Tuesday, March 14, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Giani Puran Singh directs CM to replace Bibi
From Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

AMRITSAR, March 13 — In a blitzkrieg move, Giani Puran Singh, the Jathedar of Akal Takht, has directed Mr Parkash Singh Badal, president of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), to immediately appoint an acting president of the SGPC in place of Bibi Jagir Kaur who was “excommunicated” from the Sikh Panth for violating the edicts of the Takht.

He has also directed Mr Badal to appoint acting Jathedars of Sri Kesgarh Sahib and Damdama Sahib and Head Granthi of Akal Takht as Prof Manjit Singh, Giani Kewal Singh and Giani Bhagwan Singh have also been excommunicated from the Panth.

The one page directive seems to have been issued with a view to pre-empt any move of the SGPC to remove him (Giani Puran Singh) as Jathedar of Akal Takht in its forthcoming executive meeting. Bibi Jagir Kaur had announced that she would definitely preside over the proposed meeting to be held on March 16 convened for recommending annual Budget. Earlier, Giani Puran Singh had restrained her from functioning as SGPC chief till she rejoins the Sikh Panth.

Interestingly, the president of the SAD or the Chief Minister have no legal authority to interfere in SGPC affairs as it is a statutory body. The SGPC affairs are run under the Sikh Gurdwara Act, 1925.

Mr Badal in his capacity as president of the SAD, which controls the SGPC, should immediately appoint an acting president of the SGPC in place of Bibi Jagir Kaur, Giani Puran Singh says in his directive.

This is the first formal directive to Mr Badal after the one-and-half, month-long Panthic crisis. Earlier, Giani Puran Singh had issued general instructions which warned the Akali leadership to sever all social relations with Bibi Jagir Kaur but these were violated by her supporters.

Giani Puran Singh further directed Mr Badal that Bibi Jagir Kaur, two SGPC members, including one executive member, Prof Manjit Singh, Jathedar Sri Kesgarh Sahib, Giani Kewal Singh, Jathedar Takht Sri Damdama Sahib and Giani Bhagwan Singh, Head Granthi, Akal Takht, should not be allowed to perform their official and religious duties till they were atoned by Akal Takht. The high priests, who were excommunicated from the Panth, should not be allowed to go to Takhts for performing any duty.

“They should not be allowed to attend any social, religious and political gatherings. It will serve the Panth”.

Meanwhile, some SGPC members and Akali leaders have expressed surprise over the excommunication of three high priests by Giani Puran Singh yesterday. They said Akal Takht is a spiritual institution where a Sikh appears voluntarily to seek atonement for any violation of “maryada” and described the excommunication of the high priests as unprecedented.

Bibi Kiranjot Kaur, member SGPC, has urged in a written statement to convene a general house to discuss the Panthic crisis which has assumed alarming proportions. She said the SGPC executive should immediately place Giani Puran Singh under suspension for acting against Panthic “maryada” in issuing “hukamnama” and setting “dangerous precedents”. She said if Giani Puran Singh refused to resign he should be removed as Jathedar forthwith.

The pro-Bibi Jagir Kaur SGPC members have said the SGPC should also form a committee to define the role, duties and responsibilities of the Jathedar of Akal Takht. The Jathedars of the Takhts are members of the general house of the SGPC by virtue of position. However, their voting rights were wrested in the Gurdwara Act, 1925, so that they remained above groupism. Bibi Kiranjot Kaur alleged that Giani Puran Singh had acted in a partisan way and hence he had no moral right to represent Akal Takht any more. Dr Manjit Singh Bhoma, president, All-India Sikh Student Federation, and Mr Gurcharn Singh, former secretary of the SAD, described the fresh developments as “most unfortunate”. Mr Gurcharn Singh said Mr Badal should either resign as President of the SAD or should resolve the crisis immediately.

The mediators, Mr Avtar Singh Hit, President of the SAD, New Delhi, and Dr Puran Singh Jassi, a former director health, who had arranged a meeting of five high priests at Akal Takht today met Mr Parkash Singh Badal and briefed him about the reasons of their failure to bring about rapprochement between Bibi Jagir Kaur and Giani Puran Singh. The fresh directive of Giani Puran Singh is a litmus test for Mr Badal as he will have to act very fast to save the situation from becoming murkier. If the continuation of the stand off would reflect on the ruling Akali Dal. Sikh circles feel that it is time for Mr Badal to exhibit his statesmanship and firmness to resolve the crisis so that Giani Puran Singh does not initiate any action against him.

A Common Sikh, however, is worried over the recent crisis as it had endangered the sacred institutions like Akal Takht and SGPC. The common Sikh is of the view that Mr Badal should muster enough strength to “overhaul” the SGPC and the Sikh clergy.

If he wants to save the situation he will have to direct the SGPC to replace the high priests of the Takhts.

Prof Manjit Singh, Jathedar, Sri Kesgarh Sahib and Giani Kewal Singh have been facing some charges and a sub-committee of the SGPC was constituted to probe the matter. However, its report has not been submitted even after a more than one year. The SAD could also seek Bibi Jagir Kaur’s resignation as SGPC chief so that she could be inducted into the ministry. The removal of the controversial high priests and SGPC chief could act as a “face saving” for the ruling party in the wake of the recent developments.

On the other hand the “hukamnamas” issued by Giani Puran Singh have virtually divided the Sikh community as the one issued by his predecessor Bhai Ranjit Singh on langar issue.

Entire community seems to be divided into two segments — the pro-“hukamnama” and anti-“hukamnama” — and this division is being described as a dangerous trend at a time when the entire community is celebrating the tercentenary of the birth of Khalsa Panth.Back


Acid test for Badal
By Gobind Thukral
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, March 13 — The latest edict from the Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Puran Singh has placed the Akali Dal President and the Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, in a bind. The Jathedar has asked him to remove SGPC President, Bibi Jagir Kaur, two high priests, Prof Manjit Singh of the Kesgarh Sahib and Giani Kewal Singh of Takht Damdama Sahib. They were excommunicated from the Sikh faith by the Akal Takht chief yesterday.

Akali circles today described the current crisis not only unprecedented, but very grim. Mr Badal got a clear hint about the impending events from his intelligence people right in the morning. Ever since then he had been in some kind of discussion with his colleagues.

Mr Badal’s first reaction, according to insiders, was what could he do. He has been ditched by all. Bibi Jagir Kaur had agreed to present herself and accept any “tankha”. Her only condition was that all the five high priests should be there to announce the tankha. Giani Puran Singh who was unrelenting, had agreed to this and assured that the same tankha would be imposed as was done in case of the SGPC executive committee. “Is she bigger than the executive and the SGPC. She has needlessly created a whole lot of problems”, was the cryptic comment of Mr Badal to his colleagues.

Bibi Jagir Kaur has rocked Mr Badal’s boat is clear to the ruling Akali leaders. This has immensely pleased Mr Badal’s arch rivals, the loyalists of former SGPC President, Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra. “Mr Badal has taken over everything. He is the Chief Minister. He is the President of the Akali Dal and the boss or rather superboss of the SGPC. Let him enjoy the mess”, was the comment of the former SGPC Secretary and Akali legislator, Mr Manjit Singh Calcutta.

Some of the senior colleagues saw a big challenge for Mr Badal in the present crisis in the religious domain. He should have given clear instructions when the crisis first erupted. He tried to push it under the carpet and when he gave instructions, these were ignored.

These colleagues said that the choice is between the devil and the deep sea. He could ask the SGPC executive members not to accept Bibi Jagir Kaur on March 16 meeting. They could choose an acting president, and also appoint acting Jathedars at Anandpur Sahib and Talwandi Sabo. But then this would invite the ire of Bibi Jagir Kaur and the two jathedars. Interestingly, both face serious allegations. Giani Kewal Singh is charged with the conspiracy to murder his own daughter-in-law and Prof Manjit Singh faces allegation of collecting funds and misappropriating these. The Badal Akalis would wish them to leave. But not in the present context and in this fashion.

The other choice before Mr Badal is to ask the SGPC to remove the Akal Takht chief and choose another person. This is easy said than done. This would mean denigrating the highest temporal seat of the Sikhs with long traditions from the hoary past. Mr Badal already faces charge of having conspired to remove Bhai Ranjit Singh.

What worries Mr Badal most is any armed clash between the supporters of Bibi Jagir Kaur and Giani Puran Singh. Reports from Amritsar warned about that. This would lower the standing of Mr Badal among the Sikhs, his main political constituency. This just did not happen yesterday. “Since both Bibi Jagir Kaur and Giani Puran Singh were personally chosen by him, he has to find an answer to the crisis. It is already damaged and has the potential to hit Badal on the face.” This is how one key adviser described it.

Meanwhile, for over two hours Mr Badal met his colleagues at the residence of Finance Minister Kanwaljit Singh. The meeting was described fruitful but inconclusive.

“We have started discussions on the issue and Mr Badal is keen to make his assessment on the basis of discussions”, a senior minister said tonight.Back


Manjit Singh defies “hukamnama”
From Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

ANANDPUR SAHIB, March 13 — In defiance to the “hukamnama” issued regarding his excommunication from the Sikh Panth by Giani Puran Singh, Jathedar, Akal Takht, Prof Manjit Singh, Jathedar, Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib, today performed duties as usual in the capacity of Jathedar of the Akal Takht here.

Prof Manjit Singh paid obeisance at the Takht and also delivered “katha” for about an hour there today.

Talking to TNS here today, Prof Manjit Singh dubbed Giani Puran Singh as a dictator and said he (Giani Puran Singh) had initiated the proceedings of excommunication against the three High Priests in a dictatorial manner. He said it was not an “edict” of the Akal Takht as it had been verbally pronounced by the Jathedar of the Akal Takht without taking into confidence other four priests. Even the “edict” had been written later on, he added.

Prof Manjit Singh claimed he was even today Jathedar of the Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib because this post was given to him by the Panth through the SGPC, not by Giani Puran Singh. So till he received a letter from the SGPC regarding his removal he would continue to perform the duties of the Jathedar at the Takht here. He said he even performed the duties of the Jathedar here today.

Jathedar of the Kesgarh Sahib alleged that the actions of Giani Puran Singh had brought a destabilisation in the Sikh Panth, besides an adverse affect on the maryada of the Panth.

Prof Manjit Singh exhorted the Sikh clergy and other top personalities of the Panth to sit together to take decisions to prevent misuse of Akal Takht by the Jathedars in future which had been going on for the past some time.

He also said there should be a criteria for the appointment and retirement or removal of the Jathedar, Akal Takht. His rights and duties should also be clearly spelt out so that sanctity of the post of the Jathedar of Sri Akal Takht be maintained, he added.

Prof Manjit Singh also said Giani Puran Singh had pronounced the “hukamnama” the previous day against the three high priests in frustration with anger which was also baseless. He said by taking such a hasty step, Giani Puran Singh had lowered the image of the post of the Jathedar of different Takhts. He also said the result of this “hukamnama” would prove dangerous in the near future and Giani Puran Singh would have to repent at that time.

Prof Manjit Singh claimed that he had received a large number of phone calls from abroad and different parts of the country suggesting him not to take any hasty step in desperation. He said he was in high spirits as he had never considered the post of the Jathedar as his personal property.

Expressing surprise over the issuance of the “hukamnama” against him, he stated when he had not rejected the “hukamnama” of January 25 issued against Bibi Jagir Kaur, President of the SGPC, then what was the need to excommunicate him? He also claimed that he was among those who were working for a patch-up between the Bibi and the Jathedar, Akal Takht.

The Kesgarh Sahib Jathedar also claimed that Giani Puran Singh told them in “Kotha Sahib” at Akal Takht the previous day that he had already made up his mind that Bibi Jagir Kaur’s excommunication from the Panth would continue. He said they (the priests) persuaded Giani Puran Singh not to make up his mind against the Bibi before getting a clarification from her in person. When Giani Puran Singh remained adamant they staged a walkout, he added.

Prof Manjit Singh also stated he had never thought even in dreams about his excommunication in such a manner. He said time had come for the Sikh organisations and the entire Panth to do something concrete to prevent the misuse of the post of the Jathedar of Akal Takht if they sought welfare of the Sikh quam.Back

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