Amritsar, Oct. 7: Baba Harnam Singh Khalsa, head of the Damdami Taksal that was once led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, dismisses criticism of the upcoming Bluestar memorial as too much fuss over nothing.
“It is being built as a tribute to all martyrs of the Sikh community. It is small in size and no preachings will be allowed from inside. Only the Guru Granth Sahib will be recited inside it. There will be no pictures inside either,” he says, stressing the name Bluestar would not feature anywhere.
The memorial is under construction inside the Golden Temple complex for the past three months.
“It’s near the Akal Takht,” says a security guard, pointing to Sikhism’s highest temporal seat, located across the sarovar (water tank) from the Harmandir Sahib, as the Golden Temple is called.
But with pandals covering the entire area to keep out the sun, it takes a while to spot the memorial being constructed about 50-55 feet to the right.
Access to the site is through a room off the parikrama (the marble pathway that goes around the Harmandir Sahib) — a staircase will come up here.
A handful of masons are at work on the small octagonal structure, which will serve as a one-room gurdwara with only recitals of the Guru Granth Sahib allowed inside, says the head of the seminary entrusted with its construction.
The under-construction memorial has been thrust again in the limelight after the knife attack on (retd) Lt Gen. K.S. Brar in London last week. Brar, now retired, had led the operation to flush out militants 28 years ago in 1984.
Former Congress chief minister Amarinder Singh has been opposing construction of the memorial, saying it would revive militancy, and has even blamed it for the attack on Brar. Brar has echoed Amarinder.
Asked about this, Harnam Singh spits out: “Pellan te galat kam kitta. Hun galat bayanbaazi kar reya hai (First he committed a wrong, now he’s making false statements).” It was wrong to have stormed the complex on a day it was full of pilgrims, he said. The pilgrims had gathered to observe the martyrdom day of Guru Arjan Dev, the fifth Sikh guru.
He lashes out at Amarinder, too, and says the memorial is being built because the Sikh community felt the army action in 1984 was wrong.
“Amarinder too felt the same in 1984 and resigned from Parliament. He is only on the lookout for votes for his party now. The memorial will only house the holy book. It will be a Shaheedi Gurdwara (Martyrs’ Gurdwara),” the Taksal head says.
In response to a question, one of the masons at work on the structure replies, in Hindi: “It will take a long time (to build).”
The memorial, demands for which have been made by various groups every year on the anniversary of Bluestar and which is backed by the Akali-led government in the state, is expected to be thrown open on June 6 next year, the 29th anniversary of the operation.
But right now, it does not appear to interest devotees.
“No one comes to ask us where it is being built or where they can donate money for its construction,” a Shiromani Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee official said.
Unlike the long queues to donate money for langar (community feast) and prasad, the counter where contributions for the memorial are being accepted is almost deserted.
Even the few donating here did not want too much to be made of it and said they were only helping the SGPC in its administration of the complex.
“There are long queues elsewhere. Part of the money collected at other places can be used for the memorial’s construction. Similarly, what is offered here can also be used for other things,” said a devotee, Sukhbir Kaur.
Some others welcomed the building of the memorial, but for a reason unconnected to Bluestar.
“The waiting list for Akhand Path (recitation of the Guru Granth Sahib) in one’s name inside the sanctum sanctorum is 10 years. It is four years in the other small gurdwaras inside the temple complex. Another gurdwara will help cut down the list to some extent,” said C.M. Singh, a devotee.