Ending almost all hope of calling off the controversial “Sarbat Khalsa” (Sikh congregation), ‘Panthic’ organisations on Sunday started “akhand paath” (continuous recitation of Gurbani) at the venue near Chabba village in this district.
Called by the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), United Akali Dal (UAD), SAD (1920), and Sikh Sangharsh Samiti against the appeals of religious and political leaders, the gathering will begin with the ‘bhog’ (conclusion) of the “akhand paath” on Tuesday. The main item on the agenda is replacing Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh as well as the heads of the other temporal seats of the faith over their controversial decision of pardoning Dera Sacha Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh for blasphemy.
The gathering will also take up the recent incidents of the sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib and question the Akali alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). SAD (Amritsar) president Simranjit Singh Mann; his party colleagues RS Sakira and Dhian Singh Mand; UAD chief Mohkam Singh; Sikh Sangharsh Samiti head Gurdip Singh Bathinda; Damdami Taksal (Ajnala group) head Amrik Singh Ajnala, and heads of a couple of other Sikh radical groups attended the “akhand paath” ceremony at a sympathiser’s house on the Tarn Taran highway.
They also supervised their supporters as they pitched ‘shamianas’ (large tent) on a 20-acre plot marked for “Sarbat Khalsa”, while a small group of policemen watched from a distance.
Takht supreme,says Sant Samaj
When the radicals were praying for the success of their congregation, a couple of Sant Samaj leaders at Gurdwara Jhanda Bunga in the Golden Temple complex were seeking Panthic unity from the Lord during the ‘bhog’ of another ‘akhand paath’. Sant Samaj president and Damdami Taksal head Baba Harnam Singh Dhuma; and Sant Samaj vice-president and Nanaksar sect head Baba Lakha Singh stressed the need for setting aside all differences and accepting the supremacy of the Akal Takht.
“Certain anti-Panthic forces are trying to destabilise peace in the state by showing disrespect to Guru Granth Sahib,” Harmandar Sahib head granthi Giani Jagtar Singh said while performing ‘ardas’ to mark the end of ‘bhog’. The Sant Samaj is against holding Tuesday’s event, based on the argument that a “Sarbat Khalsa” can only be held at the Akal Takht — an opinion held by many Sikh radical groups that are going to stay away from the event. The Sant Samaj, however, favours sacking the jathedars, a demand that even moderate Sikhs and many within the SAD support.
Makkar’s last plea
Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) president Avtar Singh Makkar made a last-minute effort to make the organiser see reason when he appealed to them to respect the Sikh institution of “Sarbat Khalsa”. “As the Panth is under threat from divisive forces, we should all sit together and discuss the sacrilege incidents,” Makkar said here in his address to members of the SGPC from Amritsar, Gurdaspur, and Tarn Taran districts.
That the SGPC has no intention of changing the jathedars was clear from Makkar’s statement that Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh would address the community from the Golden Temple on Diwali.
Some radical groups didn’t want him to deliver the customary address on the auspicious occasion, since the ‘Panj Pyaras’ (Guru five beloved ones) have directed the SGPC executive body to either replace him or sack him along with heads of the other Takhts for their role in the “pardon drama”.
Dal Khalsa to be part of ‘sangat’
Radical groups Dal Khalsa and SAD (Panch Pardhani) have decided to be at “Sarbat Khalsa” but not share the dais with Mann, Mohkam Singh and others. “We will be there but only as ‘sangat’ (common participants). We will neither share stage with the organisers nor deliver any address during the event. We will just listen,” Dal Khalsa spokesperson Kanwarpal Singh and SAD (Panch Pardhani) leader Daljit Singh Bittu claimed in a joint statement issued after the meeting.
They are against any moves by the state government to scuttle the event or stop people from getting to the venue (even if they don’t approve of the place).
Will target Badal buses, hotels if stopped: Mann
Claiming that the Panth’s response to the “Sarbat Khalsa” call was “overwhelming”, SAD (Amritsar) president Simranjit Singh Mann said he expected a gathering of nearly 1 lakh. He warned chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal against trying to scuttle the event. “Police in various districts are pressurising people to skip ‘Sarbat Khalsa’ and forcing private transporters not to give the organisers any buses for carrying supporters to the venue. If obstructed, we will target the Badals’ hotels and Orbit buses,” he added.