Speaking for the first time on the ongoing Panthic crisis in Punjab, Dr Gurmohan Singh Walia, the vice-chancellor of SGPC-run Sri Guru Granth Sahib World University at Fatehgarh Sahib, in conversation with The Indian Express Sunday, termed the suspension of Panj Pyaras (the (the five beloved of the Gurus) as the “most unfortunate” and “very rare”.
“The honour for Panj Pyaras is supreme in Sikh history. Their suspension is not only most unfortunate but also something very, very rare. I doubt if it has ever happened in Sikh history. Even Gurus listened to them,” said the scholar.
Panj Pyaras were earlier this week suspended for summoning the Akal Takht chiefs to explain the pardon granted to Sirsa Dera head Ram Rahim Singh for alleged blasphemy.
Walia believed it was the pardoning of the Dera head that backfired and snowballed into widespread unrest across the state.
“The move has damaged the respect and honour that devotees had in their hearts for the supreme institution of Sikhs – the Akal Takht. In Sikhi, pardon, otherwise, is considered a noble act. But when a person plays with religious sentiments of the people deliberately, it is wrong. The pardon was a wrong step; it backfired.”
With SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar as its chancellor, the varsity is dedicated to comprehensive research works in fields of Sikh history, Sri Guru Granth Sahib and Sikh literature.
The V-C said it was time for introspection over the deepening trouble in Punjab.
“I feel it is the most tragic and troubled period for Punjab after 1984. The most unfortunate incidents to hurt Sikh sentiments are happening and it is time for all to introspect deeply,” said Walia while hinting at the Punjab government and the SGPC,
He went on to say “I will not comment on how the government or the SGPC is handling the crisis. It is for them to decide but current happenings have deeply hurt Sikhs”.
He, however, appealed to people to maintain calm and control their emotions. “Blocking roads and raising slogans are not the only ways to protest. I request people to control their emotions and do not let the situation go out of hand. Peace in Punjab is very hard-earned.”
Asked if incidents of sacrilege have happened in earlier times, he said, “Some incidents did happen but it was way back in 1984. Those were dark times for Sikhs and Punjab, and to dilute Sikh unity, enemies resorted to such cheap acts. But the comeback of such a tragic period for Punjab is deplorable.”
Walia had in May this year pulled out if a conference on ‘Living and Making Sikhi in the Diaspora: The Millennial Generation Comes of Age’, which was held at University of California, following his disagreement over a research paper by Dr Pashuara Singh, questioning the authenticity of the Guru Granth Sahib. Walia instead held his lectures at US gurdwaras. He is currently working on providing Sikh literature to prisoners lodged in UK and Punjab jails.