After the Satguru’s demise, Thakur Uday Singh was made the chief

The ongoing controversy surrounding the succession to head the Namdhari sect of the Sikh community took an ugly turn when rival groups clashed at a function in Amritsar on Monday, where at least five persons were injured. While normalcy was restored, the police have also begun an investigation into the failure of its own officers and personnel to prevent the incident.

Trouble arose when members of the rival groups used firearms, pelted stones and threw soda water bottles at each other after arguments at a function organised at the Kuka Martyrs’ memorial close to the Ram Bagh.

Tension within the sect has been brewing ever since their leader, Satguru Jagjit Singh, died at the age of 92 on December 13 at the headquarters in Bhaini Sahib near Ludhiana. After the Satguru’s demise, his nephew Thakur Uday Singh, who claimed to have the “blessings” of the departed leader’s wife, Mata Chand Kaur, was installed as the new chief.

However, Thakur Uday Singh’s elder brother, Thakur Dalip Singh, who has the support of the International Namdhari Sangat headed by its chairman Jaswinder Singh and president Navtej Singh Namdhari, has laid claim to the coveted position. The Sangat also nurses the grouse that the Satguru’s cremation was carried out in a hurried manner by the new setup, which denied followers, especially those arriving from other countries, a last glimpse of their leader.

The Namdhari sect, which has a major presence in South East Asian countries, Europe, Canada and the U.S.A., is different from the mainline Sikh community, as the former believes in the practice of following a living Guru. The Sikh community reposes it faith in Guru Granth Sahib as the final embodiment after the first ten living Gurus.

The Namdhari sect, whose followers are distinctly identified by their white attire and a typical turban, had a major role in the Indian freedom struggle, where their contribution is referred to as the Kuka movement. The second leader of the sect, Satguru Ram Singh was exiled to Burma by the British colonial government in 1872 for leading the Kuka movement, which had succeeded in enforcing civil disobedience as well as carrying out extreme actions against cow slaughter. A memorial now stands at the site where 66 Kuka freedom fighters, were killed at Malerkotla in 1872.