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Monday, January 17, 2022

Top Jathedar’s pitch for SAD threatens his credibility

But as Punjab heads to polls, Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh has batted for the Badals-led Akali Dal in a way that has dented the popular perception about him.

Written by Kamaldeep Singh Brar | Amritsar |
Updated: January 12, 2022 7:12:26 am
This is not the first time that Giani Harpreet Singh has thrown his weight behind SAD.

Located opposite the Golden Temple, the Akal Takht serves as the supreme seat of the Sikh faith’s power. And in its present Jathedar, it has a head who was until recently seen as someone who could take different panthic factions along. But as Punjab heads to polls, Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh has batted for the Badals-led Akali Dal in a way that has dented the popular perception about him.

At a ‘panthic ikat’ held on January 2 at Golden Temple by SAD to protest the incident of sacrilege, the Jathedar called the party the political body of Khalsa Panth. He then urged the community to strengthen Akal Takht and SGPC, adding that “the SAD will get stronger automatically”. His words drew flak from the Congress, who pointed to allegations in the sacrilege cases against the Badals. This is not the first time that Giani Harpreet Singh has thrown his weight behind SAD. In 2020, while speaking during an event to mark the 100th foundation day of the SGPC in Harimandar Sahib complex, he had given a call to SAD to start a journey “from Punjab to Panth” in presence of party chief Sukhbir Badal. During the same SGPC event, he had attacked the BJP government at the Centre, calling it an “EVM-elected government”.

More recently, the Jathedar confronted Congress MP Abhishek Singhvi on social media as the later called for “strict action against all who took law into their own hand”. The Congress MP was speaking about the killing of the sacrilege accused in Harimandar Sahib.

While SAD had remained defensive on the sacrilege issue ever since 2015, it was Giani Harpreet Singh who openly backed the party’s narrative of a political conspiracy. Holding his first briefing as Akal Takht Jathedar in July, 2021, six years after the Bargari sacrilege incident, the Jathedar alleged there were political reasons behind Dera Sacha Sauda head not being questioned in the case. It was first time that an Akal Takht Jathedar had taken a strong stand on sacrilege issue.

Then on July 26, 2021, he invited former DIG Ranbir Singh Khatra, who probed the 2015 Bargari sacrilege case, to the Akal Takht secretariat to address the meeting of Sikh bodies. It once again gave SAD an opportunity to push its political narrative.

Most importantly, the biggest shot in the arm for SAD in run-up to the polls – return of Ranjit Singh Brahmpura, who had quit SAD in 2018, to its fold – came on the day the Akal Takht Jathedar wrote to all Sikh bodies to close ranks to face the challenges before community.

Not long ago in December last year, there were pictures of CM Charanjit Singh Channi touching the Jathedar’s feet. During that meeting, Channi was even reported to have got a patient hearing to his request to end monopoly of a Badals’ controlled channel in broadcasting gurbani from the Golden Temple. On October 10, he was the priest conducting ceremonies at the wedding of the CM’s son.

But it is not just Channi, Giani Harpreet Singh, who was made the officiating Jathedar in 2018, is known to share friendly terms with other panthic leaders as well.

He was seen as a “bold Jathedar” who attacked BJP, called for a ban on RSS and defended pro-Khalistan slogans during the 36th Operation Blue Star anniversary inside the Golden Temple premises. But his support to SAD now threatens to ruin the goodwill earned by him.

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