Grappling with protests over the alleged desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib, Punjab stared at another crisis Friday as the Panj Pyaras (the beloved five of the Guru), suspended by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, struck back and directed the SGPC to “terminate all kinds of services” of five Sikh high priests for ignoring “summons” to explain their flip-flop on the pardon to Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.
The Panj Pyaras passed a gurmatta (resolution) after waiting in vain Friday at the Akal Takht. None of the summoned high priests showed up to explain their decision to pardon the Dera chief for his act of imitating Guru Gobind Singh in 2007. Following an outcry, the pardon was revoked.
It “reached a flashpoint when they went on to take decisions which further humiliated the Sikhs… they failed to represent the Sikh community… the community is seeking their resignations,” the resolution stated, directing the SGPC executive committee to “terminate all kinds of services of chiefs of all five Takhts of the Sikhs”.
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On Wednesday, hours after the high priests were summoned, the SGPC said the decision of the Panj Pyaras was “against traditions of the Akal Takht and service rules” and “aimed at causing conflict and division” in the community.
Announcing their suspension, the SGPC directed three Panj Pyaras to move to the Sikh mission in Hapur, Uttar Pradesh and two to the Sikh mission in Kurukshetra, Haryana.
Satnam Singh, one of the Panj Pyaras, said: “We are not going anywhere as the decision of our suspension is not valid. We are in front of the Guru Granth Sahib and Guru Panth, so no service rules apply to us. No authority can suspend us. We do not consider ourselves suspended.”
On Friday, protests over the alleged desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib took up the case of two brothers arrested by police and sought the reinstatement of the Panj Pyaras.
In Phagwara, protesters made a 500m-long human chain on National Highway-1 and were joined by BSP activists. In Hoshiarpur, a protest march was led by Baba Sewa Singh, considered close to Chief Minister Parkas Singh Badal. In Gurdaspur’s Kahnuwan area, protesters surrounded the house of SAD leader and former minister Sewa Singh Sekhwan.
The districts of Faridkot, Barnala, Sangrur and Ferozepur too reported several protests while Ludhiana and Moga remained relatively quiet. In Moga, the main chowk was blocked for three hours.
In Kapurthala, police booked 40 protesters and arrested 16 following an attack on two vehicles of SAD leaders Bibi Jagir Kaur, Bibi Opinderjit Kaur, Jarnail Singh Wahid and Sarambit Singh Makkar. Among those booked was SAD (Mann) district president Khusropur. The attack took place while SAD leaders were in a gurudwara. Police led them to safety from a rear exit of the gurudwara.
The vehicle of SAD MLA Darshan Singh Kotfatta was vandalised by protesters near Talwandi Sabo and he was stopped from proceeding to Takht Damdama Sahib. Kotfatta was travelling from Bathinda to Talwandi Sabo when protesters blocked his way.