Akal Takht head quits under duress
AMRITSAR: In a development that has unleashed a storm in the Sikh community, Akal Takht jathedar Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti quit his post in the highest Sikh temporal body on Tuesday, claiming he did it under duress.
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), however, quickly refuted the charge and said Vedanti had quit on his own. “He had cited ill-health as the reason for resignation,” SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar said. “The committee has accepted the jathedar’s letter and appointed Sri Harmandir Sahib head granthi Giani Gurbachan Singh as the acting jathedar of Akal Takht. The new jathedar will join office from August 7.”
Sticking to his guns, an angry Vedanti said the SGPC general secretary, Sukhdev Singh Bhaur, and executive member Rajinder Singh Mehta had visited his residence the night before and asked him to put in his papers. His personal assistant Prithipal Singh went on to say that the visitors had expressed their helplessness in the matter and maintained it was Makkar’s orders.
What may, however, have precipitated the latest crisis clouding the Akal Takht is the recent displeasure articulated by chief minister Parkash Singh Badal after Vedanti was heard praising prime minister Manmohan Singh, a fellow Sikh, just ahead of the trust vote on the Indo-US nuclear deal in Parliament. “Jathedars should not be getting involved in political matters,” a miffed Badal had said. “Although, I am in no position to say anything to the Akal Takht jathedar, I think he should not be getting into such things.”
Vedanti had apparently gone further and said, “Dr Manmohan Singh is a kind man and Sikhs should be supporting him.” This had come at a time when a section of the Sikh diaspora had demand that fellow community members support the PM on the nuke deal.
The jathedar’s removal triggered a swift reaction within hours of the announcement from Sikhs both in India and across the world, many of whom reacted with concern and cynicism. Terming it “an unfortunate practice”, veteran Akali leader Manjit Singh Calcutta said, “SAD(B) has been removing high priests since 1999”. He alleged that the chief minister was using the influence of Takht as well as Sikh Gurdwara Judicial Commission to promote vested interests.