Monday, December 10, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Massive show by Panthic Morcha
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, December 9
Amidst the chants of “Jo bole so nihal Sat Sri Akal” were raised the slogans of “takht badal do taj badal do, be-imano ka raj badal do”. And leaders of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Panthic Morcha) were reasonably jubilant. For the crowd was such. Claims of the presence of over one lakh persons by Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra apart, the show was impressive.

At the end of the day, the leaders had more to cheer and celebrate, as BSP supremo, Kanshi Ram also landed at the rally at last. Earlier, his absence had certainly disappointed morcha leaders. Mr Kanshi Ram declared that he had descended on Punjab to collaborate with the Panthic Morcha to change the face of state politics.

New Sabzi Mandi literally overflowed with people who had come from all over of the state. In fact, people continued to come till the end as they had been stranded in the outer areas due to traffic jams at a number of places. A visibly excited Mr Tohra thanked the people saying that nobody can now dispute our belief that the countdown for Mr Badal has begun.

Mr Tohra proved to be the only exception who blasted the Congress and the ruling Akali Dal led by Mr Parkash Singh Badal in equal measures. Otherwise, all leaders targeted Mr Badal only levelling serious charges against him to the extent that a former Akal Takht Jathedar, Bhai Ranjit Singh, compared him with the Mughal despot Aurangzeb.

While criticising Mr Badal, Mr Tohra alleged that he had forgotten all promises he had made to the people of the state. He alleged it was “inspector raj” in the state and corruption was rampant. He declared if the Panthic Morcha formed a government, it would appoint a three judge panel to probe the corruption. He said, all MLAs would be asked to declare their assets under oath and the state Vigilance Bureau would be further strengthened and made powerful like the CBI.

At the same time, he asked people not to forget the Congress, which had been responsible for the attack on Darbar Sahib and the anti-Sikh riots across the country. Moreover, he pointed out that it was the Congress, which had forfeited the state’s water to Haryana and also weakened the state’s claim over Chandigarh.

Mr Kanshi Ram declared his whole-hearted support to the Panthic Morcha for bringing in a change. He said: “I am not concerned about 13 Lok Sabha or 117 Assembly seats of Punjab. I am concerned about the entire nation”. He avoided the controversial issues of chief ministership and seat-sharing and instead exhorted people to change the Badal regime.

Radical leader Simranjit Singh Mann must have regretted his remarks at the end. Earlier, without naming Mr Kanshi Ram, he had questioned his authority to dictate terms on seat-sharing. “Nobody can be our master and if anybody thinks he can dictate terms and conditions to us, he is mistaken”, he said about Mr Kanshi Ram, without mentioning his name. Mr Mann criticised US-based Khalistan activist Gurmeet Singh Aulakh for asking him (Mr Mann) to continue to fight for Khalistan. “He (Aulakh) wants us to fight for Khalistan and himself wants to stay in cool environs of America”, he observed, while clarifying, “Khalistan is inscribed deep in my heart and I am always for freedom”.

Senior leader and former minister, Mahesh Inder Singh Grewal, one of the main organisers of the rally, could not conceal his excitement over the massive turnout. He claimed, “Ludhiana has always set the trend for change in Punjab as far as politics is concerned”. He pointed out that it was December 1, 1996, rally organised here, which had paved the way for the Akali-BJP government. Again it was here in May, 1999, that the All-India Shiromani Akali Dal was formed, which served as the basis for the formation of the Panthic Morcha. “And today’s rally will see the Panthic Morcha coming to power in the state”, he claimed while pointing towards the crowd.

Morcha convener Baba Sarabjot Singh Bedi said the morcha dreamt of a new Punjab with an egalitarian system of governance.Back


Morcha seeks changes in Sikh Gurdwara Act
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, December 9
The Shiromani Akali Dal (Panthic Morcha) today reiterated its faith in the “sovereignty of Akal Takht as the highest temporal seat of the Sikhs” and sought an amendment to the Sikh Gurdwara Act, 1925, which, it believes, has weakened its authority.

Releasing a two-page document, “Nawan Panjab”, the convener of the Morcha, Baba Sarabjot Singh Bedi, pointed out, “It was conceived by Guru Hargobind Sahib as a parallel authority to govern the religious and political affairs of the Sikhs”. Interestingly, the document, except for describing the Congress as “anti-Punjab and killer of the Sikhs” directs most of its ire on the Shiromani Akali Dal-Badal and the BJP only.

He claimed, “For the past one-and-a-half decade, particularly the past five years of the Badal reign, the supremacy of the Takht has been seriously undermined. The Jathedar of Akal Takht, who is already in a weak legal position under the Sikh Gurdwara Act, has become a victim of political pressure and chicanery”.

He asserted that the Panthic Morcha was determined to correct this. “We will initiate a dialogue within the community, in India and abroad, to evolve a model for the sovereign status of Akal Takht and as a first step we will work for amendment to the Sikh Gurdwara Act in this regard”.

Baba Bedi said the Morcha would also seek to improve the functioning of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, which he observed, instead of functioning as parliament of Sikhs “has been reduced to a branch office of the SAD (Badal), with the branch manager being changed every now and then”. He alleged that the malaise of corruption has been passed on from the government quarters to the SGPC and no substantive issues concerning Punjab or the Sikhs have been effectively dealt with by the “Badal-dominated SGPC”. He observed that the “Badal-led SGPC has failed to counter the anti-Sikh campaign of the Bajrang Dal, the VHP, the Rashtriya Sikh Sangat and the RSS. In fact, in some areas, they have cooperated with them”. He regretted that no official stand had been taken on “the saffronisation of portions of Sikh history in NCERT books”. He said the Morcha would participate in the forthcoming SGPC General House elections and improve its image.

Baba Bedi opposed the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance (POTO) saying, “Anybody or any organisation or political party which agrees with the provisions of POTO considers human rights to be a sacrificial goat to be slaughtered at the altar of political convenience and expediency. Criticising the SAD (Badal) for its support to POTO he said, “The message for the people of Punjab by acceptance of POTO by Mr Badal is crystal clear” that he is in collusion with the BJP, “the next killer of Sikhs, Muslims, Christian, Dalits and other minorities in Punjab”.

The Morcha convener said, “the final dividing line between pro-Panthic, pro-Punjab and anti- Panthic, anti-Punjab leaders, parties and ideologies has been drawn”, with the pro-Panthic, pro-Punjab Panthic Morcha on one side and the feudal SAD (Badal), the fascist BJP and the anti-Punjab, Congress on the other side”.Back

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