Updated: October 13, 2021 7:04:39 am
Christian missionaries are “running a campaign…for forced conversions” in the border areas of Punjab and the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) has launched a drive to counter this, Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh said Tuesday.
“Christian missionaries have been running a campaign in the border belt for forced conversions over the past few years. Innocent people are being cheated or lured to convert. We have received many such reports,” the Akal Takht Jathedar, who is the head priest of the Sikh community’s highest temporal seat, said in a statement.
Giani Harpreet Singh hails from the Dalit Sikh community. And his remarks came on the day when Dalit and Sikh organisations in Amritsar observed the 101st anniversary of the restoration of Dalit Sikhs’ right to uninterrupted entry and offering of ‘Karah Prasad’ at Golden Temple and Akal Takht. That event — on October 12, 1920 — is believed to have played a key role in the formation of the SGPC.
“Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee has started a campaign ‘Ghar Ghar Andar Dharamshal’ to counter forced conversions, which is a dangerous attack on the Sikh religion,” he said. Under the campaign, Sikh preachers have been visiting villages to distribute literature on their religion.
“Religion is a matter of spirituality. Forced conversion or luring someone can never be justified. All Sikhs should support the SGPC in strengthening the campaign against forced conversions, which is a very serious challenge for us. We have to combat it. (The) SGPC campaign should be run all over India. Right now, we have been focusing on the areas that are more affected,” the Jathedar said.
Reacting to the Jathedar’s statement, Dr Kashmir Singh, who is based in Amritsar and heads the Dalits and Minorities Organisation Punjab, said: “There are many reasons behind such conversions. One reason is the discrimination that Dalits face in villages. There is also illiteracy and poverty among Dalits, which make them easy targets. They are told that conversion would help them settle in foreign countries.”
He said: “The missionaries approach Dalits at their homes to convince them. There is no such effort from the SGPC. We need SGPC preachers from the Dalit community, and more Dalit representation in the SGPC and its institutions to stop such conversions.”
Singh said that although the current Akal Takht Jathedar is a Dalit Sikh, “there is still much to do to ensure equal rights”. He called for the recruitment of Dalit Sikhs to key posts in SGPC, strict orders to be issued from Akal Takht against any discrimination, and free education in all educational and professional institutions under the SGPC.
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