Opinion

In The Guru’s Footsteps

Big plans for 400th birth anniversary of Guru Tegh Bahadur

In The Guru’s Footsteps
info_icon

Banners, buntings and posters announce the importance of an event on May 1—Labour Day internationally, but much more significant in Sikh-majority Punjab. The day marks the 400th birth anniversary of Guru Tegh Bahadur, the ninth in the Sikh pantheon of gurus. The Congress government in the state is sparing no effort to make the guru’s Prakash Purb a mega-event, with yearlong celebrations, although a global pandemic lurks in the background.  

Functions will be held across the state and lakhs of devotees are ­expected to turn up, keeping with the spirit of Sikh camaraderie and kinship. The government has drafted a detailed programme—a chunk of which ­involves logistics in the time of Covid. Social distancing and masks et al. Religious gatherings are known to be cavalier in their attitude towards Covid protocols. Will the Captain Amarinder Singh administration be able to stop people from discarding the discomfort of masking the airways and facial expressions? The answer is not easy to find, although the ­government’s PR machinery has left enough bread crumbs to pick. The hoardings speak for themselves—the larger-than-life image of the CM with the Ninth Guru’s portrait.

It’s not for nothing that Punjabis swear by the “donaali”—the ­double-barreled shotgun. The Guru’s 400th birth anniversary is more like it, especially at a time when Punjab will be voting a new assembly next year. The Congress is playing the religion card to the hilt since the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has floundered on several ­occasions during its rule when multiple cases of blasphemous acts such as ­miscreants burning Sikh religious texts were reported. The Akali Dal-BJP ­coalition government was accused of lethargy in catching and punishing the culprits. Memory is a powerful tool and the sacrilegious cases of 2015 still ­rankle. The panthic or religious forces, once the core support base of the Akalis, have now vacillated towards Captain Singh—but not necessarily towards the Congress. The stakes, no doubt, has gone up for the chief minister. To keep this influential constituency happy, the government has elaborate plans and special programmes to celebrate Guru Tegh Bahadur’s anniversary. “It shall be our endeavour to spread Guruji’s ­message of secularism and peaceful co-existence globally,” the CM said.

Critics say the Congress government is turning to religion for a reason. They say the party is supporting the farmers’ protest on the borders of Delhi, but it is not sure they would return the ­favour in the same proportion during the 2022 state elections. The Congress defended its position. “There cannot be politics involved. It is our moral duty to celebrate it ­gracefully and take Guruji’s message to the panth, which is feeling alienated, especially when the Akalis used ­religion for political gains for many years,” says rural development and Panchayati Raj minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, who is known to be close to the chief minister. According to him, the BJP should ­celebrate the day in a big way because he laid down his life for Kashmiri Pandits.

Bajwa says the government is in touch with the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) to ­authenticate places of religious and spiritual importance connected to the Ninth Guru. The government has ­identified 103 places where the Guru visited. He went to 79 villages and the state government plans to spend Rs 50 lakh each to develop these places. The towns of Sri Anandpur Sahib, Kiratpur Sahib and Baba Bakala will get Rs 1 crore each. A theme park is being constructed at Rs 49 crore in Chamkaur Sahib. An additional Rs 50 crore is being spent on the beautification of Chamkaur Sahib. Besides, a tree ­plantation drive will be conducted. 

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement