The ‘Panj Pyaras’ (Guru’s five beloved ones) sacked from the Akal Takht last year opened their office here on Friday “to free the highest temporal seat of Sikhs from Akali clutches”.
Reading out a message at the opening ceremony, their head, Satnam Singh Khanda, said “lost Sikh faith in the SGPC’s (Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee’s) official jathedars (head priests)” had forced them to take over their duties of promoting Sikh principles, upholding ‘maryada’ (Sikh code), conducting ‘Amrit Sanchar’ (baptism ceremonies), and saving Punjab’s youth from drugs.
The five fired men claimed they had not opened any parallel office or challenged the authority of the Akal Takht, only tried to unite the Panth (Sikh community) against the “Akali dominance” of the seat. Alleging army’s hand in the disappearance of rare manuscripts from the Sikh reference library at the Golden Temple during Operation Bluestar in 1984, the ‘Panj Pyaras’ said they would take the matter to the United Nations (UN).
Sikh hardliners such as former Takht Damdama Sahib jathedar Giani Balwant Singh Nandgarh, Giani Ram Singh (Damdami Taksal, Sangrawan faction), Kanwarpal Singh (Dal Khalsa), and historian Ajmer Singh recognised these sacked “Panj Pyaras” as front faces in their struggle against Punjab’s ruling party, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD).
The Panthic groups honoured Golden Temple “ardasia” (priest) Balbir Singh and former SGPC employee Ramandeep Singh — former for his refusing ‘siropa’ (robe of honour) to chief minister Parkash Singh Badal over the sacrilege incidents, and the latter for revolting against SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar during a meeting. Balbir Singh received a cheque for Rs 1 lakh from UK-based Sikh Relief.
Upset over the exoneration of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in a 2007 blasphemy matter, the ‘Panj Pyaras’ — Satnam Singh Khanda, Tarlok Singh, Mangal Singh, Satnam Singh, and Major Singh — had summoned Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh before them at the seat and asked the SGPC to replace all five jathedars. The SGPC executive body sacked the rebels.
‘Sarbat Khalsa’ band stays away
Sikh radical organisations, including the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) led by Simranjit Singh Mann and the United Akali Dal (UAD) led by Mohkam Singh, which had organised the radical ‘Sarbat Khalsa’ in Amritsar district last November 10, did not attend the opening ceremony of the office. Even the radical “jathedars” appointed at the unofficial Sikh congregation stayed away.
Radical ‘jathedar’ loses some support
Akhand Kirtani Jatha (AKJ), a Sikh fundamentalist group that 1913 Ghadar movement leader Bhai Randhir Singh had founded, has withdrawn support from parallel “Keshgarh Sahib jathedar” Amrik Singh Ajnala, who was appointed at the radical ‘Sarbat Khalsa’ last November. This is over his foul language against the organisation and Sikh preacher Ranjit Singh Dhadrianwale in the presence of holy book at Ajnala in Amritsar district on the 32nd anniversary of Operation Bluestar.
Who pays them?
Asked about their source of funding, the ‘Panj Pyaras’ claimed the ‘sangat’ (Sikh public) across the world had given them “a good response”. Sources said their car was a gift from fundamentalist group Akhand Kirtani Jatha, while UK-based Sikh Relief led by Balbir Singh Bains sent them `25,000 a month each as salary and some money to run the office.