The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) on Monday involved the jathedar of Akal Takht, the temporal seat of Sikhism, to wiggle its way out of criticism over militant preacher Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale's name and photo appearing at the Operation Bluestar memorial in the Golden Temple complex despite promises to the contrary.
As diktats issued by the Takht are binding on the community, SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar announced a three-member committee led by jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh, also involving Harmandar Sahib head granthi Giani Mal Singh and SGPC executive member Rajinder Singh Mehta, who was among those who were taken in custody during the June 1984 army operation launched to flush out armed militants from the Golden Temple. Mehta was then a member of the All India Sikh Students' Federation (AISSF), whose president Amrik Singh was among those (including Bhindranwale) killed in the operation.
At the main entrance of the memorial -- built by Sikh seminary Damdami Taksal once headed by Bhindranwale, and inaugurated close to the Akal Takht building on Saturday -- an inscription dedicates it to "Bhindranwale and other victims", though Makkar and even chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, patron of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) that helms the Punjab government as well as the SGPC, had expressly stated it would not carry any names.
Damdami Taksal head Harnam Singh Dhumma had set aside garlands and revealed the inscription just at the end of the opening function on Saturday, which prompted claims of surprise from Makkar. Badal was not at the function and remains cagey on the matter, though SAD's partner BJP has demanded removal of the references to Bhindranwale.
But radical group Dal Khalsa criticised the Makkar-led committee and the SAD for "reacting negatively" on the issue, and revealed the SGPC's alleged doublespeak on Bhindranwale's name at the memorial. Quoting from a resolution passed by the SGPC executive committee on May 3, Dal spokesperson Kanwarpal Singh said that Dhumma had acted in accordance with the resolution. It states that Dhumma is "authorised to raise a memorial in the form of a gurdwara in memory of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and others who were killed during the 1984 army operation".
Makkar refused to talk on the resolution and stuck to the stance that he had expressly stated the memorial would not carry any names. "The three-member panel will find an amicable solution to the controversy as quickly as possible. It will talk to all the parties concerned," he told the media, setting no deadline. But he added, "We will not allow anyone to disturb communal harmony and peace in the state. We have built a memorial as every community has a right to remember its martyrs; and our intention has never been to create any form of tension."
The jathedar, too, when contacted by the media, said, "A solution will be found and we will talk to everyone concerned."
In recent years, the SGPC has formed numerous such panels to solve religious issues and controversies, but not one of those had the jathedar on board.