His followers were ex-communicated from the Sikh fold in 1978 following a clash on April 13 in Amritsar. Nirankaris allegedly shot dead 13 Sikh hardliners.
The Sikh clergy accused them of distorting religious scriptures of Sikhism and imitating its principles.
Not surprisingly, the Sikh clergy and Akali leaders refrained from paying tribute to Baba Hardev Singh, the current guru who died in car crash in Canada on May 13.
Founder Buta Singh was childless and he passed his legacy to disciple Baba Avtar Singh in 1949 — who chose son Gurbachan Singh to lead the sect in 1962. Gurbachan Singh was shot dead and Baba Hardev Singh was anointed mission head on April 27, 1980.
In his 36-year tenure, the Baba stayed away from any controversy, his sect kept a low profile, followers never made their allegiance public, and focussed on philanthropy.
The sect runs a blood bank in Mumbai while blood donation is a regular feature in all its centres. Tree plantation is a major activity too.
It runs homeopathic charitable dispensaries in its preaching centres and has two dozen educational institutes in Delhi alone. The mission runs a degree college in Sohna, Haryana, and building a multi-specialty charitable hospital in Delhi.
Given its work, the question now is who will succeed the Baba. Wife Sawinder Kaur is a frontrunner, though the 41-year-old elder son-in-law Sandeep Khinda could be a contender. The answer will be out on Wednesday, after the Baba’s funeral.
Besides his wife, the Baba is survived by three daughters.