AMRITSAR – Though three decades have passed since the death of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, his presence dominated the huge gathering at the Sarbat Khalsa (Sikh congregation) held at this non-descript village.
A number of youths were seen wearing the T-shirts with his face, along with General Subeg Singh, printed on it. Literature on him, posters and calendars were also on sale at the site.
Though he died long ago, he was still everywhere. This depicts the influence he has on the minds of the people. The entry gates erected on the road leading to the village and to the venue had the pictures of the Bhindranwale.
The huge presence of the people from across the state and neighbouring states, including Jammu and Kashmir, left the intelligence agencies bewildered.
The Punjab Police intelligence pegged the figure at around 1.5 lakh while the organisers claimed that it was over 2 lakh.
“Over 2 lakh people had come to attend the congregation from all over Punjab, including the Malwa belt,” said Jarnail Singh Sakheera, general secretary, SAD (A).
The gathering was impressive as people continued to pour in even during the closing stages of the event. In the morning, the gathering was nearly 10,000. It swelled to lakhs as the day progressed.
People braved the drizzle and remained glued to their places, listening to the speakers. At around 2 pm, they removed the side tents in order to accommodate the rush which was growing continuously. After that, people sat in the adjoining fields.
People came on buses, trains, even on tractor trolleys or two wheelers to attend the event. The recently harvested agricultural fields became parking spaces where buses, cars and motorcycles were parked.
Paramjit Singh, convener, International United Gurmat Granthi Sabha, Barnala, said that a group of 300 Sikhs had come from Barnala. Several of them were armed with wooden logs.
The Sikh volunteers, who were deputed for security near the huge stage, faced a tough time convincing representatives of various Sikh organisations not to climb on the stage. As per claims, around 500 Sikh organisations from across the country and foreign nations participated in the congregation.
The 2-km stretch towards the venue on the Amritsar-Tarn Taran road was full of posters depicting the SAD’s failure for not raising the issues pertaining to the Sikh community, including the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. The party was also held responsible for other ills of Punjab.
The posters had the pictures of 1984 anti-Sikh riots, illegal sand mining, thrashing of peacefully agitating people including teachers by the police etc.
Many religious organisations, including from the USA, organised ‘langar’ (community kitchen) in the open for the people.