Tempers flare up at Akal Takht Mann, Badal men clash at Manji Sahib Varinder Walia Tribune News Service Amritsar, July 2 The quadricentennial celebrations of the foundation of Akal Takht would go down in the history of the Sikh panth as the “blackest day” as turbans of SGPC chief, Mr Avtar Singh Makkar, president, Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, and some other Sikh leaders fell off in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib and Sikh high priests, at Manji Sahib inside Golden Temple Complex here today. Jathedars of the five Takhts had a tough time as chaos prevailed even before the “ardas” and they had to carry Guru Granth Sahib away hastily, hurting the sentiments of the Sikh sangat present on the occasion. Shockingly, the Task Force of the SGPC, Akali MLAs and some senior leaders fled from the scene and failed to safeguard Guru Granth Sahib, leaving the stage open for the angry SAD (A) supporters. In the no-holds-barred clash, members of Badal and Mann factions of SAD used swords, lathis and attacked one another with fists and blows — something unprecedented in the history of SGPC. It was for the first time that even the “ardas” of the religious function could not be completed as tempers flared up. Consequently, the Sikh high priests postponed the bhog of “akhand path” to July 21. The trouble started when the SGPC did not give time to Mr Mann to address the Sikh sangat after Mr Parkash Singh Badal and Jathedar Makkar had spoken. Within no time, SAD (A) men captured the stage and its president Mr Mann made his followers raise the demand for ‘‘azadi’’ (freedom) amid slogans of “Bole So Nihal…”. SAD (A) activists also raised slogans like ‘‘Badal murdabad’’ and ‘‘Mann zindabad’’. The incident occurred even as a number of banners like “Akal Takht mahan hai, Sikh panth di shan hai’ adorned the walls of Harmandar Sahib . While SAD (A) supporters captured the stage, SAD (B) and SGPC men escorted Mr Badal and the SGPC chief to a safer place. The SGPC chief said it was not his but the ‘‘turban of the Sikh panth’’ that had fallen off. Mr Mann, however, said a fitting reply would be given to pro-Badal activists who had removed his turban. He claimed that it was the Sikh sangat which had raised the demand that he should be given time to speak on this historic occasion. However, Mr Badal and SGPC chief said it was the sole right of the SGPC to decide who would be allowed to speak or not. Mr Mann claimed that he had participated in the function on the appeal of Jathedars who had said Akal Takht’s ‘‘Sirjana Divas’’ should be celebrated jointly. He said it was not the function of SAD (B) only. Mr Badal alleged that Mr Mann had repeated the acts of his ‘‘nana’’ (maternal grandfather Aroor Singh who had honoured General O’Dyer at Akal Takht after the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. Mr Mann said he had already sought unconditional apology from the Sikh panth for the acts of his grandfather and maintained that, ‘‘Mr Badal had not tendered any apology on behalf of his grandfather, Fateh Singh, who had allegedly added poison in water during Jaiton Morcha’’. Meanwhile, the unfortunate developments have caused concern among the well-meaning people in general and shocked the devout Sikhs in particular. Earlier, the clash on February 22, 2003 involving activists of the Shiromani Khalsa Panchayat, members of the Sikh Students Federation (Mehta group) and employees of the SGPC inside the SGPC complex in which 19 persons had been injured had hit the headlines. Today’s incident evoked strong reaction from the Sikh masses who described it as highly regrettable and avoidable. The latest developments show that the SGPC has not learnt any lessons. The clash, points to the failure of the SGPC’s crisis management system, they maintained. Earlier, in his address, Mr Badal had sought the help of Sikh sangat to bring SAD back to power in the state. Bhai Mohkam Singh, spokesman of the Damdami Taksal, Bhai Baldev Singh, President, Akhand Kirtani Jatha, Mr Onkar Singh Thapur and U.K-based Dal Khalsa leader Manmohan Singh Khalsa, while expressing concern over today’s incident blamed Mr Mann for it. However, Mr Jaswant Singh Mann, President of the All-India Shiromani Akali Dal said SAD (A) should have been given time to address the Sikh sangat. He said infighting among Sikh groups was an unfortunate development.