Radical Sikh leaders arrested by Punjab police

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Amritsar: Radical Sikh leaders from in and around Amritsar in Punjab were arrested to prevent a religious showdown at the Golden Temple complex on Wednesday, police sources said.

Mokham Singh, separatist leader and former IPS officer Simranjit Singh Mann and Amrik Singh Ajnala were arrested late Tuesday, the sources said on Wednesday.

While Mokham Singh and Mann were taken to a police station here, Ajnala was put under house arrest.

The arrests came within hours of a ‘Sarbat Khalsa’ (grand assembly of Sikhs) congregation at Chaba near Amritsar on Tuesday in which controversial decisions, including the sacking of jathedars (chiefs) of three takhts (temporal seats) of Sikh religion, were taken and convicted Khalistani terrorist Jagtar Singh Hawara was named as the Akal Takht chief.

“The Punjab Police arrested the top radical leaders to prevent any untoward situation at the Golden Temple complex and other gurdwaras as the newly announced heads of the takhts would have tried to take over,” a senior Punjab Police officer told IANS.

Deepening the crisis within Sikh religious affairs, radical Sikhs on Tuesday had announced the “appointment” of Hawara, the main accused in the assassination of then Punjab chief minister Beant Singh, who was killed by a human bomb in Chandigarh on August 31, 1995, as the Akal Takht jathedar.

The congregation of radicals also announced the “removal” of all Sikh high priests, including the present Akal Takht Jathedar Gurbachan Singh.

Hawara is serving a life term in the Beant Singh assassination case and is lodged in Chandigarh’s high-security Burail jail. Hawara was involved in a sensational jailbreak from the same prison in January 2004 with two other terrorists after digging a 104-feet long tunnel. He was arrested later by the Delhi Police.

During the congregation, in view of Hawara being in prison, the leaders announced that former MP Dhian Singh Mand would be the interim jathedar of the Akal Takht and would address the Sikh community from the shrine, located inside the Golden Temple complex, on Diwali on Wednesday.

The congregation was organized by a few radical Sikh groups.

Accusing them of “genocide of Sikhs”, the congregation named former police chief K.P.S. Gill and Operation Bluestar commander K.S. Brar, both Sikhs themselves, as ‘tankhaiya’ (the person guilty of religious misconduct) and directed them to appear before the Akal Takht by November 20.

The congregation also announced the disbanding the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), the mini-parliament of Sikhs, and said that fresh elections for the SGPC would be held.

The congregation was attended by nearly 50,000 people, including Congress party leaders and radical Sikhs.