The Nanakshahi calendar row escalated on Thursday as a host of Sikh organisations – who are rallying behind Takht Damdama Sahib jathedar Giani Balwant Singh Nandgarh -- thronged the Golden Temple complex, demanding that the Akal Takht order reverting to the 2003 calendar.
The organisations, including Gurmat Sewa Lehar, Nanakshahi Calendar Taal Mel Organisation, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD, Amritsar), SAD (Panch Pardhani), Bhai Ram Singh’s Akhand Kirtani Jatha, the All India Sikh Students Federation (AISSF-Peer Mohammad) and the Dal Khalsa, met Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh here on Thursday and submitted a joint memorandum.
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), on the other hand, seemed to have cleared the decks for Nandgarh’s removal, with its members from Bathinda and Mansa passing a resolution on Thursday at Talwandi Sabo, demanding his removal from the post of jathedar. The six SGPC members, who met to pass the resolution, also urged the Akal Takht to summon Nandgarh for disobeying the SGPC’s call of celebrating Guru Gobind Singh’s birth anniversary on December 28.
Nandgarh had refused to participate in the nagar kirtan on the eve of Gurpurb, asserting that the Gurpurb date was not in accordance with the Nanakshahi calendar. Nandgarh has stood by the ‘original’ calendar of 2003 and not changed his stand despite pressure from the Punjab government. His security was recently withdrawn and he was also asked to step down or accept the demand of the government-backed Sant Samaj.
Nandgarh on Thursday reiterated that Guru Gobind Singh’s birth anniversary would be celebrated on January 5, the Nanakshahi calendar’s date for Gurpurb.
Prominent among those who met the jathedar in Nandgarh’s support included former Takht Damdama Sahib jathedar Giani Kewal Singh, Gurmat Sewa Lehar head Bhai Prathmpreet Singh, Bhai Ram Singh and Baldev Singh Sirsa. Nandgarh’s show of strength at the Golden Temple included hundreds of his supporters from Bathinda.
Representatives of these groups told the jathedar that they were opposed to the Sant Samaj’s move to shift to the Bikrami calendar. “We have categorically conveyed it to the jathedar that any move to reintroduce the Bikrami calendar will be opposed by the ‘quam’ (Sikh community). The ‘original’ Nanakshahi calendar should be given recognition by the Akal Takht,” Prathmpreet Singh told mediapersons after meeting the jathedar.
Groups came for scheduled meeting
The groups had arrived in Amritsar as they were under the impression that the Sikh clergy (high priests) would meet on Friday (January 2) to discuss the Nanakshahi calendar and other issues. However, this meeting was postponed by the jathedar late on Wednesday. These organisations expressed their resentment to the jathedar over his reported statement asking the community’s leaders not to come to the Akal Takht for discussing the calendar issue but to go to the central government for the release of Sikh detainees who have completed their jail terms or have been in jail since long.
‘Focus on calendar, not detainees’
Pro-Nanakshahi groups told the jathedar that he should refrain from giving such misleading statements to divert the attention from the calendar issue. “While the issues pertaining to the release of detainees and amendment of Article 25(b) of the Constitution are matters which have to be taken up at the government level, the calendar issue has to be solved by the Akal Takht,” the memorandum said.
The memorandum added that if anyone had ever ‘betrayed’ the ‘quam’, it was the Sikh political leadership. Issues concerning the community have often been sidetracked by leaders after coming to power, it said. These groups assured the jathedar that they would go along with him on all Sikh issues, provided he acknowledged the 2003 Nanakshahi calendar. They have told the jathedar that he can take the views of Sikh scholars and historians on the calendar issue.
Resolution for Nandgarh’s removal
A meeting of SGPC members from Bathinda and Mansa was held at Talwandi Sabo in which the members demanded that Nandgarh be removed from the post of the high priest of Takht Damdama Sahib. SGPC executive committee member Mohan Singh Bangi, who chaired the meeting, said the members had unanimously passed a resolution urging SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar to also summon Nandgarh for disobeying its call to celebrate Guru Gobind Singh’s birth anniversary on December 28 by not taking part in the nagar kirtan the day before. SGPC member Amrik Singh Kot Shamir said Bangi, Major Singh Dhillon, Gurtej Singh Dhadde, Surjit Singh Raipur and Mithu Singh Kahnke, besides him, took part in the meeting, while members Jaspal Kaur and Jasvir Kaur sent their representatives.
“The members who could not participate in the meeting have given their consent to the resolution and both demands have been sent to Makkar and the Akal Takht jathedar through the manager of Takht Damdama Sahib,” he added. There are 13 SGPC members in the two districts.
Resolution an attempt to divert attention: Nandgarh
Meanwhile, firm on his stand in support of the 2003 Nanakshahi calendar, Nandgarh said the resolution was nothing but an attempt to divert attention from the main issue of the calendar. “The meeting of the Sikh clergy in December had decided to observe Gurpurb in January and it was conveyed to people also, but the date was changed to December 28 later. I don’t know under whose pressure this was done,” he said. Nandgarh said he would observe Gurpurb on January 5 as per the original Nanakshahi calendar and had stayed away from the celebrations in December as he was not convinced to club the martyrdom day of the sons of Guru Gobind Singh with the guru’s birth anniversary.
Nandgarh has opposed the move to revert to the Bikrami calendar, saying that the 2003 Nanakshahi calendar should be followed by Sikhs as it is a symbol of their separate identity.