With police investigation, so far, pointing towards the hand of the activists of Sikh fundamentalist seminary Damdami Taksal in the assassination attempt on Sikh preacher Ranjit Singh Dhadrianwale in which one of his followers was killed, the Punjab government led by Parkash Singh Badal is finding itself caught in a double bind.
While on the one hand, Dhadrianwale has served it an ultimatum to reveal the names of the culprits, taking any severe action against the Taksal would mean dissolving a “mutually beneficial” agreement reached between it and the Akalis over the years. The Taksal, once in the forefront of militancy in Punjab under Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, is headed currently by Harnam Singh Dhumma, who has come to be seen as supporting the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), the Badals especially, while trying to maintain an independent veneer.
Dhumma, who is also part of the larger Sant Samaj, had declared support for Akali candidates in the 2012 assembly elections. In 2013, the Taksal called upon the Sikh voters of New Delhi to save the ‘Panth’ and vote for the SAD in the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) polls. Dhumma shared the dais with Sukhbir in that campaign.
The association with the Taksal has helped the SAD reap political benefit as well as sort out tricky religious issues. In 2008, the Badals took their support to cool tempers among Sikh intellectuals and leaders during the raging controversy over a unified code of conduct (rehat maryada) for Sikhs. In 2013, the Taksal built a controversial memorial dedicated to Bhindranwale and other “martyrs of Operation Bluestar” inside the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar. Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) had entrusted its construction to the Taksal on demand from Dhumma. Overtly, the Badals tried to distance themselves from the memorial, while it is well known that the memorial had their nod.
Last September, when the Akal Takht accepted the apology of Sirsa dera head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh and exonerated him of the blasphemy charge, the Taksal tried to become the “controlled voice of Sikh protest”. Dhumma and the Sant Samaj asked the Akal Takht jathedar, highest temporal leader of the faith, to “reconsider his decision, while several other Sikh hardliner bodies announced agitations across the state. Later, when as series of incidents of desecration of Guru Granth Sahib took place, triggering widespread protests led by Sikh preachers, Dhumma chose to lead a delegation to the CM, demanding the sacking of Takht jathedars. Later, he supported the Akalis in shunning the ‘Sarbat Khalsa’ (parallel Sikh congregation) organised by the other hardliners.
Murmurs within the Sant Samaj about the bonhomie between Dhumma and the Akalis gave way to a full-fledged rift when three of the five executive-committee members of the Samaj met in early October last year, demanding Dhumma’s exit. Later, when Sewa Singh resigned as senior vice-president of the Samaj, Sukhbir met him to convince him to return to the Samaj.
Dhumma cancels press briefing
Amritsar: At the last minute on Saturday, Damdami Taksal head Harnam Singh Dhuma postponed a press conference he had called at 2pm at his Chowk Mehta headquarters here. Around 12.30pm, the messages of cancellation started coming. Efforts to contact Dhumma failed. It was said he would speak to the media in a couple of days. HTC