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HT Analysis: New fault lines widen Panthic rift

punjab Updated: May 29, 2016 09:59 IST
Chitleen K Sethi
Panthic rift

Sikh preacher Ranjit Singh Dhadrianwale at the ‘bhog’ of his associate Bhupinder Singh at Khasi Kalan village in Ludhiana. (HT File Photo)

The murderous attack on Sikh preacher Ranjit Singh Dhadrianwale on May 17 by the supporters of Sikh seminary Damdami Taksal has created new fault lines among Panthic bodies in Punjab, a situation that experts believe suits political parties in the run-up to the assembly polls.

When Dhadrianwale called upon all Panthic leaders to attend the bhog ceremony of Bhupinder Singh, his follower killed in the attack, it was more than a show of strength. He was asking Panthic bodies virtually to come out clean — those who supported the government (currently the Shiromani Akali Dal) and those who were opposed.

Dhadrianwale had called the Taksal chief “sarkari sant” and during the bhog claimed that he had been targeted for speaking the “truth”.

Though many disapproved of his language, Sikh preachers Baljit Singh Daduwal and Panthpreet stood by him, as also the many who have aligned self against the “SAD-controlled” Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) and the Akal Takht”.

Most groups neutral

Most politico-religious radical groups such as the Dal Khalsa and the All-India Sikh Students Federation (AISSF) chose to stay neutral but United Akal Dal’s Mohkam Singh criticised Dhumma for backing the assailants .

While the SAD has been supporting the Taksal for several years now, gaining politico-religious benefits from it, the political and Panthic support gathered by Dhadrianwale in the past 10 days has put them in a precarious position. Dhumma made his displeasure clear during his press briefing on Thursday, criticising chief minister Parkash Singh Badal for meeting Dhadrianwale, saying the government was “favouring” him.

Other than Badal, leaders of almost all parties made a beeline for Dhadrianwale’s Parmeshar Dwar headquarters near Patiala. Aam Aadmi Party national convener and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, novice otherwise to Punjab’s complicated religious fabric, also went there to ensure his party’s political future in the state was not dented.

‘Differences long-brewing’

“The division among Panthic groups has been long-brewing. Dhumma’s opponents resent his closeness to the authorities. Rehat Maryada (Sikh code) is only a pretext for voicing their resentment. Neither the Taksal nor Dhadrianwale follow the Panth Parvanat Maryada (agreed-upon code of conduct) finalised in 1946. It suits political parties to create their vote banks on the foundation of these divisions,” says Ashok Singh, vice-president of the Institute of Sikh Studies, Chandigarh.

‘Akal Takht moved late’

Ashok Singh said the issue had brought to the fore the diminished role of the Akal Takht as primary seat of Sikh religious authority. Both Dhumma and Dhadrianwale criticised the role of the Akal Takht openly.

The Akal Takht, said Dhumma, should have stepped in early during his spat with Dhadrianwale, but it got its act together only after the attack. Takht’s advice to the two to keep quiet was dismissed and statements and videos continued from both sides.

Dhadrianwale said he had great respect for the Akal Takht but couldn’t abide by its “diktat”, as it was headed by the jathedars “rejected by the Khalsa Panth” for their exonerating Sirsa dera chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh of the blasphemy charge.