The Tribune – In a first, envoys from 85 countries pay obeisance at Golden Temple [Harmandr Sahib]

G S Paul, Tribune News Service

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 22 October 2019. For the first time, a delegation of Resident Foreign Heads of Missions from nearly 85 countries paid obeisance at the Golden Temple dedicated to 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.

Originally, 91 envoys, sans the participation of Pakistan and China, were part of this trip. The visit was initiated by Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) head Dr Vinay Sahasrabuddhe and led by Union Minister for Civil Aviation Hardeep Singh Puri. ICCR director general Akhilesh Mishra also accompanied them.

The high profile delegation reached the holy city through a chartered flight and was received by SGPC president Gobind Singh Longowal, MP Gurjeet Singh Aujla, Cabinet minister Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria, DC Shiv Dular Singh and Police Commissioner Sukhchain Singh Gill.

Puri said this programme with envoys from almost whole world to the Golden Temple together was a befitting mark of respect to Sri Guru Nanak Dev who spread the eternal universal message of peace and oneness of humanity.

“A history of the sort was in the making today with ambassadors of so many countries together paid obeisance at the Sanctum Sanctorum of this holiest Sikh Shrine.

I am thankful to ICCR head who made it possible at a short notice of three-four days. This programme was dedicated to 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev to give an opportunity to dignitaries about Sikh religion and culture,” he said.

Puri, when asked about absence of representatives of Pakistan and China, said, “Invitation was extended to diplomats of various countries, but some could not make it, might be, due to their prior commitments,” he said.

Pertaining to the Centre’s programmes chalked out for Guru Nanak Dev’s parkash purb, he told that the cabinet had approved various programmes recommended by a dedicated committee under leadership of Union minister Rajnath Singh on a 22 November 2018 meeting.

This includes series of programmes, which included the opening of corridor leading to Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib from Dera Baba Nanak on 09 November.

When questioned about Pakistan’s insistence of imposing entry fee of $20 for Indian pilgrims, he said though this subject was out of his jurisdiction, yet as a Sikh devotee, he believed, that there should be no entry fee to visit Sikh holy shrines where every task is executed with ‘sewa’ (volunteer service). “But, it was for the Pakistan to decide upon,” he said.

Nonetheless, the visiting dignitaries partook of ‘langar’ at Sri Guru Ram Dass Jee Hall while sitting on the floor with ‘sangat’ (congregation) and ‘pangat’ (in a same row) concept founded by Guru Nanak Dev.

SGPC honoured the visitors by presenting them with Golden Temple model and ‘siropa’ (robe of honour) and literature concerning philosophy and teachings of Guru Nanak Dev’s universal brotherhood and harmony.

Earlier on arrival at Sri Guru Ram Dass Jee Airport, they were welcomed with traditional Punjabi style on bhangra beats and gidha. As the delegation reached Dharam Singh Market, they covered the distance to Golden Temple on foot through heritage street.

Children from International Fateh Academy mesmerised them with their Gatka (Sikh traditional martial art) skills. The delegation also watched the 50-minute show at the interpretation centre at the basement of Golden Temple plaza, depicting the history of Golden Temple, Sikh principles, culture and Guru Granth Sahib ‘maryada’ (tenets).

SGPC president Gobind Singh Longowal told that all were overwhelmed with the spirituality and solace of the Shrine. “We had organised the programme in such a manner that they should all be well apprised about Sikh principles, religion and tenets. They were also thrilled sitting and eating together in the same row in Guru-ka-langar,” he said.

Later in the evening, DC Shiv Dular Singh apprised the visitors about Amritsar, Punjab and Invest Punjab programme, before they returned in the evening.

The Tribune – SGPC pins hopes on Amarinder for joint celebrations

Tribune News Service

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 08 October 2019. In an attempt to break the deadlock over joint celebrations of 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev at Sultanpur Lodhi on November 12, SGPC president Gobind Singh Longowal today appealed to Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh to follow in the footsteps of Dr Manmohan Singh.

Stating that he was personally pained by the manner in which the pious occasion was being politicised, Longowal emphasised that any move to commemorate the occasion should be held above the party lines.

Citing the example of religious occasions held in the past under the tutelage of the SGPC, he reminded Captain Amarinder’s participation in his capacity as the CM along with the then PM Dr Manmohan Singh during the 400th anniversary of Guru Granth Sahib installation programme held in Amritsar in 2004.

“The state and the Centre in the past have always been contributing and participating wholeheartedly in religious functions organised by the SGPC and I have every reason to believe that the CM will help in upholding this tradition during the 550th Gurpurb celebrations too.”

In 1999, during the 300th anniversary of the birth of Khalsa, the Congress was represented by its veteran leader Dr Karan Singh. Even outside Punjab in case of the 350th birth anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh in Patna, the Bihar Government had handed over the stage to the SGPC for three days and it was the latter that conducted the event as per ‘maryada’,” he pointed out.

He expressed his resentment by stating that despite repeated requests, the state government took long to finalise their representatives for coordination committee constituted as per directions of Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh.

“The two meeting held with state representatives on September 17 and October 4 could not yield any outcome as they required CM’s nod to come on any conclusion. Till date, there was no hearing from the CM’s side,” he said.

Longowal said lakhs of pilgrims would be visiting Gurdwara Ber Sahib in Sultanpur Lodhi on the occasion and the venue set by the SGPC was apt to accommodate them. “There is paucity of space in the gurdwara and that is why the stage was being put up at Guru Nanak Dev Stadium, situated just 100 m away from the gurdwara,” he added. – SGPC condemns racial remark against the turban of Khalsa Aid’s founder Ravi Singh at Vienna International Airport

Sikh24 Editors

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 21 August 2019. The apex Sikh body Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhik Committee has strongly condemned the racial comment made on the turban of Khalsa Aid’s founder Ravi Singh by a security woman deployed at Vienna International Airport in Austria.

SGPC president Gobind Singh Longowal has said that the Khalsa Aid has been serving the needy people all around the world without any partiality. “The volunteers of Khalsa Aid have been uplifting the name of Sikh religion by serving the people during natural and man-made disasters without any greed and partiality,” he added.

Longowal further said that racial remark against such a person, who always remain ready to help the humanity, is highly condemnable.

The SGPC has also asked the Indian government to rake up this issue with the government of Austria so that no one could make such a racial remark in the future.

SGPC condemns racial remark against the turban of Khalsa Aid’s founder Ravi Singh at Vienna International Airport

The Tribune – Visa denial upsets kin of Guru Nanak’s contemporary

Based in Pakistan, Rai Bular Bhatti’s descendants desire to visit Golden Temple (Harmandr Sahib)

G S Paul, Tribune News Service

Nankana Sahib – Panjab – Pakistan, 04 August 2019. The descendants of Rai Bular Bhatti, a 15th Century Muslim landlord of undivided Punjab and a disciple of Guru Nanak Dev, are a dejected lot for not getting fulfilled their desire to visit the Golden Temple. Their application for furnishing visa formalities was repeatedly rejected by the Indian authorities.

Rai Saleem Bhatti (41), a lawyer at Lahore High Court and the 19th generation of Rai Bular Bhatti, said till date the visa could not be procured for the reasons best known to the Indian authorities.

SGPC president Gobind Singh Longowal confirmed that the programme could not be held due to non-availability of Bhatti family. “We will take up the matter with the Union Home Department for facilitating visa to Bhatti’s descendants,” he said.

The Bhatti family, despite being devout Muslims, has kept alive their ancestral links with Sikhism for the past several generations.

Rai Saleem Bhatti and his 11-year-old son Rai Waleed Bhatti visited Gurdwara Janam Asthan in Nankana Sahib on the occasion of nagar kirtan dedicated to the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.

The family still continued the legacy by contributing in every way for the wellbeing of people living in the area. The 16th generation, Rai Bashir Ahmed Bhatti, Rai Hadayat Khan Bhatti played important role in Pakistan politics too.

Rai Saleem Bhatti said his cousins Rai Sarvar Khan Bhatti and Rai Ahmad Khan Bhatti’s family had donated 10 acres at Kot Hussan Khan, 5 km from Nankana Sahib, for setting up Nankana Sahib Foundation.

The purpose was to generate jobs and revenue for the upkeep of Sikh shrines in Nankana Sahib. “We desire to get it revived and take up the matter with the Pakistan government,” he said.

His father, Rai Akram Bhatti, also a lawyer, wishes to strengthen Sikh-Muslim cordial ties by conducting Sikh pilgrimage to the holy shrines and invite them to his place.

“Our family owes my birth due to the blessings of Baba Nanak only. Sikh devotees from any part of the world who visit Nankana Sahib hold special place in our heart and we take it as a divine opportunity to serve them,” he said.

Guru Nanak’s father Mehta Kalu was a munshi at Rai Bular Bhatti’s estate. Rai Bular Bhatti, who owned over 36,000 acres, had donated half of it to Guru Nanak in late 15th century. “Bhatti had donated around 18,750 acres.

On some part of the land Gurdwara Janam Asthan Nankana Sahib and Gurdwara Bal Leela were built. The remaining was leased to locals. The land is now under the control of the Evacuee Property Trust Board, Pakistan,” he said.

SGPC to honour them

  • The SGPC wants to set up a portrait of Rai Bular Bhatti, a 15th Century Muslim landlord of undivided Punjab and a disciple of Guru Nanak Dev, in the Central Sikh Museum.
  • The programme was scheduled for May 5, 2018, but had to be deferred as Bhatti’s descendants were denied visa.
  • Rai Saleem Bhatti, a lawyer at Lahore High Court and the 19th generation of Rai Bular Bhatti, said till date visa could not be procured for the reasons best known to the Indian authorities. – Row Over Missing Saroops: Anyone found guilty won’t be spared, says Longowal

Sikh24 Editors

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 15 June 2019. Amid serious allegations of selling saroops of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji being leveled on SGPC, the SGPC president Gobind Singh Longowal went to the Sikh Reference Library to understand its working on June 14. He also took a glimpse of the historic handwritten saroops of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji placed inside the Sikh Reference Library.

Reiterating his commitment of thorough probe into this issue, Longowal said that the probe committee would be constituted soon in which prominent rational Sikh personalities will be appointed.

Commenting on the charges of selling the historic saroops returned by the Indian army, Longowal said that anyone found guilty in this concern won’t be spared at any cost, but if the charges proved wrong then the SGPC will also sue the concerned media section in Court.

“However, we have confirmed that a large portion of the treasure of Sikh Reference Library has not been returned by the Indian army till date,” he added.

Longowal clarified that the literature wealth of the Sikh Reference Library is a safe deposit of Sikh community with SGPC and the SGPC is liable for returning it to the Sikh community in an intact position.

SGPC’s Chief Secretary Dr. Roop Singh, Secretary Mohinder Singh Aahli, Secretary Manjit Singh Bath, Secretary Balwinder Singh Jaura Singha, Personal Secretary Er. Sukhminder Singh, Dr. Amarjit Kaur (Incharge of Sikh History Research Board), Bagicha Singh (Librarian, Sikh Reference Library), P.A. Darshan Singh etc. were also present on this occasion.

Row Over Missing Saroops: Anyone found guilty won’t be spared, says Longowal – SGPC criticizes Shillong Municipal Board’s move of serving notices to residents of Punjabi Lane area

Sikh24 Editors

Shillong – Meghalaya – India, 02 June 2019. The SGPC president Gobind Singh Longowal has strongly criticized the Shillong Municipal Board’s move of serving notices to the residents of the Punjabi Lane area. He has said that the Punjabis, especially the Sikhs, living in the Punjabi lane area of Shillong are being persecuted deliberately.

Longowal has said that the Meghalaya state government’s bid to usurp land of the Punjabis living in the Punjabi lane area manifests an oppressive intention which has made them feel alienated in Meghalaya.

He recalled that the SGPC had approached the Meghalaya state government and the Union government of India when the Punjabis were attacked by the locals in Shillong in May last year.

Appealing to the Meghalaya state government not to persecute the Punjabis living in Shillong, Longowal has demanded that the residents of the Punjabi lane area should be given proprietorship rights of their properties without any delay as they have been living there for the last two centuries.

It may be recalled here that the Shillong Municipal Board had served notices to the residents of the Punjabi lane area asking them to produce documents proving their legal right over the respective properties, they own in concerned area.

SGPC Criticizes Shillong Municipal Board’s Move of Serving Notices to Residents of Punjabi Lane Area

The Tribune – Efforts on to bring Centre, state together: SGPC

Akal Takht for joint programme at Sultanpur Lodhi in November

Tribune News Service

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 06 May 2019. After the intervention of the Akal Takht, the SGPC is all set to make efforts to bring the state and the Centre under one umbrella to celebrate the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev for which a series of activities have been planned.

While revealing the programmes, SGPC president Gobind Singh Longowal said efforts would be made to hold a joint stage to celebrate the main occasion that falls on November 12 (this year as per amended version of Nanakshahi calendar followed by the SGPC) at Sultanpur Lodhi.

“As per directions of the Akal Takht Jathedar that ‘one stage’ should be set up at Sultanpur Lodhi and all should hold a joint programme, I have already spoken to CM Captain Amarinder Singh seeking appointment to discuss a combined planning in this regard. He will spare time post elections,” he said.

In the backdrop, the yearlong tribute celebrations are already underway since November 2018. The Centre has made SGPC its “knowledge partner”, which is scheduled to hold the main programme at the historic Ber Sahib Gurdwara, whereas the state government has announced to hold separate event at Dana Mandi the same day.

Last year, CM Captain Amarinder Singh has urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to announce financial package of Rs 2,145 crore for the yearlong celebrations of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev as his government was launching a series of development programmes to commemorate the historic occasion.

The schemes included establishing heritage Pind Babe Da depicting Guru Nanak’s life and times at Sultanpur Lodhi, setting up national institute of inter-faith studies at Amritsar, medical college at Batala and development of 47 villages associated with Guru Nanak.

Though the Centre agreed to it, it made the SGPC as the coordinating agency for these schemes. It was also made clear that for religious activities such as “kirtan”, “katha”, “prabhat pheri” and “langar” planned throughout the year, the SGPC will draw a calendar of activities and execute it.

Similarly, the educational activities such as seminars, workshops, lectures will be organised throughout the country by the Ministry of Human Resource Development in association with the SGPC.

Longowal revealed that the programmes chalked out by the SGPC were to be held between November 8 and 12. He said on November 12, during the main event, besides the Jathedars of all Takhts and other prominent religious personalities, the President, Prime Minister, Governors of various states and CMs are expected to participate.

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. – Kaithal attack: SGPC announces financial aid for victim Sikhs

Sikh24 Editors

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 26 March 2019. The apex Sikh body Shromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee has announced financial aid for the Sikhs who were attacked by the Hindus of Badsui village on March 23.

The family of deceased Sikh Shamsher Singh will be given a financial aid of Rupees 2,00,000/- while all the other injured Sikhs will be given financial aid worth 25,000/- each.

SGPC president Gobind Singh Longowal made this announcement while meeting the injured Sikhs at Rajendra Hospital in Patiala on March 25.

Strongly criticizing the attack, Longowal said that the attacks on minorities in India are rising day by day. He added that the Union government of India and the state governments need to adopt strong strategies to tackle such attacks.

It may be recalled here that the Hindu villagers of Badsui village (Kaithal) had attacked Gurdwara Sahib on March 23 in which an innocent Sikh Shamsher Singh had lost life and several others were injured.

The assailants had even tried to attack the holy corpus of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji but the Sikh men present inside the Gurdwara premises didn’t let them succeed.