Friday, June 6, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Clergy exonerates Badal
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, June 5
Paving the way for the much-awaited unity between the SAD and the Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal (SHSAD), the Sikh clergy today exonerated Mr Parkash Singh Badal, President, SAD, from the charge of violating ‘maryada’ (Sikh tradition).

This is unprecedented in Sikh history. Never has a person accused of violating a ‘hukamnama’ (edict) been absolved of the charge without undergoing ‘tankhah’ (punishment for religious misconduct).

Today’s edict is likely to spur a keen debate among the Sikhs.

It was for the first time that an accused was invited for ‘consultations’ before the pronouncement of the edict. Mr Badal, who was “invited for consultations” was accorded a VIP treatment at the Akal Takht secretariat.

According to highly placed sources, it was the leadership of the Akali Dal and the SGPC which dictated terms for the appearance of Mr Badal at Akal Takht. Instead of pronouncing ‘tankhah’, the Sikh clergy chose to ask Mr Badal to offer ‘parsad’ at Akal Takht.

Jathedar Vedanti emphasised that offering ‘parsad’ and performing ‘ardas’ on behalf of Mr Badal did not constitute ‘tankhah’. Despite repeated queries by mediapersons, Jathedar Vedanti declined comment on whether Mr Badal had violated ‘maryada’ or not.

“I don’t want to speak beyond what I have given to you in writing”, he said. However, the Jathedar appeared tense after the pronouncement of the edict.

The meeting of the clergy, which lasted more than two hours, was disrupted several times with messages from persons who reportedly called the shots from an adjoining room of the Akal Takht secretariat.

The Jathedar directed the SAD to organise ‘akhand path’ at Manji Sahib within the premises of the Golden Temple for the welfare of the Sikh Panth. No date for the path was specified.

However, Mr Badal told mediapersons that the ‘path’ would be organised when the heat wave subsided. Jathedar Vedanti said the ‘akhand path’ should be organised by all factions of the Akali Dal for ‘complete Panthic’ unity.

Though the edict mentioned that the ‘hukamnama’ issued on December 31, 1998, by the then Jathedar of Akal Takht for a truce among the warring Akali leaders was discussed at the meeting, yet there was no mention about its (hukamnama’s) violation.

Interestingly, a ‘parsad’ for Rs 500 was brought even before the ‘exoneration’ of Mr Badal which gave the impression that he (Mr Badal) already knew about the ‘tankhah’ he was to undergo.

Jathedar Vedanti, replying to another question, said there was no need for Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra to appear before the clergy as the matter stood resolved. Asked whether a similar relaxation would also be made in case of Mr Gurbax Singh Kala Afghana, a Canada-based Sikh scholar undergoing treatment there, Jathedar Vedanti replied in the negative.

The meeting was attended by Jathedar Vedanti, Giani Balwant Singh Nandgarh, Jathedar, Damdama Sahib, Giani Tarlochan Singh, acting Jathedar Kesgarh Sahib, Giani Bhagwan Singh, Head Granthi, Akal Takht and Giani Gurbachan Singh, Granthi, Golden Temple.

Before pronouncement of the edict, Giani Bhagwan Singh performed the ‘ardas’ which mentioned that Mr Badal had appeared before Akal Takht as a ‘humble Sikh’.

Later, Mr Badal claimed that he had never violated ‘maryada’ during his five-decade-long public life. He could not even think of doing so.

In a significant statement, he said informal unity with Mr Tohra had already been forged and a formal announcement in this regard would be made shortly. He said he had not “struck any bargain” with Mr Tohra for the purpose.

He said Capt Amarinder Singh, Chief Minister, had violated the Akal Takht directive by rejecting the Nanakshahi calendar. Hence, the Jathedar, Akal Takht, was competent to act suo motu against the Chief Minister.

He said the SGPC General House had already passed a resolution to summon Capt Amarinder Singh at Akal Takht for sending the police into the Golden Temple complex on the occasion of the annual elections of the SGPC. However, it was up to the Sikh clergy whether or not to summon him.


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