Amritsar, June 6: Expressing concern over “spread of Christianity" in Punjab, Akal Takht Jathedar Gyani Harpreet Singh on Monday asserted that "churches and mosques" are being built in numbers in rural parts of the state and urged Sikh preachers to visit villages to promote Sikhism.
Delivering his customary address to the Sikh community from the Akal Takht's podium to mark the 38th anniversary of 'Operation Bluestar' here, the Jathedar also said that the Sikh community should make arrangements for the training of the youth in Sikh martial art and other heritage weapons.
"Today, we are confronting several challenges that are weakening us on the religious, social and economic fronts. To weaken us on the religious front, strong publicity of Christianity is being carried on in Punjab," he said.
The Jathedar of the Akal Takht - the highest Sikh temporal seat - said "churches and mosques" are being built in numbers in Punjab's villages and noted "it's a matter of concern and worry for us". This should be tackled by the Sikh institutions and jathebandis (organisations) by coming forward to preaching Sikh faith like the old Sikhs and saints did, he said.
He appealed to all the eminent associated with the Sikh religion to visit villages, especially the border villages, of the state and strengthen Sikh religion. The Jathedar pointed out that the time has come to step out of air-conditioned rooms and said Sikh preachers and scholars need to visit the border areas to promote Sikhism and apprise the youth about the rich Sikh tenets and history.
"We need to understand that if we are weak on the religious front, we will not be strong on economic and social fronts and then politically also, we will be weakened," he said.
The Jathedar said that the Sikhs have been blessed with the determination of Raj (sovereignty) from the time of Gurus (masters), which Sikhs still reiterate in their daily ‘ardas’ as 'Raj Karega Khalsa'.
"And to move in this direction, the Sikh youth will have to move forward in the world by getting high quality education. At the same time, it is imperative for the Sikh community to be proficient in the Sikh martial art received as inheritance," he said.
He said the Sikh community should make arrangements for the training of youth in Sikh martial art (Gatka) and other heritage weapons and also set up the shooting ranges for training of modern weapons as required.
The Jathedar also expressed concern over drug menace afflicting many youths and talked about the need to fight the scourge. Meanwhile, pro-Khalistan slogans were raised by supporters of radical Sikh outfits as well as that of Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) at the Golden Temple on the occasion.
The marbled premises of the Golden Temple near Akal Takht echoed with pro-Khalistan slogans.
Many youths held banners and placards with 'Khalistan Zindabad' written on them. They wore T-shirts with the picture of slain separatist leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale printed on them.
Pro-Khalistan slogans were also raised by activists of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) led by former MP Simranjit Singh Mann, who was also present at the spot. He raised the killing of Punjabi singer Sidhu Moosewala and demanded justice for the family.
Operation Bluestar was a military operation carried out in 1984 to flush out the militants from the Golden Temple.
Elaborate security arrangements were put in place in Amritsar to ensure that the event passed off smoothly.
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), the apex religious body of the Sikhs, displayed the bullet-ridden holy 'Saroop' (volume) of the Guru Granth Sahib. The 'Saroop', which was installed in the sanctum sanctorum at that time, was hit by a bullet during the military action in 1984. Saying that the ghallughara (holocaust) of June 1984 is a painful saga of atrocities perpetrated on the Sikh community, the Jathedar questioned the heavy deployment of forces by the government in Amritsar city during that time.
"The governments must understand that the Sikh community is not a community which intimidates but it protects the oppressed," he said.
He said that "the attack on several Sikh shrines, including Sri Akal Takht Sahib, still hurts the community and it is a historical fact that whoever attacked the Sikh shrines was doomed".
On the occasion, the family members of several former terrorists were honoured with 'Siropaos' (robes of honour) by Head Granthi Giani Jagtar Singh, Jathedar Gyani Harpreet Singh and SGPC chief Harjinder Singh Dhami.