The SAD-BJP government in Punjab is set to face more trouble as the Sarbat Khalsa (assembly of Sikhs) — called by radical outfits, the Simranjit Singh Mann-led Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) and the United Akali Dal led by Mohkam Singh — on Tuesday “appointed” Jagtar Singh Hawara, the assassin of former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh, as the jathedar (chief priest) of Akal Takht — the highest temporal seat of Sikhs.
In the absence of Hawara, currently lodged at Tihar jail, former MP and SAD(A) leader Dhian Singh Mand was named as “acting” jathedar of Akal Takht, moments after he resigned from the party on stage.
The decision comes in the backdrop of the repeated desecration incidents in the state and the calls by radicals for the removal of Sikh high priests over the controversial pardon granted to Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.
The Sarbat Khalsa has, however, been slammed by Akal Takht chief Giani Gurbachan Singh, Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee president Avtar Singh Makkar and the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal. According to them, only the Akal Takht chief is authorised to convene the event.
Tuesday’s event, however, saw massive participation with the 12-acre venue, near Baba Naudh Singh Samadh on Amritsar-Tarn Taran road, packed to capacity.
Among the resolutions passed at the event, was a decision to revoke the titles of Fakhr-e-Qaum and Panth Rattan awarded to Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal. They had been conferred on Badal by Akal Takht.
It was also decided to take back the title of Shiromani Sewak awarded to SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar.
In another controversial move, the Sarbat Khalsa declared former Punjab Director General of Police K P S Gill, who was in the state police during the terrorism years in Punjab, and the Army commander behind Operation Bluestar, Lt General K S Brar (retd), as tankhaiya (guilty of religious misconduct). The resolution directed the duo to appear before the Akal Takht and clarify their positions by November 30.