The Sikh clergy here on Wednesday failed to resolve the controversy over militant preacher Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale’s name inscribed on the Operation Bluestar memorial and the signboard in the ‘parkarma’ of the Golden Temple complex.
However, the clergy, which met in the shrine complex, cautioned all and sundry – including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), alliance partner of the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) – not to interfere in internal affairs of Sikhs.
The name of Bhindranwale, a former Damdami Taksal head, figures at the entrance of the memorial, which was dedicated to the Sikh ‘quam’ (community) on April 27. The BJP has demanded the Punjab government’s intervention to remove all references to Bhindranwale and his followers from the memorial and the signboard, put up close to the Akal Takht, with details of the June 1984 army operation which was aimed at flushing out militants from the shrine.
“It (memorial controversy) is our Panthic and ‘gharelu’ (domestic) problem,” Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh told the media after chairing a meeting of the high priests. When asked about the BJP’s stand, he said, “Whether it’s the BJP or anybody else, no one has the right to meddle in our internal matters.”
Even after deliberating for three hours, the jathedars of the five Takhts were not able to arrive at any solution. Giani Iqbal Singh, jathedar of Takht Patna Sahib, along with other jathedars, claimed that it was the media that had created the controversy.
When asked whether they were in favour of retaining Bhindranwale’s name at the entrance of the memorial, Giani Balwant Singh Nandgarh, jathedar of Takht Damdama Sahib (Talwandi Sabo), shot back, “Yes, what is wrong with that?”
Giani Jyot Inder Singh, deputy jathedar of Takht Hazoor Sahib at Nanded (Maharashtra), and Giani Tirlochan Singh, jathedar of Takht Keshgarh Sahib (Anandpur Sahib) also observed that the matter was an internal affair of the ‘quam’.
Panthic leaders’ views to be sought
Giani Gurbachan Singh said the clergy would soon solicit views of Panthic leaders on the controversy. “Any Sikh is free to air his views with us. We will also call the two parties directly involved in this issue,” the jathedar said, without naming the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), which is looking after the memorial gurdwara, and the Damdami Taksal, which built it through ‘kar sewa’.
When asked if the SAD leadership, including president Sukhbir Singh Badal, would be asked to give their views, the jathedar asked, “Why him?” before hastily declaring the press conference closed. However, he directed Panthic leaders not to air their views on the controversy in public or before the media.
In a related development, the clergy said the ‘parkash’ of Guru Granth Sahib would continue at the memorial. But the SGPC will not book the memorial gurdwara for private or family ‘akhand paths’ till the controversy has been resolved.
Giani Gurbachan Singh clarified that the function to mark the 29th anniversary of Operation Bluestar, observed as Ghallughara Diwas (genocide day) every year, would be held at the Akal Takht, not at the memorial.
He said the May 6 memorandum submitted to the Akal Takht by the Sant Samaj, of which the Taksal led by Harnam Singh Dhumma is a part, was discussed in detail at the meeting. In the memorandum, the Sant Samaj had stated that it is against the removal of Bhindranwale’s name from the entrance of the memorial and the signboard in the ‘parkarma’. However, the SGPC and the SAD want all references to individuals removed as chief minister Parkash Singh Badal had assured in the state assembly last year that the memorial would be a gurdwara where there would be ‘parkash’ of Guru Granth Sahib and that it would not be dedicated to any individual.
Meanwhile, radical group Dal Khalsa submitted a memorandum to the clergy just before the start of the meeting, demanding that the row be resolved through a “larger Sikh conclave” at the Akal Takht.
Neither Makkar nor Dhumma was present at the shrine for comment.
Takht to consider Anand Karaj for non-Sikh communities
Amritsar: The Akal Takht has decided to consider the request of non-Sikh communities for solemnising marriages before Guru Granth Sahib.
This issue was taken up at a meeting of the Sikh high priests held here on Wednesday. Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh chaired the meeting.
“We have been receiving written requests from non-Sikh communities for solemnising marriages through Anand Karaj (in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib). These requests have also come from countries such as the US, Canada and UK,” Giani Gurbachan Singh told the media after the meeting.
He pointed out that these requests had come from families which recited Sikh scriptures and followed Sikh rituals and traditions in their daily routines. In this context, he mentioned the Sindhis, a large section of whom are followers of Guru Nanak.
“While the right of Anand Karaj is reserved only for Sikhs, but we have decided to take up the requests made by non-Sikh communities. Before arriving at a final decision, we will seek the views of the Sikh intelligentsia as it is a sensitive issue,” he added.
Many non-Sikh families are solemnising marriages through Anand Karaj in gurdwaras, but there is no official recognition from the Takht. However, if official recognition comes, then gurdwara committees would be duty-bound to solemnise non-Sikh marriages through Anand Karaj.