October 12, 2017

India: Religious body SGPC to take back the Shiromani Patarkar Award from Kuldip Nayar

The Tribune, Oct 12, 2017


An unworthy act: Defrocking of Kuldip Nayar diminishes all

QUITE surprisingly, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) has deemed it necessary to take back the Shiromani Patarkar Award from Kuldip Nayar, one of India’s seniormost journalists. This veteran journalist was chosen to be honoured with this award because during the days of unrest in Punjab, before and after Operation Bluestar, he had been perceived to have taken a sympathetic view of the Sikh grievances and demands, just as he had been distinctly disapproving of the Indira Gandhi government’s handling of the Khalistan movement. Indeed, Nayar’s writing and comments were so much against the mainstream narrative that a gratified SGPC decided to honour him in July 2006, on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of Akal Takht. That was a moment of grace.

Now, that noble gesture stands undone. Nayar has apparently run afoul of the SGPC establishment for having pointed out a similarity between the nature of political patronage extended to Gurmeet Ram Rahim (of the currently dismantled Dera Sacha Sauda) and Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale; he had not made any character comparison of the two. It is understood that the SGPC found itself under pressure from the Damdami Taksal, the presumed keeper of the Bhindranwale legacy, to act against Nayar. On his part, the journalist, who has been a voluble proponent of Sikh-Hindu amity and harmony, has simply feigned complete indifference. It is for the Sikh community to determine whether the SGPC has redeemed itself or retrieved anyone’s honour by this act of smallness. Though the SGPC may have found itself subjected to factional pulls and pressures, the action against Nayar does not bespeak of grace, dignity and nobility, the traits that so overwhelmingly define the wise Gurus’ teachings and preachings. Vindictive gestures do not garner any honour.

Whatever satisfaction some groups and individuals may derive from this meaningless stance against Kuldip Nayar, it is not going to set the Beas on fire. But this does suggest a recalcitrant itch to mix history, politics and religion. It is this itch that has in the past brought so much unhappiness and so much violence and confrontation to this land. Punjab has had enough of this mix. It is about time that the functioning of religious bodies is cured of petty politicians and their petty calculations.