The Punjabi diaspora, particularly Sikhs, which was keeping a close watch on the much-hyped congregation at Amritsar was left surprised on Tuesday as former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh’s assassin Jagtar Singh Hawara was named as the Akal Takht jathedar by radical Sarbat Khalsa.
Despite time-zone differences, the diaspora remained glued to the web channels and the social media, which was flooded with tweets with hashtag #SarbatKhalsa2015.
“The functioning of the Akal Takht should be free from any political colour. Whether it’s SAD (Badal) or SAD (Mann), it means one and the same thing,” says Rajwant Singh, who is a doctor in Washington.
“The deliberations at the event lacked thoughtfulness. Such decisions (appointment of new jathedars) need more consensus. People with no political influence should be leading the community,” he adds. Blaming the Shiromani Akali Dal and the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee for pushing the community into deep crisis, he said had corrective measures been taken on time, things would not have been so bad.
Suggesting corrective step, Dr Singh, who also runs a voluntary organisation ‘Sikh council on religion and education’, said the sitting jathedar should have been told to make an exit and the new face acceptable to the community should have been appointed.
Harvinder Singh Riar, a news analyst on a popular Punjabi television channel in the US, said the decision should not have been taken in such a hurried manner.
“I am not sure whether other resolutions passed at the event were wise or not, but managing a huge gathering is a big thing. It clearly shows that the attempts by the government to scuttle the event have not worked,” he said, suggesting that the current state government should quit. “If a person from the movement days had to be appointed, Devinderpal Bhullar would have been a better choice,” he added.
Toronto-based lawyer Sukhi Baidwan said it’s not right to appoint a convicted person as the head of the temporal seats of Sikhs. “I am not against anyone, but there are a large number of educated people in the community who have better understanding of Sikh religion and its institutions. A level- headed person should have been made the head of the Akal Takht,” he said. The Sikh leaders should have taken the decision after taking the entire community into confidence.
Avtar Singh Pannu of ‘Sikhs for Justice’, a radicals organisation in the US, however, said: “Now that a decision has been taken by teh radical Sarbat Khalsa, it should be acceptable to the Sikh masses”.
“We can’t run down all institutions, it was the Akal Takht initially, then we rejected Panj Pyaras and now we just can’t reject the voice of the Sarbat Khalsa,” he added.
“I was expecting that the name of Bhai Ranjit Singh will be announced as the new Akal Takht jathedar. However, Hawara emerged as the most popular choice,” said London-based non-profit aid and relief organisation, Khalsa Aid’s CEO Ravinder Singh.
There were others who described the “new appointments” as temporary. “It’s clearly written in resolutions that these appointments are symbolic People of a certain school of thought can get excited but at the end of the day, these are just symbolic appointments,” said Charanpreet Singh Johal, a 26-year-old US-based mechanical engineer.