Amritsar, Sep 24 (IANS) The Akal Takht — the highest temporal seat of the Sikh religion — on Thursday said it has pardoned Dera Sacha Sauda sect chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh following a written apology from him.

Akal Takht jathedar (chief) Gurbachan Singh told media persons here that the sect chief wrote an apology letter to the Akal Takht in which he said he had no intention to show disrespect to the Sikh Gurus or hurt the religious sentiments of the Sikh community.

The Akal Takht head said the sect chief was asked to refrain from any actions in future which could hurt religious sentiments of Sikhs.

The apology and the pardon brings to an end a bitter chapter, lasting for over eight years, of strained relations between the Sikh clergy and the Sikh community on one side, and the sect chief and his followers on the other.

The Dera head found himself in the midst of a major controversy in May 2007 when he was accused of hurting the religious sentiments of Sikhs.

Sikh organisations accused Gurmeet Ram Rahim of wearing an attire in an advertisement, resembling the tenth Sikh Guru Gobind Singh.

The controversy led to violent clashes between Sikhs and the sect followers.

The sect chief, who has millions of followers in Punjab and Haryana, was booked by Punjab Police under various criminal sections.

The sect chief stays in a sprawling campus near Sirsa town in Haryana, 275 km from state capital Chandigarh.

Following the clashes, the sect chief had initially offered to hold talks with Sikh leaders but he was asked to first apologise for his actions.