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Monday, Oct 14, 2019

Guru Nanak anniversary celebrations: SGPC to ahead with own event; govt hits back

The SGPC said since the function is purely religious it can’t break tradition; Punjab minister Randhawa accused Longowal of sabotaging coordination committee efforts at the cost of ‘Guru ki Golak’ to please the Badals

punjab Updated: Oct 11, 2019 10:53 IST
Surjit Singh
Surjit Singh
Hindustan Times, Amritsar
A  youth performs martial arts 'Gatka' near the Sri Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) during the 'Nagar Kirtan' procession to mark the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, Aug 2, 2019.
A youth performs martial arts 'Gatka' near the Sri Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) during the 'Nagar Kirtan' procession to mark the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, Aug 2, 2019. (PTI File )
         

The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) on Thursday said it will set up its own stage at Sultanpur Lodhi on November 12 to celebrate the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, escalating the stalemate between the apex gurdwara body and the Punjab government over holding a joint function.

Talking to HT over phone, SGPC president Gobind Singh Longowal said the function being organised is purely religious and it will be celebrated as per the tradition continuing for several decades. “How can we discontinue the tradition? All other bodies, including Sikh organisations and the Punjab government, should attend this function regardless of their political affiliation or stand,” he added.

Longowal on Tuesday had appealed to Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh to join the celebrations at Sultanpur Lodhi’s Guru Nanak Stadium being organised by the gurdwara body which manages the affairs of most historic Sikh shrines in Punjab and neighbouring states.

Reacting to this, state jails and cooperation minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, who along with his cabinet colleague Charanjit Singh Channi represented the state government in the coordination committee meeting, accused Longowal of sabotaging the efforts to hold a joint function at the cost of ‘Guru ki Golak’ (donations made by devotees) just to please the Badals. “Longowal decided to spend Rs 10 crore on a separate stage just to please one family. I think they will spend at least Rs 10 crore on this. They are looting the ‘Guru ki Golak’,” he said over phone.

The SGPC and the state government have held three rounds of talks to reach consensus on holding a single function to mark the 550th birth anniversary, but all of them remained inconclusive with both the parties sticking to their own guns.

While the state government has already set up a ‘pandal’ (stage) for the function, the SGPC is learnt to have given the contract worth crores of rupees to a private firm for setting up the same.

On reports of the SGPC giving the contract to set up a separate stage, minister Randhawa said, “They had decided to set up their own stage before September 27. They just befooled us by calling a meeting of the coordination committee on October 4. I came to know about this through an invitation letter they sent to me on September 27 for the function they are organising.”

He also sent a photo of the letter wherein it is mentioned that the main function will be held at the Guru Nanak Dev Stadium, Sultanpur Lodhi, which will be attended by President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“Now they are telling a lie. This was the reason why I did not attend the October 4 meeting. They did not keep their word and did a U-turn,” he added.

Former SGPC chief Jagir Kaur, who is part of the five-member coordination committee constituted on directions of the Akal Takht, said, “You can’t call our stage separate. The gurdwara body is supposed to hold its function on every religious occasion. If someone else sets up their own stage, it’s they who should answer this question.”

“The government’s lack of response forced us to go ahead with making arrangements for the function alone. The ministers deputed to talk to us promised to respond twice but we are still waiting for their reply. We expect the chief minister will give some suggestions or call us to Chandigarh to discuss how the joint celebrations can be possible. But even he is silent,” Jagir Kaur added.

First Published: Oct 10, 2019 23:42 IST

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