TALWANDI SABO (KP) - In yet another controversial move, the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabhandak Committee (SGPC) un-ceremoniously removed Jathedar Giani Balwant Singh Nandgarh from his post at Takht Sri Damdama Sahib as his did not agree to tow the Badal-SGPC-Sant Samaj stance regarding the Nanakshahi vs. Bikrami calendar debate.
Giani Nandgarh had been a non-salaried Jathedar of Takht Sri Damdama Sahib for the last twelve years and had often taken hard-line positions against various deras including the Sacha Sauda cult and often put the pro-Badal SGPC management and the ruling Akali-BJ regime in awkward quagmire due to his independent nature.
Giani Nandgarh had also taken a strong stance against SGPC’s rejection of the Nanakshahi calendar and the re-implementation of the Sanatani Bikrami Calendar and infuriated the SGPC and the self- styled union of the Sant-Samaj when he declared that he would observe Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s Parkash Purab on January instead of December 28th as Bikrami date oddities made it clash with the Younger Shahibzaday’s Martyrdom commemorations.
Several weeks earlier the Jathedar of Akal Takht Sahib had hurriedly instructed the Sikh community to observe Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s Parkash Purab on January 7th and then backtracked himself and then stated the Parkash Purab should be December 28th again.
Giani Nandgarh blamed the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for interfering in Sikh issues and pressuring the SGPC into making such confusing decisions and for rejecting the Nanakshahi Calendar.
In an interview with the Times of India he stated:
“It was not acceptable to the RSS that Sikhs have a separate calendar and identity. RSS made SAD (Badal) and SGPC go for the Bikrami calendar. The SGPC got after me for a taking firm stand on separate Sikh identity. All through my life, I have placed interests of Panth ahead of any personal gains and I have never cared for the post at the cost of compromising with my principles.”
Wrath from RSS affiliated Deras
Giani Nandgarh’s staunch support for the Nanakshahi Calendar earned him the wrath of the pro-Sanatan Sant-Samaj which along with 150 members of the SGPC had submitted memorandums seeking his immediate dismissal from the Takht.
The un-ceremonious removal of Jathedar Balwant Singh Nandgarh from his position has been strongly condemned by various Sikh organizations in Punjab and abroad, but not surprisingly welcomed by Sant-Samaj deras and their proponents.
Interestingly, the Akal Takht Head Granthi Gurmukh Singh, affiliated with the Damdami Taksal dera, and part of the Sant-Samaj union, has been made the acting -Jathedar of Takht Damdama Sahib.
By removing the independently minded an anti-dera Jathedar such as Nandgarh, and replacing him with another as individual owing his allegiance to a dera, assures the SGPC and the Sant-Samaj of consensus among Jathedars on contentious issues such as the Bikrami Calendar implementation, and possible tampering with the Panthic Sikh Reahit Maryada so it “aligns” with the Nirmala-Udasi oriented maryadas of the various Sant-Samaj deras.
Pawns of Badal Family
The Sant-Samaj has openly patronized with Akali-Dal Badal and for the last few years formed an alliance with the Akali-BJP combine during state and national elections. They had initially approached Sukhbir Badal on the Nandgarh issue who had assured them that action would be taken soon.
Jathedar Giani Balwant Singh Nandgarh is the latest casualty of the all-powerful Badal regime which, via its form grip over the SGPC, allows no dissent on issues that could challenge their authoritarian control in Punjab over Sikh institutions.
In 1999, Jathedar Bhai Ranjit Singh Ji was removed from his position as Sri Akal Takht Sahib Jathedar when took issued with the Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Badal. Similarly, in 2008 Jathedar Joginder Singh Vendanti was also removed from his position has differences evolved between him and Parkash Badal who began to Vedanti as a liability, and replaced him with Head Granthi Gurbachan Singh.