Being an election year, the Badal government on Sunday decided to play it safe, allowing jathedars appointed by radical Sikh groups to pay obeisance at the Golden Temple amid large presence of police (in civvies) inside the shrine. The police kept a close watch on jathedars and a handful of supporters.
The three Jathedars — Dhian Singh Mand, acting jathedar of Akal Takht, Amrik Singh Ajnala, jathedar of Takht Keshgarh Sahib and Baljit Singh Daduwal, jathedar of Takht Damdama Sahib — and their supporters paid obeisance at the sanctum sanctorum of the shrine and also at Akal Takht. The three were appointed jathedars in November last year during the radical Sarbat Khalsa at Chabba village in Amritsar district.
Led by Amritsar police commissioner AS Chahal, police officials, all in civvies, watched the proceedings closely, intervening only when necessary so as to keep the situation under control. Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) officials, along with their task force, moved along with the radicals inside the shrine often getting involved in verbal duels.
Earlier in the day, there were apprehensions that the government might arrest the radical jathedars near the “samad” of Baba Naudh Singh on the Tarn Taran road before they entered the city. However, following talks with police officials and after giving assurance that they were here to pay obeisance, radical jathedars with their 50-odd supporters were allowed to move towards the shrine.
Mand and United Akali Dal president Mohkam Singh were recently arrested near the Shambhu border when they entered Punjab. The two were later let off. The SGPC has been resisting attempts by the three radical jathedars to take control of the three Takhts in Punjab. During Diwali last year, Mand had managed to sneak into the Golden Temple and had also delivered a speech, which did not go down well with the government.
However, with assembly polls due early next year, the government does not seem too keen to enter into confrontation with the radicals, lest matters go out of hand, as it happened after incidents of desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib in the state last year.
PAY OBEISANCE AT SHRINE
At the Clock Tower entrance of the shrine, Mohkam Singh presented “siropas” to the three jathedars where their supporters were stopped from raising anti-government slogans.
Members of the SGPC task force formed a ring around the three jathedars at the “parikrama” of the shrine. After paying obeisance, Mand made attempts to address the devotees, but was not allowed by the task force. Their attempt to hold a media briefing inside the shrine was also foiled.
FAIL TO LAY FOUNDATION STONE
The radical jathedars wanted to lay the foundation stone of ‘their own’ Akal Takht secretariat as they are barred from entering the SGPC secretariat.
“It does not matter if we have not laid the foundation stone. We will accomplish this task after the appointment of two more jathedars,” Mand said, in an obvious reference to Takht Hazur Sahib in Nanded, Maharashtra, and Takht Patna Sahib in Bihar.
The radical jathedars spent three hours inside the shrine. Members of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), including Jarnail Singh Sakira and Satnam Singh Manawa, were also present.
Before departing, Mand alleged that the SGPC task force created hurdles when they were paying obeisance at the shrine. He claimed that they were not allowed to address the devotees as being “legitimate” jathedars of the “quam”, it was their duty to send across a message to the Sikh community.
SGPC-appointed Jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh refused to comment on the radical jathedars’ visit to the shrine.
“Our task force is always inside the shrine, especially on Sundays and other holidays keeping in mind the rush of devotees,” said SGPC spokesperson.