– 414th Establishment Anniversary of Sri Akal Takht Sahib Celebrated

Sikh24 Editors

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 01 July 2020. The 414th establishment anniversary of supreme Sikh throne Sri Akal Takht Sahib was today celebrated ardently by the Sikh sangat at Sri Akal Takht Sahib’s premises.

A religious program was held on this occasion in which a Hazoori Raagi Jatha performed Gurbani Kirtan following the culmination of Sri Akhand Path Sahib.

Speaking on this occasion, SGPC appointed acting Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh directed the Sikh masses to guard the Sikh tenets, customs, and traditions while remaining vigilant about the attacks being carried out on Sikhism via social media.

Pained over the misuse of social media by some discouraging and malicious elements for instigating controversies among Sikhs, Giani Harpreet Singh has directed the Sikh youths to vigilantly use social media and promote only encouraging posts about Sikhism.

“We need to unite together as it’s mandatory in the current scenario to counter the emerging challenges in front of us,” he added.

Giani Raghbir Singh, the SGPC appointed Jathedar of Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib, shed light on the history of supreme Sikh throne Sri Akal Takht Sahib.

Akal Takht means the throne of the immortal and is the highest political institution of the Sikhs. “Akal” means “The Timeless One”, another term for God. “Takht” means “throne” in Persian.

The Akal Takht is an impressive building that sits directly in front of the causeway leading to the Harmandr Sahib in Amritsar.

The Akal Takht was founded by Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji in 1606 and was established as the place from which the spiritual and temporal concerns of the Sikh community could be acted upon.

It stood as a symbol of political bulwark against the Mughal Emperors in the 17th and 18th centuries. Various attacks on the Akal Takht and Sri Harmandr Sahib have been led in the past by Ahmed Shah Abdali and Massa Rangarh in the 18th century.

On June 4, 1984, the Indian Army did more than just damage the outer facade of the Akal Takht, they destroyed the sanctity of the Akal Takht with tanks and reduced it to rubble, while attempting to take out Sikh militants in a controversial military operation known as Operation Bluestar.

The Tribune – Help pilgrims return home: Akal Takht to government

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 18 April 2020. Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh has asked the Centre and state governments to facilitate the transportation of about 4,000 pilgrims stranded at Hazoor Sahib in Nanded, Maharashtra, and nearly 90 Sikh pilgrims stranded in Indore, Madhya Pradesh.

All hail from Punjab.

They had gone to pay obeisance at the Nanded gurdwara when the nationwide lockdown was enforced to prevent the spread of Covid-19. When no help from the authorities, some of the pilgrims started their journey back home and they managed to reach Indore.

Some of the pilgrims approached the office of the Akal Takht Secretariat, seeking Jathedar’s intervention.

The Jathedar said the stranded pilgrims had no shelter over their heads, while food was in short supply. He called upon the Centre and state governments to act fast on moral grounds and help the pilgrims return home.

The Indian Express – A Baisakhi amid curfew, with a handful of devotees

Mindful of the directive of the Akal Takht, the supreme temporal body of Sikhs, to keep away from gurdwaras to avoid infection from COVID-19 and to pray at home, just a few Sikh devotees could be seen at the gurdwara.

Man Aman Singh Chhina, Jagdeep Singh Deep, Kamaldeep Singh Brar

Amritsar/Anandpur Sahib – Panjab – India, 14 April 2020. Gurdwara Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib, which usually teems with thousands of devotees each year on this day, was virtually empty with just a handful of them present at the historic gurdwara to mark Baisakhi, the day the Tenth Sikh master, Guru Gobind Singh, established the Khalsa Panth at this historic place in 1699.

Mindful of the directive of the Akal Takht, the supreme temporal body of Sikhs, to keep away from gurdwaras to avoid infection from COVID-19 and to pray at home, just a few Sikh devotees could be seen at the gurdwara.

A modest function was held in the inner courtyard of the historic place, presided upon by Giani Raghbir Singh, Jathedar of Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib, with around 50 devotees sitting in attendance. Another few devotees sat in the inner sanctum where the Guru Granth Sahib was placed and hymns were being sung in praise of Guru Gobind Singh.

The entire surrounding area of the gurdwara presented a surreal atmosphere with deserted streets, closed shops and huge empty spaces where langars (community kitchens) operate to feed the huge influx of devotees for Baisakhi.

Sikhs every year descend from all across Punjab in large numbers days in advance for the festival and there is an air of celebration. But there was an eerie silence Monday in place of the loud crowds punctuated now and then only by the soft ‘kirtan’ (prayer) of the Raagi Jatha (hymn singers) in the gurdwara.

Police checkposts marked all approaches to the city of Anandpur Sahib with barricades preventing any ingress of traffic.

Closer to the main gurdwara too there were policemen deputed with roads leading up to the gurdwara blocked. However, the policemen did not bother the trickle of local devotees going to pay obeisance. The numbers were too low.

Speaking to The Indian Express inside the gurdwara, the Jathedar of Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib, Giani Raghbir Singh, said that though it was painful to see such low presence of devotees it was necessary because it saves lives.

“One does feel sad seeing that a place which throngs with crowds on Baisakhi is virtually empty today. But I am happy that Sikhs, not only in India, across the world, have adhered to the call given by the Akal Takht to pray at home.

Crowds will always come to gurdwaras in future, but right now it is necessary to undertake all those measures which will stop this pandemic from spreading,” he said.

Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) member Amarjeet Singh Chawla, also present at the gurdwara, said that Akal Takht Jathedar had appealed to the devotees to stay home, so on this Baisakhi negligible number of people have visited Anandpur Sahib.

“Painful as it is to see such few devotees at the birthplace of Khalsa, but since it was the call of Akal Takht Sahib Jathedar so everybody must adhere to it,” he said.

A devotee present at the gurdwara, Jagir Singh, said that he had come to the gurdwara in early March from Uttarakhand for Hola Mohalla celebrations and had to stay back due to the lockdown.

“I have been coming to Anandpur Sahib for the past 40 years, but it is the first time that you can count the devotees on fingers. These are tough times but people must follow the instructions,” he said.

At the deserted parking lot, Gursahib Singh, an SGPC employee, said he had never seen such low crowds at the historic gurdwara on Baisakhi. “Par rab meher karega. Sab chheti theek ho jaayega. Guru Maharaj kirpa karange (But God will shower his blessings. All will be fine soon. The Guru will bless).”

‘How can a community be targeted for an act of an individual?’

Addressing the masses through social media on the occasion of Baisakhi, Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh on Monday said there had been attempts to blame the Sikh and Muslim communities for the spread of the coronavirus.

He was speaking from the Takht Damdama Sahib Talwandi Sabo in Bathinda.

Touching upon the Sunday incident in Patiala, where a group of five men from the Nihang sect chopped off the hand of an assistant sub-inspector after being asked to show curfew passes at a lockdown barricade, the Jathedar said, “There was an unfortunate incident in Patiala yesterday.

We also felt pain. We can’t appropriate such incidents. But it was used as an opportunity by those who have hatred for Sikhs. The whole community was targeted for the act of an individual.”

He further said, “There are different yardsticks for different kinds of people. This is the irony. Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus are treated differently for same the kind of crime.

What is the reason behind this different explanation of crime depending upon the religion of the accused? Any individual responsible for the crime should be punished. But the whole community can’t be held responsible for the same.”

Speaking about the Tablighi Jamaat incident in Delhi, he said, “How can the whole Muslim community be held responsible for a gathering in Delhi where some devotees were found positive for COVID-19? Similarly, there were attempts to blame the whole Sikh community when a Sikh priest, Baldev Singh, was found positive.”

Baldev Singh from Shahid Bhagat Singh Nagar was the first COVID-19 patient to have died in Punjab.

On the lockdown, he said, “I read a piece of news about how a one-year-old girl in Ludhiana died because she couldn’t get treatment due to lockdown. The system should take responsibility for her death.”

Reacting to incidents of cremations of COVID-19 patients being opposed by local residents fearing infection, he said, “We shouldn’t let our humanity die in these testing times.

How can you ask doctors and nurses to treat COVID-19 patients when you yourself are not allowing cremation of COVID-19 patients? It shouldn’t happen. We should help each other in crisis. No one should be discriminated against.”

The Jathedar also asked the community to prepare for the possibility of a post-COVID-19 economic recession, and asked Sikhs to remain at home during the Foundation Day of Khalsa and the Baisakhi festival due to the lockdown.

The Tribune – Avoid Baisakhi gatherings: Randhawa

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 02 April 2020. Cooperation and Jails Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa has appealed to Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh to give a message to the Sikh community to not to congregate on the occasion of Baisakhi.

He said keeping social distance was the only way to combat the virus. “As you are aware of the grave crisis, it would be advisable to avoid vast gatherings of Sikhs in gurdwaras,” he urged the Jathedar. – Sikh delegation seeks Akal Takht’s intervention to end monopoly over telecast of Gurbani from Sri Darbar Sahib

Sikh24 Editors

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 15 February 2020. On 14 February, a Sikh delegation headed by Punjab cabinet minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa met officiating Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh to ask him to intervene for ending single firm’s monopoly over live telecast of Gurbani from sanctum sanctorum Sri Harmandir Sahib.

The delegation sought availability of signal to all channels within the framework of the guidelines while citing the universal nature of Gurbani.

The delegation told Akal Takht Jathedar that it was necessary to take Guru Sahib’s message to every corner of the world free of cost rather than making it a source of money. “We shouldn’t treat Gurbani as a commodity for trading,” said the delegation.

Interacting with media, Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa informed that the Akal Takht Jathedar has patiently listened to their demand while assuring them to look into the matter.

It may be recalled here that the Congress led Punjab government had adopted a resolution on 06 November last year in this regard.

The Indian Express – Feeling of insecurity among minorities: Akal Takht Jathedar

The Jathedar assured the delegation that Sikhs were with Muslims in efforts to maintain communal harmony in the country.

Kamaldeep Singh Brar

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 14 February 2020. A delegation led by chairman of the Delhi Minority Commission, Zafarul Islam Khan, met Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh at his office in Amritsar on Thursday to seek the support of the Sikh community against the alleged attempts to divide the country on religious lines.

The Jathedar assured the delegation that Sikhs were with Muslims in efforts to maintain communal harmony in the country.

“Muslim leaders have come to Akal Takht Sahib today and they have discussed the state of affairs in country. They have described how there is sentiment of fear among the minorities in country.

I too told them that indeed there is a feeling of insecurity among minorities. If Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists have same duties towards the country, then they must have equal rights also.

It cannot be that everyone has to follow the duties and when it comes to rights then one community has it, but others don’t,” said Akal Takht Jathedar who had earlier welcomed Citizenship Amendment Act with a rider that Muslims must be included in it.

He added that while he appreciated the efforts of the Muslim delegation to meet Sikh leaders, but at the same time, they should also “meet Hindu leaders and discuss the issues in same way as they discussed with me”.

“There are many factions among Hindus who don’t like what is going in country just like Sikhs, Muslims, Jains and tribals. We can hope that all will come on one stage to discuss the problem to maintain the communal harmony and peace in India,” the Jathedar said.

On the support sought by the delegation, the Jathedar said, “Sikhs are bound by their principles to stand for the victim. Sikhs have always stood against the injustice. So, we as Sikhs are with them.

A Muslim group had come to Akal Takht earlier too with request that all communities should come on same stage to tackle the current situation and sentiment of fear and insecurity among minorities as it is not good for country.”

Khan, who heads the Delhi Minority Commission, said, “We have come here to gain their support against the attempt of making India a one-religion nation. We have been told by Akal Takht Jathedar that Sikhs have always stood with the victims. They have given us hope.”

Bhindranwale a Sikh martyr

Reacting to a statement by Congress MP Ravneet Singh Bittu that Sikh militant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale was a terrorist, Akal Takht Jathedar said, “It does not matter what one person is saying about Bhindranwale. He is great Sikh martyr of the 20th century and will always remain so.”