Praying against another violent anniversary of Operation Bluestar at the Golden Temple, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) has started an Akhand Path (continuous recitation of Gurbani) at the shrine in the memory of the Sikhs killed at the Akal Takht in the 1984 military raid to flush out terrorists.
The "bhog" (conclusion) of Akhand Path will be on June 6, which the SGPC and other Sikh organisations observe every year as "ghallughara divas" (genocide day). The three-day army operation in 1984 against the holed-up militant army of the-then Damdami Taksal head, Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, had ended on this date with the killing of Bhindranwale and many of his comrades.
The Akhand Path on Thursday commenced after a granthi (priest), Bhai Kulwinder Singh, had performed Ardas (prayer). Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh could not attend because he was preoccupied, and SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar skipped the event because of a health issue. Takht Damdama Sahib acting jathedar Giani Gurmukh Singh was there with many senior 'granthis' and SGPC officials.
Members of the SGPC Task Force, some carrying traditional long 'kirpans' (swords), secured various points inside and around the Akal Takht, guarding the 'Parikrama' (the path around). Policemen in plainclothes, some with long beards that are tied on normal days, were on the first floor of the Akal Takht and along the 'Parikrama'. A couple of them were also inside the surveillance-camera control room in the 'Parikrama' to keep a watch over visitors.
Barring Bhai Manjit Singh and Bhai Ram Singh, no other senior leader of the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) was at the ceremony. Both are also members of the SGPC. Bhai Manjit Singh had been arrested from the shrine during the 1984 operation and detained in Jodhpur. These Jodhpur detainees, as they came to be called, were charged with waging a war against the state and put behind bars until 1989.
The SGPC does not want a repeat of last year's violence when young men from some radical groups had attacked its officials when their leaders were not allowed to air their views over the public-address system. The committee has made it clear that only the Akal Takht jathedar will make a public address at the ceremony.