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SAD’s 97th foundation day: Party recalls history, hints at return to panthic roots

The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, which the party controls, had made all arrangements for the congregation.

punjab Updated: Dec 14, 2017 22:00 IST
Surjit Singh
Parkash Singh Badal addressing the party gathering during the 97th foundation day of Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) at Manji Sahib Diwan Hall in the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar on Thursday.
Parkash Singh Badal addressing the party gathering during the 97th foundation day of Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) at Manji Sahib Diwan Hall in the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar on Thursday. (Sameer Sehgal /HT)

The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) on Thursday celebrated its foundation day at the Golden Temple after nearly three decades, hinting at the return to ‘panthic agenda’ and recalling its ‘glorious’ history in a bid to reboot the party cadre after its rout in the assembly elections early this year.

After a large political conference in Moga on its 75th foundation day, this is for the first time that the Akali Dal organised an event on a large scale at Manji Sahib Diwan Hall in the Golden Temple complex to mark the day.

The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), which the party controls, had made all arrangements for the congregation. Besides the entire Akali leadership, the congregation was also attended by Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh and SGPC president Gobind Singh Longowal.

Old issues raked up

Apart from raising old demands such as giving Chandigarh and Punjabi-speaking areas to Punjab and stopping sharing of river water with other states, party leaders, including former CM Parkash Singh Badal and president Sukhbir Badal, recalled the sacrifices made by Akali workers since 1920 for librating historic shrines from British-installed mahants and the Indian freedom struggle.

Badal said the SAD fought against the excesses of Emergency despite a message from Indira Gandhi to share the spoils of power. “The Akali workers emerged winners in every struggle under the guidance of the Akal Takht,” he said.

‘SGPC needs to intensify dharam prachar’

Exhorting SGPC chief Longowal to intensify ‘dharam prachar’ (propagation of religion), Badal also told the apex gurdwara body to teach the SAD’s ‘glorious history’ at the educational institution being run by it.

“It is the time the SAD workers get out of the comfort of their homes and meet the masses and strengthen the party,” he said. Countering the allegations of rival parties that the SAD has been reduced to their family’s fiefdom, Sukhbir said “the SAD is not personal asset of the Badal family” and it has been enriched by the sacrifices of Akali workers.

He asked the party workers to form a volunteer task force to counter the Congress government’s alleged excesses. “I am committed to lead any agitation from the front and will not allow repression against a single Akali worker,” he said.

He said the party will organised a grand event to mark its 100th foundation day in 2020. The party will build a photography museum at its head office in Chandigarh and asked the partymen to contribute old photographs and memorabilia for this, he said.

Issue of Art 25 (B) also comes up

SAD’s Delhi unit head and Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) president Manjit Singh GK said, “Sikhs are a separate community but the Indian Constitution continues to deprive the Sikhs of this status. There was a need to amend Article 25 (b) of the Constitution which recognises Sikhs as part of the Hindu community.”

Gathering below expectations

Even as party spokesperson Daljit Singh Cheema claimed that party workers have come not only from every corner of Punjab, but also from neighbouring states, Delhi and abroad, the hall was largely occupied by SGPC employees and security personnel.

On this, Akali veteran and Khadoor Sahib MP Ranjit Singh Brahmpura urged the workers to follow the old workers who would bring along their families and nihangs of their areas to party gatherings.