BATTERED BY several controversies and accused of being subservient to the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), the Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandak Committee (SGPC) is now aiming to regain some lost ground by delving into Sikh religious history.
A year ahead of the 350th birth anniversary of the 10th Sikh master, Guru Gobind Singh, the SGPC has decided to trace the route taken by him to reach Punjab and finally settle in Anandpur Sahib. He is believed to have spent the first seven years of his life at Patna Sahib in Bihar. This research will form part of the plans to celebrate the birth anniversary, which falls on January 5, 2017.
The SGPC also plans to identity the route taken by the Mughals when they paraded Baba Banda Singh Bahadur and 700 Sikh soldiers, who had been arrested at Gurdas Nangal village in Gurdaspur district and taken to the Red Fort in Delhi. The 300th martyrdom anniversary of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur, executed in Delhi, falls on June 25, 2016.
SGPC secretary Rup Singh said this was the first time such an effort was being made. “Some gurdwaras have been already constructed on the path between Patna Sahib and Anandpur Sahib. Around 25 such historical gurudwaras exist where Guru Gobind Singh stayed on the way to Anandpur Sahib. But there is no clarity on the exact route he took. There is no mention of the exact path in any book. Similarly, we will find exact route taken by Mughals to take Baba Banda Singh Bahadur and his Sikhs to Delhi,” Rup Singh said.
The SGPC has already formed two teams for the purpose. Simarjeet Singh Kang, editor of the Gurmat Parkash magazine, is in charge of mapping the Guru Gobind Singh route, while Jagjeet Singh, general secretary of the Dharam Parchar Committee, will trace the route thart Baba Banda Singh Bahadur and his band of soliders were taken for executionm, Rup Singh said.
The SGPC plans to organise two separate nagar kirtans (religious procession) on these routes. In both processions, a specially designed 33 ft-long bus, that was used in the May-June 2015 state-wide procession for displaying the relics of Sikh gurus, will be deployed again.
Rup Singh said that the state government would pitch in with around Rs 100 crore for the Guru Gobind Singh birth anniversary to be held at Patna Sahib between January 1 and January 5 next year. In this pre-election year, SAD could benefit from the religious endeavour. SGPC members are mostly all affiliated to SAD.
Last year, the SGPC bus procession, along with the Anandpur Sahib anniversary celebrations, organised with government patronage, drew huge crowds. It gave SAD some respite from a spate of negative publicity in the early part of the year over the death of a girl in Moga, after she was allegedly pushed off a bus owned by the ruling Badal family.
But both SGPC and SAD were soon embroiled in other controversies, first over the pardon flip-flop involving the Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Singh Ram Rahim and later over the desecration row. A religious project ahead of the 2017 elections, could help SAD in the run-up to the polls. “SGPC will organise only religious programs. We have nothing to do with politics. We have to carry out religious processions by identifying historical routes,” said SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar, but was also clear that “if Punjab Chief minister Parkash Singh Badal spends Rs 100 crore on the functions then he must speak from the stage”. “Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar will also speak from the stage as he has been also making efforts,” Makkar said.
Asked if SGPC would invite all political parties to participate in these functions, Makkar said it was a decision to be taken later. “Right now we are busy with the arrangements,” he said.
Congress Legislative Party (CLP) leader Charanjit Singh Channi alleged that SAD and SGPC are again set to waste public money by organising these functions. “Huge amount of money was spent at Anandpur Sahib during celebrations of the 300th anniversary of foundation of Khalsa Panth in 1999. You go to Anandpur now and see the situation. It is sure that money of the SGPC and state government will be used to popularise SAD’s political mission. But now people have understood the reality of SAD and they would not fall for their so called Panthic agenda,” Channi said.