The current unrest in Punjab following the repeated desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib cast its shadow on deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal’s visit to a Mansa village on Saturday.
Despite the district administration’s best efforts to ensure a smooth programme at the bhog ceremony of the akhand path at Gurdwara Sulisar Sahib at Kotdharmu village, Sukhbir’s visit was not without controversy.
The deputy chief minister’s chopper landed at the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC)-run Dashmesh Public School situated on the premises of the gurdwara. Even the wall joining the school with the gurdwara was allegedly demolished to accommodate the helicopter that landed while the school was on. The move was slammed by social groups who alleged that even trees were cut on the school premises to ensure a smooth landing of the helicopter.
While addressing a gathering at the gurdwara, Sukhbir said the recent incidents were the handiwork of those who were wary of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) gaining power for the third consecutive time. “Some external agencies are trying to disturb the communal harmony in the state. They are wary of our development agenda.”
He came down heavily on protesters and questioned their loyalty to the faith. “We are facing a tough time as the Akal Takht, the SGPC and SAD have been simultaneously attacked. The protesters have been raising slogans against our party. Did they recite hymns from the holy book? They are just trying to vitiate the atmosphere and push Punjab into dark ages.”
Hinting at the involvement of foreign agencies in fomenting trouble in the state, Sukhbir talked about how Pakistan’s ISI had disturbed the neighbouring Afghanistan and was targeting the state.
When asked if the local intelligence had failed to provide sufficient inputs on the increasing incidents of sacrilege, Sukhbir said foreign agencies had planned them well. He said he would try his best to nab the culprits even if they hid across the border.
Gurdwara head priest resigns
Darshan Singh, the head priest of the gurdwara, announced his resignation soon after the deputy chief minister left. “I have resigned because a police officer and local jathedars forced me into not attending the ceremony for reasons best known to them. I am deeply hurt at the way the SGPC and other committees are running the gurdwaras in the state,” he said.
In the morning, protesters were stopped before they could arrive near the gurdwara on the Mansa-Sirsa road, which led to disruption of traffic during the day. “Why are we not allowed to attend the bhog ceremony? Are we not Sikh? Why the preferential treatment for someone who is responsible for all this in the state?” a protester wanted to know.