The Tribune – UK gurdwara vandalised, Takht wants action

Akal Takht and the SGPC have condemned the vandalism of Guru Arjan Dev Jee Gurdwara in Derby, UK, on Monday a day before the martyrdom day of the Guru.

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 26 May 2020. The UK police have arrested a man believed to be a Pakistani. It has been learnt that the man had posted a message seeking support on the Kashmir issue and caused damage worth thousands of pounds.

Akal Takht officiating Jathedar Giani Hapreet Singh demanded the UK Government to ensure the safety of gurdwaras and Sikh citizens. “Like other gurdwaras across the world, the one in Derby is providing the needy with langar and other relief material in times of the Covid pandemic.

It is beyond my understanding why Sikhs are being targeted,” he said.

The Indian Express – Devotees use four entrances at Golden Temple [Harmandr Sahib], Health Department says aware of only one

After the lifting of the curfew, devotees have been thronging to the holy shrine again. While social distancing is advised, it is not strictly imposed and further it is not common practice among devotees to cover their faces with masks inside.

Kamaldeep Singh Brar

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 23 May 2020. While four entrances are open for all devotees to enter the premises of the Golden Temple, the state Health Department has been screening devotees only at one. In fact, the Health department has even claimed that it is not aware that devotees have been using any other entrance except the one manned by it.

Nodel Officer for Golden Temple [Harmandr Sahib] and SMO, Mannawala, Dr Nirmal Singh said: “It is not in my knowledge that four entrances are open for the devotees. SGPC hasn’t informed me about it. Our team has been screening devotees at the Plaza entrance.

Sometimes we single out suspected persons who are weak for proper investigation. We have not kept count of number of devotees screened since the corona-virus outbreak.” He added that a 10-member Health Department team is deployed at Harmandr Sahib.

However, SGPC chief secretary Roop Singh said, “Our responsibility is inside the Harmandr Sahib. How the devotees enter the premises and from where they should enter, it is all related to administration and Health Department.”

He added: “We had made it very clear that we cannot stop devotees. We cannot close entrance to the Harmandr Sahib in any way. It is not possible. Administration had imposed curfew in the city. When curfew was imposed strictly, then very few devotees were coming because roads leading to Harmandr Sahib were closed.

We have been taking all the precautions inside the Golden Temple. It is for the administration to decide which path they have to open for the devotees to reach the Golden Temple. Roads belong to administration and they can decide which road to open and which one to close. Devotees will obviously use any open road to reach Harmandr Sahib.”

The Health Department has setup a canopy at the Plaza entrance, however, very small number of devotees have been entering from this side.

Most of the devotees have been entering from the community kitchen [langar] entrance, Akal Takht secretariat entrance and from Darshan Deori just opposite the Akal Takht secretariat entrance.

At all four entrances, SGPC employees are deployed to make devotees sanitise their hands.

At the community kitchen entrance, a “donated” sanitisation tunnel has been placed and SGPC workers along police personnel man this side.

“We try to control the devotees. Sometimes we ask people in queue to wait so that devotees already inside premises can leave and make space for them. We make attempt to control the number of devotees inside the premises,” said an SGPC official.

After the lifting of the curfew, devotees have been thronging to the holy shrine again. While social distancing is advised, it is not strictly imposed and further it is not common practice among devotees to cover their faces with masks inside.

SMO Nirmal Singh added: “Devotees are not in the habit of wearing masks inside the premises. I have observed that many devotees have an issue with wearing masks after entering inside. Maybe, it has to do something with devotion. We don’t know. We haven’t discussed this issue at any meeting.”

An SGPC official added: “We ask all devotees to maintain social distancing and cover their faces with masks. But you cannot force a devotee to do a particular thing inside the Harmandr Sahib premises.

Even outside the Harmandr Sahib, people have been in roaming without masks in the main markets of city. Government should make people strictly wear masks everywhere and then its impact will also be there inside Golden Temple.”

On devotees not wearing masks inside Harmandr Sahib premises, Roop Singh said: “Our employees repeatedly ask people to cover their faces and most of the devotees do cover their faces.”

Amritsar Civil Surgeon Jugal Kishore didn’t respond to repeated calls. Amritsar Deputy commissioner also could not be reached over the issue.

Hindustan Times – Devotees offer more wheat to Golden Temple (Harmandr Sahib) langar

The community kitchen [langar], serving meals to the needy, receives double quantity of wheat offering this year as compared to last year

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 23 May 2020. “We have never received such a large quantity of wheat crop earlier from the villagers during the rabi season at Sri Guru Ram Das Langar (community kitchen of Harmandr Sahib) which is witnessing huge heaps of wheat bags offered by the sangat (community) from various parts of Punjab, with the grace of Guru Sahib”.

This was observation of one of the regular volunteers who serves the devotees in the langar, considered as the largest community kitchen in the world offering free food round-the-clock daily to the needy people.

Amid Covid-19 pandemic when many people have become jobless due to the lock-down, the Harmandr Sahib langar has been feeding a large number of people, including stranded migrant workers.

On the other hand, collection of money offered by devotees has witnessed a drastic dip due to lock-down when very few devotees are able to pay obeisance at the holiest Sikh shrine.

The dip in collection had worried the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) as a sizeable portion of it is spent on serving langar (free food). However, the unprecedented response given by the devotees in the form of wheat and other grocery items have lessened the SGPC’s worries.

“Ever since the harvesting season has ended, tractor-trailers, trucks and other vehicles, loaded with langar items, including wheat, are reaching the kitchen daily from the villages in large numbers,” said Sukhbir Singh, manager of the community kitchen.

“Wheat is the most consumed food item in the langar. Last year, around 34,000 quintal wheat flour was consumed in the langar and quantity of wheat grains offered by the sangat during the harvesting season last year was 13,000 quintals. However, nearly 26,000 quintal wheat has been offered by sangat so far this season. And the arrival is going on yet,” said SGPC chief secretary Roop Singh.

“Guru Ka Langar is run with the cooperation of sangat. As community kitchens of all gurdwaras are feeding the needy during the lockdown, the sangat is very enthusiastic to contribute to the service of humanity,” he added.

Kulbir Singh, granthi of a gurdwara in Dhadiala village of Hoshiarpur, who along with villagers came with 33 quintal wheat, said “In my living memory, residents of my village never brought so much wheat to the Harmandr Sahib. Actually, some youths of my village asked all farmers to devote at least one wheat bag in view of the pandemic”.

Captain Tarlok Singh (retd) of village Firoz Singh Wala in Kapurthala district and residents of Chak Allah Baksh village of Mukerian sub-division of Hoshiarpur also said that they have brought wheat and other grocery items for the first time. Jaswinder Singh of Chak Allah Baksh said they brought 500 quintal wheat from their village in the past few days.

Notably, after the record dip in money collection, SGPC chief Gobind Singh Longowal had appealed to the community to contribute to the kitchen to keep it running without any hassle.

The Tribune – Deported from the USA – 167 illegal immigrants reach Amritsar

Tribune News Service

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 20 May 2020. The US has deported 167 illegal Indian immigrants through a special flight that landed at the airport here around 4 pm on Tuesday.

On their arrival, they were shifted to a high-security area where medical teams screened each one of them. They had reports of rapid diagnostic test (Covid-19) conducted before boarding the plane in the US. As the protocol demands, all will be placed under the 14-day quarantine in their home districts.

Ajnala SDM Deepak Bhatia said, “The medical examination of the returnees is underway. So far, no suspected case of Covid-19 has surfaced.”

Of the 167 illegal immigrants, 79 are from Haryana, 67 from Punjab, eight from Gujarat, three each from Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, two each from Kerala and Telangana, and one each from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Goa.

The SDM said, “Of the 67 returnees from Punjab, five each belong to Amritsar and Tarn Taran. Besides, 21 others will stay in Amritsar temporarily before they will be sent to their native states. We are working on the modalities in this connection.”

Sources say the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has arrested 1,793 illegal Indian immigrants.

Most of them sneaked in to Texas, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Washington and Atlanta illegally through Mexico border illegally and sought asylum on the pretext of “atrocities and persecution” in India. They were, however, nabbed and lodged in 95 detention centres in New York, Atlanta and San Francisco.

The Hindustan Times – Prisoner being treated for Covid-19 escapes from Amritsar hospital

Asked policemen to open his handcuffs on the pretext of going to the toilet before breaking open the window and fleeing at 11pm on Monday

Mandeep Kaur Narula

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 12 May 2020. An inmate of the Amritsar Central Jail who was admitted in the isolation ward after he tested positive for Covid-19 escaped from the local Government Medical College and Hospital on Monday night, hospital authorities said on Tuesday.

“At 11pm on Monday, the Covid-19 positive patient, who was an under-trial, told the two policemen on duty that he wanted to go to the toilet. The policemen opened his handcuffs. The patient, however, escaped by breaking a window in the toilet.

When he didn’t come out for long, the policemen and hospital staff got suspicious and broke open the door to find that he had escaped,” said Dr Shiv Charan, the head of the medicine department at the hospital.

Police said the patient, Partap Singh, was jailed for carrying out a robbery in Tarn Taran district and was brought on production warrant by the Chatiwind police in connection with another murder case. He, however, tested positive for Covid-19 on Saturday and was admitted to the hospital.

Jaspal Singh, the station house officer of Majitha Road police station, said, “Police teams have been deployed and efforts are being made to catch the absconding patient.”

Hindustan Times – Religious event held at Amritsar police station, social distancing goes for a toss

The religious function organised on Saturday morning was attended by nearly 100 people, including women and elderly people

Anil Sharma

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 10 May 2020. A station house officer (SHO) organised an event on the premises of the Kot Khalsa police station in Amritsar, defying the social-distancing norms imposed in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak prohibiting gathering of more than 10 persons at religious or ceremonial functions.

The religious function organised on Saturday morning was attended by nearly 100 people, including women and elderly people.

A bhajan party was also called to sing religious hymns. In a video clip of the event, SHO Sanjeev Sharma is seen dancing to the tune of a bhajan with his fellow policemen some of who were not wearing masks.

Social distancing norms were not followed either. Assistant commissioner of police (ACP licencing) Narinder Singh was also present in the event that continued for around two-and-a-half hours, it is learnt.

Some workers of the Bharatiya Janta Party, Shiromani Akali Dal and Congress were also present on the occasion.

Additional deputy commissioner (ADC-general) Himanshu Aggarwal said religious functions are banned in Amritsar. “I can’t verify the video clip at this time but it shows social distancing was not followed. We will bring the matter to the notice of senior police officials,” he added.

SHO Sharma said the function was organised to distribute free ration to the needy. Whether he took permission for organising the event from the administration, he said, “I had informed my senior officials about it. Social distancing norms were followed.”

ACP Narinder Singh claimed, “I repeatedly appealed to people for maintaining social distancing,” he said.

Amritsar police commissioner Sukhchain Singh said he was not aware of the matter. “I will look into it,” he said.

The Tribune – Dr Navjot Kaur Sidhu to rescue of craftsmen

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 04 may 2020. A day after The Tribune highlighted the plight of the thathera community (utensil-makers) amid the Covid-19 lockdown, former legislator Dr Navjot Kaur Sidhu on Monday visited their locality in Jandiala Guru and distributed ration kits among nealy 200 families.

“After reading about the hardships being faced by them due to the lock-down, I decided to provide them with essentials,” she said.

The Indian Express – Seven Nanded pilgrims test positive at Punjab dera being used as quarantine centre where 52 were housed.

Amritsar district administration had quarantined 52 pilgrims at the Satsang Bhawan of Dera Beas at Attari.

Kamaldeep Singh Brar

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 02 May 2020. Panic gripped he local administration as three pilgrims who had returned from Nanded’s Hazoor Sahib tested positive at a quarantine centre in Attari, Amritsar, Thursday afternoon.

The district administration had quarantined 52 pilgrims at the Satsang Bhawan of Dera Beas at Attari. After three samples tested positive, the volunteers at the dera were called away, leaving the pilgrims to fend for themselves, thereby inevitably coming in contact with each other.

Though the SGPC had objected to the quarantining of pilgrims at deras, a district administration official said that deras were used for quarantine because they are located away from populated areas. The pilgrims were accommodated in a large shed which is otherwise used for religious congregation by followers of Dera Beas.

The Tribune – 300 pilgrims from Hazur Sahib on way back

The first batch of Sikh pilgrims stranded in Takht Sri Hazur Sahib, Nanded, have started their journey to Panjab.

Tribune News Service

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 24 April 2020. It is learnt that due to the combined efforts of the Centre and state government, around 300 pilgrims, belonging to Punjab, have started their journey. Hailing mostly from the Majha region, they were unable to return due to cancellation of trains.

According to officials, 10 buses left Nanded for Punjab, Haryana and Delhi. They are expected to reach their destinations by Saturday evening.

Union Minister of Food Processing Harsimrat Kaur Badal had approached Home Minister Amit Shah, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and NCP leader Sharad Pawar, seeking their intervention for helping around 2,000 pilgrims, belonging to Punjab, Haryana and Delhi, who were stranded at Nanded since the lockdown was imposed.

Similarly, Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh too spoke to Uddhav who assured all help in the matter.

Today, 10 buses were arranged to ferry 300 pilgrims while keeping social distancing factor in mind during the journey. Takht Jathedar Kulwant Singh saw them off by presenting them with siropas.

Taking to Twitter, Harsimrat wrote: “Delighted to see the efforts bearing fruit now. The first batch of pilgrims stranded in Sri Hazur Sahib, Nanded, has started its journey back home.

While wishing them all a safe journey, I sincerely thank Amit Shah, Uddhav Thackeray and Sharad Pawar for making it happen.”

Earlier, SGPC president Gobind Singh Longowal had also written to Amit Shah and the Punjab CM, requesting their intervention to ensure return of the pilgrims stranded at Nanded.

The Tribune – Finally, 41 Pakistan nationals return home via Attari border

Tribune News Service

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 16 April 2020. As many as 41 Pakistani nationals, who were stuck in India following the closure of border due to Covid-19 outbreak, returned via the Attari border on Thursday.

The Union Government is facilitating the repatriation of 180 Pakistani citizens stranded in different parts of Delhi, Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.

SAFMA activist Rajinder Singh Ruby said 263 Indian citizens too had been stranded in Pakistan, including many students. They have been asked to stay put in line with the government’s policy till some arrangement was made for their return, he said.

“We were in touch with several Sikh pilgrims who got stranded at Gurdwara Dehra Sahib in Lahore. They told that they had conveyed the Indian High Commission in Islamabad to help them reach India,” he said.

Meanwhile, all Pakistani nationals were screened as before they were allowed to cross over to Wagah. They would undergo self-isolation in Pakistan.

Showing gratitude towards India and Pakistan governments, Karachi resident Mohammad Hussain said, “We had gone to Mumbai on 08 March to attend Urs ritual. By the time of our return, the lockdown was imposed. We faced some difficulty, but it was acceptable given the situation.”

Nankana Sahib resident Bhupinder Singh said he had come on 22 February as a tourist with his family. “On returning home, I would be to pay obeisance at Gurdwara Janam Asthan, Nankana Sahib. Pakistan too should help Indian citizens return to their homes,” he said.