Badal conferred highest Sikh title, radicals cry foul

December 5th, 2011 - 7:18 pm ICT by IANS  

Amritsar, Dec 5 (IANS) Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal was Monday bestowed the “Panth Rattan Fakhr-e-Qaum (Jewel of the religion, pride of the community)” title by the Sikh clergy here, drawing a strong reaction from Sikh radical groups.

The title was bestowed on Badal, who is the patron of the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal in Punjab, by Gurbachan Singh, the jathedar (head) of the Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of Sikh religion, at a religious ceremony inside the Golden Temple complex here.

A spokesman said here that Badal was bestowed with the title, the highest in Sikh religion, “in recognition of his outstanding contribution and glorious services rendered by him during his long Panthic and political career”.

Top Sikh clergy, including the heads of the Sikh high seats (Takhts) — Gurbachan Singh (Akal Takht), Tarlochan Singh (Keshgarh Sahib) and Iqbal Singh (Patna Sahib) — were present on the occasion.

Amidst religious slogans “Bole So Nihal Sat Sri Akal”, Badal was honoured with a ‘Siropa’ (robe of honour), a sword and a silver plaque.

Badal’s son and Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, who is the Akali Dal president, was present among other religious and political leaders.

In his address, the Akal Takht head said: “The tradition to honour revered personalities by the Sikh Panth from Sri Akal Takht Sahib was in vogue since time immemorial.”

He lauded the services rendered by Badal for the preservation of Sikh heritage by erecting memorials to Sikh martyrs, besides suffering imprisonment for long periods and having faced atrocities during various Akali morchas (movements).

The citation read: “Patron of the Shiromani Akali Dal and Chief Minister, Punjab, Sardar Parkash Singh Badal, who presented before Sri Akal Takht Sahib, has been conferred with Siropa, the title of ‘Panth Rattan Fakhr-e-Qaum’ in appreciation of his supreme services during his long panthic and political life. May God shower His blessings on Sardar Parkash Singh to enable him to lead a blissful life in the service of Sikh Panth.”

The conferring of the Sikh religious title upon Badal evoked a strong reaction from Sikh radical organisations like the All India Sikh Students Federation (AISSF) and the Dal Khalsa.

“We urge Sri Akal Takht Sahib to reconsider bestowing of Panth Ratan on Parkash Singh Badal and call Sarbat Khalsa to determine if Parkash Singh Badal, a political personality, is deserving candidate for Panth Ratan,” an AISSF statement said here Monday.

The AISSF said that Badal was a controversial figure and should not have been given the title.

“Badal has a long history of betraying Sikh nation, from patronage of Nirankaris in the ’70s to patronage of Dera Sacha Sauda. In 1984, thousands of Sikh soldiers deserted the Indian Army on the call given by Parkash Singh Badal and several hundred were killed. Badal later abandoned those Sikh soldiers and never rehabilitated them although he has been chief minister twice since then,” the statement said.

It added that Badal had patronised police officers who had been responsible for killing hundreds of Sikh youths during Punjab’s terrorism days.

The Dal Khalsa described the bestowing of the title to Badal as “a black chapter in the history of the Akal Takht”.

Dal Khalsa spokesman Kanwar Pal Singh said Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) chief Avtar Singh Makkar and Akal Takht jathedar Gurbachan Singh “have surpassed all records of sycophancy to appease their political master”.

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