Amritsar: The Congress and Shiromani Akali Dal in Punjab have welcomed the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee’s (SGPC) decision to ban making of TikTok videos inside the Golden Temple precincts.
Cabinet minister and senior Congress leader Sukhwinder Singh Randhawa said there were several other places in Amritsar where youngsters can make TikTok videos. A place of worship cannot be “misused”, he said.
“The Golden Temple is a place of supreme faith and indulging in such activities here not only amounts to committing sacrilege but also lowers the divine energy of this place,” he told ThePrint.
Daljit Singh Cheema, general secretary of the Akali Dal said the SGPC was forced to take this step because people continued making videos despite a ban on them inside the complex.
“Clicking pictures is okay. After all people come from far off places and want to take back a memory of the Golden Temple. But making videos on Punjabi songs in a place of worship where kirtan is held isn’t acceptable,” he added.
The SGPC, an apex religious body of Sikhs, had last week prohibited making TikTok videos inside the Harmandar Sahib after a clip shot inside the temple by a girl went viral on social media.
Notice boards announcing the ban on TikTok have also been installed in the marbled periphery of the Sikh shrine.
On Friday, Giani Harpreet Singh, jathedar (head priest) of the Akal Takht — the top temporal body of the Sikhs — had also said that banning mobile phones inside the Golden Temple will have to be “seriously considered” if visitors continue to click selfies and shoot TikTok videos.
TikTok craze inside Golden Temple
Hundreds of videos made inside the Golden Temple are available on TikTok. In many of them, visuals are superimposed with recitals of the kirtan or other spiritual music.
Similar videos made at Hindu religious places, including the Kedarnath temple in Uttarakhand and Vaishno Devi temple in Jammu, are also available on the video app.
A short-video platform, TikTok allows users to create videos on an original song or a pre-recorded soundtrack. Owned by the China-based ByteDance, it has about 200 million users in India alone.
The SGPC, however, is not impressed with the attention the Golden Temple is getting on TikTok.
“Last year, three girls used the Golden Temple as their background and made a video of them dancing to a Punjabi number. They apologised later. But that has not deterred other visitors. It is polluting the holiness of this place and is unacceptable,” said a ‘sewadar’ (worker) posted on duty inside the Golden Temple premises.
‘Sewadars’, who watch out for visitors without head covers or with shoes on, now also have to prevent devotees from taking selfies and making videos inside the temple complex.
Aam Aadmi Party MLA Kultar Singh Sandhwa, however, said instead of banning TikTok and selfies inside the Golden Temple, the SGPC should focus on sensitising visitors about the various do’s and don’ts of the Sikh religion.
“It is easy to impose a ban when the SGPC has failed in its duty to sensitise visitors about the teachings of the Sikh religion,” he said.
No selfies outside temple
Nearly a month before the ban on TikTok, a group of youths had vandalised folk dancers’ statues installed on the ‘Heritage Street’ leading to the Golden Temple.
Various Sikh bodies such as the Akal Takht, Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Shiromani Ragi Sabha (including Kirtanis of Golden Temple), Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib, Shiromani Dhadi Sabha and Sri Guru Granth Sahib Satkar, came out in support of the nine youths arrested by police for the act.
The protests later forced Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh to remove the statues.
Installed in 2016, these statues had served as selfie spots for visitors.
A pet project of the erstwhile Akali government, the Heritage Street, a 800- metre-long walkway to the Golden Temple was also beautified by the state department of culture with statues of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and a memorial of those killed in the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.
Not only Sikh religious bodies, local residents and shopkeepers in the temple vicinity have also supported removal of the statues.
“Folk dance and music, even when they are an integral part of Punjabi culture, cannot be allowed to mix with Sikh history and religion. There are a hundred places in Amritsar where one can click a selfie. Why here? Golden Temple is not a tourist spot. It is a spiritual place,” said Chandpuri Singh, an Amritsar resident.
Rupinder Singh, a Ludhiana resident who had come to visit the Golden Temple, said, “The government did the right thing by removing the statues. When one is coming to a religious place then the surroundings should add to its sacredness. The dancing statues only confused the visitors. This is not a place to showcase culture. That can be done at other places in the city.”
Supporting the move, Rajinder Singh, a shopkeeper on the Heritage Street, said, “The location of the statues had encouraged youngsters to make TikTok videos outside the temple. They later started making clips inside the temple too.”
Navjot Singh Randhawa, a former secretary of the Department of Culture who was heading the Heritage Street project, said the statues were installed precisely for the reason that people could click pictures with them in the background. “But if it is felt that the statues are hurting religious sentiments, shifting them was the right solution,” he told The Print.