Giani Harpreet Singh is a Sikh priest who became the Acting Akal Takht Jathedar (highest spokesman of the Sikh community) in 2018.
Giani Harpreet Singh was born in May 1972 (age 50 years; as of 2022) in Gidderbaha town of Muktsar district, Punjab. He studied in a government school till Class 12. Thereafter, he attended Guru Kashi Gurmat Institute, Damdama Sahib. While talking about his education, in an interview, he said,
I have done all my higher studies after becoming a granthi.”
After completing a one-year diploma course in divinity at Punjabi University, Patiala, he earned a master’s degree in comparative religious studies from Punjabi University. Later, he pursued a PhD in the comparative study of teachings of the Quran, the holy scripture of Muslims, with Guru Granth Sahib, the holy scripture of Sikhs.
Height (approx.): 5′ 8″
Hair Colour: Black
Eye Colour: Black
Parents & Siblings
Not much information is available about his parents and siblings. His late father was a Granthi in a village’s Gurudwara.
Wife & Children
He is married and has two daughters.
At the age of 24, Harpreet Singh started working for the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) as pracharak (preacher) in 1997. He was appointed as the Head Granthi, a ceremonial reader of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, at Sri Darbar Sahib, Sri Muktsar Sahib, Punjab in 1998. In May 2017, he was promoted to Jathedar of Takhat Sri Damdama Sahib. The Jathedar is an ordained leader of the Sikh clergy who leads a Takht, a sacred and authoritative seat. In 2018, Giani Harpreet Singh was appointed as the Acting Jathedar of Akal Takht, which is located in the Darbar Sahib (Golden Temple), following the resignation of Giani Gurbachan Singh from the post. Gurbachan Singh was slammed by the Sikh community for pardoning Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim in 2015 in a blasphemy case after the latter appeared in a robe similar to that of Guru Gobind Singh.
‘Save SAD’ appeal to Sikhs
After the crushing defeat of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in the 2022 assembly elections, Harpreet Singh called upon all Akali factions to the Akal Takht via a video message and appealed to them to forget their differences and collaboratively work for the betterment of the party. Harpreet garnered immense criticism from the former Akal Takht Jathedar Ranjit Singh, who highlighted that Harpreet had called Sikhs “badtameez” i.e, ill-mannered in the video message. Additionally, Ranjit Singh referred to Harpreet as a stigma on the esteemed position of Akal Takht Jathedar, alleging that Harpreet untiringly advocated the politics of Parkash Singh Badal and that was a Harpreet slave to the Badal family. Ranjit Singh emphasised that the Jathedar should not show concern for SAD, as a Jathedar is expected to be apolitical.
Slammed for Promoting Arms Among Sikhs (2022)
On 23 May 2022, Giani Harpreet Singh said that every Sikh should possess a licensed modern weapon due to the prevailing circumstances. In his video message, Giani said,
The teachings of Guru Hargobind Sahib are still relevant. There is a need, especially for Sikh boys and girls, to follow the orders of Guru Hargobind Sahib. They should take training in ‘gatka’ (a traditional martial art), sword fighting and shooting. And every Sikh should also try to possess a licensed modern weapon because such are the times and such circumstances have been developing.”
Giani Harpreet Singh was slammed for this remark by the Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann, who said the temporal head of the Sikh community should instead give a message of peace and brotherhood. Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh Raja Warring termed Harpreet’s remarks as mischievous and demanded his removal from the post of Jathedar. The remarks were made by him on the occasion of Guru Gaddi Diwas of Guru Hargobind Sahib, the sixth Guru of Sikhs who brought a transformation in Sikhism by arming and training Sikhs to wage a war against the barbarous Mughals.
Giani Harpreet Singh is inclined toward Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD).
- Muhammad Habib, under whom Giani Harpreet Singh was doing his PhD research, talked about Harpreet in an interview and said,
He is very humble. Even after taking over as the Jathedar of Takht Damdama Sahib, he used to come to me like any other student. I think his understanding of other religions will help him function better.”
- The Sikh Youth Federation Bhindranwala opposed the appointment of Harpreet Singh as an Akal Takht Jathedar and endorsed the appointment of Bhai Jagtar Singh Hawara for the position as he was selected for it by Sarbat Khalsa (Khalsa formal assembly meeting). Jagtar Singh Hawara, who is notorious for being a convict in the assassination of the former Chief Minister of Punjab Beant Singh, was jailed in Tihar Jail when his appointment was being endorsed. The SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar condemned the Sarbat Khalsa and declared its announcement decisions null and void. Thereafter, Harpreet Singh was appointed as Akal Takht Jathedar by SGPC.
- Giani Harpreet Singh was opposed to such an extent that orthodox Sikhs refused to accept the siropa (robe of honour) from Harpreet at the Golden Temple during a function organised to observe the death anniversary of Indira Gandhi’s assassin.
- Harpreet is the second Jathedar of the Akal Takht who was appointed from Muktsar; the first is Giani Gurbachan Singh. Interestingly, both have served at Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Muktsar.
- On 28 September 2021, Giani Harpreet Singh met with Dr Aamer Ahmed, Chairman of the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) and appreciated ETPB and PSGPC’s efforts for ensuring the maintenance of Gurdwaras in Pakistan.
- In September 2020, Harpreet Singh publicly punished SGPC president Gobind Singh Longowal and executive committee members for failing to check the misappropriation in its publication department that led to 328 Guru Granth Sahib saroops going missing; saroop is a physical copy of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, also called Bir in Punjabi. Giani Harpreet Singh pronounced the punishment on the spot and said,
Do parkarma of Darbar Sahib sarovar (Circumambulate the holy tank) right now, chanting Satnam-Waheguru and then be present here again. Don’t talk to each other and fold your hands while doing so.”
On the completion of the above-mentioned punishment, he announced the remaining punishment and said,
You are directed to hold one Akhand Path (non-stop recitation of Guru Granth Sahib) at Gurdwara Ramsar Sahib for pashchatap (regret and remorse) for the 2016 fire incident that led to saroops getting burnt. Hold another Akhand Path at Akal Takht. When that Akhand Path would be going on at the Takht, the SGPC office-bearers and executive members will sweep the street leading to Darbar Sahib from Saragarhi Serai to Ghantaghar Chowk.”