Op/Ed: Why is the SGPC not taking centuries-old structures found at Sri Darbar Sahib seriously?

The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) is still not taking centuries-old historic structures found on the premises of Sri Darbar Sahib (Golden Temple) during excavation work which is underway to construct a new Jora Ghar for sangat. It is sticking to its stand that the structures will be preserved only if found historic.

First the SGPC planned to dismantle the structures which have been found at the place adjoining Gurdwara Thara Sahib in Sri Darbar Sahib complex and let Kar Sewa volunteers to go ahead with this plan without realizing its importance especially for the Sikh qaum. It revoked its plan when the Sikh activists lodged a protest against it.

Even if the SGPC has revoked the plan but not corrected its course of action fully. The SGPC chief Jagir Kaur said, “if these structures are found related to history and heritage then they will surely be preserved”.

“The opinion of experts on its antiquity and historicity is being sought. The SGPC has discussed the matter with experts from Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU) and is seeking the services of other experts and historians. The deputy commissioner (DC) of Amritsar has also been asked to look into the matter through the Archaeological Survey of India”, she added.

Now, the question arises what will the SGPC do if the experts are not able to establish a link of this structure with Sikh history?. Will this structure be dismantled or buried in this case? Once again, the apex gurdwara body which manages affairs of the historic gurdwaras in Punjab and surrounding states, could not show maturity in handling this kind of issue. Already, it has done nothing so far in the case of demolishing the historic deori of Sri Darbar Sahib at Tarn Taran Sahib. It has failed to renovate the deori damaged by Jagtar Singh-led Kar Sewa organization.

This is a common-sense that the structures constructed with small bricks turn out to be historic in the holy city which was founded by 4th Sikh Master Guru Ram Das Jee and developed by Sikh ruler Maharaja Ranjit Singh. All such structures are witnesses of what has been happening in the city since the era of Guru Ram Das Jee.

On July 19, the SGPC-appointed Akal Takht Sahib acting jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh indirectly said that there was no need of preserving this structure. “Actually it was a private property called ‘Bunga Gianian’, which was vacated by the family of Gianian after taking compensation from the Indian government in 1988. When the building was demolished, nobody made hue and cry over this, nor did anyone deter the demolition”. If we have found one-two rooms now, noise should not be made over it, because nobody is erecting his or her personal building there. The building is being constructed at the site just to fecilitate the devotees visiting Sri Darbar Sahib. There will be a big advantage of these arrangements to the devotees“.

While making this statement, the jathedar ignored the contribution of Gianian’s family and its ancestors including Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s contemporary Giani Sant Singh who was the then head granthi of Sri Darbar Sahib. He should be asked if ownership of any such structure is parameter for preservation? Doesn’t he know the importance of ‘Bungas’ in the Sikh faith? Was concern of the Sikh activists who opposed the likely demolition of this structure, not genuine? Is it not a concern of the entire qaum?

“If the experts name these buildings as the basement of the ‘bungas’, even then these are of great historical and religious importance as these are the  part of the daily “ardaas” (prayer). “Chaunkian, jhande bunga jugo jug atal”is the part of the daily ardas performed in every Gurdwara and after each religious function. (chaunki refers to a session of kirtan, jhande refers to ‘Nishan Sahib and bunga means a dwelling place)is the part of daily Ardaas”, said members of Amritsar Vikas Manch (AVM), in a letter written to Jagir Kaur.

Already we have lost our previous heritage and relics of Guru Sahib and historic Sikh figures including Maharaja Ranjit Singh. If we find any heritage structure, it should be preserved without seeking anyone’s advice.

Ironically, the approach of the SGPC and Giani Harpreet Singh is not good toward the heritage buildings.


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