Amritsar: The Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh alleged on Tuesday that Christian missionaries are running a campaign for forced conversion on the border areas of Punjab, The Indian Express reported. Giani Harpreet Singh said that the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) has launched a drive to counter missionaries' campaigns.
Akal Takht Jathedar, the head priest of the Sikh community's highest temporal seat, said in a statement that they have received many reports that Innocent people are being cheated or lured to convert. The remarks made by Giani Harpreet Singh, a member of the Dalit Sikh community, came when Dalit and Sikh organisations in Amritsar observed the 101st anniversary of the restoration of Dalit Sikh's right to uninterrupted entry and offering of 'Karah Prasad' at Golden Temple and Akal Takht. The event that happened on October 12, 1920, is believed to have played a chief role in SGPC's formation.
Harpreet Singh said that SGPC initiated a counter-movement, 'Ghar Ghar Andar Dharamshal', against the Christian missionaries' conversion drive. He added that the missionaries' campaign was a dangerous attack on the Sikh religion. Religion is a matter of spirituality, and forced conversion or luring individuals can never be justified. He asked the whole Sikh community to support SGPC in strengthening its campaign against forced conversions. Though SGPC is focusing on the most affected areas right now, its campaign should be run all over India, he said.
Meanwhile, Dr Kashmir Singh, head of Dalits and Minorities Organisation Punjab, said that discrimination faced by Dalits in villages was a prime reason for such conversions. Dalits' illiteracy and poverty prevails, making them easy targets, and they are told that conversion helps them settle in foreign countries, Kashmir Singh said.
While missionaries' approach Dalits at their homes, SGPC makes no effort for Dalit Sikh's welfare. Kashmir Singh said that Dalits need SGPC preachers from their community and more Dalit representation in the SGPC and its institutions.
He also said that though the current Akal Takht Jathedar is a Dalit Sikh, there is more needed to be done to ensure equal rights. He demanded the recruitment of Dalit Sikhs to key posts in SGPC, strict orders against any discrimination and free education in all educational and professional institutions under the SGPC.