Head of Sikh religious body still critical
AMRITSAR: A top Sikh religious leader in northern India was still critical on Saturday after suffering a massive heart attack but doctors said he was expected to come off life support over the weekend.
Doctors treating Gurcharan Singh Tohra in Amritsar, the holiest Sikh city in India’s northern Punjab state said the 80-year-old was responding to treatment and “showing satisfactory signs of improvement”.
“His condition is still critical and he is under the influence of mild sedation,” said H.P. Singh, a cardiologist at Escorts Hospital where Tohra was being kept in intensive care. Tohra is the head of the Sikh religion’s managing body, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), which runs Sikh religious and cultural affairs worldwide and is headquartered at the temple complex.
There are some 20 million Sikhs around the world, most of whom live in Punjab. The SGPC is hugely influential among the affluent and powerful Sikh community.
Tohra, besides being the head of the SGPC, is one of the senior leaders of the state’s main opposition party, the Akali Dal, which in the 1980s backed calls by Sikh militants for an independent homeland.
Priests at the Golden Temple complex of Amritsar, the Sikh religion’s most revered shrine, were reciting prayers for Tohra’s recovery. Prayer meetings were also held at gurudwaras or temples across Punjab. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krisha Advani both visited Tohra in hospital Friday after attending a political rally in Amritsar ahead of parliamentary elections next month.
Two decades ago, Indian troops crushed a lengthy Sikh uprising that left thousands dead. The Akali Dal now supports closer federalism within the Indian union.
Many of Tohra’s colleagues were keeping a vigil at the hospital. —AFP