The resolutions adopted at the recently convened Sarbat Khalsa cast their shadow on the Golden Temple during Bandi Chhor Diwas on Wednesday, when a man even attempted a futile attack on the official Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh.
The jathedar was also forced to read his annual message to the community, during Diwali, under tight security and amid protests. He was escorted to the Akal Takht by the SGPC task force and Punjab Police personnel in civilian clothes.
In stark contrast, the Sarbat Khalsa appointee, ‘acting Akal Takht Jathedar’ Dhian Singh Mand, faced no such hiccups in reaching the Golden Temple premises.
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Faced with the huge protest, Gaini Gurbachan Singh began reading his message from the second floor of Darshan Deoari (entrance to the Golden Temple) at around 4:15 pm, before the expected time. Unlike other years, he remained inside the Deoari and did not face the sangat (gathering); the SGPC task force had surrounded the Deoari and jathedar to avoid any untoward incident.
As soon as the jathedar began reading his message, a large number of Sikhs began raising slogans against him and in support of Jagtar Singh Hawara, the militant appointed as the jathedar during the Sarbat Khalsa on Tuesday.
The Dal Khalsa, Panch Pardhani and other Sikh organisations had announced that they would not allow Gurbachan Singh to read the message from the Akal Takht; the Panj Pyaras had also ordered the SGPC to prevent him from doing so.
A section of the crowd also waved black flags at Gaini Gurbachan Singh but he continued with his speech. The jathedar warned the gathering that efforts were being made to divide the community. “Communities where enmity is developed within do not need enemies from outside to vanish. There is a conspiracy to divide the community and all Sikhs should react with caution to the situation so that the integrity of the Akal Takht is maintained,” Giani Gurbachan said.
As soon as he finished the message, a man from nowhere somehow scaled the wall of the Darshan Deaori and began kicking the window, behind which the jathedar was seated.
Reacting to the situation, some Nihangs attempted to stop the man and manhandled him. Swords were also drawn but before the situation turned ugly, the man left.
The jathedar was then taken back home amid the high security.
The drama, however, didn’t end there. Defying the security arrangements, ‘acting Akal Takht jathedar’ Dhian Singh Mand also entered the Golden Temple, despite the police having searched for him. Some SGPC men and police personnel also left as soon as Mand entered.
He immediately began reading his message, as ‘acting jathedar’, and urged Sikhs to not celebrate Diwali due the recent desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib in several parts of Punjab. He then paid obeisance at the Akal Takht and sat behind the ragis inside the Golden Temple for half an hour. No SGPC employee disturbed his visit.
“It is for the first time in history that Birs of Guru Granth Sahib are not safe in the hands of the so called Panthic government. Besides youth are being pushed towards sand mafia, liquor mafia, cable mafia, transport mafia and drug mafia. So this government must be socially boycotted,” Mand said in his message. He was later detained by police.
Radicals blame Badals
The Dal Khalsa head H S Dhami, spokesperson Kanwar Pal Singh and Panch Pardani leader Harpal Singh Cheema, who were present at the Akal Takht on Wednesday, alleged that the ‘arrogance and stubborn attitude of the Badals’ had precipitated the situation.
“The Badals’ proteges and SGPC members brought scores of youth who were clean-shaven to indulge in clashes and give bad name to those who had assembled to protest against the jathedar. Even the local Akali leader brought people in Nihang dress to instigate our youth and to harm them. However, with Almighty grace nothing untoward happened,” Dhami alleged.
He also claimed that the Jathedar’s customary address was brought ahead by two hours to hoodwink those who had gathered to protest.