Immense Sorrow as The Messenger Departs Unexpectedly

Sant Nirankari

By Jawahar Malhotra

HOUSTON: The community of Sant Nirankaris around the world were stunned when they heard the unexpected news about their spiritual leader Baba Hardev Singh in Montreal. They were expecting to hear about spiritual meetings held during his visit to Canada and the preparations being made for the second Nirankari International Samagam focusing on humanities and scheduled to be held in June at Toronto.

Instead, they learnt of his death in a single-car accident on Thursday evening, May 12, 2016, around 7:30pm. He was thrown out of the rear seat of the van he was in, along with his son-in-law Avneet Setya, and died on the spot. Setya succumbed to his injuries in a hospital a few hours later. They likely weren’t wearing seatbelts.

Singh’s other son-in-law, Sunny, was driving the van from New York to Montreal and preliminary evidence suggests the van veered suddenly, lost control and the flipped over a few times. Sunny and the other front seat passenger were not seriously hurt. The accident occurred on Highway 30 near Beauharnois on Montreal’s South Shore while enroute to the San Nirankari mission’s center in Pointe-Claire where Baba was to deliver a talk.

Sant Nirankari 1

Singh, 62, was the head of the Sant Nirankari Mission, also known as the Universal Brotherhood, which has millions of followers and more than 2,000 centers around the world. Born in New Delhi on February 23, 1954 to Gurbachan Singh and Kulwant Kaur, Singh ascended to become the satguru (spiritual leader) of the San Nirankari Mission in 1980 after the assassination of his father. In 2005, he established the Nirankari Museum in the Sant Nirankari Sarovar complex in New Delhi.

The Sant Nirankari Mission was established in 1929 by Baba Buta Singh who previously belonged to the Nirankari sect, and was succeed by Baba Avtar Singh. The mission flourished after it shifted its base to Delhi from West Punjab, after the partition of India in 1947.

Baba Hardev Singh’s remains were flown to Delhi in a charted plane and a funeral was held on Wednesday, May 18 at the Nigambodh Ghat Crematorium, attended by, according to estimates, a massive crowd of 800,000. His wife Sawinder Kaur was chosen a day earlier as the fifth chief leader of the mission. Singh’s death has been widely publicized in India and was acknowledged in a tweet by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “Baba Hardev Singh’s demise is tragic and a great loss to the spiritual world. My thoughts are with his countless followers in this sad time,” Modi tweeted.

The local Sant Niranakari community in Houston held special prayers and condolences in India House during their regular congregation on Sunday, May 15 where they paid tribute to their Master. They took solace in the teachings of the scriptures which say that “the Guru neither departs nor arrives in the temporal world,” according to a brochure printed immediately after Baba Hardev’s death. “He appears for the welfare of the entire Mankind and only changes body as is prescribed in the Holy Bhagwat Gita,” the brochure continued.