When Akal Takht issued an edict for military training
In June this year, a controversy erupted after Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh called on young people from the Sikh community to train in traditional martial arts and modern weapons. While the Jathedar said it was necessary to lift “our youth from the menace of drugs”, few know that Sikhism’s highest temporal seat once called for “military training” for the youth of the community “to protect the country”. ”. The edict in this regard was issued by the Akal Takht on Diwali day in 1948, just over a year after India won hard-fought freedom from the British raj and the pain of oppression the country had faced for over a hundred years was still fresh in people’s minds.
“Our Bharat is freed from slavery and the Sikhs have sacrificed a lot for this independence. We must keep the Panth in ‘Chardi Kala’ and bring the country to heights of development. For this purpose, the Sikh Sangat must ensure four points,” reads the edict.
The four points were (1) pray to the almighty for the independence of the gurdwaras and Hindu sisters left behind in Pakistan; (2) making efforts for the rehabilitation of migrants from Pakistan after partition; (3) undergo military training to protect the country; and (4) avoiding alcohol.
There was a reason why the emphasis was on praying for the independence of the gurdwaras in Pakistan in the edict. The first years after independence were very difficult for those managing Sikh shrines in the newly created country. Sikh priests in gurdwaras were not allowed to travel without police permission.
The first meeting of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbhandak Committee (SGPC), concerning Sikh shrines in Pakistan, was held at its headquarters on September 30, 1947. The SGPC wrote to the government of Punjab to enter into talks with Pakistan for the management of gurdwaras.
One such correspondence mentioned that eight gurdwaras of great historical importance in Pakistan, including Nankana Sahib, Bal Lila, Patti Sahib, Tambu Sahib, Mal Ji Sahib, Kiara Sahib, Chevy Patshahi and Akal Bunga owned almost 18,000 acres of land. . The SGPC mentioned that these “gurdwaras are for Sikhs what Mecca is for Muslims, the Vatican is for Christians and Jerusalem is for Jews”.
The SGPC wanted these gurdwaras and the properties attached to them to be protected. In the same correspondence, he also requested that India take possession of the Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib by exchanging land with Pakistan.
According to a list prepared by Sukhdev Singh Barwala – the author of “Vishre Gurdham” (Separate Gurdwaras) – there were around 90 Sikh shrines in the city of Lahore alone. His book mentions about 1,000 gurdwaras across Pakistan, most of them having historical significance.
The Punjab government responded to the letter in December 1948 and informed the SGPC that Pakistani officials had been made aware of the memorandum, but nothing of substance came of it.
Meanwhile, the SGPC continued to receive reports of people encroaching on gurdwaras and their properties in Pakistan. This forced the SGPC to issue an advertisement urging the Sikh community to pass resolutions and send them to the Indian government demanding that the necessary be done for the management of gurdwaras in Pakistan.
The Punjab Vidhan Sabha has also adopted a resolution to this effect and sent it to the Indian government. The SGPC, however, passed another resolution on August 3, 1949 condemning the Punjab government’s alleged cold-blooded efforts in this regard. On July 29, 1951, the SGPC convened a convention on the matter. Later the same year, on October 28, the SGPC decided to modify the standard Sikh prayer, which is performed in every gurdwara across the world at least twice a day. Since then, Sikhs have been praying, “Almighty God, our everlasting protector and helper, restore to us the right and privilege to rule unhindered, to serve freely and to have access to the Nankana Sahib and other centers of the Sikh religion, the gurdwaras. , from which we were expelled”.