President Ram Nath Kovind’s social media accounts on Wednesday deleted video clip of a dance performance on ‘Mool Mantar’, a composition from Guru Granth Sahib, following criticism from many in the Sikh community, including the Akal Takht and the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC).
The performance had taken place in Santiago, Chile, on March 31 at an event attended by the President.
Mool Mantar, also called Beej Mantar and Guru Mantar, appears at the start of Japji Sahib, which is a prayer at the beginning of Guru Granth Sahib.
Harpal Singh Pannu, a professor at Guru Gobind Singh Chair at Central University, Bathinda, said, “Mool Mantar appears at the start of Japji Sahib. It also appears at the start of important ragas and bani…. It is not for singing…. According to Sikh code of conduct, this (dance with Mool Mantar playing in background) is blasphemy.”
The President’s official Twitter handle had uploaded the video clip at 7.29 pm on April 1.
After the tweet and the Facebook post were deleted on Wednesday, Ashok Malik, press secretary to the President, tweeted: “Earlier this week, President Kovind was invited to an Indian community event in Santiago during his state visit to Chile. The organisers, members of the diverse Indian community, put up a cultural show and some videos were shared on the President’s social media accounts. It has since been pointed out that elements of the cultural programme, in producing which the President’s Secretariat had no role, have hurt sentiments of some of our people. Responsive to the faith and traditions of all sections of Indians, the videos have been deleted.”
The 1.22-minute video clip had been uploaded on the President’s Twitter handle as “A soulful rendition of ‘Ik Onkar Satnaam’ at the Indian community reception in Santiago, Chile.”
A Rashtrapati Bhavan official said: “The President unequivocally embraces India’s diversity…. He is a great believer in the life and message of Guru Nanak Dev.”
Sources said while Rashtrapati Bhavan did not have any say in the performance or the choice of songs, all three songs which the performers danced to — Ik Onkaar, Vaishnava Jana and the Gayatri Mantra — were “unusual choices”. They pointed out that while there was no intention to hurt religious sentiments, it is also a fact that a clipping of the performance is likely to be freely available, as the entire audience was free to record and circulate it.
Akal Takht chief Giani Harpreet Singh told The Indian Express over phone that he had directed the SGPC to “probe the issue in a serious manner and take action”.
SGPC secretary Roop Singh said: “SGPC has expressed its resentment…. The President does not himself upload posts on Twitter. His office should find out who uploaded it…. That person may not have been aware that it would hurt Sikh sentiments.”
SGPC president Gobind Singh Longowal was not available for a comment.
Earlier in the day, Akali leader and Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee president Manjinder Singh Sirsa wrote to President Kovind, requesting removal of the video and “action” against the organisers.