“The distinct identity of the Sikhs should be a source of inspiration for the world,” he said.
Seeking immediate arrest of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, the newly installed Jathedar asked the Central and Haryana governments to seal his dera in Sirsa and its branches.
Answering a question, Giani Gurbachan Singh said he would discuss with other Sikh clerics in case the dera chief offered to appear before Akal Takht as a humble Sikh.
To yet another question whether he would ask Shiromani Akali Dal supremo to get baptised, he simply said: “We will try”. He, however, said he would personally monitor the movement of “Amrit Parchar”.
Sikh clerics from Takht Patna Sahib and Hazoor Sahib, SGPC chief, Nihang sects, Akali factions, student federations and Nirmala Sants, etc, presented the Jathedar with “Dastars” (turbans) in the presence of a moderate gathering. SAD general secretary Prem Singh Chandumajra hoped that the new Jathedar would be instrumental in resolving all the pending issues of the Sikh community.
However, Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, the outgoing Jathedar, was conspicuous by his absence at the installation ceremony. Giani Puran Singh, who had been unceremoniously removed as Jathedar of Akal Takht by the SGPC eight years ago, presented Dastar to the new Jathedar. Vedanti succeeded him then.
SGPC chief Avtar Singh said former Jathedar did not turn up at the function though Harbhajan Singh, manager of the Darbar Sahib visited his residence yesterday to invite him for the ceremony. He said Vedanti had tendered his resignation due to “ill-health” and the committee appreciated his services as Jathedar and Granthi of the Golden Temple. When asked that Vedanti had told the media that he was forced to quit, he said it was an afterthought.
The SGPC president said strict action would be taken against those officials who had locked the Akal Takht secretariat with a view to stopping the entry of Vedanti into it.
The SGPC president said the long-pending matter of appointing a religious adviser to the Jathedar of Akal Takht would be made if Jathedar Gurbachan Singh desired so. Former Jathedar Vedanti had sent a number of reminders to the SGPC to appoint religious adviser to streamline the functioning of the Akal Takht secretariat.
Giani Gurbachan Singh was one of the signatories to the “Gurmatta”, which had reversed the controversial edicts pronounced by Giani Iqbal Singh from Takht Patna Sahib. The Patna clergy had impeached Jathedars of three Takhts of Punjab, Akal Takht, Takht Damdama Sahib and Takht Kesgarh Sahib, besides the Head Granthi (now Jathedar Akal Takht) and Granthi of the Golden Temple, debarring their involvement in any Panthic activity.
The decision of Giani Gurbachan Singh to lift the ban on Giani Iqbal Singh may cause embarrassment to the SGPC, which had been demanding the latter’s resignation.
In an e-mail to The Tribune, Rai said he would also move the UNO against the SGPC and the Government of India for violating the Gurdwara Act, passed by the Lok Sabha in 1925.
It added the statutory body SGPC had gone beyond its limit as permitted under Article 25 (a) of managing shrines and other gurdwaras by unilaterally assuming authority and responsibility to manage, appoint and influence the highest temporal office of the Sikh community.
New Akal Takht Jathedar Gurbachan Singh on Thursday said that he would soon convene a meeting of five Sikh High Priests to chalk out Panthic strategy on tackling the lingering Dera Sacha Sauda row.
Talking to reporters in Amritsar soon after he was installed as Jathedar of the Akal Takht, the higest temporal seat of the Sikhs, he asked the Sikh community to abjure confrontation with the Dera Sacha Sauda sect.
The top cleric said a meeting of five Sikh High Priests would be held soon at the Akat Takht secretariat in the Golden Temple to chalk out Panthic strategy on the Dera Sacha Sauda row.
He sought help of Punjab, Haryana and Union governments in curbing what he said anti-Sikh activities being carried out by the sect.
Last year, Joginder Singh Vedanti, who quit as Akal Takht Jathedar two days ago, issued an edict calling upon Sikhs to boycott the Dera Sacha Sauda.
Calling for maintaining peace and tranquillity in Punjab, the new Jathedar asked Sikhs not to get provoked by activities of the sect.
He said he was hopeful those who were involved in acts of violence against the Sikhs would be punished by courts.
The top cleric said services of SGPC, a statutory body which manages affairs of Sikh shrines, would be sought to tackle the contentious issue.
Earlier, SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar told the gathering at the coronation ceremony that the installation of the new Jathedar would help solve the Dera row.
Praising PM led to Akal Takht top priest's removal
What led to the sacking of Joginder Singh Vedanti as the head priest of Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of the Sikhs? "I was sacked," said Vedanti, "because I supported Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during the crucial trust vote." It is learnt that a top delegation of the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabhandak Committee, including its president Avtar Singh Makkar, general secretary Sukhdev Singh Bahur and executive committee member Rajinder Singh Mehta rushed to Vedanti to collect his resignation letter. Though they deny that they were involved, Vedanti told rediff.com on Wednesday that he was forced to resign and Giani Gurbachan Singh was appointed in his place.
"Some days ago, the three of them came to me and asked me to resign. They were very angry and told me that some of my remarks had upset their political partners. I told them that Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, as a Sikh, has done the nation proud. If that has upset their political partners, then I don't have anything to say. I would say the same about Dr Singh again. He is honest and a true Sikh," Vedanti told rediff.com in a candid conversation. It is said Vedanti helped the prime minister in framing his speech during the trust vote, at least in the parts where he referred to Guru Gobind Singh.
To pacify the agitated officials who reportedly asked for his resignation at the instance of Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal, Vedanti wrote out the resignation letter and handed it over to Bahur. "The moment they got the letter, they left. Appointments are done and cancelled, I have no quarrels. But I was pained at the manner in which it was carried out," he said. Makkar, however, denied Vedanti's claim. "We are willing to distribute copies of the resignation letter to the media to prove that it was written in his own handw," Makkar told this correspondent. Eleven out of the 13 executive committee members voted in favour of Vedanti's resignation while Karnail Singh Panjoli and Gurwinder Singh alleged that the letter was written under duress.
Vedanti has also been accused of supporting the demand for a separate homeland for Sikhs during his recent trip to the United States. "I never made such statements. You can browse newspapers in the US during that period. What I said was that wherever the Sikhs go, they carve out a separate state for themselves and our homeland has no boundaries. I still stand by that statement," Vedanti clarified.
Vedanti also came under attack for his poor handling of the Akali-Dera row and the Sant Samaj had sought his resignation. With Lok Sabha elections around the corner, Badal did not want to take any chances but wanted to keep the Sant Samaj happy.
Dhami, who hails from Hoshiarpur, did his MSc from DAV College, Jalandhar, in 1975. An industrialist, he had served the organisation as acting president from 2003 to 2005.
Dhami said the Dal Khalsa would follow a non-violent path to achieve its goals. However, he admitted that they had failed to transform the body into a mass-base organisation because of its hardliner image and the tendency of the people to stick to the powers that be.
‘They only want a team of yes man in Akal Takht, and if any leader tries to go against them, they just throw him out. The latest example is of unprincipled ousting of former Jathedar of Akal Takht, Joginder Singh Vedanti two days ago,’ said Kanwarpal Singh, general secretary of Dal Khalsa here Wednesday.
Vedanti resigned as Akal takht chief two days ago.
‘Badal and his son exploited Vedanti till he was of their use. Now they have elected Gurbachan Singh, the new Jathedar of Akal Takht, without consulting anyone and without any formal elections which are against the principles of Sikhism,’ claimed Singh.
Dal Khalsa demanded formulation of a proper procedure to elect the Akal Takht Jathedar.
Criticising Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Dal Khalsa president Dhami said: ‘He is always helpless and always works under some pressure. He has not done even a single thing for the betterment of Sikh community in the country.’
‘Dal Khalsa is collaborating with other minority communities to formulate a policy to curb the human rights violations in the country,’ said Dhami.