Akal Takht puts Nanakshahi issue on backburner | punjab | Hindustan Times
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Akal Takht puts Nanakshahi issue on backburner

The Akal Takht has decided to put the Nanakshahi calendar issue on the backburner, saying that the most important issue on which the Sikh community should concentrate is securing the release of Sikh militants who have been under detention for many years.

punjab Updated: Dec 24, 2014 22:00 IST
HT Correspondent

The Akal Takht has decided to put the Nanakshahi calendar issue on the backburner, saying that the most important issue on which the Sikh community should concentrate is securing the release of Sikh militants who have been under detention for many years.

“The Sant Samaj and some other Sikh groups consider the Nanakshahi issue as important, but I feel that the ‘quam’ (community) has more vital issues to deal with. The main among these relates to the Sikh youths (militants) who have been behind bars for a long period, some since the days of militancy in Punjab,” Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh said.

In a statement issued here on Wednesday, the jathedar claimed that lists of Sikh detainees whose release has been demanded had been sent to the central and state governments on a number of occasions. Till date, the Akal Takht has not made these lists public.
“Despite our repeated reminders, the governments have not taken any step to concede to our demand and release those who have completed their jail terms or those who have been behind bars as their cases are still pending in courts,” he added, while pointing out that there were militants who had been in prison for the past 20 or more years.

The jathedar stated that if the governments did not take immediate steps to release the detainees, then this matter would be taken up at the meeting of the ‘Singh Sahibs’ (high priests), slated for January 2.

The jathedar’s statement comes close on the heels of reports that the health of former militant Gurbaksh Singh is failing. His fast-unto-death at a gurdwara near Ambala entered the 41st day on Wednesday. He, too, is demanding the release of Sikh detainees who have completed their jail terms or have been behind bars for very long periods, with their cases still before judicial courts.

The jathedar had on Monday made it clear that the state and central governments would be responsible if “anything happens to Gurbaksh Singh.”

Amending Article 25(b)

Another important issue that the jathedar listed relates to pressing the Union government to amend Article 25(b) of the Constitution that refers to Sikhs as being part of the ‘larger’ Hindu community.

“As I have already stated that Sikhs are a separate ‘quam’ and religion, with their own distinct identity, this issue is also important for us and above the Nanakshahi issue,” he said in the statement.

The demand for amending Article 25(b) has of late gathered momentum after Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat came out with a statement describing Sikhs as being part of the Hindu community. This statement was criticised by the Akal Takht and also by Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) chief Avtar Singh Makkar.

Punjab deputy chief minister and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal, too, has supported amending Article 25(b), saying that Sikhs are a separate community with their own beliefs and customs. However, chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, despite supporting the viewpoint of Sikhism being a separate religion (from Hinduism), has preferred to remain silent on the amendment part, saying that ‘communal harmony’ is more vital for the country.

The jathedar has already lent his support to the online ‘Sikhs are not Hindus’ petition of the Sikhs For Justice (SFJ), a US-based Sikh human rights group. The SFJ, after getting the requisite number of signatures in support, will put the petition (online) before US President Barack Obama for seeking his support and taking up the issue with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during Obama’s visit to India next month.