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Politics heats up over 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak

Indian Express 2019-09-10 09:01:39

Harsimrat, the Bathinda MP, said that it was shocking that despite a request by the SGPC - the elected body of the Sikhs - for jointly organising the momentous event, there had not been any positive response from the state government.

The politics over the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev took a fresh turn Monday with Union Minister accusing the Congress government in Punjab of trying to “weaken” the authority of the Akal Takht – the highest temporal seat of Sikh community – and not keeping in loop the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) while planning the events.

Harsimrat, the Bathinda MP, said that it was shocking that despite a request by the SGPC – the elected body of the Sikhs – for jointly organising the momentous event, there had not been any positive response from the state government.

“There have been several such instances in the past – in 1999, 2004 and 2007 – when religious functions have been organised by the SGPC, taking everyone together, irrespective of the government in power at the Centre or in the state. But this time, it seems that the government is intent on doing everything alone,” Harsimrat said, addressing the media here.

She said that the Akal Takht jathedar had appealed to the state government to jointly celebrate the event. “But the appeal was ignored. This government is trying to weaken the Akal Takht by playing politics. It is also not paying adequate respect to the Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of the Sikhs,” she charged.

Harsimrat’s reaction came a day after Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh rejected the SGPC’s charges of the state government being cold to participation in the Sikhism founder’s birth anniversary celebrations. Amarinder had asserted a Group of Ministers has already been constituted to coordinate with the SGPC to finalise the historic commemorative programme.

On Monday, the chief minister again rejected the allegations, reiterating that there was no question of the state government backing out of its support to the SGPC in holding the 550th ‘Prakash Purb’ celebrations.

“The government would extend full support to the religious body for any event it plans to hold within the Gurdwara Sahib precincts, while the state would hold the main event outside the premises, as in the past,” Amarinder said while speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a function in Mohali.

As a religious body, the SGPC was entitled to hold any event within the gurdwaras it controls, he said, but once again appealed to them to cooperate with his government in holding a joint state-level programme, befitting the historic occasion.

Amarinder had Sunday rejected the allegation that his government was showing no interest in holding a joint function as directed by the Akal Takht, and asserted it was the SGPC, which has been “refusing” to join the government in celebrating the historic occasion on a common platform.

Meanwhile, continuing to attack the Congress government, the Union minister said that in 2017 Bihar Chief Minister ’s government had held the 350th birth anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh in consultation with the SGPC. Religious functions have always been organised by the SGPC and “every party has risen to the occasion as the Sikh faith does not belong to any party,” she added.

“The jathedars of all the Takhts had met the chief minister and requested him to organise the events jointly and to name two members for the organising committee. But despite writing letters, neither the state government is appointing its members nor they are interested in holding the event jointly. They are trying to hold different functions and want to create confusion among the Sikh community,” she alleged.

Harsimrat also alleged that contrary to the claims of the Congress government that development work had started in Sultanpur Lodhi for the 550th birth celebrations, nothing had been done on the ground.

“Othe kakh vee kamm nayi ho reya (They have done nothing at all). It is we (the Shiromani Akali Dal) who started the work of painting the city white. It is only now that they (Congress) have decided to hold a cabinet meeting in Sultanpur Lodhi tomorrow,” she said.

The Union minister added that it was the Centre, which has opened the Kartarpur Corridor and it was the Centre, which has sanctioned huge sums of money for the 550th birth anniversary celebrations. “But what has Punjab government done for the celebrations other than put up large hoardings,” she asked.

On the question of slow pace of work on the Kartarpur Corridor, Harsimrat said that it will be ready by October 31, as promised by the Government of India.

While the SGPC has decided to hold the main event at a college in Sultanpur Lodhi in November, the government wants to hold the function near a “Tent City” coming up
there.

On September 7, the SGPC had accused the state government of not sending the government representatives to the coordination committee formed to jointly hold the functions related to Guru Nanak’s birth anniversary.

Meanwhile, on the government’s planned decision to hold its September 10 Cabinet meeting in Sultanpur Lodhi instead of , the chief minister said he and his entire Cabinet would visit the area to oversee the arrangements for the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev, and would also hold the meeting there.

Delayed by floods, Sultanpur Lodhi facelift picks up pace

After the recent floods delaying work on projects initiated to mark the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak in Sultanpur Lodhi, the state government is now in a hurry to complete the work before the deadline.

The main function of the birth anniversary would be organised on November 12 in Sultanpur Lodhi, given the tag of a holy city by the state government, for its association with Guru Nanak Dev, who spent most of his life in the town. The government wants to make it a national event on the lines of 350th birth anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh organised by Bihar government in Patna in January 2017.
PWD Minister Vijay Inder Singla, who visited the city two days ago to review the projects, said: “We did lose days to rain and flood. We were preparing to complete every project by September-end but now it will take 15-20 days more. The government machinery was all utilised for addressing flood issues. Now, we are concentrating on the projects. Even the tent city has suffered delay due to rain water entering the area,” Singla said.

The state government is organising a Cabinet meeting in Sultanpur Lodhi on Tuesday as the Chief Minister would be reviewing the projects underway. Also, a meeting on 550th anniversary celebrations would also be organised after the Cabinet meeting.

The state government is not only giving a facelift to Sultanpur Lodhi but also providing it infrastructure for hosting at least 30 lakh people from November 5 to 12. Murals are coming up outside buildings leading to the historic Gurdwara Ber Sahib.

Singla said the state government is spending Rs 52 crore to set up tent city on the lines of the function in Patna and 50,000 devotees can be accommodated in the tent city. The government has acquired 900 acre for parking, tent city and the main function that would have a stage. PM will be chief guest at the main function.

Congress MLA from Sultanpur Lodhi, Navtej Cheema, said not only the government but several NRIs and Kar Sewaks were contributing for the function. “The NRIs are setting up a five-star tent city for the NRIs.”

Cheema added they had asked people to contribute for the function and as a result exotic palm trees were transplanted on the road berms leading to historic Gurdwara Ber Sahib.

The government has set up 6 helipads across the Bein for VIP movement. Nine bridges are coming up, roads have been widened. “The state has spent Rs 200 crore for the works,” said Cheema.