The removal of Takht Damdama Sahib jathedar Giani Balwant Singh Nandgarh from his post is now almost a certainty as he has displeased the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leadership by refusing to change his stand on the Nanakshahi calendar.
The jathedar will be given the marching orders by the executive of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) when it meets on January 17. The venue of the meeting is likely to be Amritsar or Chandigarh.
The SAD chief and deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal has directed SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar to start the process for the removal. The first step in this direction is obtaining the consent of the four office-bearers and 11 executive members.
Confirming this, SGPC sources told HT here on Sunday that the process for obtaining the signatures of the office-bearers and executive members had begun. Barring two or three members, all others had given their written consent for getting rid of the jathedar, who has gone on record to express his support for the original Nanakshahi calendar of 2003.
Makkar has been directed to ensure that all members attend the January 17 executive meeting. Most of the members are expected to comply; the only exception could be SGPC general secretary Sukhdev Singh Bhaur, who is abroad.
Radical group Dal Khalsa has also indicated the possible move of the SGPC executive to remove Nandgarh. Party spokesperson Kanwar Pal Singh, in a statement, appealed to Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh not to take the proposed ouster of his fellow colleague lightly as “tomorrow it could be his turn”.
“The jathedar has taken a bold and principled stand in favour of the original Nanakshahi calendar and this has irked Sukhbir Badal and the Sant Samaj,” he added.
SAD leadership annoyed with Nandgarh
Nandgarh had annoyed the SAD leadership, especially Sukhbir Badal, by refusing to go along with them on the calendar issue. The SAD leadership is backing the Sant Samaj led by Damdami Taksal head Harnam Singh Dhuma on the issue.
Dhuma wants the Akal Takht to revert to the lunar-based traditional Bikrami calendar. His opposition to the Nanakshahi calendar is that it has caused ‘confusion among Sikhs’ vis-a-vis the dates of certain important festivals or events.
Dhuma’s application for reverting to the Bikrami calendar is pending before Giani Gurbachan Singh since December 2013. He has avoided taking up the matter in the meeting of the Sikh high priests as he is aware that any move to get rid of the solar-based Nanakshahi calendar will invite opposition from Nandgarh and a large section of the Panthic groups and organisations.
In fact, when changes were made in the 2003 Nankshahi calendar in 2010, Nandgarh had expressed his opposition at the meeting of the high priests. However, he went along with the majority decision and the Akal Takht approved the amended calendar of 2010.
Other than Nandgarh, Bhaur and SGPC executive member Karnail Singh Panjoli, too, had opposed the amendments.
In fact, Nandgarh has accused the RSS of being behind the move of the Sant Samaj for reverting to the Bikrami calendar, which is followed by the majority community. So by removing Nandgarh, the SAD leadership hopes to please the RSS and the BJP.
In November last year, the security of the jathedar was withdrawn on the orders of the state government. In fact, Nandgarh went on to claim that two Akali leaders had approached him with the message that he either support the Sant Samaj or quit as jathedar.
However, with Nandgarh refusing to shift his stand, the SAD leadership has finally decided that it is time to get rid of him.