Clearly shifting the spotlight from economic development to the Panth, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) on Saturday set the stage for the reassertion of the Sikh identity, deemed to be facing a “threat” at the hands of “dangerous forces” sweeping the country. SAD leaders projected the party as the only “saviour” of the Sikh quam (community) and the need to strengthen it.
Moving away from the issues which are generally highlighted during the political convention of the SAD at the annual Shaheedi Jor Mela, SAD leaders expressed concern over conversions as also the move to subsume Sikhism as being part of Hinduism.
“Every person following any religion in India, he be a Hindu, Muslim or a Christian, has the right to move about with his head held high. We are proud to be Sikhs and do not need a certificate from anyone to allow us to be Sikhs,” thundered chief minister Parkash Singh Badal during his speech.
He said the SAD’s stand on conversions is clear. “As clear as it was during the time of Guru Teg Bahadur who chose to lay down his life than get converted,” said the chief minister, at a press conference later.
The growing noise regarding conversion and a possible threat to the Sikh Panth in the process seems to have infused the SAD leaders with a renewed vigour as they chose to limit their speeches to the cause of religion.
Deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal said, “Sikhs are not a part of any other religion. We are all children of the gurus. We are not someone who can be brushed aside easily. We are a 90-year-old party that has always stood for the cause of Sikhs. We will not leave the side of the community if faced with a threat. “You need not worry. We will not let the Sikh quam suffer,” he added.
Sukhbir, also the SAD president, said, “The Akali Dal’s thinking is anti-conversion and the Punjab government respects every religion equally. The state can only progress if there is harmony between all religions,” he said.
Bassi Pathana MLA justice Nirmal Singh (retd) said, “There are certain forces which are working across the country converting Christians into Hindus. It is unfortunate that the Vishwa Hindu Parishad has made a statement about starting these conversions in Punjab as well. Let it be clear that Sikhs are not Hindus.”