Akal Takht jathedar is on a roll. But who’s pulling the strings?


Akal Takht reconstruction work in 1992 – Photo: Hb Singh / Asia Samachar

By Hb Singh | Opinion |

If you’re on Akal Takht jathedar’s update list, you are probably under the impression that he actively and feverishly oversees Sikh affairs the world over.

In the recent weeks, he started moves to banish an active Sikh volunteer in the United States, began the ball to kick the harmonium out of key Amritsar outposts and urged Sikhs in Punjab to get weapon licenses.

What a heavy hitter of a jathedar! The actual truth is starkly different. He is but a mere pawn in the hands of politicians, especially the Badals. Some context may instruct us as to how to read the recent avalanche of seeming dictates or hukumnamas.

Let us take the harmonium issue, one of the latest to be floated by Akal Takht acting jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh.

He is all set to bang up the harmonium, and kick it out the Darbar Sahib, Amritsar. Yes, that very place – known to many as the Golden Temple – which is larger than life in the minds of most Sikhs. In the space of three years, the jathedar wants raagis to discard the harmonium and opt for stringed instruments (taanti saaj).

Well, here is the politics behind it all.

It’s easy to kick the harmonium out of the Darbar Sahib. It doesn’t talk back. It will not bite. It will simply remain silent. An easy pick to show how brave, courageous and reform-minded he is. Taaliaa (Applause)!

We can debate the merits and demerits of the move. No harm in getting into a discussion. But did discussions even take place before the decision was made? Did they raise the issue and seek public feedback? I’m not on his fast dial, so I may have missed the alert.

So, why is the Akal Takht jathedar strutting around to pronounce changes? Let us look at their ground reality. In the recent Punjab state election, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) — led by father-son duo Parkash Singh Badal and Sukhbir Singh Badal — crashed out yet again. Usually, when they lose, the Congress steps into power in this state to the north of Delhi. This time around, that didn’t happen. The 2022 state elections went to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), considered an outside force. You now have an unknown and untested force wielding power. It must be painful to watch!

Thaminder Singh (left) of Sikh Book Club. Right: Giani Harpreet (middle) making the ‘tankhaiya’ pronouncement from Akal Takht on 3 May 2022

With them losing badly in the elections, the Badals and their ilk are falling back to wielding power via the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbhandak Committee (SGPC), a Sikh institution firmly under the family’s control. Here, they can still lord around and make noises. The Akal Takht jathedar is very much under their thumb. That is the stark and sad reality for Sikhs all over.

If the jathedar really wants to make a difference, they is plenty he can do. Forget about yanking the harmonium out of the Darbar Sahib. He should instead work to allow women to do kirtan in the Darbar Sahib. He would get jaikaras all around if he can dismantle the ­patriarchal practice, very much alive and kicking in the Darbar Sahib.

So, the next time you hear the Akal Takht jathedar make yet another pronouncement, know where it is coming from. Don’t swoon at his every word.

Hb Singh is a Kuala Lumpur-based journalist with some experience in dealing with Sikh organisations, both from within and outside. 

* This is the opinion of the writer, organisation or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.


Explainer: Guru Granth printing error and how Akal Takht handled it (Asia Samachar, 7 May 2022)

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  1. No need to be hyper on this matter. He is in charge now. Whoever is in charge we will never be satisfied with whatever face or whomever takes over. He has given ample time of 3 years to learn string instruments and replace the harmoniam. Nothing wrong with that. He should arrange training of all his staff starting now in string instruments. In fact shabads you can recite with music also. On the internet you can hear Beas dera shabads sung without instruments. The voice and manner of their verbal tune is so heart warming and pricks your inner heart. So don’t over react. If the same order was passed by a real true guru of the past would sangat follow or not. Even Gurus time you had his sons causing trouble over Guru Ghadi inheritance. So what you expect now.

  2. Very true HB Singh Ji. When politics over ride religion ethics, it happens what is happening at SGPC.
    A sad day for the Panth at large.

  3. Well said HB Singh. The truth is that this Jathedar is nothing but a puppet who is being used to undermine the governing AAP in order to rehabilitate the Badal Mafia.

  4. I have only a simple question to ask. Why was Akal Takht asleep all these years and what made it be awake suddenly. Shame on you all for taking us for a ride all these years. If you still have some semblance of shame, please step aside and let us be true Sikhs, as expected by our Gurus.