The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) on Friday dismissed four of the Panj Pyaras, charging them with violation of the SGPC service rules, indulging in anti-Panthic activities and trying to weaken Sikh religious institutions, including the Akal Takht.
Those dismissed are Satnam Singh Khanda, Satnam Singh, Tirlok Singh and Mangal Singh. No action was taken against Major Singh, who retired on Thursday. The decision was taken at the emergency meeting of the SGPC executive here. Its president Avtar Singh Makkar presided over the meeting that lasted for almost five hours.
The decision of the executive comes a day ahead of the deadline set by the Panj Pyaras for the dismissal of the jathedars of Akal Takht, Takht Keshgarh Sahib and Takht Damdama Sahib for their role in pardoning Sirsa dera head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in a blasphemy case. When the five had first passed this order in October, they were suspended by the executive and transferred from Amritsar. Later, the suspension orders were withdrawn but not their transfers. The Panj Pyaras last week had passed fresh orders asking the executive to dismiss the three jathedars by January 2.
Two dissenting voices
Of the 15 members in the executive body, SGPC general secretary Sukhdev Singh Bhaur did not attend the meeting. In a previous executive meet, Bhaur had been critical of the functioning of Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh, Takht Keshgarh Sahib jathedar Giani Mal Singh and Takht Damdama Sahib acting jathedar Giani Gurmukh Singh in the Sacha Sauda case.
The only dissenting voices were those of Bhajan Singh Shergill and Mangal Singh, both of the Akali Dal (1925). The two were against the dismissal and walked out of the meeting. They observed that the executive should carry out the orders of the Panj Pyaras.
Another member, Karnail Singh Panjoli, surprisingly went along with the majority. “I am for the removal of the jathedars, but I do not approve of the manner in which the Panj Pyaras have been passing orders. They should stay within their limit,” he told the media.
Makkar justifies decision
Justifying the decision, Makkar told reporters that the action was taken as the executive concluded that their activities over the past two to three months had done damage to the Panth. Besides, they had violated discipline code by which all SGPC employees were bound, he added.
He made it clear that the Panj Pyaras might be directly under the Dharam Prachar Committee but they were employees of the SGPC, and hence governed by the SGPC service rules.
“Their task is to perform the ‘amrit sanchar’ (baptism) ceremony and lead religious procession on important occasions. However, they overstepped their jurisdiction and indulged in activities that were not in the interests of the Panth. They caused a great deal of confusion in the Sikh community,” he added.
The executive felt that the Panj Pyaras had tried to cause damage to Sikh institutions like the Akal Takht, whose jathedar had the sole authority to take important religious decisions after consulting the jathedars of the other Takhts. Their functioning mounted to lowering the supremacy of the Akal Takht, the executive observed.
Makkar said, “If the Panj Pyaras start taking important decisions, it will lead to chaos as we have Panj Pyaras in every gurdwara. If all start passing directives, then you can well imagine what will happen,” he added. The SGPC chief said the Panj Pyaras would not be allowed to hold any meeting at the Golden Temple complex or at any other shrine managed by the religious body.
Panj Pyaras firm on meeting
Despite their dismissal, the four remained firm and expressed their resolve to go ahead with their meeting on Saturday.
When asked for reaction, Satnam Singh Khanda said, “Wait for tomorrow, we will announce our next course of action. No one is above the institution of the Panj Pyaras, not even the SGPC.”
It remains to be seen whether Major Singh will form the five-member quorum or someone else will take his place. On his retirement on Thursday, Major Singh was not given the formal send-off, normally reserved for retiring SGPC employees.