Panthic groups led by former MP Simranjit Singh Mann of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) and Mohkam Singh of the United Akali Dal (UAD) have rejected the appeals of the Akal Takht and the Sant Samaj against holding the “Sarbat Khalsa” on November 10 at Chabba village on the Tarn Taran highway in this district.
A conglomerate of Sikh religious organisations and radical groups such as the Dal Khalsa, SAD (Panch Pardhani), Panthic Talmel Sangthan, and All-India Sikh Students Federation (Peer Mohammad), besides a couple of religious ‘deras’ also disfavour a “Sarbat Khalsa” at any place other than the Akal Takht, faith’s highest temporal seat. They had appealed to Mann and Mohkam Singh to show respect to the institution of ‘Sarbat Khalsa’.
Even the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) had made a similar appeal, contending that the event could disturb peace and harmony in Punjab. The Sant Samaj led by Damdami Taksal head Baba Harnam Singh Dhuma had even said he was with the SAD (Amritsar) and the UAD, provided they did not call the November 10 gathering a ‘Sarbat Khalsa’. Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh said they could call it “Panthic conference or convention”.
The pro-congregation factions said they had asked the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) for space in the Golden Temple complex but, on no response, had been forced to pick an alternative site. The ‘Panthic’ arguments have failed to convince the Mann and Mokham groups, who are going ahead with the plan and have warned the ruling SAD against creating obstacles, if they wanted to maintain peace.
“The Badals (Punjab’s ruling family) are trying to create a fear that the November 10 gathering will lead to a law-and-order problem. The aim is only to scuttle our event and discourage people from attending it,” Mann said during Saturday’s joint press conference here. He questioned the state government decision to deploy additional paramilitary force companies in Punjab, saying: “Why would a team sensing victory play foul. It is the losing team (the Badals) that will look to play against the rules, and this is what the government is doing by accusing us of disturbing peace.”
Mokham Singh rejected the argument that a “Sarbat Khalsa” outside the Akal Takht had no legal sanctity. “During the Mughal rule and even later, Sikhs have held this congregation even in jungles and at the call of common members of the community,” he said.
Former militant Wassan Singh Zaffarwal, Gurdip Singh Bathinda of the Sikh Sangarsh Committee, and Baldeep Singh (who quit the Aam Aadmi Party recently) and leaders from the SAD (1920) were also at the press conference. Mann and party colleagues RS Sakira and Dhian Singh Mand visited the ‘Sarbat Khalsa’ venue at Chabba village, where an ‘akhand paath’ (continuous recitation of Gurbani) will begin on Sunday. The ‘bhog’ (culmination) will be on November 10.