Controversies and flip-flops mar Akal Takht jathedar’s tenure
Controversies were always by his side since Giani Gurbachan Singh assumed charge as jathedar of the Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of the Sikhs.
But it was the row over granting apology to Dera Sacha Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in a blasphemy case that proved to be his undoing, making him step down, finally.
The former head granthi (Sikh priest) of the Golden Temple, who replaced Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti as Akal Takht jathedar on August 7, 2008, had joined the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) as a sewadar in February 1972 at historic Gurdwara Sri Darbar Sahib, Muktsar, the home district of former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, patron of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) which controls the SGPC, says his son-in-law Satinderpal Singh.
His native village Chakk Baja where he was born on April 6, 1948 is also in Muktsar district. His remarkable rise from the post of ‘sewadar’ to head of the supreme temporal seat despite being an under-matriculate was quite like his predecessors Vedanti and Giani Puran Singh.
He was promoted from ‘sewadar’ to granthi and head granthi of Muktsar gurdwara in 1996. Following a complaint of presenting ‘siropa’ (robe of honour) to the then home minister Buta Singh during the period of his excommunication from the Sikh panth, Giani Gurbachan Singh had been transferred from Muktsar to Gurdwara Dhamtan Sahib, Jind, in Haryana.
But he was transferred to the Golden Temple after he had clarified that the siropa was actually presented to Joginder Singh Mann, a former Congress minister, who then handed it over to his uncle (Buta Singh).
He was given charge of granthi of the central Sikh shrine in 1997 and then in 2005 its head granthi, as per Satinderpal who also worked as an assistant to him. His tenure as the Takht jathedar was hit by a controversy when his predecessor Vedanti had claimed to have been forced by the SGPC to quit.
In an SGPC executive meeting when he was named new jathedar, two executive members had strongly opposed Vedanti’s removal saying the gurdwara body took the step under pressure of the RSS as Vedanti issued ‘hukamnama’ (religious edict) asking to boycott the activities of Rashtriya Sikh Sangat, an affiliate of the RSS.
Around over a year after he took charge, he drew criticism from a section of the Sikh community by adopting modifications in the Nanakshahi calendar in the name of “amendments”. Even the then Takht Damdama Sahib Giani Balwant Singh Nandgarh opposed the move.