The partial pruning of security cover to officiating Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh triggered a row on Saturday with the Jathedar giving up his entire security even as the opposition Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) accused the Bhagwant Mann government of being “anti-panth” and “anti-Punjab”.
Giani Harpreet Singh was among 424 VIPs and religious heads whose security was either removed or downgraded by the state government. He offered to return even the remaining three.
In a video message, the Jathedar said the Sikh youth of Punjab are enough for his security. “Officials engaged in my security told me that they had received a call from their office to report back. It does not matter. I don’t need security, especially from the government. The Sikh youth of the state are enough to guard me,” he said.
Sources said that after the Jathedar returned the remaining three guards, the state government decided to restore the security but Giani Harpreet Singh refused to take them.
“The Punjab government had decided to restore the security of the Akal Takht Jathedar. However, the Jathedar is adamant on his decision and will not take the security back,” said an SGPC official.
Hours later, SGPC Amritsar deployed armed men in the security detail of Giani Harpreet Singh. SGPC officials tried to link the withdrawal of his security to a controversial statement that the Jathedar had made five days back.
In a video message to the Sikh community on the 416th anniversary of Gurgaddi Diwas of Guru Hargobind, he had said: “Every Sikh should try to keep licensed weapons, because the time that is coming, and the circumstances which are going to prevail, demand it. The Sikh youth should be skillful in gatka (Sikh martial art) and shooting.”
The government has denied the link, but SGPC officials alleged that the decision was in response to the statement.
SAD leader Sukhbir Badal also hit out at the government. “With its decision & flip-flop on the withdrawal of official security to the highly respected Jathedar Sahiban of Khalsa Panth’s venerated Takhts, including Sri Akal Takht Sahib, @AAPPunjab govt has merely exposed itself as a stooge of anti-Punjab & anti-Panth,” tweeted Badal.