Vedanti quits, Gurbachan Singh to be Takht Jathedar
Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) that assembled here today accepted the resignation submitted by Akal Takht Jathedar Joginder Singh Vedanti and appointed Giani Gurbachan Singh, head granthi of Harmandar Sahib, as president of the highest temporal seat of the Sikhs.
The meeting of the SGPC was held at Gurdwara Sri Hargobind Sahib and was presided over by Avtar Singh Makkar and attended by 13 of the 15 members. Vedanti had yesterday submitted his resignation to SGPC general secretary Sukhdev Singh Bhaur and executive member Rajinder Singh Mehta, in which he cited health reasons for resigning from the post.
The resignation was today read out by Makkar before the SGPC members and was accepted by 11 of the 13 members present during the meeting. Karnail Singh Panjoli and Gurwinder Singh raised objections against the resignation, alleging that Vedanti was being forced to resign as SAD chief Prakash Singh Badal wished so. Bhajan Kaur and Santok Singh did not attend the meeting.
Panjoli alleged that Vedanti had fallen off the good books of Badal for his having raised the demand for a separate state for the Sikhs during his recent visit to the US and for having asked Sikh MPs to support Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over the N-deal issue in Parliament.
Panjoli said the manner in which Vedanti had been “forced to resign” without having been allowed time to put up his point of view was unacceptable.
Makkar told The Tribune that Vedanti had stated in his resignation that due to ill-health he was unable to continue as Akal Takht Jathedar and had requested the SGPC to appoint the next Jathedar of the Takht.
He said it had been decided to appoint Giani Gurbachan Singh as Akal Takht Jathedar and he would be sworn in on August 7 in the presence of various Sikh organisations.
He, however, refused to divulge the reasons behind Vedanti’s resignation.
Vedanti had been appointed Jathedar of Akal Takht in 2000. Recently, he came under attack from a number of Sikh organisations for his having failed to handle the Sikh-dera row with a “strong hand”.
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee forced Giani Joginder Singh to resign as Jathedar Akal Takht . The resignation was accepted at a meeting of the SGPC executive committee held at Sri Hargobind Sahib, gurdwara ,Kurkushetra today.
SGPC general secretary Sukhdev Singh Bhaur and executive committee member Rajinder Singh Mehta visited the official residence of Jathedar Vedanti, here yesterday evening and sought his resignation. Jathedar Vedanti claimed both SGPC office-bearers threatened him with sack at today’s executive committee meeting if he did not step down. “I never wished to resign till tercentenary celebrations of “Gurta -Gaddi Diwas” of Guru Granth Sahib in October in Nanded Sahib (Maharashtra) but the SGPC forced me to resign”, he said. Almost all Sikh centenaries since 1999, including tercentenary of the birth of Khalsa Panth, the quadri-centenary of the foundation of Akal Takht, and 500th birth centenary of Baba Budha, were marred by controversies. The SGPC committee has made it known the Jathedar resigned on “health grounds”.
After removing Vedanti, the SGPC chief rushed to the residence of the Chief Minister at Chandigarh to apprise him about the development.
Panthic sources claimed Vedanti ,appointed by the SAD , dominated the SGPC as Jathedar on March 28, 2000 after sacking Giani Puran Singh as Jathedar, Akal Takht was the most pliable and controversial. A day after his installation as Jathedar, Akal Takht, Vedanti had revoked all controversial edicts made his predecessor Giani Puran Singh including the “excommunication” of Bibi Jagir Kaur, then SGPC chief , three Jathedars and some SGPC executive members . “He was the most controversial Jathedar ”, said Rajinder Singh Khalsa, convener Khalsa Panchayat the first to launch movement against Jathedar Vedanti in 2003 , following charges of corruption.
Vedanti had lauded Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, days before Trust vote in Parliament. He had termed Manmohan Singh honest and true Sikh. Earlier, the Jathedar had irked the SAD and the SGPC for backing movement for separate state for the Sikhs , in April in Washington DC. Parkash Singh Badal and SGPC president Avtar Singh had sought his explanation for “irresponsible statement” in the USA. According to another view the SAD wanted to get rid of Vedanti to please the Sant Samaj with Lok Sabha elections in mind.
Jathedar Vedanti had not summoned Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his family members during his eight years as Jathear Akal Takht.
Though the 13 out of 15 executive members had accepted the resignation of Jathedar Vedanti two members Karnail Singh Panjoli and Gurwinder Singh Shampura gave dissenting note alleging Jathedar Vedanti was removed under pressure of the RSS and the BJP and it was decided at a meeting of the Political Affairs Committee of the Akali Dal.
Recently Jathedar Vedanti came under attack from a number of Sikh organisations for having failed to handle the Sikh-Dera row '. The Sant Samaj , headed by Baba Harnam Singh Khalsa had sought his resignation for mishandling the Dera Sacha issue.
SAD (Amritsar) president Simranjit Singh Mann has asked the SGPC to install Bhai Ranjit Singh as Jathedar Akal Takht if it wanted to win over Sikh masses.
From sewadar to Akal Takht chief
Head granthi of the Golden Temple, Giani Gurbachan Singh, who has been appointed officiating Jathedar of Akal Takht, joined the SGPC as “sewadar” on February 29, 1972, at Darbar Sahib, Muktsar. In 36 years, his rise to head the temporal Sikh religious seat is indeed a remarkable achievement.
Born on April 6, 1948, in Chakk Baja village (Muktsar), the home district of the Chief Minister, Giani Gurbachan Singh is a confidant of the Badal family. Like outgoing Jathedar Joginder Singh Vedanti and former high priest Giani Puran Singh, he is under-matriculate. Though Giani Gurbachan Singh, also a relative of Jathedar Vedanti, will be installed Jathedar on August 7, a number of Sikh organisations have criticised the SGPC and the SAD for ignoring the age-old Sikh Maryada connected with the installation.In 1996 Giani Gurbachan Singh was promoted from sewadar to granthi and katha vachak and then in 2004 head granthi of the Golden Temple.
He had been transferred from Muktsar to Dhamdhan gurdwara (Jind), Haryana, following a complaint of presenting siropa (robe of honour) to then home minister Buta Singh, during the period of his excommunication from the Sikh Panth. However, he was transferred back to Darbar Sahib after he clarified the siropa was actually presented to Joginder Singh Mann, a former Congress minister, who then handed it over to his uncle (Buta Singh).