Has the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) decided to tamper with some vital court evidence related to ‘Operation Bluestar’ by deciding to carry out renovation of Teja Singh Samundri Hall inside the Golden Temple complex?
“We will not be tampering with any evidence as before renovating the historical building we will hire experts to preserve the bullet marks on Teja Singh Samundri Hall building that houses the Sikh Parliament. It is for the first time that renovation of this important building will be carried out,” SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar stated here on Tuesday.
This decision was taken at the meeting of the SGPC executive. The meeting was chaired by Makkar. Though Makkar did make it clear that the renovation did not tantamount to tampering with evidence but this act of the religious body could invite sharp criticism from the Sikh community leaders, particularly the hardliners and the Akali groups that are opposed to the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). This is due to the fact that Teja Singh Samundri Hall has been kept as an important evidence in Rs 1,000 crore damages case filed by the SGPC against the central government after June 1984 operation of the army to flush out armed militants from the Golden Temple complex led to the Akal Takht being demolished and a number of buildings within the shrine complex, including Samundri Hall suffering heavy damages.
The case was filed around 1998 when late Gurcharan Singh Tohra was the SGPC president. The case was initially filed in a local Amritsar court but after the demise of Tohra the SGPC withdrew the case here and filed it before the Supreme Court. For this a court fee of Rs 10 crore was deposited by the SGPC before the Registrar of the apex court about three years back and thereafter the hearing commenced. The case is currently being heard by the Registrar of the apex court.
While demanding compensation the SGPC has presented several evidences before the Registrar’s court including photographs and news articles about ‘Operation Bluestar’ and the destruction of some of its buildings including the demolished Akal Takht building/ photographs of the bullet marks on some of the buildings in the main shrine complex, including the Darshani Deori, the library and several others have also been given as evidence in the case.
A majority of these bullet marks have been preserved and can still be seen.
However, while a majority of the buildings were renovated later but Teja Singh Samundri Hall was left totally untouched, so much so that it was not even given a white wash. This was due to fact that the building itself has been kept as evidence in the damages case against the central government.
Building cannot be touched
Reacting to the decision, former SGPC secretary Manjit Singh Calcutta said, “Teja Singh Samundri Hall cannot be touched as the entire structure has been kept as evidence in the case. No doubt other buildings were renovated after the ‘84 operation but as Samundri Hall as a whole structure had been kept as evidence so Tohra sahib left it untouched.”
Calcutta was the secretary of the SGPC when Tohra filed the damages case. He himself attended some of the court hearings that took place in a local court.
Teja Singh Samundri Hall houses the offices of the SGPC office bearers including its chief secretary. Initially the office of the SGPC president was also in this building but it was shifted to an adjacent structure a couple of years back. The hall on the first floor of the building is important as all general house meetings of the gurdwara body are held here.
Makkar said the experts would videograph and photogarph each and every bullet mark on the building before the structure undergoes renovation.These photographs would be evidence that the building suffered damages in ‘84, he added.
Other than Teja Singh Samundri Hall, Makkar also announced that the bullet marks on Darshani Deori would not be destroyed and would be preserved.
Though these marks have been left untouched but there was apprehension that these could be done away with as currently some preservation work is going on at the Darshan Deori, where devotees bow while going towards the sanctum sanctorum for paying obeisance.