HT Spotlight: Many intrigues in bitter Namdhari succession war

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Apr 05, 2016 14:23 IST
Heavy security at the Namdhari sect headquarters after the murder of Chand Kaur at Bhaini Sahib near Ludhiana on Monday. (JS Grewal/HT Photo)

Barely two weeks back, Bhaini Sahib — the headquarters of Namdhari sect in Ludhiana — wore a festive look during the Hola Mohalla celebrations. The murder of its 88 -year-old matriarch, Chand Kaur, the wife of late Satguru Jagjit Singh, has plunged the community into despair.

She supervised the daily langar and prayers at the gurdwara and met hundreds of followers that visited the dera every day.

The killing has brought the spotlight back on the bitter succession war within the sect. Ironically, Chand Kaur, who had presided over the anointment of Uday Singh as the Satguru after the demise of her husband in December 2012, was killed a day later after Thakur Dalip Singh, the elder brother of Uday Singh, held his own show of strength at Mukerian on Sunday and during his speech said the community should stay united.

Thakur Dalip and Uday Singh’s father Maharaj Bir Singh, being younger of two brothers, was never in the line to the throne. But since Satguru Jagjit Singh and Chand Kaur just had a daughter, Saheb Kaur (Bibaji), Dalip Singh was seen as the heir apparent by many in the community, also owing to his close proximity to the Satguru.

But as the health of Satguru Jagjit Singh started deteriorating in early 2000, Bhaini Sahib became a nest of intrigue and conspiracies. Chand Kaur, many in the community believe, wanted her UK-educated grandson Jai Singh, to succeed her husband. Her son-in-law Jagtar Singh too wields a considerable clout in the dera. Those privy to the affairs within the dera blame the powerful coterie surrounding Satguru Jagjit Singh for engineering a split within the ruling family.

Maharaj Bir Singh had set up his own dera at Jiwan Nagar in Sirsa, Haryana after falling out with his brother. A web of palace intrigues and conspiracies ensured his two sons too fell out with each other and the younger, Uday Singh, came close to Satguru Jagjit Singh while Dalip Singh was debarred from entering Bhaini Sahib along with his mother Dalip Kaur in 2009.

Dalip Singh now heads the Sirsa dera though he does not sit at the throne where a framed picture of his uncle, Satguru Jagjit Singh, is kept.

As the succession war raged on, a powerful member of the coterie, Avtar Singh Tari, was killed in 2011 and Thakur Dalip Singh was named as an accused. A series of cases were slapped against each other by the rival factions. The infighting reached a crescendo after Satguru Jagjit Singh’s demise and many Namdhari gurdwaras were locked down following clashes between followers of the two factions.

High financial stakes

Uday Singh, who was earlier based in Bangalore, has a flourishing business empire (Namdhari Seeds) and frequently travels Business Class to the city.

As the dera head, he has inherited businesses spanning across hospitals, including Satguru Partap Singh Apollo hospital in Ludhiana, schools and a hockey team (Namdhari 11). Bhaini Sahib is an island of affluence with astro turf for hockey, sprawling bungalows and luxury cars as donations worth crores flow in from India and outside.

The killing of Chand Kaur, who had a control over the donations, has thickened the plot. There are murmurs of a rift within those at helm of affairs of the dera. “It is not just a war of succession between two brothers but also war of supremacy within those controlling the Bhaini Sahib dera. In this entire web of intrigues, it is difficult to say who killed Chand Kaur and why,” sources in the dera revealed.

But there are others who see it as an attempt to disturb the hard-earned peace in the sect. “The community had forgotten the succession war and converged at Bhaini Sahib like before during Hola Mohalla. It did not go down with the other faction, which held a parallel congregation at Mukerian,”

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