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Thakur Singh: Under Jarnail's Shadow


The Tribune, Amritsar, Dec. 24, 2004

Photo: Thakur Singh

Baba Thakur Singh, who had taken over as the acting head of Damdami Taksal in June 1984 immediately after the infamous Operation Bluestar, died here today after a brief illness at a local private hospital. He was 89.

Baba Thakur Singh served as the acting jathedar [head priest] of the taksal for 20 years after the death of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale in June 1984.

Damdami Taksal, which was called the 'nursery of militancy' during the tenure of Sant Bhindranwale, witnessed peaceful days under the moderate leadership of Baba Thakur Singh. Though he was a man of few words he courted controversy by claiming that Sant Bhindranwale had escaped during the Army operation in June 1984 and was 'in high spirits.'

Though Baba Thakur Singh, staunch supporter of this theory, is no more, Damdami Taksal is still divided over this controversy. Bhai Nirwair Singh and Bhai Major Singh told The Tribune that until his death the Baba was of the view that Sant Bhindranwale would come back some day to take over as the jathedar of Damdami Taksal.

However, those who believe that Sant Bhindranwale was killed during Operation Bluestar are of the view that there won't be any takers for this theory after the Baba's death.

Earlier eight radical organizations, working under the name of Shaheed Jarnail Singh and the Ghallughara Yaadgar Committee, had declared Sant Bhindranwale a 'martyr' at Akal Takht on June 6 last year. The jathedar, Akal Takht, Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, and senior functionaries of the S.G.P.C. were present when Sant Bhindranwale was declared a 'martyr.' Sant Bhindranwale's elder son, Bhai Isher Singh, had accepted a siropa [honorary scarf] from jathedar Vedanti, giving a clear indication that his family had accepted the fact that the Sant was killed during Operation Bluestar.

However, a 'war of succession' is likely to take place at Damdami Taksal following the death of the Baba. There are many aspirants for the post. The families of Sant Kartar Singh Bhindranwale and Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale may vie for heading the seminary of the Sikhs, which is more than 300 years old.

Earlier, an unsavoury situation had occurred when an aide of Sant Bhindranwale, Bhai Ram Singh, claimed that Baba Thakur Singh had appointed him the 15th jathedar of the taksal. Later, the Baba clarified that nobody could succeed Sant Bhindranwale as he was still 'alive.'

Baba Takhur Singh was born in 1915 at Eechogill village, in Lahore (Pakistan). Both his parents were baptised, recited prayers daily and had an unshakeable faith in the Sikh gurus and the Guru Granth Sahib. After the partition of British India, they came to India and settled in Sadaruala village near Makhu in Ferozepore district. He had served as garveye (close associate) of Sant Kartar Singh Bhindranwale for 22 years. He had stayed at the taksal for more than 70 years as he had joined the seminary at an early age. He has been associated with four heads of the taksal. When Sant Bhindranwale launched the Dharm Yudh Morcha in July 1982, Baba Thakur Singh was asked to take care of Gurdwara Gurdarshan Parkash, Chowk Mehta. Many gurdwaras were built during his tenure as acting jathedar of the taksal, including Gurdwara Shaheed Ganj B-Block where 13 Sikhs were killed during the Sikh-Nirankari clash.