympathies to the bereaved family,? they said in a condolence message released in New Delhi.