In a major embarrassment to the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), the Panj Pyaras (five beloved ones of the guru) have declared that a ‘disgraced’ jathedar of the Akal Takht cannot be permitted to address the Sikh community on the occasion of Bandhi Chhor Diwas (Diwali) from the Golden Temple complex.
In their ‘gurmata’ (decision taken before Guru Granth Sahib), the Panj Pyaras have directed the SGPC executive not to allow Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh to give his customary ‘sandesh’ (message) to the community on Bandhi Chhor Diwas. On this day, Guru Hargobind, the Sikh guru who had established the Akal Takht, was released from Gwalior fort along with 52 rulers of small kingdoms by then Mughal ruler Jahangir in early 17th century.
The ‘gurmata’ was adopted following the Panj Pyaras’ meeting at the Akal Takht here on Monday. The decision comes a day after SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar made it clear that Giani Gurbachan Singh would give his message to the community on Diwali. Makkar had made this statement following objections raised by a radical group, the Dal Khalsa, to a ‘disgraced’ Takht jathedar being allowed to deliver the address on the auspicious occasion.
When asked about the Panj Pyaras’ decision, Makkar said, “I will comment at the appropriate time.”
In the ‘gurmata’, the Panj Pyaras noted, “In the light of the recent controversies and developments, the role of Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh has come under a cloud. Hence, he cannot be allowed to give his customary message to the community on the occasion of Bandhi Chhor Diwas.”
In another decision, the Panj Pyaras endorsed the November 10 congregation of Sikhs called by some Panthic groups. However, they refused to acknowledge the gathering as Sarbat Khalsa.
“Sikhs have the right to come together whenever the ‘quam’ (community) is passing through a difficult phase and take collective decisions. It is a step in the right direction,” a statement released by the Panj Pyaras said.
They added, “It can be considered as a step forward towards holding Sarbat Khalsa at the Akal Takht in due course. The decisions taken at the November 10 gathering can be put before the proposed Sarbat Khalsa for endorsement.”
As per tradition, the Akal Takht jathedar delivers his message from atop Darshani Deori, through which devotees pass on their way to Harmandar Sahib or the sanctum sanctorum. The address comes just before the start of lighting at the shrine.
The Panj Pyaras suggested that in place of Giani Gurbachan Singh, the head granthi of Harmandar Sahib, Giani Jagtar Singh, could be asked to address the community. The Dal Khalsa had made a similar suggestion.
Those who took the decision are Giani Satnam Singh Khanda, Giani Tirlok Singh, Giani Satnam Singh, Giani Major Singh and Giani Mangal Singh. They are the Panj Pyaras recognised by the SGPC and are involved in ‘amrit sanchar’ (baptism) ceremony of devotees at the Akal Takht. However, they can be asked by the SGPC to undertake this ceremony at any other shrine in Punjab or elsewhere.
This is the second major decision taken by the Panj Pyaras recently. Last month, they had directed the SGPC executive to remove Giani Gurbachan Singh and other Takht jathedars from their posts for their role in initially pardoning Dera Sacha Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in a 2007 blasphemy case. This decision had not gone down well with Makkar and the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). The SGPC executive placed them under suspension and ordered their posting to SGPC-run shrines outside Punjab. However, following an outcry from the Sikh community, including moderates, Makkar had to withdraw the decision and announce the reinstatement of the five priests.