Anandpur Sahib: The Sikh clergy Monday made an emotional appeal to devotees at the Keshgarh Sahib Gurudwara in Anandpur Sahib, asking them to remain vigilant against forced religious conversions in Punjab.
The message was delivered to the Sikh community on the birth anniversary of revered Sikh figure Bhai Jaita Singh, who had brought the sacred head of Guru Tegh Bahadur from Delhi to Anandpur Sahib, and handed it over to Guru Gobind Singh.
The appeal came days after a group of unidentified miscreants vandalised a church in Punjab’s Tarn Taran district. Prior to that, a group of Nihangs (an order of Sikh warriors) had reportedly disrupted a programme in Punjab’s Daduana village, accusing Christian missionaries of carrying out forcible conversions.
Monday’s event was attended by thousands of Sikhs, with a majority of them being Nihang Sikhs.
“Neither do we disrespect anyone, nor do we tolerate torture. There are people out there forcibly trying to convert our innocent people. I request my Nihang brothers to stay vigil and guard our people from them, in all constitutional manner,” said Baba Balbir Singh, jathedar of Budha Dal — a prominent Nihang group.
While asking devotees to spread the word of Sikhism, Giani Harpreet Singh, jathedar of the Akal Takht — the highest temporal body of the Sikhs — said people behind forced religious conversions do not want Punjab to continue its rich legacy.
“I see these fake pastors misleading our innocent people. What is their purpose? All those who had Rs 25-30 lakh are sending their families abroad. Punjab is going to be inherited by small land holders who are down with debts and those who are discriminated against on the basis of caste. These fake pastors do not want our Punjabis to inherit this land, which is why they are converting them,” Giani Harpreet Singh said.
“It’s time we tell our relatives to vote for Guru Gobind Singh. If politicians can ask us to encourage our relatives to vote for them, we have to encourage our people to opt for our Gurus,” he added.
The religious congregation was attended by the top brass of Sikh clergy, including chiefs of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Budha Dal, and the top leadership of several gurudwaras.
The religious leadership also spoke about a casteless society, citing what their gurus had envisioned.
Harjinder Singh Dhami, chief of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), the premier body of Sikhs, spoke on how the founding gurus of Sikhism had envisioned a religious group without caste and that is the legacy the present generation of Sikhs should carry forward.
“We have to rise above caste. Guru Nanak Dev united all castes and that is how we came to being, we will have to follow the footsteps of our gurus,” Dhami said.
Many of the alleged conversions taking place in Punjab are of people belonging to the lower caste, he said.
“If we have to inherit Punjab’s legacy, we will have to be the children of Guru Gobind Singh. I want to cite an example of Baba Gurdas Singh, who was of a lower caste, but even reputed pandits gave him respect because he came under the shelter of Guru Gobind Singh,” the SGPC chief added.
In his concluding remarks, he added that the community needs to campaign more and requested people to turn up at upcoming religious events.