The Panthic crisis in Punjab is likely to escalate with Sikh hardliners organising the November 10 Sarbat Khalsa (Sikh congregation) preparing to announce the names of ‘parallel’ jathedars to ‘replace’ the current heads of the three Takhts in Punjab, including the highest temporal seat of the Sikhs, the Akal Takht. The other two Takhts in the state are Takht Keshgarh Sahib and Takht Damdama Sahib.
Sources said the names being proposed for jathedars include ex-militant Jagtar Singh Hawara, who is lodged in Delhi’s Tihar jail in former Punjab CM Beant Singh’s assassination case, and Bhai Ranjit Singh, former Akal Takht jathedar.
The agenda in this regard is being circulated for consensus among Sikh ‘jathebandis’ (organisations).
The tentative agenda of the gurmata (Guru’s decree), which will be announced during the Sarbat Khalsa does not include the demand for a separate Sikh nation, Khalistan, in the absence of consensus on the issue.
Sources said the demand for Khalistan had already been made during the Sarbat Khalsa held in January 1986, so it should not be repeated at another such event. The agenda might include the demand for the implementation of the Anandpur Sahib resolution.
Meanwhile, addressing a joint press conference of Sikh bodies organising the Sarbat Khalsa, United Akali Dal (UAD) convener Bhai Mohkam Singh on Wednesday said the congregation would be held on a 40-acre piece of land at Chabba village on the Amritsar-Tarn Taran road. “It is aimed at announcing changes that will lead to muchneeded reforms in Sikh institutions, including the Takhts and the SGPC,” he said.
When asked if the Sarbat Khalsa would also give a call for a political change in the state, Bhai Mohkam Singh said Punjab could not be separated from the Panth. “Even though the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) was created to protect the Sikh religion politically, the current disposition has distorted its face, form and philosophy. The Congress hurt us physically by leading attacks on our most sacred places and the SAD has hurt our soul by diminishing the authority of the Sikh institutions,” he said.
He did not comment on the possibility of announcing support for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the 2017 assembly elections.
The UAD is supporting the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) led by Simranjit Singh Mann in the ongoing series of protests. Mann, who was present at the press conference, maintained a stoic silence, even when asked about Khalistan. Mann had said during a press conference in Jalandhar on Saturday that Khalistan would be on the agenda at the Sarbat Khalsa. Sources added that following objections raised by a section of Sikh hardliners, Khalistan as a demand had been put on the backburner to make the Sarbat Khalsa ‘all-inclusive’.
Bhai Mohkam Singh announced that they now also had the backing of the Ravi Inder Singh-led SAD (1920). He added that they were trying to convince the Dal Khalsa, SAD (Panch Pardhani) and the Sant Samaj to back the Sarbat Khalsa.
Interestingly, Sikh preacher Panthpreet Singh, who is leading the protests against incidents of sacrilege, is yet to support the Sarbat Khalsa. Ranjit Singh Dhadrianwale, the other Sikh preacher in the forefront of the protests, has announced his attendance at the Sarbat Khalsa.
“We are requesting all Sikh ‘jathebandis’ and individuals to set aside their differences and be part of this congregation. Every Sikh is invited to participate in the Sarbat Khalsa. Non-Sikhs are welcome to witness the historic event,” he said.
When asked if Sikh leaders of political parties could attend the Sarbat Khalsa, Bhai Mohkam Singh said, “The Badals, Captain Amarinder Singh, Partap Singh Bajwa can come if they want to.”