Jathedar Vedanti “Resigns”

Jathedar of the Akal Takht, Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, resigned yesterday without providing any real reason for the step down. From reports it seems that the Jathedar was asked to resigned late Monday night IMG_1186_2005.09.07_20.47.46.jpgafter some SGPC execs visited him at home the apparent reason: differences of opinion with the Shromini Akali Dal (lead by Badal) and the SGPC (lead by Makkar). In an attempt to cover up the transparently obvious removal, the SGPC president, Avtar Singh Makkar attributed the resignation to Vedantis ill health. However, most sources reported something more along these lines:

It is understood that Vedanti’s increasing proximity with hard liner Sikh organizations on the issue of Dera Sacha Sauda and his public opinion to vote for Sikh Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh during UPA government’s trust vote on July 22 last were key factors that compelled SGPC to pack up Vedanti. The reports said that Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had told Vedanti to quit else he will be expelled.

After reading about Jathedar Vedanti removal and the circumstances, (like many others) I am a bit confused and disturbed with the recent trend Jathedar Vedantis removal is not a first:

The removal of Bhai Jasbir Singh Rode as the Akal Takht Jathedar started the trend of sacking Jathedars. Previously, a Jathedar either resigned or died in office.

Bhai Ranjit Singh, the daring Jathedar of Akal Takht was sacked on April 28,1998 and SGPC installed Giani Puran Singh as the new Jathedar on February 15,1999. Vedanti was appointed as acting Jathedar of Akal Takht on March 28, 2000 after the SGPC then led by Bibi Jagir Kaur blamed Giani Puran Singh of violating the maryada (Sikh code of conduct) and sacked him.

I think what makes this most unsettling is the fact that the Jathedar of the Akal Takht is supposed to be given a certain degree of credibility and authority. The Jathedar is a Sikh leader; someone who represents our interests, is our ambassador, and serves as a guide to Sikhs worldwide. Im not giving him/her Papal status by any means, but the Jathedars position is an executive role within the Panth and removal at the whim and fancy of often corrupt officials in the SGPC or the SAD illegitimates any credibility the position once held. The fact that the last four Jathedars have been removed by the SGPC/SAD & Co. says a great deal about the way our Panth is runlittle of which can be construed in a positive light.

Of course, I’m not suggesting that the post is absolute, just that there should be checks – on both the Jathedar and those making decisions about his removal. If there is to be a removal there should be a clear process kind of like impeaching officers of the United States. Certainly, with vast bureaucracy that is the SGPC, this is possible.

On top of all of this the issue how our Jathedar is chosen and what role he or she plays. There is no job description or scope of duties section on the SGPC website.

This brings me to the questions what do you guys think of all this? What is the scope of the Jathedars job? What role should the Sikh sangat play in the selection and removal of the Jathedar in modern times? What constitutes a reason to remove the Jathedar? Also, the last two paragraphs above are written with the current system in mind, but what other processes for appointment/election/selection and removal do you think are feasible – dare we attempt a Sarbat Khalsa?


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14 Responses to “Jathedar Vedanti “Resigns””

  1. Singh says:

    Hi Baingan,

    About the picture, I thought it was amusing and put it up for comic relief.

    I don't know that I completely agree with your comment that the Jathedars and the SGPC have done nothing. I mean – in all seriousness there has to be some structure to the running of our gurdwaras and the representation of the panth in general. The SGPC hasn't done the best job, but they have at least kept everything running – "kam sar rehe ne." The SGPC has been known to react to criticism in the past – perhaps not the best mode of operating, but still not all negative.

    Also, from reading the articles that have been published I think one of the reasons Jathedar Vedanti was excused is because he tried to voice an opinion about an important issue in the panth right now – Dera Sacha Sauda. So, I think to say that the two serve no purpose is a stretch.

    But there is no reason to believe that what they have been doing is adequate. But I think the question is more along the lines of – how do we get from inadequate to acceptable.

    Do you think there is something that we as a sangat/panth can do to fix things?

  2. baingandabhartha says:

    out of curiousity, why the picture of him golfing?

    SGPC and the Jathedars have done NOTHING to uplift the Sikhs. We as a community have murdered millions of unborn girls, raised materialism/dowry/expensive weddings to a sick level, destroyed a generation or more with drugs (malwa belt in particular) and these idiots have sat on their thumbs. His firing or hiring will make no difference. Our leaders will not do anything to fix anything, the sangat will have to. What was started by the Ten Gurus as an egalitarian community has joined the ranks of the worlds largest business-organized religion!

  3. baingandabhartha says:

    out of curiousity, why the picture of him golfing?

    SGPC and the Jathedars have done NOTHING to uplift the Sikhs. We as a community have murdered millions of unborn girls, raised materialism/dowry/expensive weddings to a sick level, destroyed a generation or more with drugs (malwa belt in particular) and these idiots have sat on their thumbs. His firing or hiring will make no difference. Our leaders will not do anything to fix anything, the sangat will have to. What was started by the Ten Gurus as an egalitarian community has joined the ranks of the worlds largest business-organized religion!

  4. Singh says:

    Hi Baingan,

    About the picture, I thought it was amusing and put it up for comic relief.

    I don’t know that I completely agree with your comment that the Jathedars and the SGPC have done nothing. I mean – in all seriousness there has to be some structure to the running of our gurdwaras and the representation of the panth in general. The SGPC hasn’t done the best job, but they have at least kept everything running – “kam sar rehe ne.” The SGPC has been known to react to criticism in the past – perhaps not the best mode of operating, but still not all negative.

    Also, from reading the articles that have been published I think one of the reasons Jathedar Vedanti was excused is because he tried to voice an opinion about an important issue in the panth right now – Dera Sacha Sauda. So, I think to say that the two serve no purpose is a stretch.

    But there is no reason to believe that what they have been doing is adequate. But I think the question is more along the lines of – how do we get from inadequate to acceptable.

    Do you think there is something that we as a sangat/panth can do to fix things?

  5. sizzle says:

    SGPC and the Jathedars have done NOTHING to uplift the Sikhs.

    eh – they've done a fair amount, especially since they can't really purport to be THE authority, just an authority. they definitely could have been on top of stuff sooner, but, they're also a vssted institution, which almost always tend to be conservative and a bit behind. hard to change that without putting in charge a truly progressive and highly influential soul…but good luck with accomplishing that.

    i don't know what to think of this. where do we draw the line? defined roles and process would certainly help. about sacking – on the one hand, historically, sikhs were a religious and highly political force to be reckoned with…putting forth a facade of unity and consistency between political party and religious leadership was extremely useful. on the other hand – sikhs are increasingly diverse, have far more varying interests and viewpoints, and more than anything, this seems like a brazen attempt to insert a political puppet as a religious authority…especially sad since the SGPC is more ambassadorial than authoritative.

    perhaps the time has come to extricate the SGPC from indian politics altogether, especially as sikh political parties already exist. while he may have a political opinion, a jathedar or president probably shouldn't be voicing it. imagine the pope supporting Clinton's impeachment or something – why conflate the role and piss off an entire faction of the flock who disagree. stick to a specified role.

    time to hit the driving range.

  6. sizzle says:

    SGPC and the Jathedars have done NOTHING to uplift the Sikhs.

    eh – they’ve done a fair amount, especially since they can’t really purport to be THE authority, just an authority. they definitely could have been on top of stuff sooner, but, they’re also a vssted institution, which almost always tend to be conservative and a bit behind. hard to change that without putting in charge a truly progressive and highly influential soul…but good luck with accomplishing that.

    i don’t know what to think of this. where do we draw the line? defined roles and process would certainly help. about sacking – on the one hand, historically, sikhs were a religious and highly political force to be reckoned with…putting forth a facade of unity and consistency between political party and religious leadership was extremely useful. on the other hand – sikhs are increasingly diverse, have far more varying interests and viewpoints, and more than anything, this seems like a brazen attempt to insert a political puppet as a religious authority…especially sad since the SGPC is more ambassadorial than authoritative.

    perhaps the time has come to extricate the SGPC from indian politics altogether, especially as sikh political parties already exist. while he may have a political opinion, a jathedar or president probably shouldn’t be voicing it. imagine the pope supporting Clinton’s impeachment or something – why conflate the role and piss off an entire faction of the flock who disagree. stick to a specified role.

    time to hit the driving range.

  7. baingandabhartha says:

    Respectfully disagree with both above comments-historically yes, they did a lot-modern history of Sikhs-say the last 20 years-they(SGPC,Jathedars) have been pathetic. Dera Sacha Sauda didn't spring up overnight neither did all the ills plaguing the Sikhs.

    The problem incurrent times is that Sikhs mix religion and politics together-it served a purpose at one time-now its just dirty. I suppose that mix can be fixed if the politics was cleaned up-good luck with that.

    I agree with sizzle that SGPC should be extricated from politics altogether.

  8. baingandabhartha says:

    Respectfully disagree with both above comments-historically yes, they did a lot-modern history of Sikhs-say the last 20 years-they(SGPC,Jathedars) have been pathetic. Dera Sacha Sauda didn’t spring up overnight neither did all the ills plaguing the Sikhs.

    The problem incurrent times is that Sikhs mix religion and politics together-it served a purpose at one time-now its just dirty. I suppose that mix can be fixed if the politics was cleaned up-good luck with that.
    I agree with sizzle that SGPC should be extricated from politics altogether.

  9. Omar Singh says:

    This decision in my opinion is a double edged sword for Sikhs. I think Vedanti was a puppet and doing Badal's bidding for the most part. His appointment in disregard of proper procedure should have been an insult to his belief in Sikhism and the deep rooted notions of democracy that go along with it. Im not upset that he is no longer our Jathedar, but rather that the manner in which he was removed shows us that we have no control of our Gurdwaras, not even our political powerhouse, the Akal Takhat.

    On his recent pro-Sikh stance, I really think he saw the writing on the wall and the direction that things were heading, namely that he was on his way out, so he decided to say a few things that would appease the majority of the Sikhs that are active in Sikh affairs today. Vedanti is just one example of how confused and muddled everything has become for Sikhs. This type of powerplaying and manipulating isnt just going on in Punjab, it is going on everywhere. We need a jathedar who isnt into the politics, but is more concerned with the day to day practices that a Sikh should follow. He/She should be someone that can give spiritual guidance but also represent the Sikh in a way that shows the world our uniqnuess, how we are a nation that is "niara" from the rest of the world. Its hard for a Jathedar to preach being "niara panth" when he himself is bound by the hands and feet by the Badals.

    I just hope that one day we can get back to having someone like Jathedar Akali Phula Singh who garnered so much respect that Maharaja Ranjeet Singh surrendered himself for punishment when he offended the maryada. And when the punishment was to be publically lashed, not asked to clean the sangats shoes!!! i always grew up considering cleaning the sangats shoes as sewa.

  10. Omar Singh says:

    This decision in my opinion is a double edged sword for Sikhs. I think Vedanti was a puppet and doing Badal’s bidding for the most part. His appointment in disregard of proper procedure should have been an insult to his belief in Sikhism and the deep rooted notions of democracy that go along with it. Im not upset that he is no longer our Jathedar, but rather that the manner in which he was removed shows us that we have no control of our Gurdwaras, not even our political powerhouse, the Akal Takhat.

    On his recent pro-Sikh stance, I really think he saw the writing on the wall and the direction that things were heading, namely that he was on his way out, so he decided to say a few things that would appease the majority of the Sikhs that are active in Sikh affairs today. Vedanti is just one example of how confused and muddled everything has become for Sikhs. This type of powerplaying and manipulating isnt just going on in Punjab, it is going on everywhere. We need a jathedar who isnt into the politics, but is more concerned with the day to day practices that a Sikh should follow. He/She should be someone that can give spiritual guidance but also represent the Sikh in a way that shows the world our uniqnuess, how we are a nation that is “niara” from the rest of the world. Its hard for a Jathedar to preach being “niara panth” when he himself is bound by the hands and feet by the Badals.

    I just hope that one day we can get back to having someone like Jathedar Akali Phula Singh who garnered so much respect that Maharaja Ranjeet Singh surrendered himself for punishment when he offended the maryada. And when the punishment was to be publically lashed, not asked to clean the sangats shoes!!! i always grew up considering cleaning the sangats shoes as sewa.

  11. Sundeep Singh says:

    Looking at most jathedars, I agree they seem to be political pawns or politicians. I do feel that Jathedar of Takht Hazoor Sahib has so far remained above the political fray. One must deal with politics as it touches everything, but he has not dirtied himself, nor by any of his decisions does it seem like he is owned by any other. The Hukamnama from Takht Sri Hazoor Sahib that only decisions made by all 5 Takhts together are acceptable would severely reduce the political influence of Badal and others over all Takhats and the Sikh dharm (and it was also agreed to in the past I believe). In case anyone is wondering, I am not a Hazoori Sikh, I just point out truth where I see it (as far as I am able to).

    The newest person selected for Jathedar so far has a good record and is quite reputable. However, one wonders how he will perform when stuck between a rock (SGPC) and a hard place (Badal).

  12. Sundeep Singh says:

    Looking at most jathedars, I agree they seem to be political pawns or politicians. I do feel that Jathedar of Takht Hazoor Sahib has so far remained above the political fray. One must deal with politics as it touches everything, but he has not dirtied himself, nor by any of his decisions does it seem like he is owned by any other. The Hukamnama from Takht Sri Hazoor Sahib that only decisions made by all 5 Takhts together are acceptable would severely reduce the political influence of Badal and others over all Takhats and the Sikh dharm (and it was also agreed to in the past I believe). In case anyone is wondering, I am not a Hazoori Sikh, I just point out truth where I see it (as far as I am able to).

    The newest person selected for Jathedar so far has a good record and is quite reputable. However, one wonders how he will perform when stuck between a rock (SGPC) and a hard place (Badal).

  13. […] Navdeep and just this month he successfully won his third term. (Vedanti on the other hand has come and gone [I have noted my criticism of the present Jathedar-obsession in a previous […]

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