AMRITSAR SAHIB, Punjab—It’s been three and half years since work is in progress on a portrait gallery in memory of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, his aides and sangat who attained martyrdom while defending the holiest Sikh shrine, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) has failed to ensure completion of the gallery.
The gallery is under construction in the basement of a gurdwara constructed as a memorial of these martyrs. The SGPC handed over the ‘Kar Sewa’ of the gallery to the Sikh seminary Damdami Taksal (Mehta) in June 2017. However, this project is being delayed inordinately and still far from completion. The SGPC which is the custodian of this project has failed to have a check on it.
Presently, much of the civil work is pending and the frames on which the portraits are to be installed, are being fitted. Taksal continues to collect the money from the devotees visiting Sri Harmandar Sahib in the name of this gallery. Two golaks (donation boxes) are placed in the complex of the shrine for this collection, yet the project is being executed at snail’s pace, thereby irking the Sikh bodies.
Taksal’s representatives disclosed many times about the finalization of the list of those whose portraits are to be displayed there, but no further progress is witnessed. Taksal’s chief Harnam Singh Khalsa has assured many times to finish this project but all these assurances have proved to be false so far. The SGPC fixed no deadline for the completion of the project.
Apart from the portrait of Sant Bhindranwale, that of Bhai Amrik Singh, Major General Shabeg Singh, Bhai Mehanga Singh Babbar and other Sikh fighters will also be displayed. They fought against the Indian armed forces during “operation bluestar”, code name given to the army attack on the shrine complex targeting Akal Takht Sahib, the highest Sikh temporal seat.
This is the major project as the Indian government dubs these fighters, martyrs of the Sikh community, as “terrorists”. The anti-Sikh forces made hue and cry when the memorial was built up there highlighting the names of Sant Bhindranwale, Bhai Amrik Singh, Major General Shabeg Singh and Baba Thara Singh. At the time of its inauguration in 2013, the SGPC, which is controlled by the Shiromani Akali Dal that was in power in Punjab then in alliance with BJP, had expressed unease at a plaque and two slabs with Bhindranwale’s name installed at its entrance. Certain leaders of the BJP and the then opposition Congress had opposed it, terming it “anti-national”.
Sewa of this gallery was handed over to Taksal during the regime of the then SGPC chief Kirpal Singh Badungar.
On the other hand, a parallel gallery is near completion at the Durgiana Temple in the same city in memory of those who played a role against the Sikh struggle and were allegedly killed by the Sikh militants for the same.
The portraits of Hindu extremists besides leaders of the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who were killed by militants in the 1990s, are also being put up in the gallery, it is learnt. Nearly 100 portraits with a brief description have been installed.
The gallery is in the vicinity of the Harbans Lal Khanna Samarak, the BJP’s district-level office. The memorial was built in the memory of Harbans Lal Khanna,the Amritsar BJP chief and former MLA, who was killed by suspected militants in 1984. Khanna’s portrait has also been put up in the gallery. Khanna was the man who broke model of Sri Harmandar Sahib.