Undeterred by the continuous drizzle, a heavy deployment of cops and a long walk to the venue, a crowd of over one lakh people —an eclectic mix of young, old and the middle-aged — descended on Chabba village to take part in the controversial ‘Sarbat Khalsa’ (congregation of Sikhs) called by hardliners on Tuesday.
The people started arriving at the venue — four km away from the main road and spread over 12 acres — from 9 am onwards. As the crowd swelled to several hundred, baffled government and police officials, who had expected a much lesser turnout, were seen calling up their bosses to brief them about the situation.
The atmosphere was charged up throughout the function, clearly showing the anger and resentment against the current regime and jathedars.
Around 80% participants were from the Malwa belt, indicating that people there were upset with a series of sacrilege cases and police firing that had resulted in the death of two protesters.
The crowd remained upbeat throughout the day as rain failed to play spoilsport. When the name of Jagtar Singh Hawara was announced as the “new Akal Takht jathedar”, the people gave a loud cheer. The organisers had to virtually request the gathering to maintain silence so that other resolutions could be announced.
Badals, SGPC receive flak
Speakers blasted the Badals, Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and jathedars while condemning the sacrilege cases across the state.
Quoting history, a couple of speakers said: “Baba Deep Singh had taken Sikhs to the Golden Temple from this very village to free the shrine from the Muhgals...we also must follow the same and free Darbar Sahib from the clutches of Badals who controlled SGPC and jathedars.”
There were complaints that Punjab Police were stopping people in the Kot Mit Singh area from going towards the venue. United Akali Dal chief Mohkam Singh went to the area to ensure that people were not being from attending the event.
Day-long community kitchen
Villagers served ‘tea’ and ‘langar’ throughout the day to the people who had come from far-flung areas to take part in the congregation. Even as the gathering was more than expected, unnerved villagers kept on serving food to the participants.