The "erosion" of the sovereignty and supremacy of the Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of the Sikhs, was once again brought to the centrestage on Monday by the Panthic Taalmel Sangathan (Sikh Coordination Orgnisation), a conglomerate of various Sikh religious, social and political groups.
"The issue has been discussed and debated in the past by Sikh intellectuals and scholars, but no effort has ever been made to free the Akal Takht from the shackles of the SGPC and its political masters who run this religious body through remote control. As jathedars of the Akal Takht have always been at the mercy of the SGPC, the appointing authority, they have often failed to do justice to the seat they occupy," the Sangathan said.
Former Akal Takht jathedar Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti had written to the SGPC during his tenure, calling for framing specific rules for the appointment of jathedars of Akal Takht, Takht Damdama Sahib and Takht Kesgarh Sahib. All these three Takhts in Punjab are under SGPC control.
With no reply coming from the SGPC all these years, the Panthic Taalmel Sangthan has now decided to take the issue of the sovereignty of the Akal Takht and its supremacy to the Sikh people. The group also wants that rules be framed for the appointment of jathedars of the Takhts.
"Political interference in the affairs of the Akal Takht must end. The honour and dignity of the Takht must be restored or else Sikhs will not look towards the Takht with respect and for guidance," said former Takht Damdama Sahib jathedar Giani Kewal Singh.
Giani Kewal Singh, who has also been the head priest of the Akal Takht, was here on Monday to attend a meeting of the Sangathan. Heads of other groups, including Jaswinder Singh Advocate of Akal Purakh Ki Fauj, Harjit Singh of Sikh Missionary College, Kartar Singh of World Sikh Organisation, and members of the Akhand Kirtani Jatha were present at the meeting.
Referring to the manner in which jathedars are picked by the SGPC, Giani Kewal Singh was of the opinion that this was tantamount to political interference in the affairs of the Akal Takht. "People are aware that the SGPC only announces the names. The choice is made somewhere else," he said.
"We have seen how jathedars were humiliated and sacked. This must end now and the supremacy and dignity of the Takhts restored," said Giani Kewal Singh.
He suggested that as in the past, the head of the Akal Takht should be appointed by the SGPC, but after consultation with various Sikh religious groups or religious leaders who command the respect of the masses. A similar procedure should be adopted for sacking a jathedar if the need arises, he said.
He also called for ending the practice of the Sikh clergy of holding closed-door meetings and then announcing the decisions taken there to the media. The meetings should be held in a 'Sarbat Khalsa' (religious gathering) at the Akal Takht and every decision should be announced before the 'sangat', he added.
The Sangathan also decided at the meeting to hold seminars and meetings in educational institutions so as to make the students aware of the glorious history of the Sikhs and to educate them about Sikhism. The organisation will also go around Punjab and visit other parts of the country to educate the members of the community about various social issues like female foeticide and the prevailing caste system in Sikhism, which was against the teachings of the Gurus.
On October 14, a conference will be organised at Delhi to take up all issues concerning the Sikhs, including restoring the glory and stature of the Akal Takht. A similar meeting will be held on February 13 next year at Amritsar.