Succession war in cash-rich Namdhari sect

The headquarters of the Namdhari sect near here crawled with police on Friday as its head, 92-year-old Satguru Jagjit Singh, was cremated. Amid the grief brews a succession war, at the heart of which lie assets worth crores of rupees and donations that flow in from devotees in India and abroad. Even as the funeral was held, reports came of armed men preparing for a clash.

Announcement of a successor has been deferred for now. The Satguru's younger nephew, Thakur Uday Singh, has been appointed "officiating head". Originating from an 1872 movement for social reforms within Sikhism, the Namdhari sect preaches vegetarianism, simple weddings, white clothes, and a living guru. However, over the past three years, as the health of Jagjit Singh, who took over more than 50 years ago, worsened, the fight for the guru gaddi become an open secret.

The Satguru leaves behind a headquarters, Bhaini Sahib, that has astro turf for hockey, sprawling bungalows and luxury cars, including a Maybach gifted by an NRI.

His nephew, Thakur Dalip Singh, seen by many as the rightful successor given his hundreds of followers, had been "boycotted" recently along with his mother. Dalip's younger brother Uday grew closer to the Satguru in his absence.

Uday refused to react at being appointed "officiating head", saying he was "in deep shock".

He is already chairman of Satguru Partap Singh Apollo Hospital, the CEO of Namdhari Seeds and the patron of a hockey team, Namdhari 11.

A third contender for the top post is Jai Singh, the son of Satguru's only daughter, Jai Kaur.

Jai's husband is known to wield considerable influence.

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