Wednesday, April 11, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Jatha gets shabby treatment
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Nankana Sahib, April 10
A crucial meeting of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC) may take place here this evening to resolve certain ticklish issues.

This will be the first meeting since the formation of the PSGPC on April 13, 1999.

Mr Shingara Singh Lohian, executive member of the SGPC, and leader of the jatha, Mr Kirpal Singh Khirnian, and Dr Gurbachan Singh Bachan, SGPC secretary, both deputy leaders of the jatha, told TNS that they would lodge a strong protest with the PSGPC over the “mismanagement” of Sikh shrines.

Though the PSGPC had accorded a warm welcome to SGPC officials at Wagah (Pakistan) yesterday, they were meted a “shabby treatment” at Nankana Sahib.

Dr Bachan alleged that the SGPC was given only four rooms in the serai while most of the ‘yatris’ brought by it had to spend the night in the open.

Dr Bachan said he would raise the issue of inconvenience felt by pilgrims in the proposed meeting with Mr Sham Singh, Co-chairman of the PSGPC.

It may be mentioned that the SGPC was not allowed to dispatch its advance team by the Pakistan Government for making arrangements for the pilgrims.

While the SGPC jatha was denied sufficient accommodation, a full block and big halls were made available to Mr Baldev Singh Rani Bagh, a former vice-president of the Delhi Gurdwara Management Committee (Sarna group), and Mr Harcharan Singh of Delhi and close confidant of Mr Parmjit Singh Sarna, former president of the DGMC.

The leaders of the Sarna group were approached by many devotees (of the SGPC jatha) for accommodation.

The members of SGPC jatha were also agitated as they were not provided Pakistan currency till 10 a.m. today.

Meanwhile, the open call of the working committee of the Shiromani Akali Dal (and endorsed by the BJP), to militants for joining the mainstream seems to have no impact on Pakistan-based Sikh radicals.

Banners like “Khalistan zindabad”, demand for “separate Sikh state” etc were put in the entire complex of Gurdwara Nankana Sahib by the Dal Khalsa, Babbar Khalsa, ISYF and Khalistan Zindabad Force.

Notwithstanding tall claims of the PSGPC for making elaborate arrangements for devotees, it failed to provide langar at Gurdwara Sacha Sauda today.

Sikh devotees were made to sit in 25 chartered buses outside the court complex here for more than five hours as security was not provided in time.

The devotees visited Gurdwara Sacha Sauda under tight security.


Function at Lahore proposed
Celebrations of Ranjit Singh’s coronation
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 10
The Ministry of External Affairs is reported to have agreed in principle to approach its counterpart in Pakistan for organising a special function to commemorate the bicentenary of the coronation of Maharaja Ranjit Singh at Baradari in the historic Lahore Fort later this year.

The matter is expected to be taken up at the inter-governmental level soon, says Mr Tarlochan Singh, Vice-Chairman, National Minorities Commission, and a member of the Bicentenary Celebrations Committee on the coronation of the Maharaja.

“It is proposed to organise a function exactly at the same place where the coronation of Maharaja Ranjit Singh had taken place 200 years ago,” he says maintaining that the celebrations will extend not only to the Indian subcontinent but also to Europe. “Without a function at Lahore, the celebrations will remain incomplete.”

Besides Lahore, celebrations will be organised in London from September 20 to 22 where, besides other events, an exhibition on Maharaja Ranjit Singh, as planned by the Punjab Cultural Department, will be organised. The same exhibition will also be taken to Paris.

After the formal inauguration of the celebrations at Patiala on April 13 (Baisakhi day), the next major function will be organised at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi on April 21 where the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, will be the chief guest.

Dr Azizuddin of Lahore will deliver the keynote address at the function. It was Dr Wahiuddin, father of Dr Azizuddin, who wrote the famous book, “Real Maharaja Ranjit Singh”. A French author, Jeane-Marie LaFont, whose book on Maharaja Ranjit Singh and his French connections was chosen for an award in his home country, will be the other speaker at the April 21 function. The third speaker will be famous Sikh historian and journalist Khushwant Singh.

Another highlight of the New Delhi function will be a 10-minute documentary on the Maharaja and his empire. An organising committee with the Union Cultural Affairs Minister, Mr Ananthkumar, and the Union Chemicals and Fertilisers Minister, Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, as its chairman and co-chairman, has already been set up. Besides the Prime Minister, the Chief Ministers of five states — Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and Delhi — areas which once formed part of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s empire, will be special invitees.

Though the Union Communications Ministry has agreed in principle to issue a commemorative stamp to mark the celebrations, the function is likely to be organised some time later this year at which the President is expected to preside.

The Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, is reportedly keen on restoring the glory of Ram Bagh, which Maharaja Ranjit Singh had developed and used during his sojourn in the holy city. During his next visit to the Union Capital on April 17, Mr Badal is expected to take up the issue with the Archaeological Survey of India and the Ministry concerned. A portion of the palace used by the Maharaja at that time now houses a museum while the second portion is used as a club house.

The Punjab Government now wants it to be preserved after the necessary repairs and restoration of the original glory of the bagh as perceived by Maharaja Ranjit Singh.Back

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