While Punjab continues to be in the throes of what the SAD-led government sees as acute “panthic crisis”, no one, not even the top Akali leaders, who have to “handle” the situation, know who exactly to battle with.
Under the broad umbrella of hardliners are a host of organisations and individuals, looking in varied directions and speaking different voices, leaving SAD’s troubleshooters baffled. And yet, somehow, the hardliners have so far managed to put up a united face stitched together by unknown forces and factors.
Despite sharp differences among the organisers, hardliners on Tuesday managed to successfully hold black flag marches across the state — in line with the nine-point agenda laid down at the Bargari ‘bhog’ ceremony on October 25. However, their next programme — the proposed Sarbat Khalsa on November 10 in Amritsar — could be a different ball game altogether. Various groups of hardliners are at loggerheads with each other over the much-hyped congregation.
“We are totally against the proposed Sikh congregation being called Sarbat Khalsa. Sarbat Khalsa is a much larger concept which involves a virtual referendum of the entire Sikh community in the world. A gathering of Sikhs cannot be called Sarbat Khalsa. It’s not representative enough,” says Harpal Singh Cheema of SAD (Panch Pardhani).
The SAD (Panch Pardhani) along with the Kunwar Pal Singh-led Dal Khalsa is supporting Sikh preachers Panthpreet Singh, Ranjit Singh Dhadrianwale and Baljit Singh Daduwal in the current set of protests. “We have told SAD (Amritsar) chief Simranjit Singh Mann that it is wrong to call the event as Sarbat Khalsa and by doing so they will diminish the sacred historic concept,” added Cheema.
Mann, however, is working towards making the Sarbat Khalsa a resounding success, almost a “comeback” vehicle for himself. He has announced that the demand for Khalistan would be a part of the agenda. “The Dal Khalsa and SAD Panch Pardhani have nothing to do with the Sarbat Khalsa. They have been taking a divergent stand since the beginning of these protests. They seem to have been bought over by the government. They are trying to get the name of Sarbat Khalsa changed but we will not agree. Regarding Khalistan, we will go by what the collective Sikh sentiment emerges during the event,” said Ranjit Singh Cheema of SAD (Amritsar).
The United Akali Dal (UAD), seen as backing Mann, however, is more reconciliatory in its approach. “We are trying to bridge the differences among various jathebandis for the Sarbat Khalsa. We have met representatives of Dal Khalsa and Panch Pardhani and we will be going to meet them again,” said Gurdeep Singh Bathinda, UAD general secretary.