Heritage destroyed by custodians

SACRIFICING HERITAGE AT THE ALTAR OF MODERNITY: Five-and-a-half century old house of Bebe Nanki has been replaced by a ‘magnificent’ new building

While a big hue and cry has been created by SGPC over the proposed auction of a Sikh armour plate by Sotheby’s, which was earlier said to be that of Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th guru of Sikhs, and it has even constituted a panel to go to UK to study its authenticity, back home, invaluable Sikh heritage was hammered down right under its nose.

Significant pieces of historical evidence were obliterated by the Kar Sewa babas reportedly working at SGPC’s behest.

While the issue was raised by various quarters and was highlighted in the media in the last some years, any mechanism is yet to be evolved by SGPC to stop destruction of the heritage in Punjab. Some of the babas who had caused permanent disappearance of the heritage are still being patronized by SGPC and are entrusted with important projects.

According to Sikh scholars, there are few places or parts of historical importance left in Punjab which were witness to great sacrifices of the Sikh Gurus and their followers.

NanakFive-and-a-half century old house of Bebe Nanaki

One of the oldest and important heritage buildings related to Sikh history, Bebe Nanaki's house in Sultanpur Lodhi was razed under the nose of SGPC in recent years and has been replaced by a new ‘magnificent’ building.

Around five-and-a-half century old house of Bebe Nanaki, elder sister of Guru Nanak, where the latter is believed to have stayed before his marriage, was acquired by Baba Jagtar Singh Kar Sewa Wale some years back. Within a couple of years of the acquisition, its first floor was demolished in 2001 and then, ground floor of the house was also completely razed in the beginning of 2003, after claims of preserving it. Baba Jagtar Singh is still handling some important projects of Kar Sewa entrusted by SGPC.

Some t important parts of Sikh history, which were witness to unparalleled instances of valour and sacrifice, including Thanda Burj (where Guru Gobind Singh's younger sons were kept in the chilly winter along with his mother) in Sirhind, Chamkaur Di Garhi (Kutchi Haveli) from where Guru, along with 40 Sikhs, fought with Mughal army of thousands) were demolished in the 1990's.

Sikh scholar Gurtej Singh said, "SGPC should tell the people how many of its six-member proposed subcommittee, being sent to England, are experts of artefacts. It is just an excuse for a foreign jaunt when they have not made any efforts to collect and preserve the belongings of the Gurus from Punjab itself," he said, while alleging, "SGPC and Kar Sewa Babas have deliberately become collaborators in destroying Sikh heritage of immense historical importance. They are turning history into mythology by making evidence disappear," he argued.

"While the destruction of heritage has been alt completed here, the only monuments left are in Pakistan," said Avtar Singh of Sikh Articulators. "While people in the world are trying to find out archaeological evidences of various legends and then preserve it with great pains, here, those claiming to be custodians of the community interests and resources have themselves destroyed heritage," he said while adding that SGPC did not turn its attention to demolition of heritage buildings in Hazoor Sahib Nanded.

New NanakBebe Nanaki House replaced with a modern building.

Meanwhile, a former senior functionary of SGPC revealed that these Babas have even started reaching out in Pakistan and were doing the same thing there. "Birthplace of Guru Ramdass was reconstructed without caring for restoring the old buildings in its original style and design," the leader revealed while adding that Baadari of Maharaja Ranjit Singh was razed in recent years. Frescoes in Gurudwara Baba Atal were covered with bathroom tiles and cement and it was only a few days back that paintings over Darshani Deodhi were covered with gaudy colours by Kar Sewa Babas of SGPC, the former functionary added.

"They have never tried to avail services of experts while resources have been squandered over other less important causes," said another member of SGPC.

SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar was not available for comments despite repeated attempts to contact him.

Editors Note: The comments made in this article was also made in the PHN Editorial, "What is really going under the hammer?". 


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