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Nanak Shah Fakir row: How the film has put SGPC and Akalis in a tight spot

Rajeev Khanna | Updated on: 17 April 2018, 18:11 IST
(Arya Kumar Sharma)

The religio-political matrix of Sikhs is in turmoil once again, this time over a film Nanak Shah Fakir. While the Akat Takht, the supreme temporal seat of the Sikhs, has banned the film and its producer Harinder Singh Sikka stands excommunicated, the Supreme Court has allowed its nationwide release much to the dismay of the Sikhs opposed to it on the grounds that Sikh Gurus or their family members cannot be shown in living form. The storm continues to blow because in the eye of the tornado is the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) which is the apex religious body of the Sikhs that is dominated by the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal). Questions are now being raised about none other than the SGPC first 'promoting' and clearing the film and now opposing it.

As the build up continues the United Sikh Movement, a common platform for all the Sikh political forces opposed to the SAD (Badal), has given a call to the Sikhs to turn up at the Golden Temple on 29 April where their leaders will offer a symbolic Ardas that will be followed by a Sewa at the Langar and chalking out a future course of action. The SAD (Badal) has earlier faced the public anger for the pardon granted to the Dera Sacha Sauda chief Baba Ram Rahim in 2008 and on the issue of desecration of the holy texts at the Sarbat Khalsa organized at Bargari in 2015.

“In the Ardas we will seek wisdom for the Akalis and their representatives in the SGPC and the Jathedar of the Akal Takht Giani Gurbachan Singh because we are not powerful enough to tackle their might,” said United Sikh Movement member Dr Bhagwan Singh, Captain Chanan Singh and Gurnam Singh Sidhu.

“They have reduced the SGPC To nothing more than a venue for property dealing where they give pardon to the likes of Dera Sacha Sauda chief and indulge in acts that lead to the present issue of this film. When there is a SGPC resolution of 2003 in place that prohibits the depiction of the Gurus and their family members in living form why did the SGPC members go ahead issuing a no objection certificate to the film. They were the ones who were launching the film promos earlier. Now in the face of public anger they are compelled to make a 'U' turn. They have ridiculed Sikhism and its institutions,” they said.

These leaders further pointed, “They should compensate the film maker for the cost incurred by him in making the film, take over the film rights and then withdraw it from screening. Sikka should be invited back to the community as he is nowhere at fault. Instead of Sikka it should be these very people who should be excommunicated.”

Talking about the Supreme Court allowing its screening across the country, the leaders said, “The Supreme Court goes by the law and not by feelings. It is the SGPC and the Jathedar who are at fault here. We are told that a senior Akali leader had a 30 per cent share in the profits that the film was going to make and that is why they gave words of appreciation and clearance to the film maker. But when the public has woken up to it being taken for a ride they are left with no option but to change their stance.”
Giani Gurbachan Singh had announced excommunication of Sikka on April 12 after a meeting of the jathedars of the five Takhts. The excommunication had come a day before the release of the film based on life of Guru Nanak, the first Sikh Guru. The meeting had been called after Sikka refused to abide by orders of the Akal Takht to withdraw the movie from cinemas.

This was followed by the SGPC institutions remaining closed the next day to protest against the film release and the protestors wearing black turbans.

On April 10, the Supreme Court had allowed the nationwide release of the film saying that once the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) grants certification to a movie, there cannot be any kind of obstruction for its exhibition.

The movie had first been released in 2015 but withdrawn after protests from religious Sikh groups. Last month, the release was once again announced for April 13 after which there were protests once again.

With the Akalis facing public ire, the Captain Amarinder Singh led Congress government in Punjab has decided not to intervene on the issue in view of the film-makers’ reported decision not to release the movie in the state.

He said that any decision to ban on the movie had become unnecessary in view of the film-makers’ decision against releasing it in Punjab. At the same time he made it clear that his government would take all possible steps, as and when deemed necessary, to ensure that there is no disruption of law and order in the state. Any attempt to vitiate the peaceful atmosphere in the state would be dealt with an iron hand.

Amarinder has said that while authors, film-makers etc. have the creative freedom of expression, such freedom cannot be allowed to violate the religious sensitivities of any community.

Senior political commentator Jagtar Singh in one of his write ups has pointed, “The issue here now is not just the film but the functioning of Akal Takht and the SGPC itself as this is not for the first time that time that these institutions have been reduced to a laughing stock. A section of the Sikhs is used to blaming the RSS for everything that goes wrong with the working of these institutions rather than looking inward for the reasons. Here is the test case. The office of the Jathedar of Akal Takht has been exposed to irrelevance and Giani Gurbachan Singh has lost not only just his credibility but also legitimacy. This downfall started with pardon granted to Dera Sacha Sauda chief Ram Rahim to cater to political interests of the Shiromani Akali Dal.”

Pointing that the present controversy is yet another low characterising the functioning of the Sikh institutions, he has stated that this should be taken up as a wake-up call to undertake correctives to minimise political interference to restore some semblance of credibility. It is the time for drastic action and complete overhaul.

First published: 17 April 2018, 18:11 IST