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Spokesman Editor Excommunicated


The Tribune, Amritsar (India), Feb. 6, 2004

Photo: Joginder Singh Vedanti (right), with Kiranjot Kaur

Even as the Sikh clergy today declared Mr. Joginder Singh [Sawhney], editor of the monthly magazine The Spokesman, tankhaiya ([excommunicated] guilty of religious punishment), the latter [Sawhney] has convened a meeting of his supporters at Chandigarh [on] March 10 to defy the directives publicly. Mr. Joginder Singh has become the first editor of a widely circulated magazine to be declared tankhaiya. Earlier, Mr. Barjinder Singh Hamdard was summoned [to the] Akal Takht by the then jathedar [head-priest] Bhai Ranjit Singh. However, the latter [Ranjit Singh] was removed from the post before the implementation of the directive. Mr. Joginder Singh said he would not appear before the [Akal] Takht, as there was no such provision in Sikhism to declare anybody tankhaiya.

Pronouncing the directive from the rostrum of Akal Takht, jathedar [Joginder Singh] Vedanti urged the Sikh sangat [community] not to have any relations with the editor [until] he [seeks] pardon as per the Sikh maryada [custom; code of conduct]. The directive was signed by jathedar Vedanti, Giani Iqbal Singh (jathedar Patna Sahib), Giani Balwant Singh Nandgarh (jathedar Takht Damdama Sahib), Giani Tarlochan Singh (jathedar Takht Kesgarh Sahib), and Giani Rattan Singh (deputy jathedar Takht Hazur Sahib and issued under the seal of [the] Akal Takht. The directive stated that Mr. Joginder Singh was guilty of violating the directives of Akal Takht and had tried to denigrate the age old institutions of [the] Sikhs.

Meanwhile, Akal Takht has [also] announced [a decision] to withdraw the title '[National] Professor of Sikhism' [from] Mr. Gurtej Singh for allegedly violating the directives of [the] Akal Takht. Mr. Gurtej Singh, a former bureaucrat, was the second Sikh [to be] honoured with [the] title after Sirdar Kapur Singh, a former I.C.S. [Indian Civil Service] officer. This is the first time that [the] Akal Takht has withdrawn the title. Mr. Gurtej Singh was accused of supporting Mr. [Gurbakhsh] Singh Kala Afghana, a Canada-based cop-turned-scholar, who was excommunicated from the Sikh Panth [community].

Talking to T.N.S., Mr. Joginder Singh announced that he and his supporters were ready to make any sacrifice but would not bow before the 'arbitrary directives' of the Sikh clergy. He said he would not allow [the] Akal Takht to be used as [a] 'court.' He wanted to work like Martin Luther, who had opposed the Pope's 'arbitrary directives,' he added.

Meanwhile, in a significant statement jathedar Vedanti said that jathedars of Patna Sahib and Hazoor Sahib had agreed in principle to implement the Nanakshahi calendar shortly. However, he said that [the] Akal Takht was open to necessary amendments in the calendar as desired by various sections of the Sikh Panth. Jathedar Vedanti asked the state government not to arrange parallel functions to mark the anniversaries of Guru Angad Dev and Guru Granth Sahib. [He requested that in] case the state government wanted to celebrate these functions, these should be held under the patronage of the S.G.P.C.