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Punjab On The Boil:
Postcards From The Road







I am in Punjab. Turbulent and tense is the atmosphere. The usual political intrigue is going on.

A bir of Guru Granth Sahib has been desecrated.

Bapu Surat Singh has been on fast unto death since February for the Sikh political prisoners languishing in jails without proper trials or years after their sentences have been fully served.

And then, there is sad and ridiculous 'swaying with the breeze' of our Akal Takht Jathedar and his four colleagues.

Former Akal Takht Jathedar Bhai Sahib Joginder Singh had passed a Hukamnama condemning the anti-Sikh antics of one charlatan calling himself Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in 2007. He had been posing as Guru Gobind Singh. 

A couple of weeks ago though, our current jathedar, Bhai Gurbachan Singh and his team revoked that Hukamnama and two days ago (on 16 October, 2015) the former Hukamnama was reinstated ... all by the same five jathedars.

Finally, but not least, is the huge email campaign by a Sikh Studies Circle from Chandigarh who believe, concerned over the shenanigans going on in the Akal Takht,  that there should be one more 'Principal Jathedar' because I guess they think that two Jathedars are better than one!

I went to Jullundhur by road from Ludhiana. I have never seen GT Road so empty of vehicles. No ageing trucks; no rickety buses brimful with noisy passengers; the odd overly noisy motorcycle and the odd car. Not even stray dogs, donkey carts or the odd elephant!

At Phagwara there appeared to be a police block but manned mainly by fellow Sikhs with kesri and dark blue turbans, in kurta pajamas or 'bana' complete with full-size kirpans, wooden staffs, and kirpans, while holding mini Nishan Sahibs. The police were there too in good numbers. My driver sighed with relief as we were waved through and the barriers came up on the road.

I asked my driver what was happening. He said that roads were being blocked in protest against the inaction of the police about arresting the culprits who had desecrated the Guru Granth Sahib. I asked him how, blocking the GT Road and inconveniencing the public helps the cause?

The driver looked at me as if I was an idiot.

"This is agitation against the inaction of the police!"

I was going to repeat my comments but then decided against it. Most times I am bemused how people operate in India anyway.

Two pictures in the local newspapers come to mind immediately. A riot policeman in full mob control gear wielding a catapult against rioters!

There was another image of an activist with a policeman riding pillion on his motorbike … both of them on their way to one of those road blocks?

Don't ask … I have no idea.

Anyway, the blockages only last about six hours or so, and then all is back to normal.

Yes, there have been three deaths. These 'shahids' will be cremated with great honour and fanfare. In fact Bapu Surat Singh who is on a death fast for the last eight months was not allowed by police to be taken on his stretcher to attend one of these shahids being cremated.

There is great agitation globally about the antics of the Jathedar. There are those who want to overhaul the institution of the Akal Takht because of the sycophancy of the Jathedar and his team to the politicians of the day. Or set up a parallel body outside India to manage panthic affairs ... or set up a Principal Jathedar to oversee the Jathedar.

I think the very fact that the Jathedar and his team were forced to go back on their original, politically motivated revocation of the Hukamnama is proof of the dynamic spiritual strength of the Guru Khalsa Panth based in the very location of the Akal Takht inside the Darbar Sahib precincts in Amritsar.

Jathedars will come and go, but the institution of the Akal Takht as established by Guru Hargobind Sahib stands tall and firm.

But sadly, there are even those, supposedly learned ones, who now, even dispute and put into doubt whether the Akal Takht was set up by Guru sahib. One wonders what their motivations are!

This is not the first time Sikh affairs, especially within the Akal Takht, are being interefered with by politicians. Following the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar in 1919 by the British, General Dwyer -- the perpetrator of the horrendous crime - was bestowed a saropa by the then Jathedar in the Darbar Sahib!

The Brits then. Indians now. And, the Badals.

Where the Akal Takhat is concerned, let us not tamper with this institution which is the very spirit, the heart of the Guru Khalsa Panth. We need to work towards making the institution independent of politicians and truly global, yet based in its present spiritual heart - not make feeble attempts at trying to establish parallel organisations or setting up more Jathedars to look after Jathedars. 

October 20, 2015

Conversation about this article

1: Kaala Singh (Punjab), October 22, 2015, 3:06 PM.

There is something very weird about these protests. The Govt. or SGPC is not responsible for each and every Gurdwara in every village and the Police cannot be everywhere. The villagers are responsible for the security of gurdwaras under their control. So, against whom are they protesting and why these road blockages and violence? The villages in Punjab are full of drunkards and drug addicts who are known to do silly things after getting intoxicated. They should start looking in their own villages for the culprits instead of blocking roads.

2: Hardev Singh (Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada), October 22, 2015, 4:03 PM.

A very simplistic view, Kala Singh ji, totally at odds with the modus operandi of the Punjab Government and its henchmen and the well known agenda of its handlers.

3: Harpreet Singh  (Delhi, India ), October 22, 2015, 4:32 PM.

According to the news, one saroop of Guru Granth Sahib was stolen on June 1 this year. The miscreants pasted threats that they will disrespect it. Police did not recover the saroop nor tried to identify and punish the miscreants who posted the threats. In the same area suddenly this month 122 torn pages (angs) of Guru Granth Sahib are found. Even from the statements of opposition leaders, unprovoked beatings and firing by police on Sikhs protesting against the desecration. Many more such incidents from different parts of Punjab. Whenever there are protests by Sikhs, they are mostly beaten or killed in heavy handedness by police, especially when protesting against the charaltan 'godmen' and deras directly behind the mischief. For example, Ashutosh, bhaniara wala, "sacha" sauda, etc. Why no action against those who insult and disrespect what is religiously sacred to Sikhs or those who indulge in the crimes? Maybe they have more money, vote banks or supported/encouraged by some powers who are actually behind such things.

4: Sunny Grewal (Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada), October 22, 2015, 7:01 PM.

These protests need to be seen in the big picture of what is happening in Punjab. Before these protests the farmers of Punjab were protesting against the sale of fake pesticides which has destroyed their livelihoods. The Badal administration was directly involved in their sale, only a minor figure has been prosecuted and there has been no adequate compensation to the farmers. Then, the Jathedar of Akal Takht committed blasphemy by accepting the apology of the head of Dera 'Jhoottha' Sauda. The pardon was given on the foundation of a letter by the fake baba which did not mention the specific event in question and it did not even have his signature. Akal Takht cannot give a pardon to someone unless that person presents himself or herself. The dera controls tens of thousands of votes, the link between the decision and Badal was clear. Then, the Guru Granth Sahib birs were desecrated. This event was just fuel on a fire which had begun to rage across Punjab. The situation was made worse by the fact that the Punjab Police was called to break up a peaceful protest with the result that two Sikhs were killed. It is highly unlikely that the police would have acted had Badal not given the Sikh killer Sumedh Saini (who is currently charged with 1984 crimes but continues to head the Police) permission for his officers to use violent repression. The newspapers in Punjab were reporting that the Sikhs were radicals and that they were using violent protests. Videos across social media have completely refuted these accusations. Now, to top it off, another blasphemy has been committed as the Akal Takht has vacated the previous decision as a result of protests. Also, the Punjab police claimed to have cracked the case by framing a poor granthi and his wife and two Sikhs from abroad. Nobody in Punjab believes that the granthi did it and new evidence has shown that the Sikhs from abroad are innocent and in fact had sent money to help protesters who had been beaten by the police. This is the situation in Punjab right now. We will see how bad it gets if the protests manage to continue until October 31. Will be interesting to see what happens then.

5: Rup Singh (Canada), October 22, 2015, 9:04 PM.

@ Kaala Singh ji: If the villagers are solely responsible for the security of the gurdwaras under their control, that should also mean they are responsible for the security of their family and homes as well. If these rules are also applied to those living in the cities, then do we need a police force at all? If people are robbed or, worse, killed, simple explanation will do: hey! too bad what happened to them but citizens are responsible for the security of their own life and property, right? You say the police cannot be everywhere, I disagree, they can be everywhere, especially when it's to pick up innocent Sikh youth and kill them in fake encounters. The government is most corrupt, the SGPC continually funnels funds for non-Panthic uses. After all that has happened and is happening right now in Punjab, it's quite a stretch on your part to stick up for the SGPC and Punjab Police.

6: Tony Singh (Canada), October 22, 2015, 10:27 PM.

There is as much danger of Sikhs becoming like Hindu and Muslim extremists as there is Sikhs following empty Hindu rituals and superstitions. Given our Gurus' rational approach to life, I don't think any of them would have reacted so violently at someone desecrating the Guru Granth Sahib. It is certainly a provocative insult to Sikhs for someone to damage any symbol of Sikhism, especially one as potent as Guru Granth, but not something that we need to start killing or dying for. I don't know the details of this incident but it appears to be designed by Hindutva and its agents to foment communal violence and the perpetrators have succeeded in that regard.

7: Kaala Singh (Punjab), October 22, 2015, 10:35 PM.

@2: Hardev Singh ji -- It is these very people who keep such politicians in power by selling their votes for drugs and doles. Badal's main support base is the rural population. He does not have much support in urban areas and that is the reason he has to tie-up with the BJP for urban Hindu votes. I suspect, this agitation is to put pressure on Badal to increase the quantity of doles.

8: Kaala Singh (Punjab), October 22, 2015, 10:57 PM.

I can predict the outcome of this agitation. The Police will frame some people and cook-up some stories. Badal will announce some more doles and these guys will go back to drinking and making merry and everything would be back to normal in a few days. The doles are in the "works" right now. Mark my words and prove me wrong!

9: Gurteg Singh (New York, USA), October 23, 2015, 12:32 AM.

#1 Kala Singh's comment is absurd if not totally idiotic. The brutalities happening in Punjab against peaceful Sikhs and the desecration of Guru Granth Sahib at a dozen different places are very well planned by Hindu agencies directly controlled by Modi, Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley and master of dirty tricks and false flag operations - Ajit Doval - who is Modi's National Security adviser. Doval was earlier involved in a massacre of Sikhs when he was a key operative of RAW under Indira and Rajiv Gandhi. In fact this man should be hauled before the International Criminal Court and tried for genocide and crimes against humanity. The corrupt puppet Badal and his son are working under direct orders from Nagpur and New Delhi and and the Hindu terrorist group RSS has spread its tentacles far and wide resulting in vitiating the communal harmony of Punjab and setting the stage for another genocide of the Sikhs. Already the Indian occupation forces have been stationed on all Punjab highways and villages. SGPC and Akal Takht has been controlled through turbaned minions when the rapist Sirsa thug who has full backing of RSS and Modi was pardoned by five cowardly stooges. Sikh organizations in the diaspora must come together immediately and demand the intervention of the United Nations and ask it to send peacekeeping forces into Punjab to protect the Sikh populace, which is under assault by Indian Government controlled by Nazi Hindu fanatics who are more dangerous that the ISIS. Sikhs should demand that RSS close all its offices in Punjab and shut down all its Shaakhas which are akin to ISIS terrorist training camps. United Nations and other western powers should declare RSS as a terrorist organization whose agenda is extremely dangerous for south East Asia and world peace.

10: Rup Singh (Canada), October 23, 2015, 2:06 PM.

@8: Kaala Singh ji, first you say the government, police, or even the SGPC is not responsible for every gurdwara in every village. Now you say the same government and police will concoct some story and frame some innocents to appease the protesters, why would they do that? Also, the people who are leading the protests are dedicated and not the alcoholics you seem to think that they are, who once appeased will go back to drinking and merry making. A humble request: please be courteous and show respect for these activists, or at the very least please don't be disrespectful.

11: Kaala Singh (Punjab), October 23, 2015, 2:14 PM.

@9: If you knew how the Badals and other guys like them who are remote controlled by Indian agencies manage to stay in power, you would wouldn't have rejected by analysis. Take the example of Simarjit Bains who is leading these protests in Ludhiana. This guy was a Badal loyalist all his life and only recently started listening to his "inner voice" and started taking up "Panthic" issues. The day this guy is "tamed" either through a carrot or a stick you will see these protests getting "switched-off" at least in Ludhiana. The same shall happen elsewhere. Just follow the developments in the next few days and then tell me that I was wrong. And these protests are in no way to deal with the RSS. This requires unity in the Sikh community and that will only come when these very guys who are protesting violently change their attitudes towards the landless "lower castes" in their villages who are turning towards these "Deras" and do not harbour good feelings towards the Sikhs. These mostly "upper-caste" protesters have already diminished the strength of Sikhs by driving away the "lower-castes" away from Sikhism which is against the Guru Granth and now when I see these guys blocking roads for the sacrilege of the Guru Granth, I can see the hypocrisy.

12: Sunny Grewal (Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada), October 23, 2015, 5:18 PM.

@8 Kaala ji: There is something different about these protests, there is genuine anger within all sections of Sikh society towards Badal, et al.

13: Kaala Singh (Punjab), October 24, 2015, 11:29 AM.

In today's post I will return to my favourite subject -- comparing Sikhs with Jews and Punjab with Israel. Like Punjab there is unrest and violence in Israel due to a place of worship and similar things are happening in Punjab due to desecration of places of worship. Israel is the birth place of three of the world's major religions and the geographical location of Israel is at the crossroads and trade-routes to three major continents, and with Israel having emerged as a technological, economic and military super-power and Jews being an educated and rich people affects the whole world. Anything that happens in Israel has a global impact and the whole world reacts. Compare this with Punjab, a small box which doesn't matter to anyone except India and that too only for the purpose of transit to its territories in Himachal and J&K and for the flow of water from these lands to mainland India. Apart from this, Punjab does not matter to anyone and with its directionless inhabitants constantly colliding with each other, they matter to nobody except themselves -- Atomic theory holds relevance in this context! Now comes the question, what will these guys achieve if they collide with the Nirankaris or the Deras or the Indian State? Absolutely nothing. And what needs to be done -- instead of wasting lives and energy in these fruitless collisions, develop some substance through education and development and become something so that they matter to someone. I do not think this piece of land and its inhabitants have a future unless they change.

14: Kaala Singh (Punjab), October 25, 2015, 1:50 PM.

@12 - Sunny ji: If what you say is true, then they should vote him out in the elections of 2017. I suspect, Badal will sweeten the doles even more and might return. But I do not see anybody who can replace him, he may be a terrible choice but the other options are bad as well. Would you like the Congress to return? Amrinder Singh would be running the Govt. from London as he did the last time. Harvinder Singh Phoolka has left AAP, would you like to see Bhagwant Mann as the CM? Both of these guys cannot match the financial muscle of Badal and elections in Punjab are all about doles and nothing else, otherwise how can you explain a debt of almost 20 billion dollars.

15: Tony Singh (Canada), October 25, 2015, 4:30 PM.

Kaala Singh ji, the only reason that the world (really some of the more powerful countries in the West) is forced to pay attention to Israel and Israelis is because of the powerful and wealthy pro-Israeli lobbies in those countries. I guarantee that Punjab will get as much attention as Israel in the West once the pro-Sikh lobbies start getting stronger in these countries. The Indian government knows this and is fast at work setting up its own lobbies through innocuous sounding organizations.

16: Kaala Singh (Punjab), October 27, 2015, 12:10 PM.

@15 - Tony Singh ji: I am waiting for the day when Sikhs will become as successful and influential as the Jews. And, I am really getting sick of these never ending jathedar and dera stories. I want to see us rising above these things and do stuff which really matters. Thanks for your feedback and I hope Sikh lobbies become as strong and influential and that can only happen in the West.

17: Sunny Grewal (Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada), October 27, 2015, 2:02 PM.

@14 - Kaala Singh ji: I think Badal might get destroyed in the next elections. People are legitimately looking at the voting booths as a way of getting rid of him. His policies have destroyed the Punjabi farmer with the pesticide scam and he has degraded their religious institutions. I agree that the alternatives are not good. The Congress Party should never win in Punjab. A party that butchered the Sikhs in 1984 and promoted fake encounters in the decade that followed, should never return to power. I find it highly unlikely that Sikh voters will switch to BJP, but their share might increase. The AAP seems to be the only alternative, although I think that a party centered in Delhi will ignore Sikh issues in Punjab.

18: Sunny Grewal (Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada), October 27, 2015, 2:04 PM.

The only reason why anyone cares about Israel is because the world's two largest faiths appropriated the Jewish religion. If Islam and Christianity did not draw any liturgical, spiritual or other influences from Judaism you can bet that Israel would be as important as Punjab.

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