Thursday, November 21, 2019

Posted at: Nov 7, 2019, 6:59 AM; last updated: Nov 7, 2019, 6:59 AM (IST)

Let’s recognise significance of collective tribute

Let’s recognise significance of collective tribute
Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal (R) along with other MLAs at the Vidhan Sabha in Chandigarh.

Manpreet Singh Badal

When Dewan Bahadur SP Singha sat on the chair of the Punjab Assembly Speaker in the pre-partition India in 1947, little did he know the consequences of his actions. He presided over on what was the partition of the Punjab Assembly, and cast his vote for the division of the country. The Punjab Assembly would henceforth be divided into Indian Punjab and Western Punjab.

Five members of the pre-partition Punjab Assembly were to witness a partition of sorts once again, when the Vidhan Sabha, now in Chandigarh, voted for a division. This time, on March 30, 1966, it was the division of Punjab into Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, with Harbans Lal sitting in the Speaker’s chair. These five members were all legendary leaders in their own right — Shanno Devi, Prabodh Chander, Parkash Kaur, Master Gurbanta Singh and Kartar Singh.

Witnessing the second bifurcation of the Punjab Assembly in their lifetime was something few could have imagined. But just like Dewan Bahadur SP Singha, who did not fully realise the consequences of his actions, those dividing the Punjab Assembly in 1966 did not fathom that one day, MLAs of both Assemblies would sit together once again. There would be no opposition, no treasury benches, no zero hour or call-attention motion. For a moment in 2019, their action would be undone.

Fifty-three years later, the two would once again be united by the message of peace, love and humanity by one of the greatest sages that humanity has ever witnessed — Guru Nanak.

On Wednesday, when the MLAs cast aside their differences and assembled under one roof, solemnity was in the air. There were no hymn singers, but the message was all pervasive. There were no slogans, but there was a shared reverence. There was no religiosity, but a deep sublime theme of equality, peace, love and humanity that pervaded the joint session.

As I sat teary-eyed listening to Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu and Dr Manmohan Singh as well as Capt Amarinder Singh and Manohar Lal Khattar — representing different shades of political, ideological and religious thought, one could not be but reminded of the bond between the Guru and his minstrel — Guru Nanak and Bhai Mardana. I got transported to a different era imaging how challenging it would be in those ages for the Guru and his disciple to cross mountains, rivers and seas, deserts and forests – going on udasis to spread the message of love.

The wooden footwear (khadavan) took them to distant and diverse places that historians are still discovering. Theologians are still interpreting the nuances of the hymns, and the rabab as a musical instrument is being rediscovered. Our generation blinded by neon lights and submerged by consumerism, is once again discovering the spiritual splendour of the Guru.

If Guru Nanak brought us together today, it overrode differences of faith, language, caste, colour and creed. But that should also set us thinking as to why we allowed our denomination to become our defining identity? If we had followed the teachings of our Guru, would we have seen so much bloodshed, animosity and turmoil? Is it that for petty political interests, we preferred to bifurcate our legacy with an aim of sharing the spoils?

History will not be kind to us. But a beginning has been made. Let the teachings of the Guru continue to light our path.

(P.S.: Considering that many consider Bebe Nanaki to be the first Sikh, my only regret is that there was no woman on the stage today).

The writer is the Finance Minister of Punjab.


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