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Golden Temple museum to have ex-Akal Takht acting jathedar Kaunke’s portrait

Kaunke was appointed by ‘Sarbat Khalsa’ in 1986 and was arrested in 1993. His whereabouts are not known since then

punjab Updated: Jan 03, 2018 11:35 IST
Surjit Singh
Surjit Singh
Hindustan Times, Amritsar
Golden Temple,Golden Temple museum,Akal Takht
Kaunke was arrested in 1993 and his whereabouts are not known since then.(HT Photo)

A portrait of former acting jathedar of Akal Takht Gurdev Singh Kaunke will be installed at the Golden Temple museum, 25 years after his alleged forced disappearance.

The decision was taken a few months ago when Kirpal Singh Badungar was the president of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), said SGPC member Gurcharan Singh Grewal, while speaking to HT on Tuesday.

Kaunke, who studied at Sikh seminary Damdami Taksal, was born in 1949 at Kaunke Kalan village in Jagraon subdivision of Ludhiana district. He was appointed as acting jathedar of the highest temporal seat of the Sikhs with the support of pro-Khalistan groups during a “Sarbat Khalsa” (Sikh congregation) held on January 26, 1986, when militancy was at its peak in Punjab.

Kaunke was arrested a number of times for his alleged support to militant groups. He was close to Sukhdev Singh Sakhira of the Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF).

At the assembly, the delegation of “Sarbat Khalsa” announced Jasbir Singh Rode as the jathedar of Akal Takht. Rode was imprisoned during his appointment, therefore the delegation assigned Kaunke to serve as the acting jathedar.

On April 29, 1986, the Panthic Committee held a press conference at the Golden Temple and declared a separate Sikh nation. Soon after the declaration, all members of the Panthic Committee escaped. Subsequently, the police and army surrounded the premises and arrested Kaunke.

Kaunke was arrested a number of times for his alleged support to militant groups. He was close to Sukhdev Singh Sakhira of the Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF). The Akal Takht building — that was damaged during Operation Bluestar in June 1984 when the army stormed the Golden Temple complex — was rebuilt during Kaunke’s tenure.

He was again arrested in 1993 and his whereabouts are not known since then. Sikh advocacy groups allege that he was subjected to forced disappearance.

Kaunke’s death anniversary is observed on January 1 at his birthplace Kaunke Kalan.

Grewal said Kaunke was a “respected personality” and “martyr” of the Sikh community. A resolution was passed during the tenure of Badungar to install Kaunke’s portrait at the museum. “A meeting will be convened by the SGPC chief Gobind Singh Longowal to finalise the date of installing Kaunke’s portrait,” he said.

First Published: Jan 03, 2018 11:34 IST