A bloody clash between two Akali factions, also involving security taskforce of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC), at New Delhi’s Rakabganj gurdwara on Thursday resulted in injuries to at least 11 persons, including Manjit Singh GK, president of the Delhi unit of Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-Badal.
The ruckus began around 11am, after Manjit and around 20 of his supporters sought to attend a meeting of the DSGMC executive in the committee’s office on the gurdwara premises. They were denied permission at the behest of DSGMC president Paramjit Singh Sarna, a longtime friend-turned-foe of the Badals who heads his own party SAD-Delhi since 2002.
Though Manjit is a member of the general house and not of the 15-member executive, he was invited by DSGMC general secretary Gurmeet Singh Shanty, a SAD-Delhi leader currently out of favour with Sarna. The Badal faction leaders said Manjit and his men wanted to stop the executive from giving “all powers” to Sarna ahead of the DSGMC polls due next month.
Within minutes, the verbal duel turned bloody; blank gunshots were fired, kirpans (daggers), swords and sticks rained as Sarna’s supporters and the security taskforce allegedly launched an offensive.
Manjit was hit on the head with a kirpan. Admitted to Ram Manohan Lohia Hospital, he was reported to be out of danger by the evening. Other injured SAD-Badal leaders included party general secretary Chaman Singh, its Dharam Parchar Committee president Paramjit Singh Rana, youth wing secretary general Harmeet Singh Kalka, and Amarjeet Singh.
Sarna blamed the Badal faction and said five of his party workers, apart from DSGMC staff, were injured too.
Both sides filed complaints with the nearby Parliament House police station, and a case of attempt to murder among other charges was registered for the attack on Manjit and his men. However, no one was named immediately in the FIR.
AT LOGGERHEADS FOR LONG
Though the two SAD factions have been at the loggerheads ever since Sarna broke away a decade ago, the most recent sparring point is the DSGMC’s proposal for direct election of the committee president. While the SAD led by Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal alleges the proposal is “a shot at dictatorship” by Sarna, the latter says the proposal to amend the Delhi Gurdwara Act of 1971 would stop the practice of the winning party’s leaders handpicking a president.
On Thursday, SAD-Badal leaders said, “We came to know that the DSGMC executive was to give all powers to president Paramjit Singh Sarna, which should not happen. The DSGMC elections are mandated by the Supreme Court to be held next month, and Sarna would make all efforts to retain power.”
Even as SAD-Badal secretary Rajinder Singh and even Shanty, who is in the SAD-Delhi, said Manjit was a “lawful special invitee”, Sarna claimed none other than the committee president could call such a special invitee.
Sarna denied the charge that he had called the meet to “hijack” powers of the DSGMC. Before the ruckus turned bloody, the executive body decided to give financial powers, which were earlier with the president, vice-president and general secretary, to the committee secretary, said Sarna.
Shanty, when asked about his party president disregarding his invitation to Manjit, told HT, “I may be in the SAD-Delhi for now, but cannot say what the future holds.”
*Having last seen polls in 2007, DSGMC was due for elections last year. After much delay, Supreme Court recently ordered that the polls be held by December 31, 2012
*But the current DSGMC leadership is allegedly trying to delay the polls by pushing for an amendment in the Delhi Gurdwara Act for direct election of the president, rather than the members choosing the head
*The Sheila Dikshit cabinet has okayed the amendment; assembly nod is awaited. SAD-Badal thus says it’s the Congress that wants the DSGMC polls only after the Delhi assembly elections in November 2013, so that Sarna can help it retain power