A religious affair usually, the Gurpurb of Guru Gobind Singh turned a political event on Monday when Takht Damdama Sahib jathedar Giani Balwant Singh Nandgarh celebrated it by the disputed Nanakshahi calendar.
While the supporters outside his official residence here blamed the calendar controversy on "politics", Nandgarh had no hesitation in accusing Hindu right-wing organisation Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS). "Christians, Hindus, and Muslims have separate calendars," he said, "so why did the-then RSS chief, KS Sudarshan, and VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) leader Praveen Togadia come to Amritsar to oppose a Sikh calendar when it was launched in 2003? Had they any other purpose than assimilating Sikhs into the Hindu fold, as they did with Buddhists?"
"All Sikh children know that the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi is on October 2 because it is celebrated every year on the same day. They do not, however, remember the birth anniversaries of Sikh Gurus, since the Bikrami calendar keeps changing the dates every year. How do we blame them if they have lost touch with Sikh history. Nanaksahi calendar, as symbol of separate Sikh identity, can solve this problem," said Nandgarh.
He claimed he had decided to resign from his post six months ago but now would stay to fight for Nanaksahi calendar. "I have received telephone calls from many organisations in support. I want them all to send it over in written," said the jathedar.
He failed to gather a big crowd but added to the number of his backing organisations that now include his usual opponent Shiromani Akali Dal (Panch Pardhani). "We maybe your critics but we are with you on the Nanaksahi calendar issue," Baldev Singh Sirsa of this Sikh party said addressing Nandgarh from the stage.
SAD (Delhi) head Paramjit Singh Sarna and some US-based Sikh organizations have also promised support. Preacher Panthpreet Singh Khalsa accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of pulling strings to fail the Nanakshahi calendar.
Original copy out
The Akal Takht may not like it, but Takht Damdama Sahib jathedar Giani Balwant Singh Nandgarh on Monday released the copies of the original 2003 Nanaksahi calendar in Amritsar.
Published by Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) leaders Jasbir Singh Mandh, Jaskarn Singh and Paramjit Singh Balianwali, the version was first released by the party during the Fatehgarh Sahib Saheedi Jor Mela. Even though the group opposing the calendar is led by Damdami Taksal chief Harnam Singh Dhuma, the copy released on Monday carries the photograph of the taksal 14th chief and militant leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, whom the army had shot down in Operation Bluestar in 1984. The copy includes a slogan in support of the Sikh separatist movement of Khalistan.