April 11, 2016 1:42:26 am
A week ago, motorcycle-borne assailants gunned down 88-year-old Chand Kaur, matriarch of the Namdharis, at the headquarters of the sect at Bhaini Sahib near Ludhiana. The leader of the sect, Sadguru Uday Singh, has accused his estranged elder brother, Thakur Dalip Singh, of being behind the murder. Dalip Singh has hit back, saying he too had reasons to suspect Uday Singh’s hand in the killing. What is the feud that is tearing the first family of the Namdharis apart? Is the killing linked to the vast properties the sect owns, or is it merely — as some supporters claimed after the April 4 murder — an attempt by a “third party” to ensure the family stays divided?
Who are the Namdhari Sikhs?
Namdhari Sikhs consider the Guru Granth Sahib as ‘Supreme Gurbani’ and respect it, but believe in a living human Guru. The sect was founded by Satguru Ram Singh on Baisakhi in 1857. The British deported him to Rangoon from where he never returned. The Namdharis believe Ram Singh is alive, and will one day return. Till then, they mourn his absence by wearing white. The Namdharis consider the cow to be sacred, are teetotalers, and avoid even tea and coffee. The sect’s sprawling headquarters is located in Bhaini Sahib, Ludhiana, near village Raiyaan, where Ram Singh was born.
How did the Namdhari feud start?
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After Ram Singh went missing, his gaddi (succession) went to his brother Satguru Hari Singh, and thereafter, in 1906, to Hari Singh’s eldest son, Satguru Partap Singh. Partap Singh was succeeded by his son Jagjit Singh, after whose demise the current feud began. Jagjit Singh had one daughter, and his nephews — Uday Singh and Dalip Singh, sons of Jagjit Singh’s brother Maharaja Bir Singh — both had ambitions. Uday Singh, who was backed by Chand Kaur, wife of Jagjit Singh, won the war of succession and was declared Satguru. There had been trouble in the clan earlier too — the Dalip Singh-Uday Singh dispute is, in fact, the third generation of quarrels in the family.
How much wealth is at stake in this feud?
Uday Singh controls over 6,000 acres of prime land, including the Bhaini Sahib headquarters, which also houses two palatial bungalows. He is the chairman of Namdhari Seeds, a multinational company with a turnover of over Rs 800 crore. He owns a bungalow in Bengaluru. A state of the art Satguru Partap Singh (SPS) Hospital runs in Ludhiana on charitable land of Namdharis. Another 400 acres of dera land in Mastangarh of Haryana is under Uday Singh. Dalip Singh, on the other hand, is in possession of 120 acres of land at Jeewan Nagar in Haryana, the ancestral property of his father Bir Singh, where he runs a dera, besides a bungalow in Bengaluru.
Where is the sect headed after Chand Kaur’s murder?
Uday Singh has trained his guns on Dalip Singh, saying “there is no reason to believe that he is not the prime suspect”. Dalip Singh has said that all allegations against him are “nothing less than a blot on humanity”. Chand Kaur, he has said, was the only “peacemaker” in the family in front of whom all stood united. Also under the cloud is Jagtar Singh, son-in-law of Chand Kaur, who lives in Bhaini Sahib with his wife Sahib Kaur and son Jai Singh.
What is the Namdharis’ political clout in Punjab?
They have around 6 lakh voters, and are a significant force. The late Satguru Jagjit Singh was extremely close to Congress leader Beant Singh, but in the last two Assembly polls, (2007 and 2012), the sect has backed the Badals. Uday Singh is yet to announce support for any party for the 2017 polls.
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