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Akal Thakt Kar Seva & Baba Santa Singh

Guest Sardar Moderator Singh

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Guest Sardar Moderator Singh

In view of the recent posts concerning the "preservation of Sikh Heritage", in which the moderation team have sought to keep matters focused on the precise topic and the responses we have received for a discussion on the issue of the Akal Thakt kar seva during the 1980s, we hereby present one BBC article from 1984 which concerns this and the Baba Santa Singh Nihang (presumably prior to his excommunication).

This is thread is created specifically for the assessment of this issue only and whilst we all note this is very topical and emotional, we request that where possible comments are made with reference to the matter at hand and personality attacks kept at bay.

In allowing this thread to proceed we request that all other threads please be kept clean of such matters and focus be made to their specific topics.

[Pending on the response and manner in which this debate develops, we are receptive to bringing on further topical debates onto the forum, anyone with any particular requests, please PM one of the Moderation team with their details].

We look forward to seeing this "debate" and "discussion" develop.

Copyright 1984 The British Broadcasting Corporation

BBC Summary of World Broadcasts

July 20, 1984, Friday

SECTION: Part 3 The Far East; B. INTERNAL AFFAIRS; INDIA; FE/7700/B/1;

HEADLINE: Akali Dali and Other Sikh Groups to Repair Golden Temple

SOURCE: New Delhi home service in English 1530 gmt 18 Jul 84

More Sikh volunteers are to join the Kar Sewa [voluntary community service] undertaken by the nihang [sikh temple guard] chief, Baba Santa Singh, at the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar. Welcoming the Kar Sewa by Baba Santa Singh, the All India Shiromani Akali Dal, Master Tara Singh group, in a statement in New Delhi today [18th July] said that the party is planning to send a jatha [group] to Amritsar shortly to take part in the Kar Sewa. The General Secretary of the party, Mr Ajab Singh Diler, demanded that the management of the Golden Temple be entrusted to an impartial body. A jatha of 70 devotees from gurdwara (?Nadda Sahib) in Ambala district today [18th July] left for Amritsar to take part in the Kar Sewa. A spokesman of the jatha said that two similar jathas will daily leave for Amritsar to take part in the programme.

Meanwhile, more Budha Dal nihangs joined Baba Santa Singh and resumed the Kar Sewa of the Akal Takht [highest seat of the Sikh religion] at the Golden Temple complex this morning, dressed in their traditional robes, they went about removing debris.

Baba Santa Singh has said that Akal Takht chief, Giani Kirpal Singh, has no authority to call for his explanation for undertaking the Kar Sewa. He told United News of India that he is not bound to reply to the notice served on him by Giani Kirpal Singh. He asked the high priest why they were silent witnesses to the misuse of the Golden Temple by terrorists.

The Guru Singh Sabha [sikh organisation] at Gauhati has also welcomed the Kar Sewa now in progress at the Golden Temple. In a resolution adopted at its executive meeting today, the Sabha urged the Assam government to grant special leave and assistance to Sikh employees who want to participate in the Kar Sewa. The All India Federation of scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, and backward classes has also hailed the Kar Sewa. In a statement in New Delh, the Federation appealed to all sections of the community to participate in it.

Former senior vice president of the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak [sikh temple management] committee [sGPC], Mr Ajit Singh Man, has commended Baba Santa Singh for undertaking the Kar Sewa. Talking to our correspondent at Amritsar, he appealed to the people, particularly the Sikhs, to join the programme. He criticised the attitude of the Akali Dal and the SGPC leadership for creating hurdles in the way of conducting Kar Sewa.

As already reported, the curfew has been extended till 1100 tomorrow [19th July] in Amritsar city as a precautionary measure. The four hour relaxation from 1100 in the morning passed off peacefully without any incident.

A delegation from the Durgiana Temple Committee, Amritsar, met Mrs Gandhi in New Delhi today and submitted a memorandum. It appreciated the army action in flushing out terrorists and restoring normality. The Prime Minister urged the delegation to work for promoting peace and communal harmony in the state.

The high-powered panel constituted by the centre to revamp the Punjab admin- istration today [18th July] visited Amritsar. It held discussions with district officials.

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Guest Sardar Moderator Singh

Further newspaper clippings:-

Copyright 1984 The Financial Times Limited

Financial Times (London,England)

July 31, 1984, Tuesday

SECTION: SECTION I; Overseas News; Pg. 3

LENGTH: 964 words

HEADLINE: Punjab experiences a bitter peace

BYLINE: K. K. Sharma


The Sikhs are now deeply divided and demoralised, reports K. K. Sharma from Amritsar


WHEN Baba Santa Singh, the controversial leader of the Sikh Nihang warrior sect, led his saffron and blue-robed followers into the Golden Temple in Amritsar this month, he brought tensions in the religious community to their highest point since the army action in Punjab last month.

By picking up a symbolic piece of rubble from the ruins of the Akal Takht, the heavily-bombarded "Seat of the Timeless" which the late extremist leader Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale had made his headquarters, Baba Santa Singh started a repair operation in which several hundred Sikhs and Hindus are now taking part.

In doing so, the stocky long-turbaned Nihang has split the Sikh community. Its religious leaders think they should organise the repair work themselves, but only after the Indian army has withdrawn from the Golden Temple. Charging Baba Santa Singh with being a "stooge of the Congress-I and the Government," the five Sikh high priests have now excommunicated him from Sikhism.

The 60-year-old warrior is unworried. "What were the high priests doing when Bhindranwale desecrated the Akal Takht by making it into an arsenal for two years?" he asks contempuously, ordering his followers to continue with the repairs.

The repair operation, known as kar sewa or voluntary service, is being done under the watchful eye of the army which retains control of the Golden Temple but is not helping the Nihang and other Sikh volunteers. By maintaining the army's presence. Prime Minister Idira Gandhi has quietly let it be known that her "tough" policy on Punjab will continue.

The policy ended two years of vacillation when the army acted last month after Bhindranwale and his extremist followers unleashed a prolonged reign of terror to press their demand for secession and creation of an independent Sikh state.

The army keeps a low profile in Amritsar but its presence is very much felt. There are roadblocks and sandbag bunkers at strategic points. Soldiers in battledress carry automatic rifles while patrolling the streets. An occasional jeep with a mounted machine gun drives past the holy city's busy bazaars.

In the countryside, where summer farm work and transplantation of paddy are being carried on belatedly, the army is on a pacification mission. Small groups lecture villagers on the need for peace and read out a letter from Mrs Gandhi promising that their demands will be considered sympathetically.

There is peace again in Amritsar and villages nearby where for two years Bhindranwale's writ ran. But anti-terrorist operations continue in Amritsar district and in other parts of Punjab where hundreds of Bhindranwale's followers have gone underground.It could take months, even years, to flush them out.

Few Sikhs -- not even the leaders of their political party, the Akali Dal -- in Amritsar, sympathise with the terrorists. The few leaders still at liberty -- the top men are in jail -- are demoralised and their limited object now is to get the army to withdraw from the Golden Temple.

They speak no more of the Akali demands for autonomy for Punjab which triggered the terrorist movement. The demands are not forgotten -- far from it -- but the third and fourth rung leaders of the Akali Dal seem to have temporarily shelved them.

Instead, they have launched a movement for the withdrawal of the army from the Golden Temple. Small "martyrs squads" try to march on the temple every day to regain control from the army: each day they are arrested before they have progressed 10 yards. The movement is entirely peaceful.

But the Sikhs are bitter, the Akalis believe that Mrs Gandhi planted Baba Santa Singh and his Nihang followers in the Golden Temple. By enabling him to start repair work, they have been administered a sharp slap in the face. "Is this the healing touch that Mrs Gandhi talks of?" asked the angry acting president of the Akali Dal, Mr Parkash Singh Majithia. "I call it the irritating touch,' said another Akali leader grimly. "Now all Sikhs are extremists."

The truth is that the Sikhs are now hopelessly split. Without guidance from their jailed leaders, they have crumbled before Mrs Gandhi's "tough" policy and her divide-and-rule tactics. Whether such an approach will help bring Punjab back to mainstream of Indian life remains to be seen

The immediate task, as the Government see it, is to check terrorism. There are still clashes with Bhindranwale's followers who have been responsible for major acts of sabotage, such as a breach in the Bhakra Canal supplying water to Chandigarh and New Delhi.

The next task is to apply the "healing touch" both to the Sikhs and Hindus so that inflamed communal passions are soothed. This is not easy because the senseless communal killings in the past two years have shattered traditional Hindu-Sikh amity.

The third task is to rebuild the demoralised civil and police administration. This is to be done by bringing in 50 per cent of government employees from other states at all levels. A start has been made with the replacement of the governor and inspector-general of police.

The economy needs immediate attention. Agricultural operations in what is the granary of India have been delayed by the army action and the non-arrival of migrant Hindu farm workers from other states. Industry is suffering from power shortages and lack of confidence in the business community that is forcing some industrialists to consider moving to other states.

All this is not easy. With the Government belatedly resorting to a "tough" policy, the Punjab economy under severe strain, the Sikh community deeply split and demoralised and communal feelings aroused, it will be a long time -- if ever -- before Punjab returns to normal.

Copyright 1984 The New York Times Company

The New York Times

September 30, 1984, Sunday, Late City Final Edition

SECTION: Section 1; Part 1; Page 19, Column 1; Foreign Desk

LENGTH: 815 words





The Government formally handed over control of the Golden Temple, the holiest shrine in the Sikh religion, to a committee of five Sikh priests today.

The priests operated the temple in Amritsar before the Indian Army invaded it last June 5 to dislodge Sikh militants.

It was announced earlier this week that all troops had been withdrawn from the temple, but the last ones actually left today.

In addition, an official spokesman said that most of the army troops sent into the surrounding state of Punjab on June 2 to combat Sikh guerrillas had returned to their posts in other states. The only troops remaining in the state, the spokesman said, were those normally stationed there.

The army does not disclose troop deployment figures.

Nearly four months ago the Government gave the army the job of rooting out Sikh militants. The June 5-6 battle for the Golden Temple, which had been taken over by well-armed Sikh guerrillas, resulted in the deaths of at least 600 people and perhaps as many as 1,000.

Keys Are Handed Over

But as the situation in Punjab appeared to be returning to normal, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi said this week that some guerrillas were still at large in Punjab.

Today, the last token group of soldiers withdrew from the temple as R. V. Subramaniam, an adviser to Gov. K. T. Satarawala of Punjab, handed over the keys to the ''Toshakhana,'' one of the major shrines in the temple complex.

And in a symbolic act, priests began a continuous recitation of the Sikh holy scriptures inside the Akal Takht, the temple headquarters from which militants led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, who was killed in the June 5-6 raid, once sprayed army troops with machine-gun fire.

The Akal Takht, which was severely damaged by gunfire, has been reconstructed in the last few weeks by members of the Nihang sect of Sikhs in defiance of orders from the temple's high priests not to do so. The priests charged that the Nihangs, whose reputation is that of warriors, were acting as agents of the Government.

Today Baba Santa Singh, the Nihang chief who supervised the reconstruction, castigated the temple priests for having allowed the Bhindranwale group to take over the temple and use it as their base.

Sign of Conciliation

The temple priests had vowed to tear the Akal Takht down again if the Nihangs rebuilt it. But today the head priest, Jathedar Kirpal Singh, consecreated the reconstructed building by washing it with milk mixed with water from the temple's holy tank, or pond, which surrounds the inner temple.

The act was taken as a sign of conciliation on the part of the priests, particularly since only a day earlier they had had harsh words against what they called the Government's high-handed treatment of citizens in the Punjabi countryside.

It was feared that the remarks would cause a last-minute hitch in plans to hand the temple back to the priests, and it seemed for a time that an agreement to do so was coming undone. The Sikh priests had said they would cancel a mass march to liberate the temple on Monday, then withdrew the announcement.

At at 11 A.M. today, the temple was handed over and the priests said again, apparently finally, that the march on Monday was canceled.

As soon as the last soldiers started leaving the temple complex today, a group of Sikh devotees - old and young, men, women and children - surged into it, crying slogans such as ''Victory for the Religion'' and ''The Khalsa will ultimately rule.'' The Khalsa is the body of Sikhs.

Greater Autonomy Sought

The goal of the two-year-long Sikh protest that culminated in the army's move into Punjab was greater political autonomy for the state, in which Sikhs are a majority.

Another group entered the temple today from another direction, shouting pro-Khalistan slogans. Khalistan is the name Sikhs give to an all-Sikh, independent state that some would like to see established in Punjab.

The sloganeers were admonished by one of the high priests, however, apparently because the priests have promised the Government that the temple will not be used as a political platform or marshaling area for arms.

Some 5,000 suspected guerrillas have reportedly been arrested in Punjab since June, but according to one official, many are expected to be released.

Meanwhile, Punjab nears the end of a full year, on Oct. 9, under direct administration by the central Government in New Delhi. Normal political processes remain suspended. Today, tight press censorship in the state was extended for two more months. Foreigners, except for a few relatives of Punjab citizens, are still forbidden to enter the state.

The leaders of Akali Dal, the Sikh political party that started agitation for greater Sikh autonomy, remain in jail. And negotiations on a political settlement of the Punjab problem remain in limbo.

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