Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh has clarified that the scheduled November 10 Sarbat Khalsa (congregation of Sikhs) called by certain Panthic organisations will have no legal or religious sanctity.
“A Sarbat Khalsa can only be called by the jathedar of the Akal Takht in consultation with the ‘Singh Sahibs’ (high priests). No other organisation or individual has the right to call such a gathering. All Sarbat Khalsas have been held at the Akal Takht,” he claimed, while addressing the media on Thursday.
Panthic groups, including the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) of Simranjit Singh Mann, the United Akali Dal of Bhai Mohkam Singh and a couple of other radical groups have given the call for the November 10 congregation.
The jathedar said the organisers were free to call it a Panthic convention or Panthic meeting but could not use the term ‘Sarbat Khalsa’.
“The organisers must realise that holding a Sarbat Khalsa in this fashion would not be in the interests of the Panth, which is passing through a difficult phase,” he added.
The meeting, to be held near Chabba village on Amritsar’s outskirts, does not have the support of the Dal Khalsa and the SAD (Panch Pardhani), two radical groups that have been demanding the resignation of the jathedars of the Takhts for their role in pardoning Dera Sacha Sauda head Ram Rahim in a 2007 blasphemy case (the pardon was later revoked).
Bhai Mohkam Singh and others have claimed that besides discussing incidents of sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib, the replacements of Takht jathedars will also be announced at the event.
To placate his opponents, the jathedar made an open offer of holding a Panthic meet after Diwali for discussing the current crisis engulfing the Panth. “Representatives of all ‘jathedbandis’ (groups) could sit together at the Akal Takht and take stock,” he added.
However, for the ‘crisis in the Panth’, the jathedar only made a mention of the sacrilege incidents. He did not speak of the manner in which he, along with the other jathedars, had pardoned the Sirsa dera head and later withdrawn this decision.
The crisis had actually started after the pardon drama, with not just radical Sikhs but even moderates questioning the decision to let off Ram Rahim. Even within the SAD, this decision was criticised and now there are demands for resignation of jathedars.
Calls for unity
Pointing to the numerous incidents of sacrilege, he said, “This is not the time to fight among ourselves but to unite under the aegis of the Akal Takht.”
The jathedar appealed to all Sikhs to unite and wage a joint battle against ‘anti-panthic’ forces behind the sacrilege incidents. He claimed that the administration and the intelligence agencies had failed to check these cases.
On whether deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal, who is also the home minister, had failed in his duties to check these incidents, the jathedar was evasive, “In today’s Tarn Taran incident , the government took no time in rushing a large police force.”
Repeated questions about his resignation got the standard reply, “I have nothing else to say.”