The day after a church was vandalized in the village of Tarn Taran, near the Indo-Pakistan border, allegedly following “forced conversions”, the jathedar (Chief Priest) of the Sikhs’ highest temporal seat – Akal Takht – Giani Harpreet Singh has demanded an anti-conversion law in the state – a demand flatly denied by Punjab Government Minister Harpal Singh Cheema on Thursday.
“There is no need to introduce an anti-conversion bill. We will act using existing laws. Opposition parties use it to push their agenda,” said Cheema, the state finance and planning minister.
Notably, the Akal Takht jathedar warned Sikhs against alleged forced religious conversions in Punjab while saying the “time has come” for the community to consider lifting the demand for an “anti-conversion law” in the state.
“In recent years, Sikhs have been led astray and converted to Christianity. If anyone engages in politics on religion, a case is registered according to the Constitution of India. A few Nihang Sikhs have been sentenced for trying to stop dancing on a stage. Wherever this pakhand is done, the administration should intervene,” said Giani Harpreet Singh.
The Jathedar remarks come days after some Nihang Sikhs were convicted for allegedly disrupting an event organized by Christian missionaries in Amritsar.
“The time has come for the Sikh community to consider a request for an anti-conversion law in Punjab. As such a situation arises in Punjab, the Sikh community must think about it,” the Jathedar said.
The Jathedar has claimed that the Punjab’s backward class Sikhs and Hindus are being misled by the “Christian missionaries” who forcibly convert them. “Such practices are adopted which even Christianity does not allow,” he said, while criticizing the state government for not taking action against alleged religious conversions.
Meanwhile, the Jathedar also said that during a program at Sri Anandpur Sahib in Rupnagar district on September 5, “a resolution will surely be passed in this regard.”
It should be recalled that four masked men reportedly vandalized a church in the village of Thakarpura in the town of Patti in the district of Tarn Taran on the night of Tuesday to Wednesday. According to CCTV footage obtained, the four masked men were seen entering the church building and then pointing a gun at the head of the guard. They also tied the guard’s hands before vandalizing the church. They smashed two idols and also burned the pastor’s car before leaving.
Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann has ordered an inquiry saying no one will be allowed to disturb brotherhood and harmony in the state.
The incident came a day after Akal Takht Jathedar and Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak (SGPC) committee chairman Harjinder Singh Dhami condemned alleged efforts in Punjab for religious conversions by “some so-called Christian missionaries”.
They also demanded the withdrawal of an FIR against some Nihang Sikhs who were convicted for allegedly disrupting an event organized by Christian missionaries in Daduana village in Amritsar on Monday.
Reacting to the development, Harpal Cheema said there was “no need to bring an anti-conversion bill to Punjab”. He said: “Punjab is a secular state. This is the country of the Gurus and there was no riot. Strict measures will be taken against the culprits. Everyone is free to practice any religion. But no one should be coerced.