The dedicated men of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhik Committee (SGPC) task force deserve all plaudits for their skillfully handling of the radicals during the Operation Bluestar anniversary function at the Akal Takht here on Friday.
Comprising ex-servicemen, including ‘dharmi faujis’, the SGPC task force displayed extraordinary grit in confronting the radicals - many of whom were armed with swords. ‘Dharami faujis’ was the name given to those army personnel who deserted the army in protest against the 1984 attack on the Golden Temple.
In fact, during the clash, they showed a great deal of restrain initially, but when supporters of Akali Dal (Amritsar) president Simranjit Singh Mann marched up the Akal Takht stairs with swords drawn from their sheaths, they tried to reason with them and prohibit them from raising ‘Khalistan’ slogans. The task force even categorically told them not to use “abusive” language against Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh.
It was only when their appeals failed and supporters of Mann, backed by some other radical groups, attacked some of the SGPC men, the task force members swung into action - some with swords drawn and others with large sized ‘lathis’ (sticks) pounced on the troublemakers.
Led by Golden Temple manager Partap Singh, they charged Mann’s supporters, chasing them to every nook and corner of the shrine. As some of them tried to flee, the task force members went after them barefoot and chased them on the hot marble flooring outside the shrine and even on the roads of Mai Sewan Bazaar, where policemen in full riot gear stood, watching the chase.
They caught hold of around ten of the troublemakers, and handed them over to the cops. When one of the radicals escaped from a police vehicle, two task force members chased him down and thrashed him before handing him over to the cops.
However, the cops did not rest even after catching some of the radicals. Partap Singh and some of his men went about scanning the CCTV footage and caught hold of more troublemakers, who had taken refuge inside the shrine.
The task force not only diffused tension in the shrine, but went on to assure the scared pilgrims that all was well and safe.
The force, comprising nearly 150 men, was raised after the ‘Operation Black Thunder’ in 1988 to ensure the security of the shrine and pilgrims. The group is headed by ex-serviceman Jasbir Singh and all in this force are baptised Sikhs. However, the overall in charge is the Golden Temple manager, who also decides on their duty points.