LUDHIANA, Punjab, India: The five high priests said here that they would not hesitate to make any sacrifice for the preservation of the Sikh tenets and traditions.
Strongly reacting to exchange of fire between the freedom fighters and the CRPF at Amritsar, the priests said in a statement that the Government wanted to create conditions of 1984 so that the security forces could enter the Golden Temple Complex. This was “direct interference” in the religious affairs of the Sikhs.
The statement was released to newsmen in the presence of the Akal Takht Jathedar Bhai Jasbir Singh Khalsa, Bhai Swinder Singh, Bhai Jaswant Singh, Bhai Kashmir Singh and Bhai Gurdev Singh Kaunke.
The priests and five senior leaders of the Unified Akali Dal — Baba Joginder Singh, Mr. Sujan Singh Thekedar, Mr. Surat Singh Khalsa, Mr. Harcharan Singh Rode and Mr. Mal Singh Ghuman were closeted for more than four hours to review the situation arising out of the exchange of fire.
The priests said the firing by the CRPF was continuing till the release of the statement. The government had disconnected the power and water supply to the Temple complex and desecration of Darbar Sahib was being committed daily, they said.
They said: “We warn the government to stop the firing forthwith”.
They alleged that the firing of April 29 and that of yesterday was “part of a government design”.
Sounding a note of warning, the priests asked the government to stop playing with the sentiments of the Sikhs.
Replying to questions by newsmen, Bhai Jasbir Singh said that the BBC had not reported his interview correctly.
He alleged that the government had always backed out of its commitments and there could be no further dialogue with it.
He clarified that he did not say that there was the possibility of a settlement within the framework of the Constitution.
Bhai Jasbir Singh admitted that different statements issued by freedom fighting organizations had done harm to the cause of the Sikhs. He said efforts to unite these organizations were continuing.
Bhai Jasbir Singh alleged that the provocation for firing was provided by the government. The CRPF had already done “morcha Bandi” around the Temple complex and devotees were “harassed”.
He assailed the recent statement of the Adviser to the Governor, Mr, J.F. Ribeiro that the police would only go to collect the bodies from the Temple Complex.
Bhai Jasbir Singh said that no commitment was made with the Government at the time of release of the priests.
According to competent political observers, however, the current operation was planned about two months ago.
The release of Bhai Jasbir Singh is believed to be a part of the Center’s plan to ensure that the Akal Takht Chief did not put any hurdle in the way of clearing the Golden Temple Complex which according to the Government propaganda was riven with antisocial elements. It was in fact ensured that the Takht Chief made statements to create favourable atmosphere for the operation to be carried out. Accordingly some of the steps taken by Bhai Jasbir Singh such as the formation of Five Member Committee to clean up the Golden Temple premises has been interpreted as a helpful gesture towards the Central government. His other statement that the temple has become a den of antisocial elements could not have suited the government plans more.
Certain other steps looked retrospectively now appear to be pointing to the same direction. These include the arrest of U.N.L. correspondent Mr. Bhatia and issuance of warrants of arrest against Mohinder Singh of Akali Patrika. These journalists are known for their independent reporting from the crucial center of activities when a senior journalist Kuldeep Nayyar approached the Union Home Minister, Buta Singh, a fortnight ago at Delhi, the Home Minister had indicated that Mr. Bhatia will be released around May 15, 1988, the date appeared to have been fixed for the completion of Operation in the Golden Temple, Amritsar.
Interestingly, Bhai Jasbir Singh vacated the Darbar Sahib Complex only one day before the Operation of the police and exchange of heavy firing which started a week ago. He had shifted to the langar building on the eve of the imposition of the curfew. Bhai Jasbir Singh and other four head priests: somehow reached Patiala curiously in response to the request of the Vice chancellors of Punjabi University, Patiala, Dr. Bhagat Singh. It is rare in the history of Punjab that the Chief of Akal Takht and other priests have been invited by a V.C. of a University.
Article extracted from this publication >> May 20, 1988