Sikh high priests must return official security as belittles them

Chandigarh, May 9: Not that the Sikh high priests that include Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh and Takht Damdama Sahib head Giani Harpreet Singh have been moving under security provided by the Punjab police only during the recent times. These people were included in the list of “privileged people”  years back when Parkash Singh  Badal headed the Akali Dal government in the state. However, there always comes a time when such “privileges” should be revisited. The official security has belittled the office of Takht Jathedars.

Akal Takht is the supreme temporal seat of the community for prayer and politics that symbolises trans-border sovereignty of the Sikh doctrine. This institution was created by the Sixth Lord, Guru Hargobind as a parallel state structure. There was no need to construct another shrine opposite the Golden Temple. Its role was different, not the one to which it has been reduced over the years.

Going by the Sikh tradition, the Akal Takht Jathedar is not supposed to be summoned by any court. In case summoned, he refuses to appear and there have been instances.  This puts this office above state offices. However, this status gets reduced when the person occupying it accepts official privilege  like security that otherwise are spoils associated with power.

The design to corrupt people in the religio-political institutions was unleashed in 1999 as then Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee chief Jathedar Gurcharan Singh Tohra and Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal parted company. The SGPC members were allowed the privilege of red beacon in order to retain control over it. They were authorised constituency allowance at the rate of Rs 50,000 too. Tohra was no more the SGPC chief.

The first Akal Takht chief to have been provided protection by the state happened to be Giani Kirpal Singh after Operation Bluestar. He had given the statement that “kotha sahib theek thaak hai” to  give the impression that the Akal Takht had not suffered much damage. Kotha Sahib is the room in Akal Takht where Guru Granth Sahib is installed at the ground floor is taken for the night. The Golden Temple has Granth Sahib installed at the first floor and the top too.

Many of the Akali leaders were extended security cover during that period. Tohra had survived militant attack.

That situation was altogether different and can’t be compared with the  security cover provided to Giani Gurbachan Singh and some of his colleagues. Two police vehicles remain stationed in front of the office of Akal Takht. It is what can termed as the ‘normal situation’.

These jathedars were provided  high security as they lost their legitimacy following flip flop on the exoneration of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh who is in jail after having been convicted in a rape case. The high priests later backtracked. They had come under pressure from the political leadership to accommodate the Dera chief. They turned into hate figures. Giani Gurbachan Singh was not allowed by the Sikh organisations for months to address the Sikhs from Akal Takht.

Their stature already stands belittled but those issue relate to religio-political dynamics of the Sikhs.  The issue of accepting state protection is different.

It is not just the takht jathedars but also the SGPC that should take a principled decision on such sensitive issues.

The continuing denigration of the Sikhs institutions both from within and outside has to stop at some point.

It is time for introspection for those occupying high offices in the Sikh religio-political matrix.


Jagtar Singh


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