The Punjab Police has cancelled the leaves of all gazetted and non-gazetted officers in the state until April 14th, following a request from radical Sikh preacher Amritpal Singh for a meeting of Sikhs later this month.
The preacher has been evading arrest since his supporters overran a police station after one of his aides was arrested. Amritpal has requested the chiefs of the top Sikh body, Akal Takht, to convene the “Sarbat Khalsa” gathering in Punjab’s Bathinda on the occasion of Baisakhi on April 14th. The heads of all officers have been asked not to sanction any fresh leave until then, and all previously sanctioned leaves stand cancelled.
Amritpal Singh’s appeal for a congregation came in two video messages that surfaced last month. He also asked the chiefs of Akal Takht to take out a religious procession from the Akal Takht in Amritsar to Damdama Sahib in Bathinda ahead of the gathering on Baisakhi. Only the Akal Takht chief can decide whether to call such a congregation after consulting with Sikh scholars and intellectuals, according to top gurdwara body Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) following Amritpal’s request.
‘Sarbat Khalsa’ is a congregation of Sikhs from all over the world that is held on special occasions. It is a religious assembly that is empowered to take decisions on issues that affect the entire Sikh community. Such congregations were called only on two other occasions – in 2015 and 1986. The last one was held on February 16, 1986.