Even as key Sikh radical leaders behind the ‘sarbat khalsa’ (a religiopolitical congregation of Sikhs), including Simranjit Singh Mann and Baljit Singh Daduwal, were detained by the Punjab police on the Haryana border near Mansa from reaching the venue, scores of Sikh men and women managed to sneak in through the police barricades to be a part of the event here on Thursday morning. The show, however, paled in comparison to a largely-attended, radical-sponsored ‘Sarbat Khalsa’ near Amritsar last year.
The congregation ex-communicated the ruling Badals from the Sikh panth, urging the people to defeat them in the assembly polls.
As soon as the ‘akhand paath’ was accomplished, Bhai Jaskaran Singh Kahansinghwala of Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) read out a resolution, dubbing Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal “enemy and traitor of the Sikh community”. The SAD (Amritsar) leadership resolved to ensure “crushing defeat” of the Badal-led ruling SAD in the coming state elections.
The resolution also reiterated need for an independent secular Sikh state.
Amid pro-Khalistan slogans, the resolution stated that the Badal regime had failed to identify and punish the culprits behind the incidents of sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib in the state. It also took note of Zora Singh Commission not able to reach a conclusion in its probe into the sacrilege incidents and condemned the government for death of two youths in police firing during protests at Behbal Kalan in October last year.
“Badal also failed on the count of the demand of the community for an amendment in Article 25 of Constitution that describes the Sikhs as part of Hinduism,” it said.
- Who are they? A loose conglomerate of fundamentalist Sikh leaders and religious figures, some of whom swear by the demand for Khalistan. Most of them are followers of militant Sikh preacher Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale who was killed in the 1984 Operation Bluestar. They have limited appeal and support in Punjab, but get funds and backing from a section of Sikhs abroad. Unifying them is their trenchant stand against the moderate Shiromani Akali Dal and the ruling Badal family whom they accuse of using the Sikh religion for vested political interests.
- Key faces: Former MP Simranjeet Singh Mann; Mohkam Singh,one-time close aide of Bhindranwale; former MP Dhian Singh Mand, and Baljit Singh Daduwal, a firebrand Sikh preacher form the core of radical spectrum.
- Why ‘sarbat khalsa’? Sarbat Khalsa is an old Sikh practice of holding a representative gathering of the community. The radicals’ agenda is to harp on religious issues to garner support among the Sikhs ahead of Punjab assembly elections slated in next two months. They plan to forge an anti-Badal front and challenge the Akalis’ hold on Sikh religious institutions. Last year, a radical-sponsored ‘sarbat khalsa’ had announced a parallel set of Sikh head priests, including a convicted assassin of former chief minister Beant Singh. Both SAD and leading Sikh bodies had rejected radicals’ show as “anti-Panth”.
- Why Badal govt disallowed it? Radicals called for another ‘sarbat khalsa’ at Talwandi Sabo, a religious town in Bathinda district, on December 8 as a parallel show of strength to Akalis’ election rally on the same day on the birthday of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal. The government disallowed it, apprehending that the fiery fundamentalists could create law and order problem and also incite the Sikhs against moderate Akalis.
SAD (Amritsar) chief Simranjit Singh Mann’s son Imaan Singh said, “It is sad that Badal government handed over the probe into the sacrilege incidents to the CBI that had failed in probing the role of the state in the killings of Sikhs in 1984.”
SAD (Amritsar) youth wing leader Bhai Papalpreet Singh said the state was trying to defame and provoke the Sikh radicals. “There is a need for all the ‘panthic’ forces to unite for a political fight against the Badal’s Akali Dal,” he said.
Earlier, the clergy performed ‘ardas’ that sought “wisdom to the Sikh community to fight all the odd conditions and for its rights”. The prayer acknowledged the last year’s ‘sarbat khalsa’ near Amritsar when Jagtar Singh Hawara, a convict in the Beant Singh killing case awaiting capital punishment, was coronated as the ‘jathedar’ of the Akal Takht.
People from all walks of life were seen reaching the site from across the state since 9am. Many of them had reached Talwandi Sabo the previous night, some in the wee hours, waiting for an opportunity to sneak in.
Inspector general of police (IG), Bathinda range, SK Asthana, was present on the spot. “Our job was to secure law and order and we succeeded in that,” he said.