The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) said on Friday that the convening of a "sarbat khalsa" congregation is the sole prerogative of the Akal Takht chief after fugitive radical preacher Amritpal Singh sought such a meeting to discuss issues concerning the Sikh community.
In his two video messages that surfaced on social media on Wednesday and Thursday, Amritpal Singh asked the jathedar (chief) of the Akal Takht, the supreme temporal body of Sikhs, to call "sarbat khalsa" -- a congregation of the faithful.
He also appealed to the jathedar to take out a "khalsa vaheer" (religious procession) from the Akal Takht in Amritsar to the Damdama Sahib in Bathinda and hold the congregation there on Baisakhi day.
Responding to the demands, SGPC general secretary Gurcharan Singh Grewal told PTI, "It is the personal wish of Amritpal Singh.... To call or not to call 'sarbat khalsa' is the sole prerogative of Akal Takht jathedar and no one else." Since the jathedar is leading the Sikh community, he takes each decision with deep thought followed by the opinions of Sikh scholars and intellectuals, Mr Grewal said.
"The jathedar would see what needs to be done in the light of prevailing circumstances.... There is no doubt that many Sikhs who are close to Amritpal Singh were arrested under the National Security Act which is also a matter of grave concern," he said.
Jathedar Harpreet Singh had earlier issued an ultimatum to the Punjab government to release the Sikh youths picked up during the crackdown against Amritpal Singh and his Waris Punjab De outfit that began on March 18.
The Punjab government had informed the Akal Takht that almost all the people taken into preventive custody during the crackdown -- 348 out of 360 -- have now been released.
Mr Grewal said, "Recently there was a gathering of 100 Sikh organisations at Akal Takht on the call of the jathedar on March 27. The sole agenda of the gathering was to discuss the situation which developed after the police crackdown. After the marathon meeting, the jathedar reached a logical conclusion and gave a 24-hour ultimatum to the Punjab government to release Sikh youths who were arrested during the police crackdown, and the impact was significant." Radical preacher and Khalistan sympathiser Amritpal Singh remains untraceable since March 18, when he gave police the slip in Jalandhar, switching cars and changing appearances.
The trigger for the police crackdown was the attack on the Ajnala police station last month by him and his supporters, some of them brandishing firearms, to secure the release of an arrested man. Six police personnel were injured.
Meanwhile, on Amritpal Singh requesting the jathedar to call a "sarbat khalsa", Sikh scholar Baljinder Singh said, "It cannot be called on the wish of an individual." He, however, said if the jathedar has to call a "sarbat khalsa", he has to do so after a series of meetings with Sikh scholars and intellectuals and see whether it is needed or not.
"The present position of jathedar is acting jathedar as he was appointed by the SGPC...," Baljinder Singh quipped.
It may be mentioned here that the last "sarbat khalsa" was held on February 16, 1986 when Gyani Kirpal Singh was the jathedar of the Akal Takht. Before that, the SGPC executive committee in its meeting on January 28, 1986 had raised the demand for it.
"Sarbat khalsa" was also called two other times by radical Sikhs through their self-styled jathedars in 1986 and 2015.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)