Pushing the Parkash Singh Badal government into a deeper religio-political crisis, the radical Sarbat Khalsa on Tuesday ‘removed’ four of the five Takht jathedars, while ‘appointing’ Jagtar Singh Hawara, a convict in former chief minister Beant Singh’s assassination case, as the Akal Takht jathedar. Hawara, a one-time Babbar Khalsa militant, is undergoing life sentence at Burail jail in Chandigarh.
The radical Sarbat Khalsa (congregation of Sikhs), held here on the outskirts of the holy city amid tight security, witnessed a gathering of more than one lakh people. It was organised by Simranjit Singh Mann-led Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD-Amritsar), United Akali Dal, SAD (1920), Sikh Sangharsh Committee and a couple of other radical groups and religious bodies opposed to the ruling SAD of the Badals and the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), the apex Sikh body that appoints Takht jathedars.
The SAD as well as the SGPC rejected all resolutions passed at the congregation. SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar said the jathedars announced during the gathering at Chabba village would not get recognition from the Sikh body.
In Hawara’s absence, former Lok Sabha MP Dhian Singh Mand was ‘appointed’ interim jathedar of the Akal Takht. The organisers said Mand would address the Sikh community from the Akal Takht on the occasion of Bandhi Chhor Diwas (Diwali) on Wednesday.
The radical Sarbat Khalsa also ‘removed’ Giani Mal Singh, jathedar of Takht Keshgarh Sahib, and Giani Gurmukh Singh, acting jathedar of Takht Damdama Sahib, ‘replacing’ them with Amrik Singh Ajnala and Sikh preacher Baljit Singh Daduwal. The congregation announced the ‘removal’ of Giani Iqbal Singh as jathedar of Takht Patna Sahib. However, no ‘appointment’ was made in his place as the appointing authority in this case is the Takht Patna Sahib Management Board, not the SGPC.
The congregation declared Lt Gen KS Brar (retd), the Operation Bluestar commander, and KPS Gill, a former director general of Punjab Police, as “tankhaiya” (guilty of religious misconduct) and directed them to appear before the Akal Takht by November 30. Both were accused of “genocide” of Sikhs.
Hawara’s appointment was announced after the congregation gave its nod to the ‘removal’ of Giani Gurbachan Singh as the Akal Takht jathedar. The major reason for ‘ousting’ the four high priests was their controversial decision to pardon Sirsa dera head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in a blasphemy case (the pardon was later revoked). No action was announced against Giani Ram Singh, a granthi of Takht Hazoor Sahib (Nanded, Maharashtra), who was the fifth ‘Singh Sahib’ present at the September 24 meeting.
A majority of those who attended the congregation came all the way from the districts of Moga, Faridkot, Ferozepur, Bathinda and other parts of Malwa that has witnessed a series of sacrilege incidents over the past month. People ignored SGPC-appointed Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh’s appeal asking Sikhs not to attend the event as such congregations could only be held at the Akal Takht.