Image Source: sikh24
The land of five rivers seems to be running short of water to douse the fire it has been witnessing in the past few weeks. Much of it is shrouded in mystery; or has been shoved under the carpet by the high commands in Punjab. It is a matter of conjecture by the rest of the country. There are fragments of stories, episodic in nature, which do not give a clear picture of the happenings there. The Logical Indian community endeavours to put before our readers the facts related to the issue.
2007 – The Sikh Gurus and the Dera chief, Gurmeet Ram Rahim had been at loggerheads since the time he was found to have worn attire similar to that of Guru Gobind Singh. It was perceived to have hurt the religious sentiments of the Sikhs.
June 2015 – Guru Granth Sahib, considered to be not only the Holy Scripture but also the living guru of the Sikhs, was stolen from Burg Jawahar Gurudwara, adjacent to Bargadi village. The complaints regarding it to the police fell on deaf ears and no inquiry were initiated. Presently, an anonymous handwritten note was found pasted in the village which claimed that the Holy Scripture was with the writer of the note. The note ended with “Dhan Dhan Satguru”, an invocation used by Dera followers. Foul language was alleged to have been used against the Sikh Gurus and the whole community.
September, 2015 – On 24th of this month, the head priests of Akal Takht surprised everyone when Gurmeet Ram Rahim was granted a pardon for his action in 2007. This was criticized as a political move by Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) to keep the Dera on its side prior to elections in Punjab due next year.
October, 2015 – While all the religious controversy was going on, the farmers in Punjab launched a Rail Roko in order to protest against government apathy regarding the damage of crops due to white fly attack and suicide of farmers. They demanded a compensation of Rs 5 lakh for the families of the farmers who had thus ended their lives. This movement has disrupted commutation by trains in the state causing inconvenience to public at large.
October, 12th – The issue related to farmers was sidelined due to the emergence of yet another potentially communally volatile incident. Torn pages from Guru Granth Sahib were found in Bargadi which, according to Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee President Avtar Singh Makkar, were from the stolen scripture. The incident hurt the religious sentiments of the Sikh community with various Sikh organizations like the Sikh Sangharsh Committee and the Simranjit Singh Mann-led Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) calling for Bandh.
People started peaceful protests consisting of prayers in Kotkapura and Behbal Kalan, a small village near Korkpura, to show solidarity amongst Sikhs and to call upon the government to take necessary action via police. The protests led by Panth Preet Singh and Ranjeet Singh Dhadrian, demanded police action against the thieves of the desecrated scripture. However, the next morning the police resorted to lathi-charge and use of tear gas grenades to disperse the crowd. The pictures that are emerging from there shows police brutality and how the common citizens are brutally being beaten. The Sangat (general public) was even fired upon. Two people died while around 80 got wounded in the clashes. Some were arrested.
October 17th – Keeping in view the volatile situation, the Akal Takht took the unprecedented step of revoking the pardon to the Dera chief. “As a consensus within the Panth on the pardon granted to the dera head could not be reached, the ‘gurmata’ (religious decree) stands withdrawn,” Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh said after presiding over an emergency meeting of the five Sikh high priests at the Takht secretariat in the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar. This is widely seen as a step towards damage control.
Also, Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal has directed police to withdraw all cases registered against those who were protesting against the sacrilege.
The question that begs answer is this – is the ruling party capable of controlling the situation in Punjab? Already it is at the tether hooks due to the stir by the peasants in Bathinda. Now the farmers’ issue has been thrown to the winds when the government is mired in another controversy. The opinion predominates that the ruling Akali Dal led by Prakash Singh Badal seems to be losing hold over the state.
Professor Manjit Singh, a sociologist and activist from Swaraj Lehar opines that the government must resign on the grounds of not being able to bring the situation to normalcy. “Badals have appropriated Panthic institutions such as the SGPC and SAD and the Akal Takht. Had it not been the case, Punjab would not have faced this crisis”. Lack of transparency in the functioning of Sikh institutions is being criticized and a number of members form the Sikh intelligentsia believe that the crisis would not have been precipitated had all the controversial religious decisions been taken in an open manner by the Sikh clergy. The opinion predominates that the ruling Akali Dal led by Prakash Singh Badal seems to be losing hold over the state.
The question that is being aired is if the state is on the brink of another communal crisis like the one that happened in the 1980s, which still casts its shadows on Punjab. Is the communal polarization related to vote bank politics? If so, no amicable solution would be found and the border state will plunge deeper into the quagmire. That would lead to a weakening of the border state and needless suffering of the innocent people who would fall prey to the communal carnage and considered a collateral damage in the name of Dharma. The residents of the state demand an open declaration of what transpired behind the scenes between the Dera Sacha Sauda chief and the government.
Today, the Chief Minister has sent a written communication to Akal Takht, expressing “deep pain” over the incidents in Punjab. We need to wait and watch how the government is able to contain the situation, both related to religious sentiments and farmers. We sincerely hope that a balance is struck and the crisis is not further precipitated. We wish to see Punjab on the road to normalcy again.