SGPC's Police Complaint Against Woman Practicing Yoga At Golden Temple: Why No One Is Surprised

Diksha Yadav and Rohit Pathania

Jun 24, 2024, 06:47 PM | Updated 06:47 PM IST

Influencer booked after performing yoga at Golden temple.
Influencer booked after performing yoga at Golden temple.
  • Any one observing Punjab is familiar with the SGPC's turn towards hyper-extremist views.
  • What is equally worrying is the popularity of such views across the Panthic spectrum.
  • What happened with Archana Makwana, the lifestyle influencer and fashion designer, could have happened to anyone who has not been following how the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) has been taking an extreme stance over such issues.

    Although, there are double standards here too. While some get a free pass, others are hounded, like in the case of Makwana.

    The Double Standard of SGPC

    The SGPC filed a complaint against Archana Makwana, following which she was booked by the Punjab police for allegedly “hurting religious sentiments” by performing yoga at Amritsar’s Golden Temple complex on the International Day of Yoga.

    Makwana was booked under Section 295-A (deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), even when she had put out an apology video on a social media platform, saying her intent was only to show gratitude and say thank you to the Almighty and not to hurt anyone's religious sentiments, and that if she had any malicious intent, she would not have donated and done sewa at Sri Darbar Sahib.

    Later, when the complaint was filed, she put out another video, where she said: 

    "Like the famous singer Diljit Dosanjh, who says people should make yoga a part of their daily lives, similarly, I too wanted to spread this message to people on Yoga Day, so that more people follow it.

    "My action of doing yoga asana, or meditation, is being perceived very wrongly. I did it only with good faith and no malice intention. The picture itself was clicked by a sardar person, and there were people all around, not him nor anybody else present, said that I was doing anything wrong, and so I did not know this was wrong at all. Please don't make it political or communal."

    In its latest comment, the SGPC, responding to questions of Makwana receiving rape and death threats, said that 'the girl should file a police complaint against those giving her such threats, Sikhism teaches to respect others and protect women, not to threaten or harm women.'

    'The girl (Makwana) has first violated the maryada, and then now she is demeaning the Sikhs..'

    'Show me the person and I'll show you the law'

    There are several eminent personalities who visit Sri Darbar Sahib and get their pictures clicked in front of it. However, such cases do not trigger the SGPC.

    For example, why did the visit of Queen Elizabeth II to the Harmandir Sahib in 1997 wearing socks and a hat not account for 'marayada violation' by the SGPC?

    However, if you thought things were going wrong only in India, here's what happened in Canada with a Sikh woman, Manpreet Kaur Johal, over a paratha: 

    "I went to pray at the Dashmesh Culture Gurudwara Sahib Calgary in the morning. While having the prasad, I took one paratha, and then I asked if I could have one more, if he didn't mind. The baba said okay, and gave me one more paratha... then two sewadar came and started to intimidate me, saying you have taken a lot of rotis."

    "I told them, I haven't, I just asked for one extra paratha, and he gave me, you can check my plate. And then they started telling that I was lying... Gurudwara is known for serving people, you can eat there, nobody will question you, and if you aren't in a good situation, you can even take food for yourself.. But today I felt, no, I should not take it; despite being a Punjabi, I was treated like this, then what about the people from other communities who come here?

    "What kind of message are you sending about our culture through such actions? I am feeling extremely sad about what happened with me, and to how many more people, and students, the corrupt sewadars would be doing this to.."

    SGPC Denying the Roots of Sikhism

    Like Makwana, many wouldn't know that a yoga asana or even meditation in the Golden Temple premise could lead to numerous life threats, abuse, and an FIR.

    This naturally leads to the question: Why is the SGPC denying the roots of Sikhism and taking the extreme route?

    In a painting, dated 1860, shared by the handle 'True Indology' on 'X', of Harmandir Sahib, one can clearly see that, 'on the same Parikrama, yogis performing yoga, pilgrims are performing Surya Namaskar. There are Brahmans writing down Panchanga. Sadhus applying tilak to pilgrims.'

    Image: X/@TrueIndology
    Image: X/@TrueIndology

    The Udasi Sampradaya, also known as the  Nanak Putras (sons of Nanak), who spread the teachings of Sikhism during the 18th century, followed religious practices that were an amalgamation of Sikhism and Hinduism.  

    Here is a painting that shows Sikh Guru Amar Das ji initiating his eldest son, Baba Mohan, into the Udasi Sampradaya to serve Sri Chand ji.

    Image: X/@TrueIndology
    Image: X/@TrueIndology

    'The son of Sikh Guru Nanak, Sri Chand, became the first Guru of Udasi Sampradaya. The son of Sikh Guru Hargobind, Baba Gurditta, became the second Guru of Udasi Sampradaya, and the son of Udasi Guru Gurditta, Guru Har Rai, became the seventh Guru of Sikhs. But today, radicalised Tat Khalsa proponents will tell you that Sikhism had nothing to do with Hinduism, Yoga, or Udasi Sampradaya,' adds True Indology.

    Panthic Politics is Not Going Anywhere, Anytime Soon

    Whether in the case of Archana Makwana or actress and MP Kangana Ranaut (instead of calling out the constable who slapped Ranaut, SGPC blamed the actress for 'disrespecting' the farmers), rather than condemning what happened with them, there were a significant number of people, including prominent persons, seen openly hailing and justifying what happened.

    A significant number of people are towing the extreme line, which was evident in the recently concluded Lok Sabha as well, where the jailed Khalistani separatist Amritpal Singh won the Khadoor Sahib seat with over 1,97,120 votes. 

    In such a scenario, Panthic politics becomes a game of competitive extremism.

    While the downfall of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) has been quite visible over the past few elections in the state of Punjab, the recent support for Amritpal Singh by the Sukhbir Singh Badal-led Akali Dal suggests that they are aiming to win back their voters in the Panthic belt.

    “I and my party strongly oppose NSA extension against Bhai Amritpal Singh as this is a violation of the Constitution and of Human Rights. This decision of Bhagwant Mann has fully exposed his anti Sikh and anti-Punjab face and shown how he dances to Delhi’s tunes,” Badal posted on X.

    All this amidst the internal conflict that Sukhbir Singh Badal is facing within his party from the Dhindsa faction, whose major disappointment came to the fore when Dhindsa was denied the Sangrur seat in the Lok Sabha elections.

    And recently, former Akali Dal MP Paramjit Kaur Gulshan demanded that Sukhbir Singh Badal resign from the presidency of Shiromani Akali Dal as the party under his leadership has weakened.

    In this interview, Gulshan shared her displeasure with the SAD leadership. Accusing Badal of having made secret pacts with opposing parties and compromising on the Akali Dal fight to ensure Harsimrat Kaur Badal's successful election from Bathinda, Gulshan hinted at the possibility of forming a new faction.

    It must be pointed out that the Dhindsa faction was a separate Sanyukt Akali Dal, which was an ally of the BJP in the 2022 Vidhan Sabha elections.

    Diksha Yadav is a Staff Writer at Swarajya and host of the podcast series, 'What This Means'. Rohit Pathania works in the field of renewable energy and environment.

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