Fear of Losing Majority Vote Bank Forcing Govts to Ignore Sikh Political Prisoners: Akal Takht Jathedar

After facing flak over his recent statement where he asked Sikh youths to arm themselves with licensed weapons, the Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh on Wednesday raked up the issue of the Sikh political prisoners. He claimed that the “fear of losing the non-Sikh vote bank” during elections had prevented both the central and the Punjab governments to initiate the process for the release of such prisoners.

During his customary message for the community on the occasion of Parkash Purab of Guru Hargobind Sahib, Harpreet Singh said stated that the Guru, during his release had put forth the condition to set free 52 Hindu emperors from the jail along with him, which is why he was christened as ‘Bandi Chhor Data’ (one who facilitates the release of prisoners). Guru Hargobind Singh was the sixth of the 10 Sikh gurus.

Thousands of devotees took part in the celebrations organized by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) at the Akal Takht. Apart from Harpreet Singh, the function was also attended by Jathedar of Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib Giani Raghbir Singh. The Akal Takht is the highest temporal seat of Sikhs.

“In stark contrast to the Guru’s thought, in present days, no government was ready to initiate the move to set the imprisoned Sikhs free who have been languishing in different jails despite having served more than their sentence span. The governments feared that it could invite the ire of the non-Sikhs leading to a dent in its major share of the vote bank,” Harpreet Singh added.

Harpreet Singh called for Sikhs to unite over the release of Sikh political prisoners. “For getting these prisoners released, there is a need to unite the Sikh power. If the Sikhs remain divided then it will be difficult to resolve the issues. Every Sikh should raise the voice in favour of these prisoners,” he said.

‘Every Sikh should possess a licensed weapon’

Harpreet Singh recently faced criticism for saying that every Sikh should possess a licensed modern weapon because “such are the times”. However, Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann raised objection over the same and said he should give a message of peace and brotherhood.

Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh Raja Warring also took exception to the jathedar’s statement and dubbed it as “mischievous”.

In a video message, Harpreet Singh said, “Even today, there is a need, especially for Sikh boys and girls, to follow the orders of Guru Hargobind Singh. They should take training in ‘gatka baazi’ (a traditional martial art), sword fighting and shooting. And every Sikh should also try to possess a licensed modern weapon in a legal way because such are the times and the developing situation is such.”

“Honourable, Jathedar Sri Akal Takh Sahib ji, your statement about weapons… Jathedar ji, you should send across Gurbani’s message of ‘sarbat da bhala’ (welfare of all) to every house instead of that of possessing weapons. Jathedar sahab, we should give messages of peace, brotherhood and modern development rather than of modern weapons,” CM Mann had tweeted. Later, in a statement issued in Chandigarh, Mann said weapons don’t have any place in a congenial society.

“We are living in a civilised society where the country is governed through the rule of law. Weapons don’t have any place in a congenial and harmonious society,” he had said.

He added that the jathedar should focus on spreading the message of ‘Gurbani’, which envisages ‘sarbat da bhala’.

Notably, in June 2020, Singh had raked up the issue of Khalistan, a separate state for Sikhs, and said that if the government would offer it, the community would accept it.

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