The Georgia Straight – Gurpreet Singh: The Khalistan Conspiracy offers rich insights into the role of India’s Congress party in massacres of Sikhs

However, author G B S Sidhu papers over the impact of goons who supported the BJP

Authored by a former Indian spy, a new book called The Khalistan Conspiracy tells how the ruling Congress party of India engineered a pogrom against the minority Sikh community during November 1984.

Thousands of innocent Sikhs were slaughtered across India by mobs led by party activists following the assassination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. They were seeking revenge for the military invasion of their holiest shrine in Amritsar in June of that year.

The ill-conceived army operation left many pilgrims dead and enraged Sikhs worldwide. And it was avoidable, according to the author G B S Sidhu, a former Sikh officer in India’s Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) intelligence agency.

He explains in detail how the attack was planned and executed to suppress the Sikhs’ struggle for the right to self-determination and autonomy in their home state of Punjab.

Sidhu points out that it polarized the Hindu majority to enable the so-called secularist Congress party to win the subsequent general election.

He gives first-hand information of how Indira Gandhi’s son Rajiv Gandhi, who succeeded her as the next prime minister, and his close associates were directly involved in the Sikh massacre that helped him gain a brute majority in that election.

Significantly, Sidhu puts it on record how the police force in the national capital of New Delhi was helping the mobs going after Sikhs, and he himself had to briefly take refuge in a Hindu colleague’s house.

This memoir is important to read to see how the repression of Sikhs strengthened the movement for a separate Sikh state of Khalistan, rather than blaming Sikh activists in places like Canada alone for instigating violence and bloodshed in Punjab.

Sidhu helps us understand that Khalistan was never a popular demand. The Congress leadership deliberately wanted to discredit and weaken a genuine Sikh movement in Punjab for more autonomy and several religious concessions in the state by “othering” Sikhs to gain the sympathy of Hindu voters.

Its calculation failed completely as the extremist elements whom they wished to prop up against moderate Sikh leaders spun out of control and Punjab was pushed into turmoil during a decade-long militancy.

He rightly observes that neighbouring Pakistan took advantage of this domestic crisis for which the blame lies squarely with the Congress party. He warns that if India fails to bring a closure to 1984, supporters of Pakistan and Khalistan outside India will continue to advance their agenda.

However, Sidhu has conveniently overlooked the influence of the current ruling right-wing Hindu nationalist government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Supporters of Modi’s Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) also participated in the Sikh massacre, that is well documented. So much so, Modi’s government gave Bharat Ratna, a highest civilian award to the late Nanaji Deshmukh, a Hindu supremacist leader who had justified the violence against Sikhs.

Yet that part is missing in the book. Sidhu is silent about it.

On the contrary, he tries to paint a rosy picture of Modi government by claiming that is has removed the names of Sikh expatriates from a blacklist. This had been prepared by the previous Congress government to deny entry to those who had been raising voices against state repression abroad and creating an environment for reinvestigating the massacre of 1984.

How could he gloss over all this, especially when attacks on religious minorities, especially Muslims, have grown under Modi? It is pertinent to mention that Modi oversaw a repeat of what happened in 1984 in 2002. That’s when he was chief minister of Gujarat when it experienced a Muslim genocide.

This came after a train carrying Hindu pilgrims caught fire leaving more than 50 people dead. Although one commission of inquiry found that it was an accident, Modi blamed it on Muslims and incited violence against them.

For this, he was denied visa by the U.S. and other western countries because until he became the prime minister in 2014.

Even in 2019, Modi’s supporters targeted Kashmiri Muslims across India, following a militant attack that left forty soldiers dead in Kashmir.

Interestingly, Sidhu, who claims to be an authority on Sikh history, does not take pains to look into the BJP agenda of assimilating Sikhs into the dominant Hindu society, which is a great source of worry among the Sikhs and has been at the root of the conflict between the community and the Indian establishment.

It is not surprising to see how this anxiety has grown under Modi, who remains highly unpopular among Sikhs in spite of an opportunistic political alliance between BJP and Akali Dal, the party that claims to represent the Sikh interests in Punjab.

Gurpreet Singh is cofounder of Radical Desi magazine and Indians Abroad for Pluralist India. The Georgia Straight publishes opinions like this from the community to encourage constructive debate on important issues.

The Tribune – Special Sikh jatha to Pakistan on Gurpurb: ME

New Delhi – India, 19 November 2020. India will send a special Sikh jatha to Gurdwara Janam Asthan in Nankana Sahib (27 November – 01 December) on the occasion of the 551st birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Anurag Srivastava announced here on Thursday.

However, there is no move yet to reopen the Kartarpur Corridor, he indicated.

The visit of a truncated jatha will be as per the 1974 bilateral protocol between India and Pakistan. There is, no confirmation yet from the Pakistan side.

Pakistan had in June unilaterally reopened the Kartarpur Corridor to commemorate Maharaja Ranjit Singh`s death anniversary, but India had rejected the offer owing to the pandemic.

Officials say it has been over a year but Pakistan is yet to construct a bridge over the Budhi Ravi channel. – On SGPC’s 100th foundation anniversary, Sikh intellectuals call for neutralizing political influence

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 17 November 2020. On the eve of the 100th foundation anniversary of the apex Sikh body Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, a seminar was organized in Jalandhar on 16 November to deliberate upon current position of SGPC and the possible ways to address its crisis.

A committee of Sikh intellectuals organized this seminar under the leadership of SAD (Democratic) president Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa.

In this seminar, the Sikh intellectuals opined that the vested political interests of Akali leaders have dominated over the SGPC and a trend of using sacred Sikh institutions for vested political interests is prevailing in the Panth these days.

The Sikh intellectuals appreciated the efforts being made under the leadership of Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa while saying that taking all the Sikhs into mainstream fold was the need of hour from the view of religion.

They also suggested that the current struggle should lay focus on management reforms rather than replacing the dominating political class.

Speaking on this occasion, renowned Sikh intellectual Professor Prithipal Singh Kapur shed light on the history of Sikh Gurdwara Lehar. He said that the Sikhs had to liberate Gurdwaras from Mahants because they had started treating the historic Sikh shrines as their personal property.

He added that the sentiments of sacrifice and devotion have limited in our Gurdwara management system.

Citing several examples, Professor Prithipal Singh Kapur said that there was a time when the great Sikh personalities made sacrifices of their posts to defend the Sikh interests but now bureaucracy has dominated the SGPC.

“The traditional Sikh leaders used to maintain a distance between their political and religious activities but now the Sikh leaders gets ready to abase themselves to any extent just for the sake of power,” he said.

He suggested the Sikhs to erect a commission to trace out the weaknesses and flaws in the SGPC and then pave way for rectifying these flaws.

Dr Balkar Singh, former head of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Department in Punjabi University, said that the rising influence of politics on the administration of SGPC has put an adverse effect on the morality of Gurdwara management system.

He added that the SGPC and Akal Takht seem tools to every Sikh leader to take his political career to a next level.

“Accusing a particular faction for the crisis in SGPC can’t be justified. Instead, we would have to make efforts for Panthik unity while trying to fill out the prevailing vacuum in the Sikh leadership,” he said while hailing Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa’s efforts to fill out this vacuum.

Former AISSF leader and Sikh historian Harwinder Singh Khalsa called for reforms in the SGPC while citing several historic references about the SGPC.

At the end of this seminar, SAD (Democratic) president Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa welcomed the Sikh intellectuals and activists who have come out to support his efforts. He said that he would continue his efforts to uphold democratic values within the party and its conformance with the Sikh ethos.

He reiterated that the SAD (Democratic) won’t grant any constitutional or political post to the candidates of SGPC elections.

Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa revealed that he is approaching the former Sikh activists and AISSF leaders who got sidelined during from Panthik canvas due to unfavorable circumstances.

In reply to the apprehensions about consequences faced by the Sikh leaders who opposed Badals in the past, Dhindsa said that there is no way left for Badals to dominate in Panthik politics as the sacrilege episode has exposed their reality.

A resolution stressing upon the need for pro-Panthik Sikhs to have debate over Sikh issues was presented by SAD (Democratic) senior leader Nidhark Singh Brar and got passed unanimously.

Gurcharan Singh Channi served the responsibility of stage secretary in this program.

Former MP Bibi Paramjit Kaur Gulshan, former MLA Justice Nirmal Singh, Des Raj Dhugga and Bhai Mohkam Singh were honored on this occasion.

Tejinderpal Singh Sandhu, Anupinder Kaur Sandhu, Bibi Harjit Kaur Talwandi, Simarjit Kaur Sidhu, Gursher Singh Shergill, Advocate Rajbir Singh, Principal Inderjit Singh, Prof. J.P Singh, Jasvir Singh Ghumman, Manjit Singh Bhoma, Master Johar Singh, Satnam Singh Manawa, Manjit Singh Manawa, Manjit Singh Manawa, Satwinder Singh Dhatt, Paramjit Singh Raipur, Amarjit Singh Amri, SGPC member Paramjit Singh Changaal, SGPC member Malkit Singh Changaal, TPS Sandhu, Satwinder Singh Dhatt, Bibi Inderjit Kaur, Rajinder Singh Kanjhla, Amarpal Singh Kehra, Saroop Singh Dhesi and Jagjit Singh Gaba etc. were prominent among the attendees of this seminar.

City of Wolverhampton – New Covid-19 testing pilot underway at city gurdwara

A Government backed testing pilot specifically for people without symptoms of Covid-19 will begins in Wolverhampton tomorrow (Thursday 19 November).

Faith groups in the city are coming together to support the community led pilot, using fast turnaround lateral flow tests kits, which will take place at Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara on Sedgley Street.

Unlike the regular Covid-19 test programme, the pilot will provide free tests to people who do not have symptoms of coronavirus.

It aims to identify undiagnosed cases of Covid-19 in order to help protect those most at risk from the virus and will also provide vital information to help inform the rollout of the mass testing technology in the future.

Anyone without symptoms of Covid-19 will be able to get tested for free at the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara from tomorrow until Monday 30 November.

Testing is available between 7am and 7pm every day and everyone is welcome. No appointment is necessary.

People who do have symptoms of Covid-19, a new, continuous cough, a high temperature or a loss or change to their sense of smell or taste, should not attend the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara but instead book a test through the normal channels.

The pilot is being delivered in partnership with the City of Wolverhampton Council and NHS Test and Trace.

John Denley, Wolverhampton’s Director of Public Health, said: “Just because you haven’t got any symptoms doesn’t mean you don’t have Covid-19, and one of our biggest concerns is people unwittingly spreading the virus around because they simply don’t realise they’re infected.

“We are therefore delighted to be working with NHS Test and Trace and faith groups in the city including Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara and local leaders from the Catholic Church, Church of England, city mosques and other faith groups such as Oasis of Love International Church on this important pilot.

“It will make use of lateral flow antigen tests and enable us to identify people who, because they’re asymptomatic, risk accidently spreading Covid-19 to others.

This will help break the chain of transmission and reduce the spread of the virus.”

Latest data shows there were 347.83 cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 people in Wolverhampton over the 7 days to 14 November.

That means some 915 people in the city tested positive for the virus in that 7 day period, though the true number of new cases will likely be considerably higher.

Utilising new technologies, such as lateral flow tests, is key to the Government’s plans to rollout mass testing, testing large numbers of people in a short period of time, with test results made available quickly, even on the spot.

Mass testing will give people in environments such as hospitals, schools, universities and workplaces rapid reassurance that they are not infected, or allow them to isolate more quickly if they are.

Health Minister Lord Bethell said: “We’ve already come so far since first setting up a national testing programme at an unprecedented pace to help counter Covid-19, but we continue to strive to go further, faster.

“Innovations such as lateral flow tests hold the key to the next phase of our ambition to see mass, rapid testing available to people across the country.

“I’m delighted that the City of Wolverhampton Council and the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara are working with us to pilot the latest technology in Wolverhampton, and I look forward to seeing the fruits of their labour, both in helping target the virus locally, and helping find ways to roll this technology out further soon.”

Baroness Dido Harding, Interim Executive Chair of the National Institute for Health Protection, added: “NHS Test and Trace continues to play a leading role in the fight against Covid-19 with over 32 million tests processed so far.

The work of the City of Wolverhampton Council and Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara will be essential in helping us explore the benefits of new technology.

“This pilot is one of many which will lay the foundations for the next phase of NHS Test and Trace, mass testing, which will allow us to test even more people, even more quickly.”

Anyone testing positive for Covid-19 will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace to help them track their contacts. This will help people to identify who they may have been in close contact with, protecting others from further transmission.

Close contacts of those testing positive will also hear from NHS Test and Trace, asking them to stay at home for 14 days to prevent them from unknowingly spreading the virus to others. They will also be advised to book at test if they develop symptoms.

The latest information and guidance around coronavirus is available at GOV.UK and on the council’s own coronavirus pages. Details of the national lockdown measures in effect until 2 December, and the answers to frequently asked questions, are available at COVID Alert. – After SGPC denies CCTV footage – Court directs Amritsar police to approach nearby shopkeepers

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 16 November 2020. After the SGPC’s “denial” to share the 24 October’s footage of CCTV cameras installed inside Sri Darbar Sahib complex, the Court has directed the police to obtain and secure the CCTV footage of cameras installed outside the shops situated in the Sri Darbar Sahib complex.

On 24 October – the SGPC’s task force had brutally thrashed the Sikh activists outside SGPC’s headquarters when they tried to put a lock on the entrance gate of Teja Singh Samundari Hall.

These Sikh activists were staging a protest against the SGPC for its failure in tracing the missing 328 holy saroops of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji and taking legal action against those responsible for it.

It is learned that the Amritsar police told the Court that the incident of 24 October couldn’t get recorded in the SGPC’s CCTV cameras due to some technical issues.

After this, the Court directed SHO of E-Division police station to procure CCTV footage from the cameras installed in the surrounding shops of the Sri Darbar Sahib’s corridor.

The Court’s direction has come in response to a complaint filed by Sikh activist Balbir Singh Mucchhal, who heads the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Satkar Committee. Mucchhal had alleged that the police were not bothering to procure the CCTV footage of this incident.

In this incident, around 30 Sikhs were brutally thrashed but the SGPC succeeded in converting it into a clash injuring its own staff.

Due to this tactic of SGPC, a cross FIR was registered by the Amritsar police which ultimately nullified the hope for justice.

Sources have revealed that the SGPC even compensated its task force employees with monetary rewards according to their role in thrashing the Sikh activists and later injuring themselves to make it a scene of self-defense.

The Teesside Gazette – Mourners gather outside Gurdwara to say goodbye to pillar of Teesside’s Sikh community

Reej Kaur Potiwal – 81 – passed away on Monday 09 November following a heart attack

Mourners lined the streets to say goodbye to a pillar of Teesside’s Sikh community.

Reej Kaur Potiwal, 81, was well-known and well loved by Sikh families and the wider Middlesbrough community.

Her late husband Harbhajan Singh Potiwal was chairman of the town’s Sikh Gurdwara for 25 years.

Reej passed away at James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough on Monday, 09 November.

The couple, who lived in Marton, leave 10 children, 55 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

On Monday, Reej’s family organised a funeral procession from her home in Marton to Acklam Crematorium.

Her coffin was pulled by four white horses wearing orange feathers, a symbol of community and belonging in the Sikh religion.

The procession stopped outside the Sri Guru Harkrishan Sahib Ji Gurdwara Middlesbrough.

Mourners, who were wearing coronavirus masks and were social distancing, gathered outside on Lorne Street.

They said a prayer in the street and paid their respects to the great-grandmother.

Reej’s family followed the horse and carriage to Acklam Crematorium in five silver Mercedes limousines.

A service, which was limited to 30 people due to covid-19 restrictions, was then held at 2pm.

On Sunday, her son Fatehjeet Singh Potiwal, 51, said: “We’re just so down without her.

“When you have an issue you go to your mam and she would point you in the right direction.

“Now we just feel a bit lost without her. Everywhere she went she had friends. She made friends very easily.

“Everyone has been coming and paying their condolences.

“We have been getting lots of condolences from everyone all of the country. She was a very special person.

“We want to give her a big send off, she deserves it.”

The Tribune – SGPC turns 100, still stuck in tangles

G S Paul – Tribune News Service

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 15 November 2020. The SGPC today completed 100 years of its existence. To commemorate the occasion, an “akhand path” was initiated at the Akal Takht. Besides religious, administrative issues loom large over the Sikh body.

At present, the Shiromani Akali Dal, with a majority of members, holds dominance over it.

Unending disputes

  • Nanakshahi Calendar row
  • Appointment and rights of Jathedars of the Akal Takht
  • 328 missing Guru Granth Sahib ‘saroops’

Its unending disputes include the Nanakshahi Calendar row, and the appointment and rights of Jathedars of the Akal Takht.

Recently, the SGPC drew flak over 328 missing Guru Granth Sahib “saroops” that were allegedly misappropriated by staff and officials of its publication branch.

SGPC president Gobind Singh Longowal said efforts were being made to trace the missing “saroops”. “We have taken prompt action and removed the officials or staff members. The existing SGPC executive, including me, submitted an apology voluntarily to the Akal Takht and faced punishment,” he said.

Constituted on 15 November 1920, the SGPC was born out of Gurdwara Reform Movement against the mahant and priests to liberate prominent gurdwaras, including the Golden Temple, from their control.

The last SGPC polls were held on 18 September 2011. Lately, the appointment of Justice S S Saron (retd) as the Chief Commissioner, Gurdwara elections, has paved the way for holding fresh SGPC polls. – Op/Ed: SAD (Badal) Parted Way with BJP, Not gave up hatred for Pakistan #KartarpurCorridor

Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) has parted way with its old ally BJP, but not hatred for Pakistan, home of major historical gurdwaras including the birthplace of Sikh religion’s founder Guru Nanak Sahib.

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 09 November 2020. Being alliance partner of the saffron party which is known for radicalizing Hindu people against Muslim republic Pakistan, the SAD (Badal) leaders especially the Badal family never missed an opportunity to vilify the neighboring country.

They did not even take care of the interests of the Sikh community and Punjab while doing so, despite the fact that the SAD (B) is the sole representative political party of the Sikhs.

Surprisingly, they are still sticking to their old agenda which is not different from that of the BJP ruling in centre.

Making Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib’s management in Pakistan an issue by the Indian establishment which is under control of the RSS-BJP, and Indian mainstream media can be understood because projecting Pakistan as a national enemy is their strategy to polarize the Hindu community, but becoming part of this hateful propaganda is beyond the understanding when we talk about the SAD (Badal).

According to a notification on 03 November, a project management unit (PMU), a self-financing body, for the management and maintenance of Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, Kartarpur, was constituted under the administrative control of the ETPB in Pakistan. A total of nine officers have been posted under this body and all of them are Muslims.

Earlier various departments of the Pakistan government looked after the construction, maintenance, and security of a big complex developed around the gurdwara, the final resting place of Guru Nanak.

To systematize these tasks, the government brought them under a single body called PMU. However, Indian media flared up it as snatching of the gurdwara’s management from the Sikhs and a grave injustice with the minority community.

Even as the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC) office-bearers including president Satwant Singh clarified that nothing was wrong in the fresh move of the Pakistan government as the jurisdiction of the PSGPC remained intact, the SAD (B) leaders took no time to start vilified propaganda against Pakistan irrespective of the fact that the PMU has been constituted to further develop the project of Kartarpur corridor, which is a positive development.

Its president Sukhbir Badal issued a statement reading, “Pakistan government’s decision to establish a Project Management Unit (PMU) consisting of non-Sikhs had hurt the sentiments of the Sikh community worldwide, Mr. Sukhbir Badal said this also against the ‘Maryada’ associated with Sikh shrines.

The Sikh community is viewing this decision as a direct attack on the religious rights of the Sikh community of Punjab. It is for the first time that the management of a Sikh shrine has been taken out of the purview of the PSGPC and handed over to the ETPB”.

He asked Indian PM Narendra Modi to intervene and request Pakistan PM Imran Khan to restore the management of Kartarpur Sahib shrine to the PSGPC. His wife Harsimrat Kaur Badal expressed similar views.

Notably, the SAD (Badal) dictated both the largest gurdwara bodies, Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) and Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC), which are controlled by it, to make negative remarks on this issue.

While the SGPC passed a resolution against Pakistan over this non-issue, the DSGMC president Manjinder Sirsa crossed all the limits. He said, “The gurdwara has come under the control of ISI”.

While doing so, they turned thankless toward the Pakistan government which spent billions of rupees on developing the corridor and opened it finally after 72 years.

While spreading such malicious propaganda, leaders of the SAD (Badal) and both the gurdwara bodies did not think for a while that it could create problem of the Sikhs living in Pakistan and also leave negative impact on the corridor which is already facing several issues and Indian government is keeping it close since 15 March.

The Sikhs who want cordial relations with Pakistan, made these leaders as their representatives, but these leaders are making their big contribution to damage the interests of the Sikhs and Punjab.

Pakistan based Sikh leaders were seen quite upset over this propaganda and they had to conduct a press conference at Nankana Sahib. Besides, Satwant Singh had to share his video to clear the air.

“Don’t worry for us. We are good and safe here. Mind your own business”. These were the words of Satwant Singh who was seen upset in the video.

The Badal family and other leaders of the SAD (Badal) created a lot of hurdles on the way to the corridor’s opening by making negative remarks against Pakistan.

This vilification started when cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu hugged Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa in Islamabad during Imran Khan’s swearing-in ceremony in 2018.

At this moment, Bajwa assured him to open the corridor, a long pending demand of the Sikhs.

On September 18, Sukhbir stated that Sidhu has close relations with ISI and Pakistan and demanded an investigation into his call details.

His wife referred Sidhu as a Pakistani agent. She said that the neighboring country was using him as a puppet, adding that “he is dancing to their tune”.

Besides, Sukhbir stated that the neighboring country is trying to impose ‘jazia’ (a tax non-Muslims pay under Sharia law) on Indian devotees using the corridor, while Giani Harpreet Singh, SGPC-appointed Akal Takht acting Jathedar, said, “Service fee is not an issue for the Sikhs who only want darshan of the Gurdwara Sahib”.

Not only this issue, but the SAD (Badal) leaders also vilified Pakistan often in the past. They are not abandoning this practice even now when it has left the BJP.

The Indian Express – On Diwali, Amritsar set to celebrate its rich history with ‘Bandi Chhor Diwas’

Bandi Chhor Diwas (prisoner release day) is celebrated to mark the historical release of the sixth Sikh guru, Guru Hargobind, from the Mughal prison along with 52 kings in early 17th century.

Kamaldeep Singh Brar

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 14 November 2020. Along with diyas and fireworks, it is the rich history of Amritsar that comes alive as Sikh martial bodies or ‘Nihang Singh Jathebandis’ descend upon the city as celebrations for Diwali and ‘Bandi Chhor Diwas’ begin.

Bandi Chhor Diwas (prisoner release day) is celebrated to mark the historical release of the sixth Sikh guru, Guru Hargobind, from the Mughal prison along with 52 kings in early 17th century.

Baba Budha Ji, the first head Granthi of Darbar Sahib had started the tradition of lighting earth lamps at Golden Temple to celebrate the return of Guru Hargobind.

Jathedar Balbir Singh, head of the Budha Dal, a martial faction, says it is centuries old tradition among Sikhs to gather at Harmandr Sahib on Bandi Chhor Diwas.

“Budha Dal had started Akhand Path at Gurdwara Mal Akhara Sahib, historically related to Guru Hargobind Sahib ji.

Bhog will be held on Diwali day. We will attend the gathering at Akal Takht on Saturday where Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh would read a message for the community,” said Jathedar Balbir Singh.

First references of Diwali celebrations as a community among Sikhs date back to the third master, Guru Amar Das, in the 16th century.

However, the biggest chapter was added in the Sikh history and Diwali at Amritsar, when Guru Hargobind Sahib returned from Gwalior Fort, where he had been imprisoned by Mughal Emperor Jahangir on the pretext that a fine imposed on his father, Guru Arjan, had not been paid by the Sikhs.

According to Sikh history, Guru Hargobind was released from the prison on Diwali.

As he walked out of the Gwalior Fort prison, as per the Sikh history, he also secured the release of 52 kings. Since then he has been hailed as as ‘Bandi Chhor’ (one who liberates).

After Guru Gobind Singh passed away in 1708, Sikhs faced the challenge of retaining control of the Harmandr Sahib.

Often taking shelter in forests, Sikh factions would gather at the Harmandr Sahib on Diwali every year to hold Sarbat Khalsa to make all important decisions and solve internal and external disputes.

Diwali became an annual invitation for all Sikh factions in any part of world to reach Amritsar for ‘Sarbat Khalsa’. At times, Mughal rulers wanted to prevent Sikhs from attending Diwali at Amritsar.

In 1737, Bhai Mani Singh, then administrator of the Golden Temple, promised to pay a big amount to then Governor of Lahore, Zakaria Khan, to allow safe passage and return to Sikhs for Diwali celebrations in Amritsar.

Later, Bhai Mani Singh came to know that Zakaria Khan was planning mass execution of Sikhs by making them come to Amritsar. Mani Singh immediately sent out a message to Sikhs to not come to Amritsar.

He also failed to pay the promised amount to Zakaria Khan as the money was to be arranged from the offerings by Sikhs on Diwali. Zakaria Khan got Mani Singh executed at Lahore for failing to pay the promised amount.

On the occasion of Diwali in 1761, a decision to attack Lahore was taken at a ‘Sarbat Khalsa’ gathering.

The Sikh warriors killed Ubaid Khan, the then Afghan Governor of Lahore in a battle, and Jassa Singh Ahluwalia was declared ‘Sultan-ul-qaum’.

The festivity of Diwali returned to Harmandr Sahib and the city as soon as Sikh misls started controlling Amritsar in the last quarter of the 18th century and later Maharaja Ranjit Singh ruled Punjab.

During British rule, the British officers would also especially come to see the Diwali celebrations at the Harmandr Sahib.

Keeping the tradition alive, martial bodies and common Sikhs come to Harmandr Sahib every Diwali where the sitting Akal Takht Jathedar reads out a message for the community.

Martial bodies also display their martial skills a day after Diwali in Amritsar.

“We will start ‘Mohala’ (march of martial bodies) from Buraj Akali Baba Phula Singh and it would pass through different parts of city to reach Railway Ground B-block where Nihangs will display their martial skills on Sunday.

It is a long and rich history. The festivity of Diwali at Amritsar is also a tribute to those Sikhs who were not even allowed to enter the city in the 18th century. It is symbol of victory of Khalsa,” said Balbir Singh.

The Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) also makes special arrangements for the lighting and fireworks on this occasion. – India should exhibit generosity like Pakistan by reopening Kartarpur corridor: Akal Takht Sahib

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 09 November 2020. Speaking on the first anniversary of the opening of the Kartarpur Sahib corridor, Giani Harpreet Singh – SGPC-appointed acting Jathedar of Akal Takht Sahib, today asked the Indian government to demonstrate generosity like its counterpart in Pakistan by reopening the corridor which is closed for the last eight-month from the Indian side.

While Pakistan has already reopened the corridor, India is keeping it closed citing the COVID-19 outbreak.

Reacting to this, the acting Jathedar said, “When all the religious places have been reopened, no reason stands behind not reopening the corridor. Pakistan reopened it showing open-heartedness. India should also do so at the earliest possible.”

“The corridor is proving to be a milestone to ensure peace in the Asian region. People of both India and Pakistan aspire for peace.

But to my mind, internal politics in both countries become a hurdle in this way. It should not be done. If both the countries really like to ensure peace, the Kartarpur corridor is a better alternative for them”.

He said, “The devotees are desperate to visit the final resting place of Guru Nanak Sahib.

So, the Indian government should lift restrictions over the corridor. Not only Sikhs, but followers of other religions in India are also willing to visit Kartarpur Sahib.

It has become necessary as Guru Nanak Sahib’s birth anniversary is coming closer”.

“Thanks to Indian media – distrust is prevailing between people of both countries. When they will get together at the gurdwara Sahib, the distrust will be over”, he said.

He divulged that “Pakistan government has proposed to build a highway from Kartarpur Sahib to Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak so that the pilgrims visiting Kartarpur Sahib can also pay obeisance at Nankana Sahib. If this project is finalized, it will be another good step for us”.

Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib is the last resting place of Guru Nanak Sahib, and situated in Pakistan. The corridor provides His followers in Indian Union a visa-free access to this holy place, land of which was tilled by Guru Sahib for His last 18 years.

A long-pending demand of the Sikh community living in the Indian Union, the corridor was opened on 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Sahib last year by Pakistan in agreement with India.

This is a trans-border link between the gurdwara and another historic Sikh town Dera Baba Nanak, which is situated along the border in the state of Punjab.

The Home Ministry of India had suspended the pilgrimage through the corridor from 16 March this year. On the other hand, all the worship places including Kartarpur Sahib had been closed to the public in Pakistan as well due to the outbreak.

After more than three months, the Pakistan government offered to reopen the corridor on 29 June 2020, on the occasion of the death anniversary of Sikh ruler Maharaja Ranjit Singh. On 01 October Pakistan issued a formal notification to reopen the corridor from its side.

However, the Indian government is adamant to keep the pilgrimage suspended citing Covid-19 protocol, despite it allowed to reopen the worship places in the country several weeks ago.