In the silence of the wee hours on Tuesday, the Sikh radicals brought the holy Guru Granth Sahib in a van to the venue for their proposed ‘Sarbat Khalsa’ on the outskirts of the city, scheduled for Thursday, and commenced ‘akhand path’ (continuous recitation for 48 hours) there.
The police were caught unawares as the ‘palanquin’ carrying the holy book recahed the agricultural fields at 4 am and the recitation began under the supervision of leaders of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) and the United Akali Dal (UAD).
The SAD-BJP government had in the past thwarted the Sikh radicals’ similar efforts to take on chief minister Parkash Singh Badal on the ‘Panthic issues, including the incidents of the denigration of Guru Granth Sahib that led to violent public protests last year.
As the news of the ‘akhand path’ in the vicinity of Gurdwara Damdama Sahib spread, the police swung into action, cordoning off the entire 10-acre agricultural land and arresting half a dozen radical leaders and activists.
Bathinda zone inspector general (IG) SK Asthana and senior superintendent of police (SSP) Swapan Sharma were seen on the spot as the cops sealed the area to stop more activists reaching the venue.
There were around 50 activists, including the clergy performing ‘akhand path’, led by SAD (Amristar) general secretary Jaskaran Singh Kahansinghwala, on the venue.
UAD general secretary Gurdeep Singh Bathinda was picked up at a barricade and reportedly taken to Maur police station.
The two others prominent activists rounded up at the Bathinda mini-secretariat were Baba Chamkaur Singh and Suhdev Singh. The duo had come to meet the deputy commissioner for seeking permission for the December 8 religio-political congregation.
“They (the organisers) have no permission (for the congregation),” said SSP Sharma, when asked why did the police cordon off the entire venue.
The SSP maintained that nobody is being stopped to reach the venue, but the activists settled in the fields complained that people were not allowed to bring ‘langar’ for them. “Even the priest reciting the hymns is hungry,” said Kahansinghwala, who asserted that they would hold the ‘Sarbat Khalsa’ at any cost.
The commuters from adjoining villages were diverted to other link roads around Talwandi Sabo, where a paramilitary company was also deployed.
Notably, the police had thwarted a similar congregation of radicals earlier scheduled for November 10, by uprooting the tents and rounding up over 2,000 people four days ahead of the event.