SGPC dismisses four of the ‘Panj Piaras’

Amritsar, Jan 1 (IANS) In a move likely to aggravate the religious crisis in the Sikh community, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) on Friday dismissed four of the ‘Panj Piaras'(five chosen ones of the Gurus) from their posts.

The decision to dismiss Satnam Singh Khanda, Satnam Singh Jajianwali, Tarlok Singh and Mangal Singh was taken at an emergency meeting of the SGPC, the mini-parliament of the Sikhs, in Amritsar on Friday. The fifth ‘Panj Piara’, Major Singh, retired on Thursday.

The SGPC said the four could not henceforth take any decision related to the Sikh high priests.

SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar, who chaired the meeting, later confirmed to the media that the services of the four ‘Panj Piaras’ have been terminated.

The dismissal came on the day (January 1) set as the deadline by the ‘Panj Piaras’ for the removal of Akal Takht Jathedar Gurbhachan Singh and chiefs of four other ‘Takhts’ (religious seats) of the Sikhs.

The ‘Panj Piaras’ were scheduled to hold a meeting here on January 2 to decide on the removal of the Sikh high priests.

Makkar said Saturday’s meeting, if held, would be illegal as the services of the four ‘Panj Piaras’ have been terminated.

“They violated service rules and defied orders. They tried to damage the Sikh institutions, including the Akal Takht,” Makkar said, justifying the dismissal orders.

“They will not be allowed to hold the meeting. There is no question of the meeting since they can’t do so after their dismissal. Their work was to do ‘dharam prachar’ (spreading religion). But they went beyond that,” Makkar said.

Reacting to the developments, the ‘Panj Piaras’ said on Friday that they will discuss the issue and respond on Saturday.

The SGPC, with an annual budget of nearly Rs.1,000 crore, manages the Sikh shrines in Punjab and Himachal Pradesh, including the holiest of Sikh shrines Harmandar Sahib or the Golden Temple in Amritsar.

The ‘Panj Piaras’ recently called for the removal of the Sikh high priests after they pardoned controversial Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in September 2015.

The ‘pardon’ order was later withdrawn in October, following pressure from various Sikh organisations and the community.

After the ‘Panj Piaras’ sought the removal of the high priests, the SGPC transferred them but two of them refused to obey orders.

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