More than 20,000 followers, besides dignitaries from various fields, attended the cremation of Satguru Jagjit Singh, the Namdhari sect's spiritual head, on Friday. The last rites were performed at the Satguru's native village and Namdharis' township, Bhaini Sahib, 35 km from here.
Soon after the cremation, HS Hanspal, a sect follower and former Punjab Congress president, made an announcement on behalf of Satguru's widow Mata Chand Kaur, declaring Uday Singh as the administrative head of the Namdharis. Soon after the announcement, followers started touching Uday Singh's feet.
The Satguru's grandson, Jai Singh, lit the pyre. His nephew, Thakur Uday Singh, and son-in-law Jagtar Singh also performed the last rites.
Emotions ran high among the followers, especially women, as they bid a tearful adieu to their spiritual head. Some even fainted when the pyre was lit.
People even walked down from the main road, 3 km from the township, and climbed atop trees to get the Satguru's last glimpse.
When asked about handing over of the "guru gaddi" to Uday Singh, Hanspal said, "He would not be called Satguru, but would perform all duties in the capacity of the sect head."
On whether a consensus had been reached on Uday Singh's succession, Hanspal said, "There is no consensus yet. It (naming new sect head) is only a nomination. We have made the announcement on the orders of Mata Chand Kaur."
Uday Singh is the chairman of the management of SPS Apollo Hospital, Ludhiana. He is also the chief executive officer of Namdhari Seeds Private Limited, which produces hybrid vegetable seeds for export to other countries, and the incharge of the Namdhari Hockey Federation.
Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal led the state political leadership on the occasion. Prominent among others present were Akali ministers Adesh Partap Singh Kairon, Sharanjit Singh Dhillon and Sarwan Singh Phillaur; Akali leaders Darshan Singh Shivalik, Ranjit Dhillon and Hira Singh Gabria; BJP leader Satpal Gosain; Congress leaders Lal Singh, Gurkirat Singh Kotli, Amrik Singh Dhillon, Tej Pratap Singh, Prem Mittal, Guriqbal Kaur, Rajinder Kaur Bhattal and latter's son-in-law Vikram Bajwa; Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh's (RSS) Punjab unit chief Brij Bhushan Bedi; and Radha Soami Dera chief Gurinder Singh Dhillon.
Among the police officers, deputy inspector general (DIG), Ludhiana range, MF Farooqui, Khanna senior superintendent of police (SSP) Jatinder Singh Aulakh, Rupnagar SSP Indermohan Singh, SAS Nagar SSP Gurpreet Singh Bhullar and Jagraon SSP Ashish Chaudhary were present.
The bhog ceremony will be held at Bhaini Sahib on December 23.
A heavy police force was deployed at Bhaini Sahib, besides traffic cops to manage the rush of vehicles. Senior officials, including Ludhiana police commissioner Ishwar Singh and other IPS officers monitored the security arrangements. The administration provided bus service for followers from the main road to the venue.
Kabaddi final as per schedule: Badal
When asked about postponement or cancellation of the Kabaddi World Cup final in view of Satguru Jagjit Singh's death, Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal said, "It is an international event. It has to be held as per schedule."
Upset at the CM's statement, senior Congress leader Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, who was sitting next to Badal, said, "It's not a good gesture on the part of the state government as the Satguru was a world-renowned personality who worked for noble causes. The Kabaddi World Cup celebrations should be cancelled."