Reporting from Washington - The management at the Sikh Gurdwara, DC, has asked the Akal Takhat jathedar to reconsider Professor Darshan Singh’s excommunication in a public forum, at the Akal Takhat.
The former jathedar was summoned to the Akal Takhat on Dec. 5, 2009, and excommunicated on Jan. 29, 2010. While the original conflict centered on Darshan Singh’s 2009 kathaa at the Gurdwara of Rochester, in New York, regarding salacious stories in the Dasam Granth, which he argued could not be written by Guru Gobind Singh, the final act of excommunication resulted from his refusal to meet with the five jathedars at the Akal Takhat’s secretariat office.
“The Takhat of raj-jog (king-status) and miri-piri (king-saint) was not made today, it was founded by Guru Nanak,” he said in his kathaa at the Washington gurdwara on July 7.
Guru Hargobind solidified the concept by building the Akal Takhat, the throne of highest temporal authority, at Harmandar Sahib.
“Today, the propaganda fed to us is that the Takhat is Guru,” Darshan Singh said. “When our enemies found out that now we believe that the Takhat is Guru, they began another conspiracy: create a new takhat,” he said. “They (five jathedars) built a small room with a new takhat (secretariat). They said that anyone who cannot be at the Takhat could come and sit here for hours and will be recognized. It happened to me.
“But I would not turn away from the Akal Takhat… They said come to our takhat. I said I have always known this Takhat. I don’t know any other takhat. Their takhat is in the back room of the building in a back alley.”
The jathedars, at the secretariat, and Darshan Singh, at the Akal Takhat, were seated about 50 feet away from each other. Neither budged. Darshan Singh left.
“After that, they issued a hukamnama (edict) that we waited for 90 minutes and Darshan Singh never appeared at the Akal Takhat,” he said.
“Where is your Akal Takhat?”
The jathedars offered him a second chance to appear before them by Jan. 7, 2010. But Darshan Singh still would not meet with them behind closed doors. The hukamnama was published later that month.
“All the sangats (congregations) here and around the world are enjoined that they must not allow raagee Darshan Singh or any of his supporters to speak from the stage or facilitate such effort,” the hukamnama says. “Anyone who violates this advisory will be considered guilty and apostate from Sikhi.”
SikhNN asked Akal Takhat Jathedar Gurbachan Singh, in August, if he had decided on a tankhaa (punishment) for the gurdwara management. He said, “Not yet.”
Defiance in DC
Darshan Singh was invited to the newly re-opened gurdwara in Washington for Guru Hargobind’s Gurpurab celebration, in violation of the hukamnama.
“As of now, we did not get any email, phone call or letter from the Akal Takhat that we should not invite him,” said Daljit Singh Sawhney, head of the gurdwara, after the program.
But an email from a local Sikh was forwarded to him at 8:36 a.m. on the morning of the program.
“I would like to know why is there a program being organized at Baltimore and Washington metropolitan area?” another local Sikh said in the email. “According to these documents from the Akal Takhat, Professor Darshan Singh is not a Sikh until he goes to the Akal Takhat Sahib and apologizes for his actions and words against our Guru Sahib. It is my humble request not to attend this program…”
The email was sent to many other recipients. It included four attachments: A Nov. 17, 2009, letter summoning him to the Akal Takhat; a Dec. 5, 2009, letter labeling him an apostate for not meeting with the jathedars; the Jan. 29, 2010, hukamnama excommunicating him, and a June 6, 2013, letter to the Washington gurdwara ordering a stop to the program with Darshan Singh.
Daljit Singh did not believe that the Akal Takhat’s letter was a real document. Perhaps someone copied and pasted the letterhead on top, he was told. It was not directly sent from the Akal Takhat, he was advised. And, does the Akal Takhat send official orders by email?
But the letter was real. Gurbachan Singh later told SikhNN that the secretariat often sends official orders by email. “Sangats from all over the world call upon the Akal Takhat to take action when issues arise,” he said.
The jathedar said he knew Darshan Singh was invited to the Washington gurdwara.
“According to the hukamnama, they should not call him on stage, they should not meet with him,” he said. “He (Darshan Singh) has been jathedar two times, he knows.
“Few people are with him, the rest of the sangat just comes to see the tamaashaa (entertainment),” the jathedar added. “They are disrespecting the Akal Takhat.”
With doubts about the authenticity of the email, the program continued on track. About 200 people came to listen to Darshan Singh. Many came from other gurdwaras in metropolitan Washington.
“We will say this again and again to our management (parbandhakhaa) that we are not showing disrespect for anyone,” said Harpreet Kaur, spokeswoman for the gurdwara, in her introduction of Darshan Singh.
“But why (excommunicate) a person who had always spoken in favor of – throughout his life - he was a spokesman for Guru Granth Sahib, for Gursikhi,” she said in an interview with SikhNN, after the program. “(He was) one of the only persons who when in India there were so many cruelties inflicted on Sikhs, and the Sikhs were facing very difficult times, he was the only one who was fearlessly speaking. So, we welcome him.
“We have nothing to hide,” she added. “Everything is transparent over (here). And we are expecting the same transparency from Akal Takhat. We are looking for an open inquiry, if need be.”
Questions of strategy and authority
At least one Sikh said he had a lot of respect for Darshan Singh, but did not agree with the gurdwara management’s public disagreement with the Akal Takhat.
“If the Akal Takhat Sahib has a hukamnama for us to not have any divaan with Professor Darshan Singh, if we disagree, we should approach the Akal Takhat together - We should not challenge its authority,” said Sawinder Singh of Germantown, Maryland. “We should make a strategy of how should we pursue this kind of situation. We should have togetherness if we want change.”
Sawinder Singh, a former member of a Harmandar Sahib jathaa, said he had been mediating an agreement on this issue between two opposing groups in the metropolitan Washington area. He is not a member of any gurdwara, and was not involved in the program at the Washington gurdwara. He is independently trying to arrange a local debate.
“The majority of the local leaders, their agenda is publicity,” he told SikhNN. But until they can come to an agreement, Darshan Singh should stay away from gurdwara stages, he added.
Darshan Singh is in his 80s, and lives in Canada. He still travels extensively in North America by invitation from many sangats, he told SikhNN.
“I am glad that the awakening of the quam (Sikh community) has proven to me that any edict, if it is not right, the quam will not accept it,” he said. “(The hukamnama) did not make any difference and it did not change my life at all. I am still receiving all the love and respect from the quam. Programs continue as before.”
Although the Washington gurdwara gave wide notice of Darshan Singh’s program by emailing invitations, the majority of gurdwaras and individuals invite him without a public announcement for fear of backlash from his opponents.
“Our authority is Akal Takhat Sahib,” Sawinder Singh added. “I agree that the Akal Takhat is run by (Punjab Chief Minister) Parkash Singh Badal… (but) I bow my head to the Akal Takhat.” And because Gurbachan Singh is the jathedar, “I have to respect him.”
“I’m surprised when people say that we accept the supremacy of the Akal Takhat’s maryada (code of conduct),” Darshan Singh said in his kathaa. “The Akal Takhat is just a seat where Guru Hargobind used to sit. Instead of the Guru, we have started worshiping the seat.
“Now we have made one person to be Akal Purakh,” he added, in an interview after the program. “Because he is sitting at the Takhat, his word is taken as the order of the Akal Takhat. This is the tragedy. Even a human cannot be the Akal Takhat, or Akal Purakh. And, if he proves that whatever he is saying is not just his opinion, is not because someone else has told him to say that, but is based on Gurbani and its principles, then the problems can be resolved.”
Still, some are adamant that they will never question the Akal Takhat jathedar’s hukamnama, nor question the authenticity of the Dasam Granth.
The word ‘Dasam’ (tenth) in Dasam Granth does not refer to the tenth Guru, says famed historian, Khushwant Singh, in his book, ‘History of the Sikhs, Part I.’ Dasam refers to one-tenth of the total number of verses composed in the court of Guru Gobind Singh. And the Guru is not necessarily its author, he writes.
Tarlochan Singh of Baltimore, Maryland, said he was made aware of Darshan Singh’s kathaa on Dasam Granth from Jus Punjabi, a New York-based cable television station. He has seen the original video made by Makhan Singh, from the Rochester sangat, and discussions on YouTube.
He said he is more concerned with why Darshan Singh does not criticize the three baanees from Damam Granth – Jaap Sahib, Sawayaa, and Benti Chaupai – recited in Nit Naym and during the Amrit Sanchaar ceremony. His wholesale criticism of the Dasam Granth is offensive, so he got what he deserved, Tarlochan Singh said.
When a person commits a serious crime, like murder (katal), then the punishment (gunna) will be severe, he told SikhNN.
If Darshan Singh feels he has received an unjust sentence, he should go back and make an appeal, he added. And he should meet with the jathedars at the secretariat if that is what they require. “Come out afterward and have your say at the Akal Takhat,” he said.
Sarbat Khalsa and Gurmatas
Sikh heritage and sacred traditions formulated during Guru Gobind Singh’s time dictate an open hearing in front of the Akal Takhat.
According to ‘Akal Takhat Sahib - Concept and Role,’ by Harjinder Singh Dalgeer, historical protocol requires Darshan Singh to present his side of the story to the Sarbat Khalsa, a convening of all Amritdhaaree Sikhs at the Akal Takhat. The Sarbat Khalsa then deliberates and makes its decision.
Following the creation of the Khalsa Panth in 1699, only the Panth was given the title of Guru, said Bikramjit Singh Bajwa, of New Jersey, in the November-December 2009 edition of The Sikh Bulletin. The Guru Panth only gave the Akal Takhat jathedar the authority to call a gathering at the Akal Takhat of Sikh representatives to debate and reconcile contentious issues, and then adopt Gurmatas (resolutions). Collective decisions by the Sikh Panth, made under the aegis of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, are binding on all Sikhs.
“Neither the jathedar singly, nor with the concurrence of other priests, can issue any hukamnama, as Guru has not authorized to do so,” he said, in the California publication. “If they do… it will be a negation of the concept as propounded by Guru Gobind Singh himself for the benefit of the Sikh Panth.”
For political gain, this tradition has been transformed without the approval of the Panth, Darshan Singh said in the interview.
He also questioned the authority of the other four jathedars and their precedence in making collective decisions with the Akal Takhat jathedar.
“We have begun to copy the concept of the five,” Darshan Singh said. “There was no concept of the five before. There never were two takhats. There was no third takhat. Damdama Sahib was built in 1960.
“Look at the old Ardaas, only the names of four takhats were referenced. When there was not a fifth takhat, when there were not even two takhats, how can five exist?
“They are making political decisions and are stuck in these political maneuvers.”
No possibility of reconciliation
Rejection of the historical protocol and dismissal of the sacred venue has broken any possibility of reconciliation. If the jathedars again summon Darshan Singh to reconsider his excommunication, he still will not go.
“Will the same people call again, those who call themselves Akal Purakh?” he asked SikhNN. “The problem still remains… I always relate myself to Akal Purakh. They have begun to call themselves Akal. That is why I am staying away.”
SGGS 964, Mahalaa 5, Raag Raamkalee
ਵਡਾ ਤੇਰਾ ਦਰਬਾਰ ਸਚਾ ਤੁਧੁ ਤਖਤੁ
vaddaa thayraa dharabaar sachaa thudhh takhat ||
The Darbaar of Your Court is glorious and great. Your holy throne is True.
Using this shabad, Darshan Singh centered his kathaa (sermon) on the meaning of Akal Takhat, his excommunication, and the conspiracies of injecting false granths into the Panth.
ਸਿਰਿ ਸਾਹਾ ਪਾਤਿਸਾਹੁ ਨਿਹਚਲੁ ਚਓਰੁ ਛਤੁ
sir saahaa paathisaahu nihchal chaur chhath ||
You are the Emperor over the heads of kings. Your canopy and chaur (fly-brush) are permanent and unchanging.
“Who is the King? Whom do we believe in?” he asked.
“The one who, under the eternal God’s guidance, dispenses justice (neyaa-i), he answered. Not the one who receives a phone call about what judgment to dispense.”
BACKSTORY: Roguery in Rochester
Darshan Singh was invited by the Rochester gurdwara for kirtan and kathaa on Aug. 23, 2009. There he focused on a section of Dasam Granth called, Chritro Pakhiyaan, a collection of pornographic tales that he said were written in a way that indirectly refer to Guru Gobind Singh as the repulsive “raja of Anandpur” character in the stories.
A complaint was sent to the Akal Takhat that Darshan Singh was disrespecting the Guru.
“The Akal Takhat is the Throne of Truth, no person should be brought before it on any false charges,” said Manmohan Singh, then secretary general of the World Sikh Council – America Region.
The council represents 44 gurdwaras and seven institutions in the US, and is formed under the auspices of the Akal Takht.
In its independent investigation, the council concluded: “Gurcharanjit Singh Lamba's editing is the real issue in this case.” The television show host on Jus Punjabi took the original recording made by Makhan Singh and edited it to the point that Darshan Singh’s kathaa was taken out of context. He then deleted the original video and refused to return the CD, Manmohan Singh told SikhNN at that time. He had to be coerced to give it back to a very “frustrated” Makhan Singh. When they recovered the original video and studied both versions, “Lamba’s version had some parts missing.”
Gurcharanjit Singh’s actions raised the ire of many other Sikhs, including the Rochester sangat.
According to The Sikh Bulletin, in the preface to his book, ‘Dasam Granth-di-Asleeyat, published in August 2009, Dalbir Singh narrates an incident on October 2, 2007, at Rajouri Garden, New Delhi, in which Gurcharanjit Singh stated that he acquired Gurmat gian not from Guru Granth Sahib but from the Dasam Granth.
The Sikh Bulletin referred to Gurcharanjit Singh as “the now champion of promoting the false Dasam Granth.”
In November 2009, SikhNN asked Gurcharanjit Singh why the Dasam Granth is worshiped alongside Guru Granth Sahib at takhats belonging to Guru Gobind Singh, such as Hazoor Sahib. He acknowledged that Guru Gobind Singh canonized the Guru Granth Sahib as the only eternal Guru, excluded any of his own writings, and prohibited worshiping any other scriptures. But he defended the practice of worshiping Dasam Granth and explained that it developed from “local tradition,” out of reverence for Guru Gobind Singh.
As for the erotic tales in Dasam Granth, Gurcharanjit Singh told SikhNN that its detractors just do not understand the difficult language in the granth.
The video was seen on Jus Punjabi. Penny Yogiraj Sandhu, head of Jus Punjabi, confirmed to SikhNN that she had aired Gurcharanjit Singh’s version of the video. The video also was sent to the Akal Takhat.
“During the kirtan at the gurdwara sahib, Rochester, New York, your reprehensible comments about Dashmesh Pita Guru Gobind Singh have hurt the feelings of the Sikh sangat around the world,” the jathedar wrote in a Nov. 17, 2009, letter to Darshan Singh. “In this regard the Sikh Sangat around the world sent telephone and written messages, and sent CDs, and demanded action against you.”
In Jus Punjabi programs, Gurcharanjit Singh grilled Darshan Singh with leading questions.
The jathedar summoned him to come to the Akal Takhat in person on Dec. 5, 2009, to explain his comments. He also banned all Sikh gurdwaras and institutions from inviting him on stage for kirtan or kathaa.
“There was huge gathering outside Akal Takhat,” wrote Bikramjit Singh. He was in constant touch with his friends who were with Darshan Singh when he went to the Akal Takhat, he told SikhNN.
The crowd was divided into two groups, Guru Granth Sahib followers and Dasam Granth followers, which he refers to as “Bachitar Natak Granth” followers. The Bachitar Natak followers consisted of groups of Nihangs, Damdami Taksal and Sant-Samaj, he wrote.
Darshan Singh said he would not go into a private room even though he was pressured from his own circles. He would clarify his stance only at the Akal Takhat, and only in front of whole sangat, Bikramjit Singh wrote. After a nearly two-hour standoff, Darshan Singh submitted his written clarification at the Guru Granth Sahib Hajoori in the Akal Takhat complex, and left.
“The five Singh sahibaan were present at the Akal Takhat Sahib at the appointed time and waited but the defendant Professor Darshan Singh, because of his ego, pride and selfishness, did not present himself to the awaiting five Singh sahibaan,” the jathedars wrote in their Dec. 5, 2009, decree. “Because of this, the critic of the Guru, Professor Darshan Singh raagee is declared Tankhaayaa (apostate) by the Akal Takhat.”
The jathedars again banned all gurdwaras from inviting him, and ordered him to appear before them by Jan. 7, 2010, or a “strong action will be taken against him according to religious traditions.”
The American council took issue with the jathedar’s proceedings.
“Prior to bringing Professor Darshan Singh ji before Siri Akal Takhat Sahib, the case of his alleged wrongful keertan at gurdwara sahib in Rochester, New York, should have been thoroughly investigated based upon truthful evidence, rather than the flawed evidence of a distorted and misleading version of Professor Singh’s keertan televised by a TV host, by S. Gurcharanjit Singh Lamba, on Jus Punjabi Channel of New York, USA, that was used to build up the present case,” he said in a Jan. 4, 2010 news release.
Kirpal Singh, a member of the council’s executive committee, went in late December to meet with Gurbachan Singh. Armed with the original video and testimonials from members of the Rochester sangat and parbandhak, to prove his innocence.
“All we are asking is that they review the facts,” Manmohan Singh said. The tankhaayaa over the venue was just a side issue, he added. The council has recommended an open discourse for the next meeting.
“The two parties should meet in a good venue, with public media, and finish the issue,” Surinderpal Singh, the council’s chairman, told SikhNN back then. “Behind closed doors truth can’t be understood.”
“Furthermore, we submit that in case the jathedar sahiban chose to proceed with their current plans of declaring any tankhaa or excommunicating of Professor Darshan Singh on Jan 7, 2010, then it will result in a very serious division in the entire Khalsa Panth; that will cause an irreparable damage to the Sikh movement,” the news release said. “Such a disaster must be avoided.”
The jathedars moved the deadline to Jan. 29, 2010, but did not move the venue.
“…This slave appeared before Your Takhat (throne). But after going there I realized that the tankhaayaa people who decry Your Takhat and do not even accept this Takhat as the Akaal Takhat have created their own separate Akal Takhat and are misusing the name of Akal Takhat to please their political masters… and said naked white lies that “we waited at the Akal Takhat but Darshan Singh did not come.
“O Suchay Paathishaahu, the edict of strength I received from You is that never be a slave of falsehood. Therefore, I do not accept their letter, which is based on lies.”
He again refused to meet the jathedars at the secretariat.
“Due to personal ego and selfishness and pride, he failed to appear before the five Singh sahibaan in Akal Takhat Sahib and became culpable before Guru Granth and Guru Panth,” the hukamnama says.
“After lengthy deliberation on all these situations, the five Singh Sahibaan have accused Darshan Singh raagee of being slanderer of the Gurus and a rebel of the Sikh Panth. Because of being deprived of the honor of being in the Sikh Panth and being an outsider he is stripped of the rights and privileges of being a Sikh.”
They again reminded the Sikh sangat to not call him on stage.
_________________________From Sikh News Network archives.