The jathedar (head priest) of Sikhs’ highest temporal seat — Akal Takht — Giani Harpreet Singh on Monday raked a controversy by asking the Sikhs to arm themselves with modern legal licensed weapons “as the current situation demands”.
Giani Harpreet Singh, in his video message issued to the sangat (community) on the Gurta Gaddi Diwas (enthronement day) of Sikhs sixth master Guru Hargobind, asked the Sikh youth to follow the Guru and arm themselves. “Entire Sikh youth must learn gatka, talwarbaazi (sword-fighting), shooting...and every Sikh should try to keep modern licensed weapons, in a legal way, with themselves because of the developing circumstances,” he said in the video message that failed to go down well with state’s political leaders, including the Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann.
Akal Takht jathedar, citing Guru Hargobind’s four wars that he fought and won all, said that the time has come that the Sikhs should become strong by reciting the bani, and arm themselves. He said that Guru Hargobind’s message of Miri-Piri is effective even today, and the Sikhs should chant the name of Gurus along with practicing gatka, sword-fighting, and shooting, besides staying away from drugs.
Notably, Sikhs’ sixth master Guru Hargobind was also the founder of the concept of Miri-Piri — a Sikh tradition connoting temporal and spiritual components of life. Guru Hargobind, by wearing the two kirpans (swords) of Miri (materialist, and political power), and Piri (spiritual power) has endowed on the Sikhs the importance of these two important aspects of life.
SPREAD MESSAGE OF PEACE, RATHER THAN ASKING SIKHS TO KEEP LICENSED MODERN WEAPONS: CM
Reiterating Punjab Government’s commitment to maintain peace, Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann urged Akal Takht’s head priest to spread the message of peace, harmony, and brotherhood in society rather than asking Sikhs to keep licensed modern weapons. Taking strong exception to the statement, Mann said: “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.”
Mann said that Akal Takht jathedar should focus on spreading the message of Gurbani which envisages ‘sarbat da bhala’ (welfare of one and all). He said that Jathedar should focus on disseminating this divine message of wellbeing of all in each household. “It is the need of hour to ensure that the state’s hard-earned peace is maintained at every cost. Already inimical forces are trying to disturb the state’s peace,” he said, adding that weapons in every household can further pose a serious challenge.
DRAWS FLAK FROM OPPOSITION TOO
Apart from the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Akal Takht jathedar was in the line of fire of the leaders from opposition parties in Punjab.
The state Congress president Amarinder Singh Raja Warring urged the Jathedar to tell the reasons as to why Sikhs should possess licensed modern weapons. “It is a matter of serious concern that the Giani Harpreet Singh, who presides over the highest temporal seat of the Sikh community, had to give this call on the Gurta Gaddi Diwas of Guru Hargobind....everyone would like to know, whether he feels any particular threat to the community that its youth need licensed modern weapons,” he said. Warring said that since the Jathedar Sahab holds an important and sensitive position in the Sikh community, “whatever he says is always taken seriously by the Sikh community and that is why he must also tell what are the reasons behind such a call for modern weapons”.
“Since the call comes from the temporal head of the Sikh community, it is a cause of grave concern for all of us...Every Punjabi in general and every Sikh in particular feels concerned as what made Akal Takhat Jathedar to give such a call for licensed modern weapons,” he added.
Another senior Congress leader and former Deputy Chief Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa said that it must be made clear why such a message was issued. “What is so alarming about the law and order situation in Punjab that the youths are being asked to seek licence for arms,” asked Randhawa. He said that as per Sikhism, keeping a kirpan for self-defence was mandatory as per the teachings of the Guru, but why licensed weapons.
Punjab BJP president Ashwani Sharma said that Akal Takht jathedar’s recent statements can be misleading, and “Punjab’s hard won peace should never be tampered with”. Another BJP leader Harjeet Singh Grewal said that such a statement was issued to ensure the safety of his own seat and keeping the Akalis relevant. There was no provocation to make such a statement and his message could be used to disrupt peace in the State, he said.
Defending the statement, Shiromani Akali Dal leader Daljit Singh Cheema said that keeping weapons (kirpan) has been part of the religion and given the violence, some people are even keeping private security for their own safety, so there was no harm if people kept licensed weapons. Cheema, however, said that there should be a background