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From a school teacher to first woman SGPC chief

punjab Updated: Mar 30, 2012 20:53 IST
Jasdeep Singh Malhotra
Jasdeep Singh Malhotra
Hindustan Times

Her career path has witnessed a dramatic rise and fall in the past two decades. From a mathematics teacher to a cabinet minister to the first woman president of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), Bibi Jagir Kaur emerged as a 'star' in the Sikh 'panthic' political galaxy.

Thereafter, Bibi continued to court controversies in personal, religious and political spheres. She was made to resign as SGPC head following allegations of murdering her daughter Harpreet Kaur in 2000. She got a reprieve by retaining Bholath assembly seat in 2002 but lost the electoral battle five years later to Congress candidate Sukhpal Singh Khaira.

Now, her second tenure as cabinet minister has come to an end in just 17 days of swearing in of the SAD-BJP government for being convicted on Friday on charges of kidnapping, conspiring and forcibly aborting her daughter's foetus.

Life was not a cakewalk for her. Jagir Kaur, a teacher at Begowal secondary school, lost her husband due to brain cancer in 1982. Though she had the primary task of supporting two minor daughters after her husband's death, Bibi took on the responsibilities of head of the Sant Prem Singh Muralewale 'dera' at Begowal in 1987, thus, becoming a prominent leader on socio-religious platform.

She continued to gain from the legacy she inherited from Lubana community leader and her father-in-law Bawa Harnam Singh, who was dera head.

Born on October 15, 1954 in the house of Godara Singh in Bhatnura Lubana village in Jalandhar district, she did her graduation from Government College for Girls, Chandigarh and later pursued a degree in Education from MGN College, Jalandhar. Bibi Jagir Kaur was then appointed as a government school teacher.

Bib formally joined the SAD in 1995 and was subsequently nominated a member of the working committee. She progressed further by getting elected as SGPC member in 1996 for holding considerable influence over the Lubana community by virtue of heading the 'dera'.

Senior Akali leader Sukhjinder Singh, known for airing his criticisms of Badal's functioning, had been dominating the Bholath constituency for a while and Badal was searching for a suitable person to take up the cudgels with his estranged colleague.

She contested as Akali candidate from Bholath segment in 1997, won the elections for the first time and was appointed minister. Within a span of two years, she benefited from the political tussle between SAD president Parkash Singh Badal and then SGPC chief Gurcharan Singh Tohra, as the latter's removal paved the way for her to become the first woman president of the apex body of Sikhs on March 1999. She was re-elected as president in November 1999.

She got the top SGPC post once more in 2004. But soon after assuming the charge, she got embroiled in a controversy by supporting women's demand of being allowed to conduct 'kirtan' inside the sanctum sanctorum of Harmandir Sahib. She hit the headlines by announcing to build a memorial inside Harmandir sahib to mark death of innocent devotees during 1984 blue star operation.

She suffered major political setback in her career by losing Bholath seat to Khaira in 2007 and remained in the back seat of politics for five years till she re-emerged as a winner in recently concluded Punjab elections.