Government pressure forces cancellation of November 10 Sarbat Khalsa congregation



Jagtar Singh

Chandigarh, November 8: The hardliners today decided to cancel the Sarbat Khalsa conclave that was to be held at Talwandi Sabo on Novemmber 10. However, the next programme would be given on the same after a meeting of representatives of Panthic organisations at Gurdswara Buddha Johar in Rajasthan. Akali Dal leader Sant Fateh Singh used to stay in this gurdwara.

The announcement to this effect was made by Takht Damdama Sahib Jathedar designate Baljit Singh Daduwal in a two page statement in which he attacked Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal as the oppressors. He made it clear that the struggle against these oppressive forces would be within the framework of the law. The interpretation given by the Supreme Court to what constitutes sedition is very clear and that too with specific reference to raising the demand for Khalistan peacefully.

In a way, it is a subtle move to shift the venue to a nearby village in Rajasthan. This shrine is associated with Bhai Sukha Singh and  Mahtab Singh who had beheaded Massa Rangar for desecrating the Golden Temple and carried his head to a place in Rajasthan where the Sikhs were camping. Akali Dal leader Sant Fateh Singh used to stay in this shrine during the earlier period in his life.

There is interesting aspect to the entire situation. The intelligence agencies normally don’t leak such information but then this is the age of social media and there is no need to get a story planted through some pliable journalist as used to be done during militancy in Punjab. A communication from the Subsidiary Intelligence Bureau has been  in circulation since morning addressed to Additional Director General of Police (Intelligence) Punjab Gaurav  Yadav and the same has not been denied till the filing of this report. It is regarding the Sarbat Khalsa proposed to be held at Talwandi Sabo on November 10 by the so called hardliners who otherwise are too eager to be part of the democratic stream.

Signed by one Manmohan Singh, Joint Director, it refers to the design of the Pakistan’s military intelligence agency that is  Inter-Services Intelligence directing Sikh terrorists based in that country to activate their associates in India to carry out terrorist strikes in Punjab to take advantage of prevailing resentment against state government action against radicals.

The organisers of Sarbat Khalsa conclave applied to the Bathinda district administration seeking permission for the function at Talwandi Sabo and started making preparations by putting up the tent without waiting for the green signal as the time was too short. The district administration uprooted the tent yesterday. Police has been conducting raids over the last two days to arrest the activists of the organisations associated with Sarbat Khalsa, mainly the United Akali Dal headed by Mohkam Singh and Akali Dal (Amritsar) led by Simranjit Singh Mann.

These organisations had earlier organised such gathering on November 10 last year at Chabba near Amritsar at the time when the state had been rocked due to incidents of sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib and the failure of the police to arrest the culprits. The Bir of Guru Granth Sahib that went missing  from village Jawahar Singh Wala in Faridkot district on June 1, 2015 is still to be traced and the case has been referred to the CBI.  Two persons were killed when police opened fire on people  protesting against sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib in nearby Bargari village a few weeks after the theft of Guru Granth Sahib. This protest was near Behbal Kalan. No action has been taken against the policemen involved in this firing. They have not even been identified.

It is in this background that the organisers were organising a similar gathering at Talwandi Sabo  and the announcement to this effect had been made in April last on Baisakhi. The government, however, swooped down suddenly without declaring the gathering unlawful. All the main leaders have gone underground. The government had not earlier allowed these organisations to open office at Talwandi Sabo as part of preparations for this conclave. The office has been functioning from a nearby village in Haryana.

The organisers were expecting a bigger turn-out this time as compared to last year as there has been no qualitative change in the ground situation.

Some sections of hardliners like Dal Khalsa are not  associated with this proposed congregation. This group did not participate even in Chabba conclave. The Dal Khalsa has no agenda to participate in the Assembly elections unlike the United Akali Dal and the Akali Dal (Amritsar). Mann raises the Khalistan or  Azadi slogan depending upon the situation but there are no takers. His performance in the Assembly and the SGPC general house elections has been too dismal. That is the index of the mass support to such outfits.

The basic issue is that of crushing the democratic activities even though the bodies involved are radical or the hardliners. The Supreme Court ruling on democratic dissent including the raising of Khalistan demand peacefully is very clear. It does not amount to sedition. That is the only issue the government should be worried about.

It is an old story that the ISI is putting pressure on Pakistan based Sikh terrorists  to do some action. Such stories have been appearing in the print media from time to time. Now the leak is on the social media and it apparently is part of the design.

The undeclared ban on such democratic activities can now hardly bring about a change in the state so far as the electoral dynamics of Punjab is concerned. However, in case the design is to give out the signal that no activity that can be termed as anti-national would be tolerated under this climate of ultra- nationalism, then it is a different issue. Hardliners contesting Lok Sabha elections independently would only help Sukhbir Singh Badal.


Jagtar Singh


[email protected]

Related Editorials