M A I N   N E W S

Politics overshadows celebrations

Kalam brings CM, Badal together on stage
Varinder walia
Tribune News Service

President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam holds a sword presented to him by the SGPC in Amritsar on Tuesday
President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam holds a sword presented to him by the SGPC in Amritsar on Tuesday.
— Reuters photo

Amritsar, August 31
“Today is not a day for politics. It is a day for celebrations,” said Akali Dal chief, Parkash Singh Badal, just before the celebrations for the 400th anniversary of the installation of Guru Granth Sahib began here today. However, throughout the day, politics, not celebrations, dominated the proceedings.

Even as the President, Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, came to Harmandar Sahib for the formal function this morning, he was received primarily by Mr Badal. The SGPC office-bearers, who are the primary guardians of the religious seat, were studiously ignored. They were not alone. The Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, too was relegated into the background to such an extent that even his presence was not formally noticed by either Mr Badal or the stage secretary, Capt. Kanwaljit Singh. The latter is the general secretary of the Akali Dal.

The President sensed the cold vibes as soon as he arrived. On stage, he smiled affably at all the dignitaries present and then gestured to the Chief Minister to come close to him. As he came near, Dr Kalam caught his hand and made it touch that of Mr Badal. And, as if to reinforce his wish ‘to transcend the limitations of our narrow self-interest and think of the collective good of society’ he placed his own hand over those of the warring duo.

The spontaneous, silent and symbolic gesture of Dr Kalam conveyed a deep religio-political message which both political leaders of the state have failed to grasp so far.

Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, President of India, and Mr Parkash Singh Badal coming out of the Golden Temple after paying obeisance on the occasion of the 400th installation ceremony of Sri Guru Granth Sahib in Amritsar on Tuesday.
Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, President of India, and Mr Parkash Singh Badal coming out of the Golden Temple after paying obeisance on the occasion of the 400th installation ceremony of Sri Guru Granth Sahib in Amritsar on Tuesday. — Tribune photo by Karam Singh

The rarest of rare public reconciliation gesture authored by the First Citizen of the country took place on the stage specially erected outside Harmandar Sahib. A massive gathering of the Sangat was witness to it, as were the millions of people who were watching the event live on television.

That it was Mr Badal’s show all the way, and it was Akali Dal versus the Congress with the former repudiating all forms of the latter’s participation in it, was evident once again when the Dal boycotted the seminar at GND University. The seminar was presided over by the President and the CM was one of the main speakers.

Earlier, at the Golden Temple function, the stage secretary, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, General Secretary, Shiromani Akali Dal, did not acknowledge the presence of the Chief Minister’s wife Maharani Praneet Kaur, who is also Member Parliament. The CM was not presented a ‘siropa’ (robe of honour) while all other dignitaries were presented with a ‘siropa’ and a shawl.

Interestingly, Mr Badal mentioned the name of Mr R.L. Bhatia, Governor, Kerala, while reading from the written text, though he was not present on the occasion.

In yet another faux pas, the SGPC failed to arrange a ‘Kirpan’ (ceremonial sword) to be presented to Justice O.P.Verma, Governor of Punjab. His name was announced for this ‘honour’.

Yet again, and surprisingly too, Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, Jathedar, Akal Takht, was not on the stage though he was present at the ceremony.

Politics is also likely to dominate the second day of the celebrations tomorrow. Mr Badal is unlikely to be at hand to receive the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, when he arrives at Harmandar Sahib tomorrow morning. He is scheduled to escort the Gurmat march from Gurdwara Ramsar to the Golden Temple during the duration of the Prime Minister’s stay in Amritsar. And, Dr Manmohan Singh plans to leave the city’s air space before his predecessor, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee arrives.



Selfless seva at Guru ki Nagri
Ashwini Bhatnagar
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, August 31
Faith moves and it was on the move today with those who translate their beliefs into action. Selfless sewa is the basic belief of the Sikh faith and it was on display in all its humble grandeur all along the roads leading to Harmandar Sahib here.

Undeterred by the sultry conditions and a strong mid-morning sun, hundreds of volunteers from the neighbouring areas of the Holy City had set up camp to facilitate the passage of the pilgrims en route to pay their obeisance to the Guru Granth Sahib.

Bare foot on a burning tarmac, they ran after passing vehicles and people urging them to partake of their hospitality. That they had food and water to offer was of little consequence as compared to their pleading insistence that the traveller at least tastes the offering from the community kitchen. The sincerity of their purpose did not leave any one untouched.

Of course, langar is a part of the Sikh tradition. But on the historic occasion of the 400th year of the installation of the Holy Book, the commitment attained dizzying heights. That they would not let anyone pass without hearing their urgent pleading was obvious from the method devised to slow down vehicular traffic. At most places, volunteers had placed tyres on the road with just enough space between them to let a vehicle pass at a snail’s pace. A little ahead, young enthusiastic volunteers with their trademark kesaria flags waved down traffic as others ran after vehicles with glasses of water or prasada.

Crammed buses, jampacked tractor trolleys and the uniquely Punjabi marutas heeded the requests and stopped for a sip of water, partake of prasada or even to have a sumptuous lunch. The volunteers were as gratified by their gesture as were the pilgrims by the hospitality.

The sewa of food and water was not enough. As the traffic crawled to the Gateway of Amritsar, the stone arch at the entrance of the city, scores of sewadars — people from all walks of life — ran to vehicles dusting them with pieces of cloth. One volunteer sprayed water on the windscreen and rubbed it vigorously while another scrubbed the doors and the back screen. In a matter of minutes, a sparkling clean vehicle with the dust of journey wiped clean entered Guru’s own nagri.

But that was not all. Another jatha had thought of its own way to do sewa. Young men with large plastic containers strapped on their back, sprayed perfumed water on the journeymen. It was a sort of a total cleansing that one required before entering the pristine portals of Darbar Sahib, set as it is in the midst of its own amrit sarovar.



Sonia greets Sikhs on anniversary
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 31
Congress President Sonia Gandhi today extended her felicitations to the Sikh community on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the installation of Sri Guru Granth Sahib at Sri Harmandir Sahib at Amritsar.

The “Adi Granth”, she said, is one of the greatest spiritual works that mankind possesses. “Profuondly wise and compassionate, it reflects the essence of almost all religions and the teachings of the noblest Hindu and Muslim sages of all times.

In a special message, Mrs Gandhi said, “The Guru Granth Sahib remains an eternal source of inspiration, guidance and solace in our daily lives.

It has motivated us to follow the path of peity and righteousness, taught us the virtues of sacrifice and forgiveness and instilled in us the values of love, tolerance and universal brotherhood.”



Holiday in Rajasthan today

Jaipur, August 31
The Rajasthan Government today declared a state holiday tomorrow to mark the 400th anniversary of the installation of Sri Guru Granth Sahib at Golden Temple in Amritsar.

All state offices, public undertakings, boards and corporations will remain close on the day, an official press note said.

‘Prakash Utsav’, the 400th anniversary of installation of the Sikh holy book, is being held from August 29 to September 1 in Amritsar. — PTI


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