Even as the government apparently resorted to withdrawing his security to make Takht Damdama Sahib jathedar Balwant Singh Nandgarh fall in line for the amended Nanakshahi calendar, Giani Gurbachan Singh, jathedar of Sikhism’s highest temporal seat the Akal Takht, has announced to meet the Sant Samaj, a conglomerate of religious leaders, to discuss their demand to revert to the Bikrami calendar altogether.
“I will be meeting the Sant Samaj leaders including its chairman and Damdami Taksal chief Harnam Singh Dhuma on December 22,” he said, adding that he would take up Dhuma’s application for reverting to the Bikrami calendar for consideration. The application was submitted in December last year and had never been discussed till date. Asked about his views on the proposal, the jathedar said, “I feel that on whatever decision is taken the views of Canada-based scholar Pal Singh Purewal must be solicited as he had designed the Sikh (Nanakshahi) calendar (approved in 2003). So if a sub-committee is formed to up the Sant Samaj proposal, Purewal must be part of that.”
But he refused to comment on the withdrawal of security of Nandgarh, who is seen as the most vocal opponent of the move to amend the Nanakshahi calendar (as was done in 2010) or revert to the Bikrami calendar. Nandgarh had voiced his support of the original Nanakshahi calendar recently in Amritsar, being of the view that the original calendar is a symbol of separate identity of Sikhs.
He has termed the demand to revert to the Bikrami calendar as a conspiracy of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
Meanwhile, Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) chief Avtar Singh Makkar too refused to comment on the withdrawal of security to Nandgarh. “It is the decision of the government. I cannot say anything,” he said.
Makkar denied that there was any move to seek resignation from Nandgarh or to remove him, and reiterated that the calendar issue was a matter under the preview of the Akal Takht.
Will pressure work?
By withdrawing his security, the state’s Shiromani Akali Dal-led government chose to send a clear message to Nandgarh that if he wished to keep his job he must lend his support to Dhuma’s demand.
The SAD controls the SGPC. Though Nandgarh won’t be present at the December 22 meeting but thereafter the Akal Takht jathedar would have to call a meeting of the clergy, including Nandgarh, to take up the viewpoints of the Sant Samaj. A couple of SGPC members told HT on the condition of anonymity that going by his past record Nandgarh was not likely to oblige the government on the calendar issue. Neither do the SGPC members expect him to quit.
This leaves the government with just one option: to ask the SGPC to sack him, a power which is only vested in its executive. “The process of sacking is long, as the SGPC executive will first have to hold a meeting, the jathedar will have to be suspended and served a showcause notice elaborating the charges against him; if he replies within the period specified, the executive will discuss the reply and then decide to dismiss him,” said former SGPC secretary Manjit Singh Calcutta.
When the SGPC wanted to remove the then Akal Takht jathedar Joginder Singh Vedanti in 2008, two members were sent to seek his resignation on health grounds. However, such grounds cannot be prepared for Nandgarh, as he remains fighting fit. Corruption charges aren’t likely to work either as Nandgarh is considered upright.
Dal Khalsa lambasts govt
Radical Sikh group Dal Khalsa, while opposing any reversion to the Bikrami calendar, claimed that the Nanaksar sect (part of Sant Samaj) was pressing the ruling Badal family to take such a decision.
Dal president HS Dhami issued a statement that the Sant Samaj had pressed the Badals in 2010 too and succeeded in “mixing Nanakshahi with Bikrami through amendments”.