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Akalis draw swords in Golden Temple
July 02, 2006 18:51 IST
The 400th foundation day celebrations of the Akal Takht, the highest religious-spiritual seat of the Sikhs, were marred following a clash between two rival Akali groups inside the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar on Sunday.
The clash involving supporters of the Shiromani Akali Dal led by former chief minister Prakash Singh Badal and the SAD (Amritsar) led by former parliamentarian Simranjit Singh Maan took place in the at Dewan Manji Sahib hall inside the shrine complex.
Akal Takht Jathedar Joginder Singh Vedanti and senior members of the Sikh clergy were also present when the incident took place.
Watched by the Takht Jathedar, Badal, Maan and other senior leaders of both parties and supporters of both the factions, brandishing naked swords advanced menacingly at each other and then came to blows. In the melee, a couple of turbans also came off, only a couple of yards where the Guru Granth Sahib was placed.
However, no serious injuries were inflicted as Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandik Committee officials, assisted by members of the Task Force of the Committee, managed to restore order. A couple of Task Force members formed a cordon around Jathedar Joginder Singh Vedanti, Badal and SGPC President Avtar Singh Makkar.
According to eye-witnesses, trouble began when Maan was not permitted by the SGPC to address the gathering after Badal and Jathedar Makkar had spoken. Harcharan Singh, a SGPC member belonging to the SAD (Amritsar), demanded that his party president should be given time to speak and even made a plea before SGPC general secretary Sukhdev Singh Bhaur in this regard.
However the SGPC, controlled by the Badal-faction did not accede to the request, which immediately brought about 30-odd Amritsar-Dal members on their feet. A couple of them drew their swords from their scabbards and advanced towards the platform from where Badal and others had addressed the gathering, which was supposed to a religious affair.
Taken aback by the reaction of the SAD (Amritsar), the Task Force members initially beat a hasty retreat from the scene. However, SAD (Badal) activists were quick to react and confronted Maan's supporters, to prevent them from advancing towards Badal and Jathedar Makkar.
The free-for-all that followed was viewed very seriously by the Akal Takht Jathedar, who immediately ordered a priest to perform the Sukh Aasan (closing of the Granth Sahib) of the holy Sikh scripture. It was after a great deal of difficulty that order was restored by SGPC officials and the function came to an abrupt end.
Maan, who walked out of the function, criticised the SGPC for not allowing him to speak. "I was invited by the SGPC and I came as it was a religious function. But unfortunately, it has turned out to be a function of Badal and not of the Sikh community, which has high regard for the Akal Takht," he later told media persons.
While justifying the action of the SGPC in not permitting Maan to address the gathering, SAD (Badal) leaders said that during the function held on June 16 at Tarn Taran by the SGPC to commemorate the 400th death anniversary of fifth Sikh Guru Arjan Dev, Maan had raised the bogey of Khalistan. The leaders said that the SGPC action on Sunday was justified as Maan would have again restored to raising controversial issues.
SGPC members pointed out that in the past, Maan and his supporters have used religious occasions to raise anti-national slogans and issues. In this context, they pointed out that last year during the Operation Bluestar's anniversary, he had raised pro-Khalistan slogans inside the Golden Temple complex, which had led to a case being registered against him and a couple of his supporters.