Monday, November 11, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Police enters Golden Temple complex
NDA team to reach Amritsar today * Crackdown continues
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Mr Sukhdev Singh Bhaur, SGPC member, addressing a Press conference in Amritsar on Sunday.

Prof. Kirpal Singh Badungar, SGPC president, and Mr Sewa Singh Sekhwan, former minister and SGPC member, coming out of the Teja Singh Samundari Hall on Sunday. — Photos by Rajiv Sharma

Chandigarh, November 10
Less than 24 hours before a five-member NDA team, led by union minister Sahib Singh Verma, could fly into the Holy City of Amritsar to oversee the conduct of next Tuesday’s annual election to the SGPC executive committee, Punjab policemen in plain clothes entered the Golden Temple complex on the pretext of searching all three serais (inns) there.

Accompanying the team would be not only Union Chemicals and Fertilisers Minister, Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, who is also a SAD General Secretary, but also 100-odd SGPC members owing allegiance to SAD chief Parkash Singh Badal.

Though preventive arrests continued throughout the state and Golden Temple complex was put under police siege with the deployment of hundreds of anti-riot policemen in anti-combat gear, some of the Akali leaders, including former Finance Minister Kanwaljit Singh managed to sneak into the sanctum sanctorum.

Talking to The Tribune over the telephone, Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa said the names of four NDA observers — Mr Sahib Singh Verma, Mr Thomas (MP, Samata), Mrs D’Souza (MP, Samata), and Mrs Anita Arya (MP, BJP) —have already been cleared, the Union Civil Aviation Minister, Mr Shah Nawaz, is also expected to be a part of the special NDA team to oversee the SGPC elections. The observers and the SGPC members would take a chartered flight from New Delhi to Amritsar tomorrow afternoon.

Mann’s offer

The Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) chief and MP, Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, today offered to act as “neutral observer” for the conduct of the SGPC executive committee elections in a “free and fair manner”. “There is no need for any Central observer. I along with four SGPC members of my party are ready to act as neutral observers and ensure that elections are conducted in a peaceful and orderly manner as per Sikh traditions,” said Mr Mann, who himself is a member of the SGPC.

Mr Dhindsa further said that on the basis of the complaint lodged by the Shiromani Akali Dal with the Union Home Minister yesterday, the Union Home Secretary today called Punjab Chief Secretary Y.S. Ratra on the telephone and expressed his “strong displeasure” over “politicalisation of the bureaucracy”.

The Chief Secretary reportedly assured the Union Home Secretary that no SGPC member would be stopped from reaching the Golden Temple complex for attending the election meeting. Efforts would be made to facilitate those lodged in jails in one case or the other to attend and vote in the elections.

Meanwhile, reports indicate that so far the Punjab police has taken 1,222 Akali workers into custody. Of these 934 belong to Shiromani Akali Dal, 234 to Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal, 50 to Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) and one owes allegiance to Mr Ravi Inder Singh. The remaining three belong to the Mehta faction of the AISSF.

Of these, the maximum arrests of the Badal men were made in Sangrur(73), followed by Majitha (64), Tarn Taran (60) and Patiala (62).

Rashmi Talwar and Ashok Sethi in their reports from Amritsar said the police in a pre-dawn swoop entered the Golden Temple complex on the pretext of searching all three serais — Guru Nanak Niwas, Guru Hargobind Niwas and Mata Ganga Niwas.

When the police arrived to get the three serais vacated to ensure implementation of the orders, among those evicted were 50 schoolchildren in the age group of six to eight years from Lucknow.

The police parties which were headed by Mr Jagdish Khera and Mr R.S. Ghuman, both DSPs, had a verbal altercation with the SGPC workers who resisted the attempts of the raiding party to get the serais vacated.

Mr Harbant Singh and Mr Ajaib Singh, Secretary of the SGPC, and personal assistant to the SGPC chief, respectively, refused to budge holding that the orders were not specific to the SGPC and “devotees” could not be evicted from a religious complex.

The SGPC chief, Prof Kirpal Singh Badungar, who had to rush to Amritsar from Bathinda, after the police entry into the complex, assailed the government action maintaining that it was a direct attack on the most sacred Sikh shrine and the Congress Government was bent upon disturbing communal peace and harmony.

The police officials managed to get computer printouts of the names and addresses of 2,000 devotees staying in the serais.

Hundreds of policemen in top anti-combat gear have laid a siege to the Golden Temple complex. The mounted police has also been deployed around the complex.

Talking to The Tribune over the cellphone, Capt Kanwaljit Singh said that the action of the police in the morning and again in the evening of searching serais and evicting yatris was a serious “violation of the sanctity of the Golden Temple complex.” The action of the government amounts to gross interference in the religious affairs of the Sikhs and could lead to serious complications besides disturbing communal harmony and peace in the state.”

He said a number of SGPC members and dal workers had already managed to sneak into the complex.

Professor Badungar told newsmen that in case the police entered Teja Singh Samundari Hall on the day of the election meeting, the repercussions would be “drastic”.

He said the government was gripped by a “fear psychosis” and its nervousness was evident from the desperate steps it was taking. He maintained that the national and international media would be permitted to cover the executive committee elections as he disapproved on any NDA observers to oversee the elections. No other SGPC employee would be allowed inside the meeting hall.

The SGPC chief said that non-bailable warrants issued against former SGPC chief Jagir Kaur by a Kapurthala court was an indication of the desperation of the state government.

Meanwhile, Mr Sukhdev Singh Bhaur, General Secretary, SHSAD supported the orders issued by the District Magistrate but held that these orders should be applicable in case of “bad elements” and not the devotees.

The SHSAD was ready for a truce with Mr Parkash Singh Badal provided he agreed to apologise at Akal Takht and accepted Bhai Ranjit Singh as Jathedar of Akal Takht. He clamed that 50 SGPC members were strongly behind the SHSAD.

Senior Akali leader and close aide of Mr Parkash Singh Badal, Capt Kanwaljit Singh claimed that the SAD has formulated its secret strategy to bring all 120 SGPC members to Teja Singh Samundri Hall on November 12 to elect the President and the executive committee. Talking to newsmen this evening at Bhai Gurdas Hall after managing to enter the city in disguise. He said the reign of terror unleashed by the Amarinder Singh government on Akali leaders and workers were trampling upon their democratic rights.

Capt Kanwaljit Singh said Mr Badal, along with all 120 members, would land at Rajasansi Airport tomorrow for the SGPC general house election meeting. Party leaders and workers would ensure that all SGPC members manage to enter the Golden Temple complex on that day.

He claimed that the ex-parte disqualification of SGPC members by the SGJC was likely to be set aside by the Punjab and Haryana High Court tomorrow.

Discounting the rumours of a patch-up between Mr Badal and Mr Tohra, Capt Kanwaljit Singh said there was no scope for any compromise. The Badal candidate would win hands down, he asserted.

The arrival of the Jathedar of Akal Takht, Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, here this evening has raised speculation about an appeal being made by him for a patch-up between the two Akali stalwarts to avoid a confrontation even as the Congress Government had queered the pitch with heavy deployment of the police around the complex.


Vedanti condemns police entry
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, November 10
The Akal Takht Jathedar, Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, today issued an appeal to all SGPC members to vote without any fear or pressure. Releasing his statement here this evening, the Jathedar warned the state government against its interference in the conduct of the SGPC poll. The statement condemned police entry into the Golden Temple complex and getting the sarais vacated. He urged the government to maintain utmost restraint and desist from harassing the peaceful devotees visiting the temple.

Earlier, the district administration undertook a damage-control exercise in view of widespread criticism over the entry of the police into the complex and the heavy deployment of security around the city.

Deputy Commissioner Iqbal Singh Sidhu and district police chief Narinder Pal Singh called on the President, SGPC, Mr Kirpal Singh Badungar,

It had been reliably learnt that the SGPC chief expressed his annoyance at the police high-handedness and getting the sarais vacated this morning. The Deputy Commissioner requested the SGPC chief not to allow pilgrims to occupy the rooms in the next two days.

Meanwhile, the Deputy Commissioner has ordered the closure of main bazars around the Golden Temple.

Home | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Editorial |
Business | Sport | World | Mailbag | In Spotlight | Chandigarh Tribune | Ludhiana Tribune
50 years of Independence | Tercentenary Celebrations |
122 Years of Trust | Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |