By Jagtar Singh | OPINION |
Chandigarh: When the Shiromani Akali Dal and the Punjab government entered the race, it seemed that they were competing to propagate the legacy of Guru Nanak, the Founder of the Sikh Faith in the year of his 550th birth anniversary. What happened at Sultanpur Lodhi, the centre of the anniversary celebrations, proved it wrong. It was the ego and vested political interests that clashed. Missing from the celebrations was the content of the teachings of Baba Nanak.
When Baba Nanak set out on his mission to interact with the world after his enlightenment at Sultanpur Lodhi where he had shifted from Nankana, now in Pakistan, the very first message that he conveyed was identifying himself with the wretched of the earth by opting to accept invitation from Bhai Lalo, a person who belonged to the lowest strata of society. He rejected the offer from Malik Bhago, a money bag, to host him to lavish meal.
He put his experience of 17 years of this interaction across the world during which period he went upto Mecca in Arabia, Dhaka in the east and so on and finally settled down at Kartarpur Sahib where after his return where he gave practical shape to his model of ideal society and ideal man based upon egalitarianism and human dignity.
The SGPC [Shiromani Parbandhak Gurdwara Committee] is the custodian of the Sikh faith although it has now confined itself to just the management of the gurdwara, that too in a high cost corporate way but without making any positive impact. This body was expected to propagate the teachings of Baba Nanak from its lavish Rs 11 crore tent erected specially for these celebrations. One can’t expect it from the Punjab government.
As a matter of principle, the government should keep away from such activities but that is not the case in India.
It now seems from what happened yesterday that the SGPC ruthlessly splurged Rs 11 crore of devotees’ money (golak money) just to provide space to 5-time chief minister Parkash Singh Badal to address the gathering that too had been mobilised by the Akali Dal as President Ram Nath Kovind had been invited.
It is pertinent to mention that the Punjab government had offered that Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh should preside over the joint stage that should host the dignitaries. This did not happen. Badal was the only political leader who was allowed to address from the SGPC stage in the presence of Kovind.
Kovind earlier attended the Punjab government function.
Did the SGPC spend Rs 11 crore just to facilitate Badal to address the gathering?
The only purpose message that was delivered came from Akal Takht Jathedar. He touched upon wide range of issues in the context of teachings of Guru Nanak. He referred to caste and status ridden Sikh society, disastrous effect on environment and international relations but offered no solution.
The basic issue is whether the Sikhs are following the teachings of Guru Nanak or not in practice?
The answer is in the negative. And if the Sikhs have strayed from the path shown by Guru Nanak, to what purpose were these celebrations?
Lakhs of people turned up over a week at Sultanpur Lodhi to pay respect to Baba Nanak. However, the tents of the SGPC and the Punjab government were visited by a fraction.
On the other hand, the ceremony organised by Pakistan to inaugurate the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor was characterised by sobriety and grace.
Can Sikhs return to Baba Nanak? This issue has been conveniently side-stepped during the glittering 550th anniversary celebrations. It might have satisfied bloated ego of some political leaders but they seem to have further belittled themselves.
Baba Nanak is an ideal and his teachings focus on way of life, not glamour and glitter.
The article was first published at Jagtar Singh’s blog here.
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