|N E W S
I N ..D E T A I L
Saturday, September 18, 1998
Removal of three jathedars sought
CHANDIGARH, Sept 13 What some individuals, claiming to be "leading Sikh intellectuals", could not convey at a seminar organised by them here yesterday, came across at a press conference today. It was convened by Dr Darshan Singh.
While the Saturday seminar ended even before it started, ensuing disruption of its proceedings by yet another set of individuals, who were opposed to any discussion on Akal Takht, other Takhts, Sikh institutions and sangat, the press conference showed the collective confusion among the Sikhs, who display the brand name of "intellectuals".
Among those who sat facing the media were, besides Dr Darshan Singh, a former police officer, Mr B.S. Danewalia, Mr Baldev Singh Brar and Major Jagjit Singh. Mr Danewalia was one of the main guests at the aborted Saturday seminar. Mr Brar is a former political activist, who had been in different Akali camps at different occasions.
From the statements made by these persons it was apparent they had not done their homework on the subject. They lacked cohesion and mutual understanding on contentious issues which they sought to raise or speak on. They were individualistic who spoke in self-contradictory manner displaying more confusion than harmony. This was to the extent that Dr Darshan Singh wanted the word "militant" not to be used by the media while describing the elements which had disrupted the seminar on Saturday, while, Mr Danewalia, who had used it, remained silent. He let it go.
Major Jagjit Singh had to often request one or the other to wait his turn before trying to butt in. There is no formal forum under which these "intellectuals" get together. The ambiguity became apparent when Mr Danewalia said he was present as a student of Sikh history in his individual capacity, though he was asked to come.
He did not mince words to criticise the Jathedar of Akal Takht and dubbed the Saturday episode an aberration too serious to be ignored where "militant" activists at the behest of their political master, Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, had disturbed the gathering. "Certainly those people were somebody's followers and owed allegiance to some organisation".
The case in point was that an attempt is being made to silence voice of "educated", aware Sikhs and reduce the whole issue to one being "illiterates" vs "intelligent". Mr Danewalia took exception to the utterances of Bhai Ranjit Singh and quoted from a magazine which had reproduced some of his recent speeches in the wake of the controversy involving the jathedars.
Dr Darshan Singh did not agree that Mr Tohra could have perpetrated such an "assault" knowing him as he did work closely with the SGPC President during the world Sikh sammelan at Amritsar in September, 1995.
Nevertheless, the organisers of the press conference agreed that all the three jathedars must go. Even though issues would remain. A four-page statement recapitulating the Saturday events was issued which reiterated that such seminars would be held again.
In ways more than one, the organisers did muster courage to question the very role of the SGPC and the manner of selection or appointment of jathedars, though Mr Danewalia maintained there was no tradition of "priesthood" in Sikhism. The present lot is of lay priests. "The present Akal Takht Jathedar is not fit for the post he held", he added. In the beginning he himself quoted a Punjabi adage which means "knocking at the door of trouble" of ones own making by entering into the controversy involving the Takhts and Sikh organisations.
The real issues were time and again skirted either out of fear or some other reason. In fact, Dr Darshan Singh was spared embarrassment when a newsman asked as to why the World Sikh Council's 21-member executive (of which Dr Darshan Singh is a member) was silent in seeking accounts from Mr Manjit Singh, Jathedar of Takht Keshgarh Sahib and why blame only Bhai Ranjit Singh. A senior member said why not discuss further matters over a cup of tea. He was snubbed but the press conference broke up.
It was apparent today that those who shared the platform adhered to different ideologies, possible political philosophy and owed allegiance to different politicians, though each claimed to be an "independent thinking" Sikh having the right to discuss issues concerning the Sikhs.
Given the current
scenario, there is no dearth of self-appointed custodians
and conscience keepers of the Sikhs' religio-political
affairs and organisations. The contradictory stands, the
conflicting views and divergent ideologies all add up to
only one conclusion: more the messier.
Encroachment: probe ordered against
AMRITSAR, Sept 13 The SGPC and the state government may cross swords as the latter has ordered a high-level probe into the alleged encroachment of prime land by the SGPC in the vicinity of the Golden Temple complex.
Even as the state government has deputed Mr B.K. Srivastava, Commissioner, Jalandhar division, to conduct an on-the-spot inquiry into the charges of encroachment, the SGPC has decided to take up the issue with the Chief Minister.
The SGPC secretary, Mr Surjit Singh, talking to TNS, claimed that the "serai" was constructed on the land of the committee and hence the charges were baseless and "unfortunate".
Mr Srivastava confirmed that he had received orders to held the inquiry and said he had written to the Deputy Commissioner, Mr Narinderjit Singh, to supply him with facts immediately. He said he would submit his report only after receiving all facts.
After the dispatch of Governor B.K.N. Chhibber's letter to the government, the Chief Minister's Principal Secretary, Mr Ramesh Inder Singh, on August 7 wrote back to the Governor's Principal Secretary, Mr P.K. Verma, saying that the government would get the matter investigated. Mr Ramesh Inder Singh also dispatched a letter to Mr Srivastva and Mr Narinderjit Singh, directing them to furnish all details on the case to the state government.
The complainants had alleged that the land in question was reportedly acquired by the municipal corporation in 1990 under the Golden Temple beautification plan. The corporation wanted to construct a cafeteria on this piece of land. However, the SGPC secretary, Mr Surjit Singh, claimed that the land belonged to the committee. He further said the construction of the 100-room "serai", being carried out through "kar sewa" by Baba Harbans Singh, deputed by the SGPC, was about to be completed.
The probe was ordered when Mr Chhibber vide his letter to the Chief Minister, dated July 31, took a note of complaints that the SGPC had allegedly encroached upon the land. The complainants had claimed that a compensation to the tune of about Rs 1 crore was paid to the owners of the land by the central government under the beautification project.
The SGPC had started the construction of the "serai" in 1990 when buildings were demolished in the area under the project.
Earlier, Mr G.S. Tohra,
SGPC chief, had also taken a serious note of reports
which had stated that the committee had encroached upon
the land. He claimed that the land belonged to the
committee and some "mischievous" persons were
"distorting" the facts.
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