source: The Tribune, Chandigarh, India - Amritsar PLUS 25th anniversary of Operation Bluestar Radicals criticise Sikh clergy openly at Akal Takht Varinder Walia Tribune News Service Amritsar, June 12 Are the Sikh high priests facing open challenge these days? The answer seems to be in affirmative because the leaders of radical Sikh organisations openly defied them (Sikh clergy) on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Operation Bluestar. The leaders of radical Sikh organisations came down heavily on Jathedar, Akal Takht, Giani Gurbachan Singh for eulogising the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) in his message, delivered from the rostrum of Akal Takht to mark the anniversary of the Operation Bluestar. Though the Jathedar, Akal Takht, called for panthic unity, but minutes after his message, the leaders of rival Akali factions and panthic organisations showed total disunity, in gross violation of his directive. The jathedar in his message, delivered from Akal Takht, had appreciated the SGPC for taking steps to rehabilitate the victims of the Operation Bluestar and the Army men who had deserted their barracks after the Army action in June 1984. What annoyed the radicals most was the reference of word “Akali” in his (jathedar’s) message. Though criticism of jathedars have become a routine, yet it was after 1986 that radicals openly criticised the Sikh clergy from the Akal Takht itself. The unruly scenes witnessed at Akal Takht could be attributed to the mismanagement of the SGPC and Akal Takht secretariat who failed to make appropriate arrangements to prevent untoward incidents, notwithstanding the tall claims of the authorities. The SGPC’s task force was a silent spectator even as radicals continued to deliver the provocative speeches. The mismanagement on the part of the SGPC also gave an opportunity to slogan-shouting radical youths to roam freely with unsheathed swords in the parikarma of the Golden Temple. The SAD (A) president, Simranjit Singh Mann, raised a number of slogans in favour of “Khalsitan” and left the scene. However, senior leaders of other radical outfits, especially SAD (Panch Pardhani), led by Daljit Singh Bittu and Harwinder Singh Norway, continued to address the gathering for more than two hours. Minutes after the speech of the Jathedar, Akal Takht, leaders of radical Sikh organisations started criticising the SGPC and Sikh clergy in front of Akal Takht through battery-operated public address system. The spokesman for the Damdami Taksal , Bhai Mohkam Singh, asked the Sikh high priests to appear before the “Panj Pyaras” (five beloved ones) of Akal Takht for allowing Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to sit in a chair in one of the rooms of the Takht at the time of starting Akhand Path for speedy recovery of the Sant, injured in Vienna. He alleged that the Sikh high priests and SGPC president were sitting on the floor while Badal was sitting in the chair in “gross violation of the maryada”. It was for the first time that the radical Sikhs used harsh words in front of Akal Takht against the jathedar. They alleged that the jathedar appreciated the SGPC, which itself was “responsible” for the circumstances that led to the Operation Bluestar. The radical Sikhs openly criticised the Jathedar, Akal Takht, for using the word “Akali” in his speech. The radical Sikhs alleged that the Operation Bluestar was not aimed against Akalis as mentioned in the message of the jathedar. They claimed that it was against Jarnail Singh Bhinderanwale, the then chief of the Damdami Taksal, who had become challenge to the Union Government. Had the SGPC accepted the demand of radical Sikhs to organise the 25th anniversary at Manji Sahib, they could have avoided the unsavoury situation that was witnessed at Akal Takht.