The ease with which the jathedars of three of the five Sikh Takhts (temporal seats) are appointed and sacked has come in for criticism often from the Panthic organisations.
Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) president Avtar Singh Makkar on Wednesday announced the five-member panel that will hence frame the service rules for the jathedars and set their lower and upper qualifying age. The members are Punjabi University (Patiala) vice-chancellor Jaspal Singh; Sikh historian Kirpal Singh of Chandigarh; former Guru Nanak Dev University (Amritsar) pro-V-C Prithipal Singh Kapur; GNDU’s Guru Granth Sahib studies department head Kirpal Singh Dhillon; and Patiala historian Balkar Singh.
SGPC secretary Dalmegh Singh will be convener of the panel that is given no fixed time to submit report. After Giani Balwant Singh Nandgarh was sacked lately as Takht Damdama Sahib jathedar, Panthic leaders had alleged that the SGPC had done it at the behest of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leadership that controlled it, and demanded rules for the appointment and sacking of jathedars.
On January 17, the SGPC executive body met in Fatehgarh Sahib and decided to form a five-member panel that will frame the services rules for the jathedars of the three Takhts under its control (the Akal Takht (highest temporal seat of Sikhs) in Amritsar; Damdama Sahib at Talwandi Sabo; and Keshgarh Sahib at Anandpur Sahib).
The other two Takhts (Patna Sahib in Patna; and Hazoor Sahib at Nanded in Maharashtra) are outside Punjab and have separate management committees that appoint the respective jathedars.
Sikh radical group the Dal Khalsa has welcomed the panel announcement. In 2003, it had for the first time written to the SGPC to demand the service rules for the jathedars of all five takhts. “It (the making of the panel) is a welcome step, though we have no big hopes, if the SGPC doesn’t dilute its authority,” Dal Khalsa spokesman Kanwar Pal Singh stated here.
“The frequency with which the jathedars had been sacked over the past decade shows that the Takht heads are mere pawns in the SGPC hands, and they who displease it or the SAD leadership, will get the marching orders just as it happened in the case of Nandgarh, who refused to go along with the latter on the Nanakshahi calendar issue,” said the spokesman.
He accused the SGPC of only undermined the authority of the three Takhts under its jurisdiction.
June 1988: Bhai Jasbir Singh Rode (Akal Takht), Kashmir Singh (Keshgarh Sahib), and Swinder Singh (Damdama Sahib), after Operation Black Thunder over militant links
February 1999: Bhai Ranjit Singh (Akal Takht), for siding with the-then SGPC president, Gurcharan Singh Tohra, in his rift with Parkash Singh Badal
March 2000: Giani Puran Singh (Akal Takht), after he excommunicated the-then SGPC president, Bibi Jagir Kaur
August 2008: Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti (Akal Takht), asked to resign after he refused to go soft on Dera Sacha Sauda
January 2015: Giani Balwant Singh Nandgarh (Damdama Sahib), over Nanakshahi calendar row.
(In March 1990, acting Akal Takht jathedar Darshan Singh Ragi resigned after argument with SGPC chief Gurchana Singh Tohra in the general house meeting)