Braving Delhi’s searing heat, devotees of Baba Hardev Singh, head of the Sant Nirankari Mission, joined his funeral procession as it made its slow, meandering way towards the Nigam Bodh Crematorium Ground , where his last rites were performed today. The 62-year-old spiritual leader died in a road accident in Canada last Friday.
The bodies of Baba Hardev and his son-in-law, Avneet Setya, who also died in the accident, were flown to Delhi from Montreal on Monday. For the past two days, the bodies were being kept at Burari Road in west Delhi, as devotees lined up to pay their respects.
Speculation over who would lead the sect after the Baba’s untimely death came to an end on Tuesday night, with the Nirankari Mission announcing that it had anointed his widow Savinder Kaur as their head . In her late fifties, Kaur will be the first woman and the fifth in line to lead the sect.
At the anointment ceremony attended by all the 21 members of the mission’s management committee,Kaur was offered the symbolic ‘dupatta’. After taking over, Kaur told the followers of the sect to remain in harmony with each other.
Besides his wife, the Baba is survived by three daughters -- Samta, Renuka and Sudeeksha. Early rumours had strongly suggested that Sudeeksha, who is the youngest of the three, was tipped to become the next leader. Her husband Avneet Setya also died in the accident. Apart from Sudeeskha, the name of Baba’s eldest son-in-law, Sandeep Khinda, was also doing the rounds.
Baba Hardev Singh headed the sect for 36 years, after he was anointed in 1980. The Nirankari sect, which claims to have more than 10 million followers across the globe, was founded by Baba Buta Singh in 1929 . Buta Singh’s teachings confronted the tenets of Sikhism, leading to bloody clashes between the two. His followers were ex-communicated from the Sikh fold in 1978.
The Nirankari sect is credited with many philanthropic ventures, including running blood banks, dispensaries and schools. The sect has over 2,000 centres across the world.
The miles-long funeral procession brought traffic to a halt in north Delhi. Traffic police had circulated an advisory, informing that movement would be closed from Kingsway Camp to Burari Road from 8 am to 12 pm. The funeral procession passed through Burari Chowk, Outer Ring road, Kingsway Camp, Delhi University metro station, IP College,Chandhi Ram Akhaara, Ring Road, ISBT to reach Nigam Bodh Ghat.