Nine months after its defeat in the state Assembly polls after a gap of 10 years, two straight terms in office, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) is keeping up the morale of its cadres with a slickly produced 48-minute documentary on the nearly 100 years of its history.
In the documentary, Jo Larey Deen ke Het, the former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal gets a certificate as the “most acceptable Sikh leader for Hindus” and former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi is accused of hatching a conspiracy to attack the Golden Temple because of her hatred of Sikhs who did not support the Emergency. It finds no mention of Khalistan leader Bhindranwale.
Earlier this month, addressing a gathering in Amritsar on the 97th foundation day of the party at the Manji Sahib Diwan hall of the Golden Temple, SAD president and former deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal appealed to the party members, activists and supporters to watch it on PTC, a channel in which the Badal family has stakes, and which has already run repeated shows of the documentary.
“Shiromani Akali Dal is not just political party. It is a great example of the struggle against oppression, of the sacrifice for religion and nation. So that this great saga does not get reduced to a story, and to teach new generations about their glorious heritage, it is necessary to revisit its pages from time to time,” intones the narrator, the late Om Puri, recognisable immediately by his voice.
SAD’s defeat in the polls reduced the party to 15 seats in the first three-cornered contest in the state between itself, Congress and the AAP. For the first time, it did not have enough numbers to be the main opposition party.
SAD spokesman Daljit Singh Cheema said, “The basic purpose was to preserve the history. It was good time to record the history as we still have many witnesses alive. Otherwise, the next generation will have no idea about our glorious past. Definitely, it will also help us to counter the fake propaganda on social media and people would know the truth.”
“We had shown this documentary to our youth SAD workers in the run-up to the 2017 Assembly elections. Now we have released it for the public ahead of our preparations for 100th year of party due in 2020,” said Cheema.
Former SAD MLA Virsa Singh Valtoha said, “How many people know that Parkash Singh Badal spent 16 years in prison for no reason. There is always loss of knowledge when it goes through generations. We want to bridge this generational gap.”
The Congress party predates SAD by 35 years, and the Ghadr Party was formed by Sikhs in North America in 1913, but the documentary bestows on SAD the title of India’s first political party. It projects Sikh sacrifices against the Mughals and the British in the many wars of that period, SAD’s role in the freeing of gurdwaras from government control as well as in the national freedom struggle, at Partition and during the Emergency.
The documentary, which is described only as a “Shiromani Akali Dal presentation” and gives no individual credits, not even to Om Puri, calls the terrorism and militancy that Punjab witnessed as a “conspiracy” hatched against the “Sikh quam”and for Congress to displace SAD.
“Overwhelming support to protests by SAD against the Emergency created a hatred in Indira Gandhi’s mind not just for SAD, but the whole Sikh community. Indira Gandhi, after becoming PM, sacked the SAD government in the state and imposed President’s rule. This was the time when a conspiracy was designed to hurt the image of Akalis in the Sikh psyche and Congress leaders started providing fuel to terrorism in state,” the documentary says.