“I will keep performing the duty of jathedar for whole of my life”

(OCR –machine typing E&OE) If a European sepoy did a great heroic deed he is permoted to  post of sergeant (Hawaldar) but under the same circumstances if it happens to be in Sikh masses he would straight away be promoted to the post of general. Under  this very principle a tonga driver Satwant's father was made Vice President of Akali  Dal, a hospital nurse (Beant’ Singh widow) was made an M.P, Ranjit Singh a nobody was made Akal Takhat Chief. S.S.Mann a police officer was crowned as political chief, Today nobody bothers about Bapu Trilok Singh or remembers Kikar Singh (a jeep driver who became M.P defeating while Kapoor Singh ICS This unfortunate trait among the Sikh people has cost the community very dearly.

Bhai Ranjit Singh who became hero after killing the murderer of 12 Sikhs in 1978  was made Akal Takhat Chief after freeing him from the jail. He recently gave verdict which now went in favour of those very Nirankaris. Thus many an eye brows were raised. It was suspected that Ranjit Singh has been freed with certain conditions and he is fulfilling those and pleasing the Delhi Govt. Khushwant Singh has interviewed this hot headed jathedar to know his point of view.   

Historically a Jathedar has General like qualities. Bhai Raniit Sirgh possesses first ability in abundance. To equate Jathedar and intellectual in same terms is a bit odd but Bhai Ranjit Singh has risen above this oddity.
Compared with all his predecessors, Bhai Ranjit Singh is direct, frank and at the same time possesses a missionary zeal. One does not get tangled in complicated and confusing word play with him. He answers direct questions and gives straight-forward replies.
Lack of intellectual ability does not only mean a flaw in the character but sometimes can transform into a plus point. This can be gauged only after meeting Bhai Ranjit Singh. ln Punjabi media and politics his image is that of "hardliner’ it is really difficult to meet him in person. He is projected to be stubborn and quick to action like a warrior.
With these prior misconception, we met this man who is the spiritual head of the supreme authority of Sikhs at his residence.
The first question that comes to mind while meeting Bhai Ranjit Singh is why does he behave in this manner. He is not a run-of-the-mill kind of man. But he is guardian spirit of Sikh culture and Sikh soul.
Being not an intellectual is not a personal drawback since it is a panthic tradition. None of the sikh leaders who came after the Gurus were intellectuals.  The leaders of the Sikhs have always been Generals and in modern times they have been taken over by 'sants’. This is a historical fact that after the Gurus Sikhism spread not as whole society but as an army. And leaders of this army were Generals and not intellectuals. This is one of the reasons that main Sewadars of Takhts and big gurdwaras are called Jathedars.
The main flaw which has over shadowed all his abilities is "murderer, a murderer that has been given a lot of importance in recent times. And the murder is his qualifications.
Bhai Ranjit Singh does not repent what he has done and what was done to him. Whatever he did was not done so as to become the jathedar of Akal Takhat nor did he ask anybody to designate him so. lf he became jathedar it is only because sikh institutions and sikh leadership wanted him to. Those who chose him had their own reasons. At that time there were three self proclaimed jathedars of Akal Takht. To counter this troubled situation there was no man more worthy than Bhai Ranjit Singh. After he was appointed Jathedar only then this unconstitutional rule came to an end, although at the same time Ranjit Singh is not himself a product of democratic process.
 ln those turbulent times the way the leaders of the panth were elected is a landmark example of how Sikh politics have worked. Simranjit Singh Mann was elected in the same manner as Bhai Ranjit Singh.  Most of the people who are in the centre- stage at that time have passed out of the picture nor. Mann and Raniit Singh are the ones who are still occupying centre stage.
 All this his part of panthic tradition and they cannot be isolated from Sikh society. Thus Bhai Ranjit Singh is a classic case which represents all the Sikh traditions.
Being a non-political and non intelletual he takes decision which are clear cut and not bogged down with complications. Without taking decisions, which strike the heart of the matter, ' Generals cannot act and Ranjit Singh understands this fact well that he is truly the Genenal of Sikh panth. May be with the passage of time he may become more politician his dealings and less direct hitting in his actions.
His inflammatory an hard-hitting speeches should be seen in this context. Those speeches are proof to the fact that he says what he feels like.
A man who has been forced to spent  the best years of his life in jail and who  also missed raising a family can end with many complexes which have far reaching consequences. These complexes have plagued the image of Bhai Ranjit Singh. INTERVIEW WITH BHAI RANJIT SINGH ,  Q:- lf has been saId that you have bought the Sikh panth on the brink of division with your hukumnama on langar although the tricentenary celebrations of Khalsa is approaching fast?
A:- Who says. that there is a division in the panth. The panth does not consist of 4 or 5 persons. Their expulsions does not mean that there is a division in Sikh panth. Today, the whole Sangat in Canada is against them. Clean Shaven youth after adorning turbans and with swords in their hands are standing guard outside gurudwaras and are not allowing those who have been expelled to come inside. Sikhs are what makes sikhism, not sheep.
Q:- It is said that according to old panthic tradition there are no clear cut directions on eating langar on the floor.
A:- What' maryada' are you talking about? Humility is the maryada of gurmat. The persons who are not willing to come to gurudwaras without the benefit of chairs and are ready to fight for it; what maryada are they talking about! The traditions of the panth have to be passed on and protected. Today, for eating langar on chairs they are giving the excuse of wearing Pants, tomorrow for giving up the practice of kesh they will produce another excuse.
Q:- So, will you issue a hukumnama about Sikh youth who are getting their hair cut and who consume liquor?
A:- No, for accomplishing this task we believe in propaganda. Hukumnama cannot help in this task.
Q:- Why have you not adopted the method of propaganda on langar issue also?
A:- Langar maryada and the practice of giving up kesh by youth cannot be equated. The issue of langar is related with guru ghar and
gurudwaras. We are not telling people how to eat' roti in their homes. We are only talking of eating langar in gurudwaras. The youth who are getting their hair cut cannot be stopped by hukumnama. But in gurudwara no clean shaven Sikh can take part in Path for the purpose of sangat. No one can consume liquor in presence of Guru Granth Sahib ji. Many Sikhs consume liquor in privacy of their homes. We have not issued a hukumnama in this regard. For this we believe in propaganda only.
Q:- Different gurudwaras have different maryada(s). The common man in the society has different maryada whereas Shromani Committee has a different one, Will you issue a , hukumnama in this regard?
A:- There are many conflicts like these, about which other jathedars and panthic leaders have given their decision. I cannot immediately change these decisions. For taking a decision on these issues it is necessary to consult the Panthic leaders. But I think that earlier jathedar have taken these decision which are confusing. Like about '.Raagmala'it is said who ever wants to read it can do so, and who does not, should not do so. These kind of shaky decisions have produced confusion. I cannot immediately change these old decisions, but  it is my duty that in future this kind of confusion does not prevail. The sangat from abroad came and asked whether they should eat langar on the floor or chairs or tables, I cannot tell them whoever wants can sit  in chairs and whoever wants can sit on floor. Such decisions give rise to conflicts.  Sangat comes to Akal Takht, at last where can be done is that they get dear cut directions.
Q:- But your decision has given rise to a new conflict the post of Akal Takht Jathedar has become center of conflict.
A:- My decision has not given rise to the conflict. But there is a lobby which is hatchlng a conspiracy against me, who are giving rise to the conflict. Barjinder Singh leaves no chance to act against me. Earlier he used to publish photos of Delhi resident Avtar Singh Hit, then he wrote about the Nirankari conflict and now he is giving undue coverage to langar issue. When there were three self proclaimed Akal Takht jathedars then he could find no reason for division in the Sikh panth. He did not raise his voice then. Now he is publishing "big" news about this conflict and my decision. Being the Jathedar of Akal Takht l will not be dictated by anyone, even though he may be very powerful" Before also we have escaped controversy of this nature unscathed and we will do it this time also. This controversy is the brain work of some vested interests. There is no division of conflict in the Sikh Panth.
Q:- If is said that because of your hukumnama the sikh panth has been forced to concentrate its energies on this issue and you have also become deeply involved in thls. You have not outlined any program regarding the tercentenary celebrations of khalsa....
A:- Everybody is harping on the issue of Tricentenary celebrations of Khalsa, Tell me, without maryada what meaning do 300th years have. We will do the needful on the tricentenary celebrations. I must make it clear that it is necessary to spread the message of Sikhism. Some people are saying that by Baisakhi of '99 they would make the whole Sikh Panth Amritdhari. Others are saying that they will convert the whole world to Sikhism. We, at the Akal Takht will not make an announcement which cannot be fulfilled.
Q:- There is going to be big conference on that day ln Anandpur Sahib. Sri Anandpur Sahib foundatlon ls going full steam ahead with the preparations.....
A:- We do not have any relation with Anandpur Sahib Foundation. Whatever they are doing, let them. We do not believe in any kind of show off..
Q:- On that day there is going to be a conference of Sikhs from all over the wortd. Don't you think that some program or agenda should be presented by Akal Takhtf or the benefit of those Sikhs?
A:- The conference that is being held on Baisakhi eve is like any other similar conferences that are held on Baisakhi eve every year. The sikhs who willv isit will not do so on the summons of any foundation. Sangat will come to pay their respects and not to witness any kind of "shou/ that is being planned. And we will give this message to Srkh sangat on behalf of Akal Takht that one should strive to become a true sikh.
Q:- You are extending patronage fo World Sikh Council which is projecting itself as a lnstitution of greater standing than SGPC.
A:- SGPC and World Sikh Council are two separate bodies. SGPC provides leadership to Sikhs living in Punjab and World Sikh Council is for Sikhs residing abroad also. I do not have any particular ties with any organisation. lf SGPC put a wrong foot forward, then I would not hesitate to call it so. lf the same is done by World Sikh Council, l will also poit finger  at it too. Akal Takht is extending patronage to all those who want to spread the message of Sikhism with true heart. Outside Punjab, Akal Takht is related to many bodies. SGPC has been established by Sikhs after making many sacrifices. World Sikh Council was established so as to fulfill the needs of Sikhs in present times.
Q:- You have been accused of taking sides with Jathedar Tohra in Nirankari controversy and of giving clean chit to Amarinder Singh in spite of his producing a fake proof in front of Akal Takht.
A:- I do not take decisions from Akal Takht so as to please one lobby or the other. I cannot take decisions on basis of news reports published in newspapers and about which no concrete proof has been found. The courts all over the world do not take decisions on basis of news reports, so how can Akal Takht do so. ln Hawala scandal charges were framed against many big leaders but in the absence of proofs they were freed. Framing charges is not akin to finding a person guilty. Concrete proofs are needed to find a person guilty. The persons who are pointing fingers, had submitted proofs which everyone had seen. lf some people and one editor have some differences with Jathedar Tohra, then to keep them happy I cannot give wrong decisions from Akal Takht All Sikhs are equal before Akal Takht. Nobody is pushed out nor is anybody given concessions. ln the case of the courts world over, the complainant is punished for lodging a  false complaint in the court. But such a precedence is not followed at Akal Takht. There are certain traditions which have to be followed. Akal  Takht has never punished anyone in the past who has made a wrong complaint.
Q:- You have been considered the most controversial Jathedar up till now. What is the reason of rising up of so many controversies?
A:- You should ask this question to those who are responsible for these controversies. There is one lobby which represents Spokesman magazine. One person  belonging to this magazine whom I did not nominate the chief 'of the newspaper which is to published by World Sikh Council, is acting against me. He has established a money making factory. He is the one responsible for starting the Karamjit issue controversy. With people like him, telling a lie has become a habit.
Q:- What is this Karamjit controversy about ?
A:- He says that I did not help Karamjit (Karamjit, resident of Sunam, who attacked Rajiv Gandhi at Rajghat). You should go and verify this from Karamjit himself. Nobody except me helped him in his hour of need. This person who has collected so much money from people on the pretense of running a Panthic magazine should help Karamjit. lf anybody helped Karamjit it was me.
Q:- The conflicts with other Singh Sahibs had created an unpleasant situation and you are being held responsible for this.
A:-  I am not responsible for this shameful situation. One Singh Sahib is responsible for fraud involving lakh of 'rupees and promised to submit the accounts in my meetings. But instead of giving accounts, he keeps on giving statements to the Press.If one Singh Sahib speaks against me in the newspapers how can I keep quite. Those against whom there are many  charges should remain quite. l do not believe in sweet talk. I may appear rude or sweet to somebody but I cannot allow anyone to conduct robberies at Guru Ghar. Those who are writing against me today, they, in reality, are writing against AkalTakht. When Bhai Manjit Singh was the Akal Takht jathedar then they wrote against him as today they are writing articles against me. They want that a newspaper should have more say in affairs of the Panth than the supreme authority of the Sikhs-Akal Takht. You must judge for yourself how rude l am. lf l fired somebody wrong, I sayto his face. There is a section of the press which is trying to give me a bad name. I do not  take pains to please any body like other leaders do so. I do not take pressmen to hotels and treat them to drinks. I do not act in the manner Barjinder Singh wishes me to; so he gives undue coverage to reports against me. He thinks that if Punjab's Chief Minister does as he wishes, then who is Ranjit Singh. I cannot hand them authority of Akal Takht just for my personal gain.
Q:- How do you manage to concentrate among so many pressures?
Q:- I have devoted all my life to the service of the Panth. The best part of my life has been spent in jail. I have no personal desires now. Those who care for their chairs, business or children can do as many compromise as they want, but I cannot compromise with a person who is more concerned with personal welfare than the welfare of the Panth. With the grace of Wahquru nobody can harm me, For the remaining part of my life l will perform the duty of the jathedar keeping in mind the interests of the Panth, without toeing anybody's line….Z

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