Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh skipped the ‘bhog’ ceremony held at the Akal Takht here on Friday in memory of Harjinder Singh Jinda and Sukhdev Singh Sukha, the two terrorists who were hanged in 1992 for the assassination of former army chief Gen AS Vaidya.
This is the first time that the Akal Takht jathedar has not attended the ‘bhog’, which has been an annual affair since 1993. Sources said he chose to stay away due to security reasons as this ceremony is attended every year by radical Sikh leaders and former militants.
After the attack on Giani Mal Singh, jathedar of Takht Keshgarh Sahib, the police had cautioned all Takht jathedars to curtail their movement and restrict their attendance in public functions, even religious ones.
The jathedars, including Giani Gurbachan Singh, Giani Mal Singh, Giani Gurmukh Singh of Takht Damdama Sahib and Giani Iqbal Singh of Takht Patna Sahib, and Bhai Ram Singh, granthi of Takht Hazoor Sahib, Nanded (Maharashtra), had invited the wrath of radicals and hardliners after they pardoned Dera Sacha Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in a 2007 blasphemy case. There have been calls for the jathedars’ resignation and some have even called for their social boycott. The threats led the Punjab government to scale up the security of the jathedars of the three Takhts based in Punjab.
Other jathedars absent too
The Akal Takht jathedar was present at his residence in the Golden Temple complex when the ‘bhog’ took place in the morning. Efforts to contact him at his residence proved futile as the media was told that he was busy elsewhere. The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), too, did not give any reason for the jathedar not attending the ceremony. “In the present scenario, it is risky for Singh Sahib (jathedar) to attend this function. In such a gathering, there is always the risk of being manhandled,” said a staff member of the Akal Takht secretariat, when contacted.
The jathedars of the other Takhts were also conspicuous by their absence. In the past, the jathedars of Takht Keshgarh Sahib and Takht Damdama Sahib used to attend this function. The head granthi of Harmandar Sahib, Giani Jagtar Singh was also not seen there.
A senior ‘granthi’ (priest) of the Golden Temple, Giani Raghbir Singh, was present, besides several SGPC officials, including Golden Temple manager Partap Singh. The function was attended by representatives of radical groups such as the Dal Khalsa and the Akali Dal (Panch Pardhani), besides the All India Sikh Students Federation (AISSF) led by Karnail Singh Peer Mohammad.