The ongoing chain hunger strike by the Namdhari Panthak Ekta Committee, a faction of the Namdhari sect of the Sikhs, has triggered a war of words between supporters of Thakur Udai Singh, the present Namdhari head, and Thakur Dalip Singh.
The protesting faction is accusing Thakur Udai Singh and his supporters of stopping Thakur Dalip Singh’s supporters from entering the sect headquarters at Bhaini Sahib (Ludhiana district) and other gurdwaras. The faction is also alleging that the district administration is siding with their opponents due to the latter’s proximity to the Punjab chief minister.
The chain hunger strike, which entered the fourth day on Monday, has failed to get any positive response from the Namdhari Darbar in Bhaini Sahib, managed by Thakur Udai Singh, and Mata Chand Kaur, widow of Satguru Jagjit Singh, spiritual head of the Namdharis.
Namdharis who have come from Delhi, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir are offering prayers at the site of the protest outside the Ludhiana mini secretariat.
Contradicting statements of Thakur Dalip Singh’s supporters, issued by committee general secretary Harvinder Singh, that they have every right to follow Thakur Dalip Singh as their head, press secretary of Namdhari Darbar in Bhaini Sahib Lakhvir Singh Baddowal said “unity” was only possible if Thakur Dalip Singh’s followers adhered to the headship of Thakur Udai Singh. However, Baddowal denied the allegations that sect members were being stopped from entering gurdwaras to offer prayers.
Both factions are also trading charges on the social media. Derogatory messages against both leaders are being posted and shared on social networking sites.
Panthak Ekta Committee members are questioning the Namdhari Darbar about Mata Chand Kaur’s powers to declare Thakur Udai Singh as the sect head, adding that it was an unprecedented move in the sect’s history.
However, Baddowal said, “Mata Chand Kaur, being the widow of Satguru Jagjit Singh, exercised her rights to declare Thakur Udai Singh as the successor and a majority of the Namdhari followers are abiding by the decision.”
Protesting sect members also went to meet deputy commissioner Rajat Agarwal. “I have heard the grievances of sect followers on a chain hunger strike, but it is a religious issue and a very sensitive one. Thus, I am not in a position to take any decision,” the DC said.