Remembering Jathedar Joginder Singh Vedanti and some of his take on Panthic matters

Jathedar Joginder Singh Vedanti passed away after suffering a heart attack yesterday. Sikh community across India and globe mourned on the irreparable loss to the community. Ex Jathedar of Akal Takht was witness of Operation Blue star, unapologetic in his panthic stance and took decisions keeping that vision. Let’s take a look at some of those decisions.

1. “RSS is just like Aurangzeb.”

Akal Takht’s Jathedar Joginder Singh Vedanti saw the RSS campaign to appropriate Sikh symbols as a “danger not only to the Sikhs but to the unity and integrity of the entire nation”. Jathedar had warned Sikhs against the growing influence of RSS. He was very vocal on how RSS has started to influence Sikh minds leading them to believe that Sikhs are nothing more than Hindus. Jathedar was respectful of all communities and considered Hindus as wide amalgam of beliefs that is unfortunately controlled by small set of power hungry people.

2. Pro Dasam Garanth stance

Joginder Singh Vedanti not only believed in keeping a stick to class around SGPC, he also wanted SGPC to adopt clear cut policy on Dasam Garanth and implement edict and directives of Akal Takht in that regard. He himself used to do Katha of Sri Dasam Garanth Mahraj.

3. Not bogged down by SGPC

Jathedar Joginder Singh Vedanti questioned the role of Prakash singh Badal (then CM) and SGPC in giving saropa to a Canada-based excommunicated Sikh by the SGPC chief.. He said that some Akali ministers and MLAs who had visited six gurdwaras of Vancouver where ‘langar’ (community kitchen) is served on tables and chairs in gross violation of the ‘hukmnama’ could be summoned at Akal Takht any time. He said facts in this regard were being collected by the Akal Takht secretariat. To a question, Jathedar Vedanti had said that Mr Jagdev Singh Talwandi, SGPC chief, could also be summoned at Akal Takht if found ‘guilty’ for presenting a ‘siropa’ to excommunicated Kashmir Singh who visited the Golden Temple along with Mr Ujjal Dosanjh, the then Premier, British Columbia, taking serious exception to the bestowing of a ‘siropa’ on Mr Dosanj (who is clean shaven). Jathedar Vedanti said that henceforth such honour should not be bestowed on ‘patits’ (apostate Sikhs).

Joginder Singh Vedanti made it clear to SGPC that it will have to comply with the edict issued by Bhai Ranjit Singh which making it compulsory to partake ‘langar’ while sitting on floor. He told SGPC in strict words that it would be relevant for ever as it was issued as per Sikh maryada.

Jathedar Vedanti questioned SGPC on its stance on Sant Jarnail singh Bhindranwale and told it to clear the air and maintain officially that Sant has been martyred. It was not mentioned officially by SGPC upto 1986.

Jathedar Vedanti questioned SGPC on not reviving the ‘Sikh itihas board’ despite reminders issued by Akal Takht. After his installation as Jathedar, he had directed the SGPC to frame bylaws for appointment and removal of Sikh high priests and defining their service rules, which obviously was not done during his tenure.

Jathedar Vedanti even questioned Bhai Ranjit Singh, a former Jathedar of Akal Takht, and Mr G.S. Tohra not to adopt ‘double standards’ on Panthic issues. He said while Bhai Ranjit Singh claimed that he was ‘real jathedar’ of the takht, he led the ‘chetna march’ organised by the Panthic Morcha which had presented a memorandum to the Governor, Punjab, who is incidentally a ‘non-Sikh’. He alleged that the leadership of the Panthic Morcha tried to take ‘political mileage’ from the issue of Guru Granth Sahib. Similarly, Mr Tohra who did not consider him (Jathedar Vedanti) as Jathedar, simultaneously commented on the edicts issued by him.

4. Stance against Deras and Babas.

Jathedar Vedanti questioned Baba Bhaniara as often as he could and also issued show-cause notice to Ajaib Singh Bedil for promoting and praising Baba Bhaniara. Mr Prithipal Singh, personal assistant to Jathedar Vedanti, notes that notices were being issued to Mr Buta Singh, Congress leaders and other Sikhs who had established links with Baba Bhaniara in violation of the edict.

5. Stance against world Sikh Council

Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti described the organisers of the world Sikh conventions as “anti-Panthic” and having scant knowledge of the Sikh traditions. He said the Hukmnamas once issued from Akal Takht could neither be withdrawn nor rejected.

He alleged that the function of World Sikh council was held at the behest of the state government which wanted to create division between the Sikh panth. He indicated that action could be initiated against the participants, including Mr Gurtej Singh, Mr Joginder Singh, Mr Hardev Singh Shergil, Mr Rajinder Singh, convener, Shiromani Khalsa Panchayat and Mr Ujjagar Singh Chicago.

6. Annulling edicts of Takht Patna Sahib

In 2008, Akal Takht Jatehdar Joginder Singh Vedanti annulled all edicts issued in the recent past by the Takht Patna Sahib.

Takht Patna Sahib’s Jathedar Iqbal Singh had passed edict against former Jathedar of Akal Takht Darshan Singh. Vedanti annulled the edicts citing that Darshan singh is a respected person and that Iqbal singh is in close proximity with RSS. Iqbal Singh had made comments on Dasam Garanth as well.

7. Questioned Akal Takht’s Jathedar in 2011 for honouring LK Advani

Vedanti had written an open letter to Akal Takht Jathedar Gurbachan Singh asking him how BJP leader L K Advani could be honoured at Akal Takht when his party had supported the Army’s attack on the Golden Temple in 1984.

8. Correcting narrative of Operation Blue Star

One of the most important thing that Vedanti was known for was his presence in the Parikrama on the fateful night of June 4, 1984. Vendanti was an ardaasia and had duty at 04am. He witnessed the operation blue star with his eyes. His efforts helped Sikhs in uncovering the lies written in Govt white paper on operation blue star. Vedanti maintained till his last days that there was no stray fire that came upon Harmandir Sahib, he said that aims were made on Harmandir Sahib. His version made govt to take back some of their statements and revise them in the white paper. He for example noted the dead children in Parikrama and also clearly maintained that library was intentionally set on fire.

I have had honour of meeting the Jathedar Sahib and his suggestions ring in my ears as I write about him. I remember him telling me to read more of Bani, to be humble in my dealings and polite in my speech. The loss is no doubt immense of the family of Vedanti but it is also a loss for Sikh Panth as a whole.

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