There are certain rules that are ubiquitously followed whenever a ‘bir’ of Guru Granth Sahib is carried or moved in Sikh religion. They include things like: • Heads of all those around must be covered • Singhs carrying the Guru must be bare-footed; one person ahead should sprinkle water on the pathway and one other should do Chaur Sahib seva • No one should sit on a platform higher than the Guru • In order to make people aware of Guru’s presence, usually a gong or some other instruments are played along with recitation of “Waheguru” These and other standards may not always be followed due to the tense surroundings at a protest site, and often, this may result in instances of disrespect. Additionally, it is improper to utilise the Guru as a "shield" in and of itself because it suggests that men prioritise their own interests over those of the community. It sends the wrong message to the masses that it is acceptable to foster an environment that may breed disrespect if doing so would ultimately help them achieve their greater objectives. As a result, the community as a whole welcomes the Akal Takht's decree. That ought to serve as a deterrent against disdain for Guru Granth Sahib.
The scenes that emerged out of Ajnala Police Station near Amritsar,
Punjab,India in February this year were unprecedented in recent history. They were a reminder of the dark days when militancy in Punjab was at its peak. Several hundred protestors buoyed by the support of radical leader Amritpal Singh clashed with police personnel near the police station. They were carrying swords and guns, and the police was clearly overwhelmed by the scale of the protest. It did not help the matter that the protest turned violent. The demand of protestors was that Lovepreet Singh, an associate of Amritpal, should be released from prison. He was arrested on some serious charges, including kidnapping. At the police station, Amritpal’s supporters tore through barricades and clashed with police, leaving many officers injured. What was even more concerning is that the police seemed to cave into the demands of protestors and the accused was later released from jail.
Other Incidents in the Past:
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. In recent years, the holy book was also carried to other protest sites, such as: • Protest against a liquor factory in Zira: Some farmer unions started Akand Path of Guru Granth Sahib outside liquor factory in Zira, allegedly in an effort to prevent police action. The protesters were demanding closure of the factory, among other demands as they believed it negatively impacted the local environment. • Recent Qaumi Insaaf Morcha protests in concerning release of Sikh prisoners: In support of the protest, SAD installed a ‘bir’ of Guru Granth Sahib in a portion of Gurudwara Rakab Ganj in Delhi. The Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Mnagament Committee alleged that this has been done after a police complaint was filed as SAD workers refused to vacate their office, and they thought to use the ‘bir’ as a shield against coercive police action.
Action by Akal Takht:
The incident led to the formation of a panel by Akal Takht Jathedar, Giani Harpreet Singh. The panel discussed the ethics of carrying Guru Granth Sahib to sensitive sites where there is a high apprehension of disrespect. The panel submitted its report this month and it restricted carrying of Guru Granth Sahib to the protest sites. Some scholars dubbed it as a kind of sacrilege, while others said that using Guru Granth Sahib as a shield is highly unethical.