Ground Zero: Blocking Sarbat Khalsa congregation indicative of anti-democratic tendencies



Jagtar Singh

Chandigarh, December 7: The decision of the Punjab government to put curbs on Sarbat Khalsa congregation at Talwandi Sabo by a section of the Sikh organisations is symptomatic of its dictatorial tendencies and anti-democratic functioning. Curtailing activities in the democratic space can prove to be counter-productive.

For years, Akali Dal has been claiming to be protagonist of civil liberties and its struggle against Emergency is an unparalleled example of the party’s credentials. However, the functioning of the party government has been to the contrary, beginning with the fake encounters beginning with the first term of Parkash Singh Badal as the Chief Minister when the targets were the Naxalites.

The Sarbat Khalsa was summoned by the hard-line factions like the United Akali Dal and Akali Dal (Amritsar) on the agenda of chalking out norms of appointment and functioning of the Akal Takht Jathedar, failure of the Parkash Singh Badal government to check cases of sacrilege of religious scriptures.

In the perception of UAD leaders like its convener Mohkam Singh,  Badal has confined the  Akali Dal once representing the Panth to his own family while denigrating every Sikh institution in the process to strengthen his dynastic grip. Like with every opposition party, increasing scourge of drugs in the state was also on agenda of this congregation.

It may be mentioned that the Sarbat Khalsa was organised on November 10, 2015 at Chabba village near Amritsar when the people were angry with the  Badal government on the issue of sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib. What had added to the anger was the killing of two persons in police firing during protests. The police had arrested two innocent persons on the charge of sacrilege and they had to be later released. That Sarbat Khalsa reflected cumulative anger in the Sikh community and hence, the participation was voluntary and massive that the government had never expected.

No resolution adopted at that congregation was anti-national in tone and tenor. Raising of Khalistan is not anti-national  and is within the democratic rights going by the Supreme Court interpretation in several cases of sedition. Only a passing reference was made to the Sikh state when resolutions were being moved at that Sarbat Khalsa.

The anger of the people was reflected in the appointment of parallel jathedars of Akal Takht, Takht Keshgarh Sahib and Takht Damdama Sahib. The occupants of these high offices have lost their legitimacy over the period and they are not allowed to address congregations at times. They move around under heavy police protection. The organisers had gone to the extreme in making choices for these parallel appointments. The appointing authority of Takht jathedars is the SGPC.

It was at that congregation that announcement was made to hold the Sarbat Khalsa on November 10, 2016. Talwandi Sabo was later selected as the venue. The government banned it.  The organisers later announced December 8 as the new date while keeping the venue same. The organisers started Akhand Path at the site in a van. Several leaders have been arrested in state-wide crackdown while some others have gone underground. The effort has again been thwarted.

The organisers of Sarbat Khalsa have political ambitions as they want to be part of the democratic stream and take part in the electoral process. The Sarbat Khalsa congregation was a platform to mobilise at least the Sikh people.

It may be mentioned that Aam Aadmi Party has been holding parleys with almost every non-Akali Sikh group and individual leaders. The ultimate target of these groups is the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee. The perception  was that it would be easier to achieve this objective in case AAP came to power in Punjab. Their ultimate aim is the same.

Sources maintain that offer has also been made from the ruling party leaders to at least one of the Sarbat Khalsa organisations to accommodate two of their representatives but on Akali Dal ticket. However, that would defeat their main purpose.

These groups realise that it is a must to  have representation in the Assembly to facilitate their functioning in democratic space. Their first preference is AAP even now despite the fact that the situation in the state is fast changing.

The curbs imposed by the state government in a way amount to scuttling functioning within the democratic space.


Jagtar Singh


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