The Tribune – Board outside Takht raises eyebrows

GS Paul, Tribune News Service

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 18 April 2019. A yellow board outside Akal Takht has provoked curiosity in devotees. It proclaims that except for ‘patits’ (Sikhs with shorn hair) and those awarded ‘tankhah‘ (ex-communicated), anyone, irrespective of religion, can offer ‘ardas’ at the Takht. This norm is not new. The question is what has prompted its reiteration.

It is learnt that there was a board at Akal Takht prior to 1984 which went missing after Operation Bluestar. Akal Takht acting Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh could not be contacted, despite several attempts. His PA Jaswinder Singh said the board had been installed recently with identical ones at Takht Damdama Sahib and Takht Kesgarh Sahib too.

As per the Sikh Rehat Maryada, only an amritdhari (baptised Sikh) can enter the hallowed Takht enclosure. However, “ardas (prayer)” on behalf of any Sikh, except a tankhaiya, and non-Sikh can be offered at the Takht.

Only Gursikhs can be summoned for religious misconduct. In 2014, Cabinet Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu was accused of distorting ‘Gurbani’. It was demanded that he be summoned by the Takht. Since Sidhu was not a Gursikh, this was not done.

SGPC president Gobind Singh Longowal said he had been away for the past two days and didn’t know about the new board. Golden Temple manager Jaswinder Singh Deenpur also expressed ignorance.

“There used to be a board there earlier, but it must have been worn out and replaced with a new one. It is a known fact that prayers can be performed on behalf of non-Sikhs,” he added.

Former Takht Jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh could not recall if there was any such board before. “The Sikh Rehat maryada does not bar non-Sikhs from performing ‘ardas’. But I have observed that non-Sikhs are hesitant to perform ‘ardas’ at Akal Takht”, he said.

The Tribune – Won’t visit deras for support, say Taksalis

Sekhwan denies rift within party

Tribune News Service

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 04 April 2019. Akali Dal (Taksali) president and Khadoor Sahib MP Ranjit Singh Brahmpura and senior vice-president Ratan Singh Ajnala today said their party would never go to deras to seek support.

“The Captain Amarinder Singh government has failed to show any result on ground and so he and his party men are approaching deras to seek support. But we shall rather go to the public to seek their support,” party leader Sewa Singh Sekhwan said.

Criticising former CM Parkash Singh Badal for “not listening to him” on the party platform, Brahmpura said he had tried his best to make Badal aware of the sharp decline in the party graph, but he did not listen to him.

He alleged that instead of working for public welfare by implementing schemes, both Badals and the Congress believed in dera politics.

Brahmpura also clarified that there was no change in the three candidates already fielded by the party, Bir Devinder Singh (Anandpur Sahib), Rajdev Singh Khalsa (Sangrur) and General J J Singh (Khadoor Sahib).

Sekhwan meanwhile refuted the reports of his differences with the party. Addressing a press conference, he said, “There is no truth in rumors spread by some mischievous elements on social media about my differences with the senior leadership of the party.”

The Tribune – In neglect, Jallianwala Bagh to be spruced up post centenary

G S Paul, Tribune News Service

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 02 April 2019. Even as the Centre and the state government are gearing up to observe the centenary of Jallianwala Bagh massacre, the plan to revamp the dilapidated infrastructure of the historic spot is yet to see the light.

In the presence of Vice President Vankaiah Naidu, homage will be paid to martyrs on April 13 in an hour-long programme of the Centre. A candle march will be carried out a day before.

While the dusty paths and heaps of garbage point towards lack of maintenance, the light and sound show with Amitabh Bachchan’s voiceover of the massacre episode has been lying defunct for more than four years.

Similarly, the 18-minute documentary, which was shown through a projector daily in seven shows at a 50-seat hall at the park, too has been discontinued.

The century-old structures that share boundary wall with Jallianwala Bagh are on the verge of collapse.

MP Shwait Malik, who is also one of the members of Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Trust, admitted the delay in sprucing up the memorial. He said, “It shows a lapse on the part of the Congressmen who ran the Trust for decades. We became members in May last year and furnished the tenders to renovate the memorial.”

Malik said a plan had been conceptualised to overhaul the infrastructure. Tenders worth Rs 19.36 crore have been furnished and would be finalised on April 10 for the first phase of the project.

There is also a proposal to fix a dome-shaped unbreakable glass or see-through fibre canopy over the outer area of the martyrs’ well to offer a better view inside the well from where 120 bodies were recovered.

“A new light and sound show will be installed. We have planned to keep the memorial open till 9 pm. In the second phase, we have planned to acquire public properties around it to transform the surrounds as a ‘galliara’,” he said. About the centenary preparations, Malik said a commemorative postal stamp and a coin would be released on the occasion.

ASI team at memorial

A team from the Archaeological Survey of India, led by Director General Usha Sharma, besides BSF IG Mahipal Yadav, BSF DiG JS Oberoi, DC Shiv Dular Singh Dhillon and other officials on Tuesday visited the memorial to take stock of the preparations.

“The ASI team visited the memorial for renovation. From state’s side, only two programmes have been approved by the EC, which included wreath laying ceremony by the CM. On April 12, a candle march will be carried out from Jallianwala to the Town Hall,” the DC said.

The Tribune – Tarn Taran’s Darshani Deori – Second such attempt

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 31 March 2019. The SGPC action of suspending Darbar Sahib manager Partap Singh and withdrawing kar sewa responsibilities from the Jagtar Singh-led group that started dismantling “Darshani Deori” in Tarn Taran on Saturday night, has failed to impress the Sikh sangat.

It is doubting the intention of the SGPC as it is not the first time that the demolition has been attempted.
On September 16, 2018, too, the sangat had prevented the demolition of this “deori”.

At that time too, the Jagtar Singh-led kar sewa group, “armed with the permission of the SGPC”, was in the process to begin its demolition when the sangat objected to the move. At that point, senior SGPC officials had halted the process.

The SGPC in its resolution dated 01 June 2018, had recommended the re-construction of the deori as its condition was dilapidated. However, Roop Singh, chief secretary, SGPC, claimed that the demolition bid was a conspiracy to malign the image of the committee.

Morning Star – Cover-up at the Golden Temple (Harmandr Sahib)?

Information Commissioner’s anonymity order could hide Britain’s role in 1984 bloodshed

Amritsar – Panjab – India, The identities of civil servants who investigated British involvement in India’s Golden Temple massacre will remain secret, despite concerns that they could have potentially tampered with key evidence.

An anonymity order from the Information Commissioner means the government will not have to admit whether top officials active during the massacre were later allowed to control what files investigators saw.

The commissioner made the ruling after Whitehall claimed its staff could be targeted on social media which “may cause them distress.”

Indian troops shelled the Golden Temple in Amritsar in 1984, in a military operation against Sikh dissidents who were occupying their faith’s holiest site.

Hundreds if not thousands of Sikh pilgrims perished in the cross-fire.

In 2014, newly declassified British government files revealed that Margaret Thatcher had sent an SAS officer to advise Indian commanders how to raid the temple just months before the operation unfolded.

The revelation caused outrage among British Sikhs and then-prime minister David Cameron immediately launched a review, although he stopped short of ordering a full public inquiry.

Mr Cameron’s in-house review was conducted at breakneck speed by a Cabinet Office team and absolved the British military of any wrongdoing.

His probe claimed that the SAS role was “limited” and the officer’s advice was not heeded.

Sikh groups branded the review a “whitewash” and it later emerged that the Cabinet Office had not been given access to a crucial special forces file.

Concerns escalated further when Whitehall admitted in 2017 that it had allowed retired diplomats to select what files the Cabinet Office team saw.

The government then refused to rule out whether these ex-diplomats included a man called Bruce Cleghorn.

Just before the massacre Mr Cleghorn wrote a secret Foreign Office memo in 1984 about “the threat of Sikh terrorism,” warning: “It would be dangerous if Her Majesty’s Government were to become identified, in the minds of Sikhs in the UK, with some more determined action by the Indian government, in particular any attempt to storm the Golden Temple in Amritsar.”

Mr Cleghorn later went on to become a British ambassador before taking on a more low profile role at the Foreign Office as a “sensitivity reviewer,” vetting the department’s old files before they are released to the National Archives.

He was working in this sensitivity reviewer role in 2014 when the prime minister ordered the probe. The Foreign Office has confirmed that its sensitivity reviewers were tasked with selecting files for the PM’s probe.

However, the department has refused to answer a freedom of information request by the Morning Star which asked if Mr Cleghorn himself was allowed to select files.

The Foreign Office told the Information Commissioner that the probe was “a significant and emotive issue for the Sikh community and if the identity of the sensitivity reviewers involved in the review were released then this could lead to significant activity on social media that could lead to them receiving attention that may cause them distress.”

In making her decision, Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said “even the perception of a possible conflict of interest adds weight to the argument” that the Foreign Office should reveal who took part in the review.

However, the Commissioner ultimately concluded that Mr Cleghorn’s right to privacy outweighed the public interest in knowing whether the probe’s integrity was tainted.

The decision has outraged Slough Labour MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi.

He told the Morning Star: “There seems to be a serious conflict of interest at the heart of the review into the British government’s involvement with the 1984 massacre at Sri Harmandar Sahib Amritsar.

“Given the enormous loss of life, there is overwhelming public interest in ensuring the government conducts the most transparent investigation.

“To ensure justice, I reiterate the demand for an independent inquiry, which I’m proud to say the Labour Party manifesto called for in 2017.”

The Tribune – Management board of Takht Patna Sahib – Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Commission

Board meet of Patna Sahib Takht on controversial Jathedar today

Tribune News Service

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 04 March 2019. The management board of Takht Patna Sahib may take a significant decision pertaining to controversial Takht Jathedar Giani Iqbal Singh in its meeting scheduled for March 5.

Giani Iqbal Singh had withdrawn his resignation hours after submitting it to the general secretary of the board, M S Dhillon, and continued to perform his duty as Jathedar of the Takht.

While the seven-member committee, constituted by Akal Takht to probe allegations levelled against Giani Iqbal Singh has submitted its report, it was being viewed that this could be the base to initiate any move by the board.

It has been learnt that the three members of the committee had gone to Patna to record Giani Iqbal Singh’s statement over the charges against him, yet the latter refused to comment while asserting that he had already quit the position.

Sirsa likely to be new president of DSGMC

Syed Ali Ahmed, Tribune News Service

New Delhi – India, 04 March 2019. The Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee’s (DSGMC) executive board members election is to be held on 09 March and Manjinder Singh Sirsa, who has been serving the committee as general secretary for the past six years, is likely to be elected as president.

He will be the first Jat DSGMC president in the history of the Delhi Gurdwara Act, sources said.

Sirsa, who is BJP MLA from Rajouri Garden, is also national spokesperson for the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) and considered to be close to the party high command, Sukhbir Singh Badal, sources said.

According to the sources, he has created history by defeating SADD president Paramjit Singh Sarna, former president of the DSGMC twice. He gained popularity by helping people in his assembly as well as his DSGMC ward Punjabi Bagh.

Senior leaders in the Delhi unit of the SAD are of the opinion that Sirsa’s quality is that he never lingers the work. He helps everybody without giving second thought. Another thing that moves round-the-corner that if he is elected president financial condition of the DSGMC will be improved much.

Now the question before the committee members is who will be general secretary of the committee. A rumour moves round-the-corner that Harmeet Singh Kalka is likely to be elected as general secretary. During previous tenure he was vice-president, the sources said.

At present, Kalka is serving the committee as working president.

The Tribune – Takht Patna Sahib Jathedar Giani Iqbal Singh submits resignation

G S Paul, Tribune News Service

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 03 March 2019. Takht Patna Sahib Jathedar Giani Iqbal Singh, who faced controversy due to his marital ties recently, has submitted his resignation to Takht Patna Sahib Management Board head Avtar Singh Hit.

Several complaints pertaining to his behaviour and marital status had been received from various Sikh organisations.

On Friday, Akal Takht’s acting Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh had constituted a seven-member committee to probe allegations levelled against Giani Iqbal Singh.

Reacently, Giani Iqbal Singh’s son Gurparsad Singh, whose video clip showing him smoking and consuming alcohol had gone viral, was dismissed from service. He was working as accountant at Takht Patna Sahib.

The Indian Express – Panjab: Flight operations in Amritsar hit, farmers not allowed in fields across border fence

Flights operations were declared as ‘resumed’ in the afternoon, but on the ground the last flight that take off from Amritsar was of an Air India flight for Delhi at 11 am, and after that no flight landed or took off from Amritsar through the day.

Kamaldeep Singh Brar

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 28 February 2019. Commercial operations at Sri Guru Ramdas Amritsar airport were suspended Wednesday morning causing inconvenience to a lot of passengers who came to know about cancellation of their flights after reaching the airport.

Total 26 flights were affected at Amritsar airport due to suspension of flights. Flights operations were declared as ‘resumed’ in the afternoon, but on the ground the last flight that take off from Amritsar was of an Air India flight for Delhi at 11 am, and after that no flight landed or took off from Amritsar through the day.

“Most international flights come to Amritsar after crossing Pakistan airspace and that airspace is closed for now. So flights have to re-route and it is delaying operations at airport,” said an official.

A flight from Tashkent to Amritsar, scheduled to reach Amritsar airport at 10:30 pm Wednesday, was to be first ground operation after the resumption of flights.

The BSF and Army, police and other security forces remained on high alert in the border belt comprising Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Pathankot and Tarn Taran.

The Delhi-Lahore Bus between India and Pakistan stuck to its schedule, even as trade was affected on the Integrated Check Post Attari due to the recent sanctions imposed by Centre. Officially, however, trade was not closed on Wednesday.

At the Wagha border, the retreat ceremony was also held in routine manner by BSF and Pakistan Rangers.
“There was no affect on retreat ceremony. Visitors were allowed like other days,” said a BSF official.

Meanwhile, farmers were not allowed to visit their field across the fencing on second day in row. An announcement was also made in some Tarn Taran villages for the farmers against approaching entry gates to seek permission to visit their fields.

An DIG-level BSF officer said, “We have eyeball to eyeball contact with the Pakistan army, which is standing on the other side. We have not been taking any risk at this moment and we have not allowed farmers to visit their fields yet.

We had a meeting with civil administration yesterday and they are ready with a plan in case we are required to evacuate villagers living on the border. So far we do not need evacuation so there is no need to spread the panic.”

Punjab Police also increased security on the border with Jammu in Pathankot.

“There is no panic among the people so far. People are curious, but they are not afraid,” a security official said.

The Tribune – Jallianwala: ‘Khooni Vaisakhi’ to be published in English, Panjabi

Neha Saini, Tribune news service

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 23 February 2019. Indian diplomat Navdeep Singh Suri, who is translating his grandfather and noted Punjabi novelist Nanak Singh’s poetry on the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in English, says that the work was protest poetry at its best. He said his effort would be to recreate the views of his grandfather precisely.

“It’s not just a piece of poetry but also a work of contemporary history. The manner in which he narrated the massacre and the run-up to the massacre, protests against the Rowlatt Act and role of nationalist leaders Saifuddin Kitchlew and Satyapal, it all needs to be told exactly like it was ought to,” said Suri, while speaking at an event at Majha House.

Suri is the Indian Ambassador to the UAE and was born in Amritsar. He said the book would be published in two formats, “I have been working on the English translation while the Punjabi version is being done by my father Kulwant Singh Suri. Both books will come out on April 13, marking 100 years of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.”

Nanak Singh was a survivor of Jallianwala Bagh tragedy and as a 22-year-old, he witnessed the massacre with all its gory details. “My grandfather had fainted after witnessing the massacre. Later, he wrote the book ‘Khooni Vaisakhi’ that was a scathing piece of poetry and was banned after it got published in 1920.

The powerful message that comes through his poetry is the spirit of unity among Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims in Amritsar at that time and what the British did to break that. The poem presents a very heartbreaking account of the incident. At the same time, it evokes the feeling of nationalism,” said Suri.

He added that some additional content would be added to the translated work in context to the poem. An essay written by Suri titled ”The book, bagh and bauji”, in which he narrates personal account of history seen through Nanak Singh’s works and a letter written by Justin Rowlatt, the great grandson of Sir Sidney Arthur Taylor Rowlatt, who drafted the Rowlatt Act, will also be added.

“The letter gives an account of Justin Rowlatt’s experience of visiting the Jallianwala Bagh and his shared legacy of the incident,” said Suri.

The Tribune – Will build gurdwara in Baku: Longowal

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 11 February 2019. The Indian Embassy in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku organised a special programme dedicated to the 550th anniversary of Guru Nanak, which was attended by SGPC president Gobind Singh Longowal on Sunday.

Longowal said with the support of the local government and devotees, efforts would be made to build a gurdwara dedicated to Guru Nanak at Baku. He said embassy officials had assured to take up the matter with the officials concerned to pave the way for providing requisite land for the gurdwara.

Are there sufficient Sikhs living in Baku to maintain the Gurdwara ? Is this to be a RSS Gurdwara maintained by the Modi sarkar ? Are there any historical connections between Sikhs and Azerbaijan ?
Man in Blue