SIKH BODIES are protesting against the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee’s (SGPC) alleged plans to demolish a large portion of a 90-year-old inn, as part of a renovation project. The latter however has defended itself stating that it was merely reconstructing the interior, and will keep the outer structure intact.
The SGPC has decided to convert 232 rooms of the Guru Ramdas Sarai (inn) into 800 rooms. Sources said it has been attempting to demolish the inn since 2014. However, back in 2019, a team of Guru Nanak Dev Engineering College, Ludhiana, had inspected the building and found that the brick work and structure was in good shape.
SGPC president Bibi Jagir Kaur said, “In view of the increase in the sangat (devotees) visiting Sachkhand Sri Harmandar Sahib, it has been decided to set up new sarais (inns), but sadly some people are deliberately creating obstructions.”
She further said, “A plan has been prepared for the reconstruction of Sri Guru Ramdas Niwas as the sangat was not ready to stay here despite having 232 rooms and 18 halls. At present, only 125 rooms and three halls of this sarai are in use and the rest are uninhabitable. The SGPC has planned to develop 800 rooms here while keeping the outer appearance intact as per the present structure.”
However, Sikh activist Baldev Singh Wadala, who is holding a protest against the move, said, “All over the world, old buildings are kept as heritage structures, and to tell history. It is only SGPC that is bent upon demolishing all the old buildings related to Sikh history.”
He added: “Guru Ramdas inn is also closely related to SGPC’s own history. SGPC is 100 years old and had constructed this inn when it was still young. The building was witness to the Partition and gave shelter to people who had come from newly-formed Pakistan. Then the same people played a big role in providing funds for the development of the building. This building is also witness to Punjabi Suba Morcha and how activists used to live here during the agitation. But the biggest part of history is of 1984, when the building saw merciless killing of Sikhs who were stuck here during Operation Blue Star.”
“Every room and pillar of the inn is witness to what happened in 1984…devotees were attacked there…There is a big conspiracy behind demolishing this building,” alleged Wadala.
Kaur, however, said, “Renovation will be done without destroying its originality and no one should create confusion among the sangat. Some people are trying to stop the reconstruction by mentioning that it was related to 1984, but that has a connection with entire surroundings of Sri Harmandar Sahib.”
This is not the first time activists and SGPC have had differences over heritage structures. In mid-July, a clash had broken out between a group of construction volunteers and Sikh activists near the Akal Takht secretariat outside the Golden Temple in Amritsar, while the former were trying to fill concrete into underground tunnel-like structures discovered during excavation work.
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