|Monday, March 13, 2000,
high priests excommunicated
AMRITSAR, March 12 In a move unprecedented in Sikh history, Giani Puran Singh, Jathedar, Akal Takht, today excommunicated three Sikh High Priests, Prof Manjit Singh, Jathedar Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib, Giani Kewal Singh, Jathedar, Takht Sri Damdama Sahib, Giani Bhagwan Singh, Head Granthi, Akal Takht, and Mr Pritam Singh Bhatia, executive member of the SGPC and Mr Jaswinder Singh, advocate member of the SGPC, for violating the controversial January 25 hukamnama.
It is for the first time in the 396-year history of Akal Takht that three Sikh High priests have been excommunicated from the Panth.
Earlier, Prof Manjit Singh, Giani Kewal Singh, Giani Bhagwan Singh and Giani Charn Singh staged a walkout from a meeting of the Sikh clergy as they failed to reach a consensus with regard to tankhah to be awarded to Bibi Jagir Kaur SGPC chief.
Bibi Jagir Kaur, who was summoned by Giani Puran Singh to appear at Akal Takht at 11 a.m. today for seeking an apology for violating the directives of the Takht, made a dramatic appearance at 12.30 p.m. She kept Giani Puran Singh waiting at the rostrum of Akal Takht for more than an hour.
She went to the Golden Temple to pay obeisance. She bulldozed her way into Akal Takht for paying obeisance there amid stiff opposition by supporters of Jathedar Puran Singh. She then went to the information office of the SGPC where she addressed a press conference.
Bibi Jagir Kaur said she had come hear to appear before five designated Jathedars. However, on arrival when she realised that only Giani Puran Singh was present at Akal Takht, she returned after paying obeisance at the Takht.
Asked whether she would preside over the executive meeting of the SGPC proposed to be held here on March 16, she replied in the affirmative. Dont you consider me president of the SGPC, she asked.
However, Bibi Jagir Kaur did not entertain questions on the validity of the hukamnama issued by Giani Puran Singh. To yet another question, she said she had written to the Akal Takht Jathedar on March 2 that she was ready to appear at the Takht if summoned by the five designated High Priests.
I was and will remain dedicated to Akal Takht, she said. Describing todays developments as most unfortunate, she made a fervent appeal to the five Sikh High Priests and the Sikh panth to resolve the crisis collectively.
She alleged some anti-Panthic forces had tried to stop her from paying obeisance at Akal Takht and created an unsavoury situation. She said nobody could stop any Sikh from paying obeisance at Akal Takht. Mediapersons were also stopped from entering Akal Takht which led to unruly scenes.
At a joint press conference, Prof Manjit Singh, Giani Kewal Singh, Mr Pritam Singh Bhatia and Mr Jaswinder Singh who were excommunicated from the Sikh Panth today, said they would defy the hukamnama as it had been issued in violation of the Sikh maryada.
Giani Gurbachan Singh and Giani Charn Singh, both granthis of the Golden Temple who had staged a walkout from the meeting of the Sikh clergy, were present at the press conference.
Giani Bhagwan Singh, Head Granthi, Akal Takht, who was not invited by Giani Puran Singh to todays meeting, also announced he would defy the hukamnama.
All three excommunicated High Priests today said they would continue to perform their duties as Jathedars. It is for the Sikh Panth to remove us from our posts, they said.
Giani Bhagwan Singh said Giani Puran Singh did not know the maryada. That was why he had issued the January 25 hukamnama from a PCO in Guna (Madhya Pradesh) and todays edict which did not include other designated High Priests.
Prof Manjit Singh said he and Giani Kewal Singh had come to attend the meeting called by Giani Puran Singh well in time so that the ongoing crisis could be resolved. He said all four Sikh High priests kept waiting for Giani Puran Singh in the Akal Takht secretariat. Instead of discussing the matter at the meeting, Giani Puran Singh went straight to the rostrum of Akal Takht.
Prof Manjit Singh said Mr Avtar Singh Hit, President, Shiromani Akali Dal, New Delhi, and an emissary of Mr Parkash Singh Badal, had a tough time persuading Giani Puran Singh to hold a meeting at Kotha Sahib at Akal Takht. The meeting lasted less than five minutes as Giani Puran Singh refused to discuss the issue of maryada as well as the tankhah to be awarded to Bibi Jagir Kaur.
The three mediators, Mr Avtar Singh Hit, President, SAD, New Delhi, Dr Puran Singh Jassi and Mr Manjit Singh Tarn Tarni, who put in relentless efforts to bring about a rapprochement between Bibi Jagir Kaur and Giani Puran Singh, said they were pained at the fact that the SGPC chief had backtracked from her promise to appear at Akal Takht.
Mr Hit and Dr Jassi said Bibi Jagir Kaur had agreed to appear before Akal Takht in the larger interests of the Sikhs. That is why a fresh letter was issued to the SGPC chief for appearing before the Takht by Giani Puran Singh, they explained.
To another question, they said though they were pained to see the sudden and unexpected change in the approach of Bibi Jagir Kaur, yet they would continue to make efforts to resolve the crisis.
Earlier, while pronouncing the fresh hukamnama from the rostrum of Akal Takht, Giani Puran Singh said: Bibi Jagir Kaur was asked to appear at 11 a.m. However, she did not turn up till 12.30 p.m. due to her inflated ego. Instead of appearing as a humble Sikh, she challenged the maryada of Akal Takht along with her numerous supporters. After creating unruly scenes at Akal Takht, she went back.
The two-paged edict said Bibi Jagir Kaur had denigrated Akal Takht.
The hukamnama further said that the Sikh sangat should not allow Bibi Jagir Kaur, the three Sikh High Priests, and the SGPC executive members who had been excommunicated to participate in any religious, social or political gatherings till they sought an apology by appearing before Akal Takht.
Justifying the hukamnama issued from Guna, excommunicating Bibi Jagir Kaur, Giani Puran Singh said he had excommunicated the three High Priests for violating his directives so that in future no Sikh could dare to denigrate the Sikh maryada.
Interestingly, just as Giani Puran Singh was about to pronounce the hukamnama, somebody from the sangat requested: Please wait, Bibi Jagir Kaur is coming. Giani Puran Singh waited for about 15 minutes but in vain. He then pronounced the hukamnama amid slogans like Akal Takht mahan hai, Sikh Panth di shaan hai.
Giani Puran Singh,
justifying the hukamnama issued from Guna
said the Akal Takht Jathedar was competent to issue the
same from any place along with four baptised Sikhs.
Interestingly, the four priests who were with Giani Puran
Singh at the time of issuing the edict at Guna sat beside
him at the rostrum of Akal Takht.
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