Move to remove references to Bhindranwale on plaque opposed

The row over a plaque dedicating the newly constructed memorial for Operation Bluestar to Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale has escalated, with radical Sikh organisations, led by Damdami Taksal leader Baba Harnam Singh Khalsa, declaring that they will “not tolerate” removal of the plaque or any other symbol of Bhindranwale from the premises.

On April 27, the controversial memorial which has been built in the precincts of the Harmandar Sahib (Golden Temple) in Amritsar by Damdami Taksal, the Sikh seminary once headed by Bhindranwale, was handed over to the Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC).

It was a quiet ceremony, but as soon as a plaque and two slabs at the entrance with Bhindranwale’s name were unveiled, the ruling Akali Dal-dominated SGPC expressed its unease. A few days later, on the instructions of SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar, a clock with Bhindranwale’s name was removed from the memorial, and the organisation declared that the references to Bhindranwale would also be removed from the memorial.

This has been vehemently opposed by the radical organisations led by the Taksal, which have pulled out a resolution passed by the SGPC in May 2012, in which the apex body controlling gurudwaras had agreed to “dedicate the memorial to Bhindranwale and others who were killed during the 1984 army operation.”

On Monday, the Taksal, the Sant Samaj and major radical organisations went in a procession from Chowk Mehta, the Taksal headquarters, to the Akal takht in the Golden Temple complex and submitted a memorandum to Jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh.

The Jathedar, who is heading an SGPC-appointed committee to look into the issue, assured the organisations that he would discuss the matter with the heads of the other Sikh takhts in the country.

Said Dal Khalsa spokesman Kanwarpal Bittu: “The SGPC must stick to its resolution which has legal sanctity. It cannot backtrack to suit the political opportunism of its political masters, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD).”

The SAD’s alliance partner, BJP, has already expressed its unhappiness with the memorial and its dedication to Bhindranwale, saying it could jeopardise peace and harmony in Punjab.

Mr. Makkar has so far stuck to his stand that the memorial will not carry any names, and so Bhindranwale’s name should not be there on it. “We have built a memorial as every community has a right to remember its martyrs, and our intention has never been to create any tension. We will not allow anyone to disturb communal harmony in the State.”