New Delhi: The acting chief of the Akal Takht, the top Sikh body, has called for the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to be banned, saying its aim of a Hindu rashtra is against the country’s interests.
According to NDTV, Giani Harpreet Singh, the acting jathedar (head priest) of the body said that he believes the RSS’s actions will create divisions in the country. “The statements being made by RSS leaders are not in the country’s interests,” he told the media in Amritsar on Monday.
On Tuesday, he reiterated that a Hindu rashtra would not be in the interest of the country.
Akal Takht Chief Giani Harpreet Singh: People of all religions and faiths live in India. This is the beauty of India. RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) has said that India will be made a ‘Hindu Rashtra’. It is wrong. This is not in the interest of the country. pic.twitter.com/K7oCOTjRs3
— ANI (@ANI) October 15, 2019
Giani Harpreet Singh’s statement is a reaction to RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s speech on Vijayadashami, when he called India a Hindu rashtra.
Bhagwat’s statements have already been condemned by Gobind Singh Longowal, president of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC). He termed the remark that Indian is a Hindu rashtra “highly objectionable” and said that the Constitution gives all citizens religious freedom. The SGPC is also known as the Sikh parliament and manages all gurdwaras and religious issues related to the community. Its office-bearers are voted in by the Sikh electorate.
The Akal Takht and RSS have shared a troubled relationship. Sikh bodies take issue with the RSS and Sangh’s tendency to consider Sikhism as part of the “larger Hindu fold” which also includes Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains. The bodies have also accused the Sangh of trying to appropriate and present Sikh gurus, particularly Guru Gobind Singh, as Hindu figures.
According to The Quint, in 2004, the Akal Takht asked Sikhs to stay away from the Rashtriya Sikh Sangat, an RSS affiliate, calling the outfit “anti-Panthic”. The website also reported that in 2017, the Akal Takht’s chief Giani Gurbachan Singh also criticised an event organised by the Rashtriya Sikh Sangat for the 350th birth anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh.
“Sikhs are a separate qaum (ethnic group) and they have distinct identity and unique history. They don’t interfere in rituals, beliefs and code of ethics of any other religion. How can they tolerate interference from others in their own faith and its ethos,” Giani Gurbachan Singh had said.
After the Centre’s decision to dilute Article 370, Giani Harpreet Singh took cognisance of statements issued by BJP leaders about marrying “fair Kashmiri girls”. “Such comments objectify women… Kashmiri women are part of our society. It is our religious duty to defend their honour. Sikhs should come forward to protect the honour of Kashmiri women,” he said.
Congress, SAD in tussle
Meanwhile, the Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), the BJP’s ally, were entangled in a battle over the Akal Takht.
Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal on October 12 slammed the Congress government over the issue of joint celebrations of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, accusing it of having “gone blind in arrogance” and considering itself “above the Akal Takht”. The next day, chief minister Amarinder Singh said the SAD government had “shamelessly and willfully heaped humiliation” on the jathedar of the Akal Takht.
Singh said that he had been personally engaging with the SGPC and appealing for a joint celebration for the 550th ‘Prakash Purb’, as befitting of the occasion. “The manner in which they (Akalis) had been going, on the side, to invite the prime minister and other Central government leaders for the separate event of the SGPC clearly exposed their revoltingly true intent,” he said.
“What is this if not a desperate bid to hijack the religious event for their own interests”, Singh asked, adding that by announcing the “reported and unconfirmed” programme of the prime minister and President, Badal had even lowered the prestige of these high offices.