Sucha Singh Langah a former Minister of the SAD-BJP Government has been excommunicated by the Akal Takhat – the supreme temporal authority of the Sikhs.
This action against Sucha Singh Langah has been taken as he has been booked and arrested on charges of rape, cheating and intimidation of a woman by the five Sikh high priests. With this action, the Akal Takhat has come into limelight otherwise the Akal Takhat has remained in controversy for wrong reasons.
The promptness with which the Shiromini AkaliDal president Sukhbir Singh Badal has acted against Sucha Singh Langah, once the blue eyed boy of the Akali Dal, has surprised everyone. Langah has been divested of all the posts he was holding in the Akali Dal and expelled from the primary membership of the Akali Dal.
Langah was considered a prominent figure of the Akali Dal and his writ ran high in the SAD-BJP Government. For the first time, the Akal Takhat and the Shiromini Akali Dal have taken such a ‘bold’ step.
Although, Guru Gobind Singh declared Akal Takhat as the supreme temporal authority of the Sikhs, the first religious punishment in the sikh history was granted by the second Guru Angad Dev to a Ragi Jatha of Satta and Balwant.
According to Professor Prithipal Singh Kapur a renowned Sikh scholar and former pro-vice chancellor of Guru Nanak Dev University, Satta and Balwant used to recite kirtan in the congregation of Guru Angad Dev and sangat would give daily offerings.
According to Prof. Kapur, Satta and Balwant asked the guru to give them one day offerings and the guru agreed. It so happened that the day they were to be given the offerings, the amount was quite low and they were unhappy and started reciting kirtan against the guru. This enraged the guru and they were ostracized. After sometime, Satta and Balwant realized their mistake and approached the guru for forgiveness through some influential Sikhs. They tendered an apology accepting their guilt and the guru forgave them and they were taken back for recitation of kirtan.
It was sixth guru Hargobind who setup the Akal Takhat – to discuss and decide on worldly affairs. The spiritual sewa was already being performed at the Harmander Sahib. Guru Hargobind also setup a fifteen member council which would deliberate the issues and then submit their report to the guru for final decision. Guru Hargobind himself used to sit in the congregation at Akal Takhat in the morning and evening. All those who sought the forgiveness were supposed to personally appear at the Akal Takhat and accept their guilt and only then they were forgiven.
Professor Kapur who has also served as Editor-in-chief of Encyclopedia of Sikhism department of Punjabi University told this writer that Guru Gobind Singh created Khalsa on Baisakhi by baptizing five Sikhs at Anandpur Sahib and this became second Sikh Takhat known as Takhat Kesgarh Sahib. Guru Gobind Singh announced that the Akal Takhat would remain supreme as it was God Almighty’s throne. The Akal Takhat became operational in the 18th century. When Akal Takhat became operational, there were many Sikh jathas and there were differences among them. Akal Takhat brought unity among them, says prof. Kapur.
While declaring Akal Takhat as the supreme temporal authority, Guru Gobind Singh fixed rehat Maryada (code of conduct) for the Sikhs. The Akal Takhat could issue verdicts and also pass gurmatas. Four ‘bajar kuraihat (heinous offences) were fixed under which the Sikhs could be punished and excommunicated – namely, cutting of hair, having illicit relations – adultery, killing a daughter and insulting the guru Granth Sahib… and the gurus.
According to Prof. Kapur, Maharaja Ranjit Singh also faced the wrath of the Akal Takhat and he was summoned at the Takhat by the then jathedar Akali Phoola Singh. Maharaja Ranjit Singh appeared before the takhat and sought forgiveness accepting his guilt. The charge against him was that of adultery. While jathedar announced stringent punishment of Lashes (koras), the sangat requested the jathedar of the Akal Takhat that the Maharaja should be forgiven as he had accepted his guilt and sought forgiveness. There upon, the jathedar forgave him.
In the modern times some prominent Sikh leaders have been excommunicated by the Akal Takhat and given religious punishment. They include late president Giani Zail Singh and former Union Home Minister Buta Singh. They were excommunicated for the operation Blue Star and destruction of Akal Takhat. Giani Zail Singh did not appear personally at the Akal Takhat but sent his emissaries with his explanation. He said that he was pained at the operation Blue Star and damage to the Akal Takhat. He was forgiven for accepting his guilt. Buta Singh later personally appeared before the Akal Takhat and sought forgiveness. He was given religious punishment which he complied with.
Prof. Darshan Singh a former jathedar of Akal Takhat who was excommunicated did not appear at the takhat and remains excommunicated. He is now settled in Canada.
However, the Akal Takhat has not punished Bibi Jagir Kaur former president of the SGPC who was charged with the murder of her daughter under mysterious circumstances and was convicted and sentenced to five years imprisonment. She is on bail and is heading the Istri Akali Dal a wing of the Akali Dal. This indicates, the partiality of the Sikh clergy and the leadership of the Shiromini Akali Dal.
The Akal Takhat also came into controversy when it granted pardon to dera Sacha Sauda Chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim in 2015 without his personally appearing at the Akal Takhat. This was done at the behest of the leadership of the Shiromini Akali Dal… and particularly Sukhbir Singh Badal.
The leadership of the Shiromini Akali Dal was exposed by Giani Gurmukh Singh former jathedar of Takhat Damdama Sahib Talwandi Sabo who was transferred to a gurdwara in Haryana. The pardon granted to Ram Rahim was withdrawn by the Akal Takhat as there was already huge resentment against the Akali Dal leadership over the incidents of sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib at Behbal Kalan and police firing at Kotkapura.
The real picture of the pardon to Ram Rahim was exposed by Giani Gurmukh Singh when he appeared before the parallel panj piaras a few days ago. Following his appearance before the panj piaras, the SGPC cut off supply of water and electricity of his house at Amritsar and also asked him to vacate the house. This further exposes the Badals for their claim of not interfering in the affairs of the SGPC. Even the younger brother of Giani Gurmukh Singh has been transferred from Amritsar.
Justice Ranjit Singh Commission setup by Amarinder Singh government to enquire into the incidents of sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib in 2015 has summoned the president of the SGPC or his nominee with the record of pardon granted to Gurmeet Ram Rahim. But the SGPC president has refused to appear before the commission.
According to Gurdwara Act, the secretary of the SGPC can be summoned. Justice Ranjit Singh has clarified that he has not summoned the jathedar of the Akal Takhat. He has only asked the President of the SGPC or his representative to come with the record to reach a conclusive decision. Justice Ranjit Singh is conscious of the sensitivities of the religious issues.
One Sikh educationist remarked, ‘who will excommunicate the present jathedar of the Akal Takhat who has denigrated the highest temporal seat of the Sikhs’.
KS Chawla is a senior journalist based at Ludhiana.
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