Ground Zero: Symbolism of receiving Afghan President near statue of Maharaja Ranjit Singh



Jagtar Singh

Chandigarh, December 4: It is a symbolism that almost went unnoticed. This was about Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani being received by Prime Minister Narendra Modi under the statue of  Maharaja Ranjit Singh on the recently renovated road leading to the Golden Temple. Modi, Gujarat or the rest of India might have nothing to do with this symbolism. Afghanistan, among the most volatile regions in the world historically, has been subjugated only once and that person who did it happened to be Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

World famous Koh-i-noor passed on to Maharaja Ranjit Singh from the Afghan emperor. It was one of his most famous warriors  General Hari Singh Nalwa who had conquered the Afghan. General Nalwa later became part of the folklore of the region.

It was on request from Shiromani Akali Dal President and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal that Modi received Ghani at this venue and they walked to Darbar Sahib from there, a distance that is covered in about ten minutes.

The road from the historic Town Hall to Darbar Sahib (Golden Temple) has been given a face-lift. The project was conceptualised by Sukhbir as that of preserving the heritage. However, it is renovation as heritage is preserving the existing look. The renovated street has its own tourism attraction. er, Darbar Sahib is the most sacred shrine of the Sikhs that is slowly getting converted into tourism site, thereby the very spirit getting lost in the process. Although renovation ignored the spirit part, the new look is attraction in itself.

In case those entrusted with the task had gone a little deeper into the Sikh history, it is statue of General Baghel Singh who should have found place opposite that of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in the Dharam Singh Market area on the other side of the road. It is the statues of Bhangra and Giddha dancers that now beautify that place. It is little known outside Punjab that it was General Baghel Singh who unfurled the Sikh flag from the ramparts of the Red Fort. Sukhbir should go inside the Bunga Ramgarhia in the Darbar Sahib complex to know more about that event of great historical significance. The slab that was supposed to be part of the throne in the Red Fort is kept in this Bunga. General Baghel Singh never got the place in the Sikh history that he deserved. He stayed for eight months in the Sabzi Mandi area of Delhi to return after eight months, the period during which he constructed the main historical gurdwaras there with the share in revenue that he received from Delhi Darbar.

Sukhbir should consider installing statue of General Baghel Singh even now.

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, Sukhbir and Union Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal-the Badal family- received Ghani and Modi in the Darbar Sahib complex. Intriguingly, missing from the scene was Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee president Prof Kirpal Singh Badungar. This never happened so long as the SGPC was headed by Gurcharan Singh Tohra.

The projects associated with Sukhbir in Amritsar that have hit the limelight at the global level in the context of Heart of Asia conference are this renovated road and the heritage village where dinner was hosted for the visiting dignitaries  after the visit to the Golden Temple. This heritage village showcasing rural Punjab is essentially a tourist attraction.

Sukhbir has promised to renovate entire walled provided he gets another term of five years. That could be part of his marketing strategy that would have been more effective in case the project would have been completed about six months earlier. It is the other issues that continue to surface in the Punjab political discourse from time to time.

Amritsar has even otherwise age old relationship with Afghanistan so far as trade is concerned. The holy city is the dry fruit market imported from Afghanistan from the land route. Years back, only one international weekly flight used to operate from Amritsar and that was to Kabul. Amritsar used to export tea to Kabul during those days by that flight.

The wheels of history might move forward with the Heart of Asia having been organised in this historic city having close bondage with the region.


Jagtar Singh


[email protected]

Related Editorials