Former secretary of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) and Akali leader Manjit Singh Calcutta has taken a strong exception to the raising of the 1984 genocide memorial inside the historic Gurdwara Rakabganj Sahib Complex in New Delhi, contending that it is "against Sikh traditions and ethics".
In a communique addressed to Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh on Saturday, Calcutta sought to support his contentions with numerous instances in the Sikh history, wherein memorials dedicated to Sikh martyrs were never built within the complexes of historic shrines. He pointed out that all such memorials, some of which are in the shape of gurdwaras, are all separate entities.
Rebutting the jathedar for having laid the foundation stone of the memorial in Delhi, he referred to the definition of a gurdwara as stated by renowned Sikh historian Kahan Singh Nabha.
A gurdwara according to the historian is not any individual or any management's personal property. It belongs to the Sikh "sangat" (community) and this is indicated by the "Nishan Sahibs" (yellow coloured flags) that flutter inside gurdwara complexes.
Quoting from Kahan Singh Nabha's definition, the former SGPC secretary stated that "no photograph or statue or bust could be installed inside a gurdwara, where there should only be "parkash" of Guru Granth Sahib and recitation of "gurbani" and "kirtan" (prayers and hymns). A gurdwara also organises langar and has rest houses for pilgrims and may even have an educational institution within its premises".
"In the light of such facts, it was wrong on your part to have gone there and laid the foundation stone of the memorial inside Rakabganj gurdwara, which was the very place where the ninth Sikh guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur, was cremated by one of his followers, Bhai Lakhi Shah Vanjara, who set fire his own house in order to cremate the mortal remains of the guru," he said in the letter.
The jathedar along with the heads of the other takhts had laid the foundation stone of the memorial on June 12. The genocide memorial is dedicated to those who died in the November 1984 anti-Sikh riots following the assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
Agreeing that the 1984 riots were an utterly shameful incident, he said he was in agreement with one and all that there should be a memorial in the memory of the victims. But it should not have been inside the premises of such a religious and historical shrine, he added.
Examples from history
Calcutta pointed out that the memorials to Bhai Matti Dass and Bhai Dayala, both of whom attained martyrdom with Guru Tegh Bahadur, were not inside Gurdwara Sishganj, the spot where the guru was beheaded. On the contrary, a chowk known as Bhai Matti Dass Chowk still exists near Gurdwara Sishganj
Likewise there is no memorial in the memory of Bhai Moti Dass Mehra and his family inside any of the historic gurdwaras at Fatehgarh Sahib. Bhai Moti Dass had helped the two younger sons of Guru Gobind Singh and he along with his family members were subsequently punished by the then Mughal ruler of Sirhind.
Calcutta also mentioned that no memorial was constructed inside the Golden Temple in the memory of Bhai Sukha Singh and Bhai Mehtab Singh, both of whom beheaded Massa Rangar, responsible for the desecration of the most sacred Sikh shrine
There are no memorials inside the Golden Temple complex to Jassa Singh Ahluwalia and Baba Gurbaksh Singh, both of whom attained martyrdom while defending this shrine. The memorial, which is a gurdwara, in the memory of Baba Gurbaksh Singh, was constructed outside the premises of the Golden Temple complex. It was only after 1984 when the complex boundary behind the Akal Takht was expanded that the shrines of Baba Gurbaksh Singh became a part of the shrine complex
Calcutta also referred to a separate gurdwara existing in the memory of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur and his followers near Qutub Minar in Delhi. Likewise, a separate shrine was constructed in the vicinity of the Golden Temple in memory of the Sikh soldiers who died during the battle of Saragarhi during the British rule in India, he pointed out while referring to Gurdwara Saragarhi in Amritsar.
Appeal to jathedar
Calcutta has urged the Jathedar to review the decision of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) to have the memorial inside the premises of a historic shrine. "Your decision must be an independent one and must not be politically influenced," he stated.
The jathedar along with the heads of other four Sikh takhts are meeting here on June 17 to take a decision on the stand taken by former DSGMC chief Paramjit Singh Sarna on the genocide memorial. Sarna, who is close to Calcutta, is likely to be summoned before the Akal Takht for trying to create hurdles in the construction of the memorial by approaching the Delhi high court.