SGPC orders probe after Golden Temple priest refuses ‘siropa’ to CM Badal

Amritsar, June 4 (IANS) The SGPC has marked a probe into an incident in which a senior ‘ardasia’ (Sikh priest) refused to offer a ‘siropa’ (traditional religious robe of honour) to Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal during a visit to the holiest of Sikh shrines ‘Harmandar Sahib’, a senior SGPC official said here on Saturday.

The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), left embarrassed by the incident, ordered the transfer of ‘ardasia’ Balbir Singh to a gurdwara in Machhiwara near Ludhiana.

Balbir Singh had, on Friday, refused to offer the ‘siropa’ to Badal, 88, when the chief minister went to offer prayers inside the sanctum sanctorum of the Golden Temple complex.

The priest gave a ‘patasha’ (traditional sugar-based sweet) to Badal but refused to give him the ‘siropa’ (saffron cloth), contending he could not do so as none of the miscreants who had desecrated the Sikh holy book, Granth Sahib, in a spate of incidents last year, had been arrested.

Badal, who is the chief patron of Punjab’s ruling Shiromani Akali Dal, which dominates the biggest Sikh religious body SGPC, was left embarrassed. However, he left the sanctum sanctorum after offering prayers.

“We have ordered a probe into the incident. Two ardasias have been transferred to gurdwaras in Ludhiana and Sangrur districts,” SGPC additional secretary Daljit Singh Bedi said here.

SGPC sources said that Balbir Singh came on duty inside the sanctum sanctorum ahead of his schedule as another priest, Gurcharan Singh, left early.

The SGPC will probe whether this happened deliberately to embarrass Badal.

Balbir Singh had, in January this year, also refused to offer a siropa to Deputy Chief Minister and Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal. However, no action was taken against him at that time.

“None of the accused who desecrated Guru Granth Sahib last year have been punished till now. My mind was very upset over this issue. That is when I decided that as a sewadar (volunteer) of the shrine, I could not honour (Badal). I have no other issues,” Balbir Singh said.

Even after the SGPC ordered his transfer to Machhiwara, Balbir Singh remained defiant.

“I have no intention to go anywhere (after being transferred). I have spent my entire life in the service of the holiest of shrines. I will not go anywhere,” he said.

Aam Aadmi Party leader S.S. Chhotepur lauded the act of the priest. “His conscience did not allow him to give the siropa to Badal,” he said.

Punjab was on the boil in August-September last year following a series of incidents of desecration of Granth Sahib reported from different parts of the state. The subsequent violence claimed two lives and scores were injured.

–IANS

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