In a dramatic turn of events, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) on Wednesday suspended ‘Panj Pyaras’ (the five beloved ones of the guru) hours after they summoned five Sikh high priests, including Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh, before the supreme temporal seat of Sikhism for their role in granting pardon to Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in a blasphemy case.
Terming the decision to summon the jathedars as against ‘Panthic’ traditions and the ‘maryada’ (tenets) of the Akal Takht, SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar said: “It is aimed at causing dissension and division in the ‘Panth’.
“It is also against office rules of the gurdwara body.”
Of the five ‘Panj Pyaras’, three have been asked to immediately report at the Sikh Mission office of the SGPC at Hapur in Uttar Pradesh, while two have been transferred to Kurukshetra in Haryana.
In a clear sign of an upheaval in the apex Sikh religious body, controlled by the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal, Makkar also ordered the suspension of SGPC secretaries Manjit Singh and Roop Singh, charging them with “failing to fulfil their Panthic duties”.
Makkar also suspended those who had publicly called Giani Gurbachan Singh a ‘paapi’ (sinner) on Tuesday. They include ‘hazoori ragis’ Bhai Karaj Singh and Bhai Harcharan Singh, ‘pracharak’ (preacher) Surjit Singh and supervisor Harpal Singh.
The drama began in the morning when the SGPC-designated ‘Panj Pyaras’ --- Satnam Singh Khanda, Tirlok Singh, Mangal Singh, Satnam Singh and Major Singh --- met at the Akal Takht, offered an ‘ ardas’, and then dropped a bombshell by announcing their decision to summon jathedars on October 23. “We have been under tremendous pressure from the ‘panth’ (community) that has questioned the conduct of the Takht sewadars. Many Sikhs have met us in the past few days to convey their anguish over the anti-panthic ‘faisla’ (decision) to first pardon the Sirsa dera head and then withdraw it,” they said.
“The community is of the view that the decision (of pardon) should have been taken in consultation with the ‘quam’ (community) and with other Sikh ‘jathedbandis’ (organisations). So, to clarify your entire position, you are hereby directed to present yourself before the Akal Takht,” said the announcement, asserting that they (Panj Pyaras) have the authority to summon even the Takht jathedars in exceptional circumstances facing the ‘Panth’.
The unprecedented move to summon the high priests sent the top SGPC and Akali leaders into a tizzy. Sensing an escalating defiance from within the SGPC, Makkar moved swiftly, cracking the whip on the ‘Panj Pyaras’ and others.
After the ‘Panj Pyaras’ announcement, Giani Gurbachan Singh refused to come out of his residence in the Golden Temple complex to give his reaction to the media. However, his emissary conveyed that he would send a written reply would be sent to the summons.
Appointed by the SGPC the ‘Panj Pyaras’ perform the ‘amrit sanchar’ (baptisim ceremony) at the Akal Takht and also lead ‘nagar kirtans’ (religious processions) on important Sikh occasions.
The concept of ‘Panj Pyaras’ was created by tenth Sikh master Guru Gobind Singh. He himself had to obey the decision of the ‘Panj Payaras’ who had ordered him to leave Anandpur Sahib after the Moghul army laid seige to the town.