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Panthic Rows Dominated 2002


The Tribune, Dec. 19, 2002

Photo: Ashutosh Maharaj

The Sikh clergy could not solve most of the vital Panthic [community] issues, including the Nanakshahi calendar, the Dasam Granth [said to contain the tenth guru's hymns] and many other controversial issues during this year.

Instead, jathedars [head-priest] embroiled themselves in a number of controversies, including the infamous bribery case, which lowered their image in the eyes of the Sikh masses. The year witnessed the arrest of Giani [priest] Kewal Singh, jathedar of Damdama Sahib, in connection with the death of his daughter-in-law, while Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti and Prof. Manjit Singh, jathedars of Akal Takht and Kesgarh Sahib, respectively, faced serious charges of corruption. The Sikh clergy failed to handle the ticklish issue of controversial godman Ashutosh Maharaj. The 31-member committee to counter activities of the Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan (D.J.J.S.), which was to be formed at the behest of Sikh high priests, remained a non-starter.

The publication of pictures of Surinder Kaur Badal, wife of Parkash Singh Badal, President, Shiromani Akali Dal, and Joginder Singh Panjrath, executive member of the S.G.P.C., with Ashutosh further complicated the situation of jathedar Vedanti. Though the complaints along with proofs (pictures of Mr. Panjrath and Ms. Badal) had been submitted to Akal Takht, yet no action was taken in this regard. The Sikh high priests remained indecisive on the unanimous resolution of the S.G.P.C. which sought the summoning of Capt. Amarinder Singh, Chief Minister, at Akal Takht for allowing the police entry into the S.G.P.C. complex during the annual elections of the S.G.P.C.'s office-bearers. Jathedar Vedanti could not decide on the pending petitions which sought the summoning of Mr. Badal for participating in a havan [Hindu ritual involving oblations to the fire god] and former Akali minister Sucha Singh Langah for organizing 501 paaths [recitations] of the Ramayana.

The most controversial issues such as the Nanakshahi calendar and the Dasam Granth also remained unresolved. Though the jathedar, Akal Takht, had referred the matter to the S.G.P.C. for constituting committees for the purpose, yet no tangible results were achieved. Despite a number of reminders sent by Akal Takht, the S.G.P.C. could not reach any conclusion on whether Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwala is dead or alive. As per the requirement of the maryada, Sikh high priests failed to ensure the participation of Giani Puran Singh, Head Granthi, Golden Temple, at Akal Takht meetings. However, jathedar Vedanti is the first jathedar of Akal Takht to have held meetings with the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and the Pope, John Paul. Both meetings took place this year.