CAPTAIN AMARINDER SINGH's secular Congress government has now taken upon itself the onerous responsibility of identifying, shortlisting and eventually selecting "550 true followers" of Guru Nanak.
In a solemn statement, the Punjab Government recently announced that it will be looking for and shortlisting 550 "sache pairokar
" — "True Followers" — and will be scouring the lands at home and abroad.
So far, the only tradition of the chosen ones in Sikhism is of the Panj Pyaras, the Five Beloved Ones, initiated by the Tenth Sikh Master, Guru Gobind Singh ji. Now that the Punjab Government is deep into this selection process, there are plans afoot to honour the selected 550 "True Followers" of Guru Nanak in a manner befitting the occasion of 550th year of the founder of Sikhism.
The government has made it clear that race, colour, nationality will be no bar to qualify for this unique and unprecedented honour, but it is not clear whether the list will have many names from Pakistan, or any at all.
Interestingly, and a little amusingly, the initiative has been handed over to Charanjit Singh Channi, Punjab's Minister for Tourism and Culture, who has announced that only those names will qualify in this select list of 550 people who have complete faith in the teachings of Guru Nanak and who have actually lived their life in consonance with these teachings.
A key qualification seems to be that all such selected people must be achievers or celebrities in one or the other domain, and a mere Guru Nanak Naam Leva stands little chance to qualify.
According to the minister, the net was cast wide to search for these followers of Guru Nanak and an elaborate advertisement was also issued asking people, celebrities and organisations to nominate select people for the honour.
The move, however, has drawn some sharp criticism from intellectual quarters within the community, and one of the key questions that has troubled anyone engaging with this exercise is about who will have the final say in deciding whether one is a True Guru Nanak Naam Leva or not?
"Who will select the selectors?" is not finding any answers, though by now it is clear who the selectors are.
While one of the provisos says the final list will be put up in the public domain to invite any objections, many are asking why objections were not invited when it was the turn to select these selectors.
The selectors also include a self-styled scholar who has spent some time behind bars in a case of corruption and also has the dubious honour of having his book banned by the Akal Takht. He is the one apparently calling the shots when it comes to selecting "True Followers" of the Guru.
The government has so far refused to answer pertinent questions about the qualifications of the selectors or the selectees. Neither the CMO nor the minister concerned has thought it prudent to offer any explanation what qualifies the selectors to judge the spiritual achievements of fellow human beings.
On his astrologer’s advice, Charanjit Channi rode an elephant in the lawns of his house in Kharar.
Critics have also raised questions about the Minister's own understanding of the philosophy and teachings of Guru Nanak, and many have recalled the minister's earlier fight
to have an illegal access road laid in his residential area to deal
with the Vaastu Dosh. The same minister had made news
for sending romantic verses to a woman officer and later had to apologise.
The Amarinder Singh Government has not made clear as to what could be a possible deal-breaker in selecting these certified and government-approved True Followers of Guru Nanak. Neither is it clear whether the honour could be withdrawn in case a selected and honoured sarkari "True Follower” falls foul of the law on a future date.
Many scholars have argued that the selection criteria seems to be even more lax than the one that the Congress party follows to give away tickets for Assembly or Lok Sabha polls. The longlisted or shortlisted or even the finally selected will not be required to file a sworn affidavit that they have never been involved in any criminal case, neither do they have to swear that they do not own any ill-begotten assets.
The government has not explained why one has to be a known achiever or a celebrity to qualify as the "True Follower” of Guru Nanak, and why can't a poor or middle class hardworking God fearing man of any religion living his simple life and caring about the small world around him qualify for this honour.
So far there are no reports of anyone refusing to be part of any such shortlist, and if sources are to be believed, many a humble scholars, writers, journalists and persons dabbling in the world of art and culture are pulling out all stops and knocking at umpteen doors to be counted among the "True Followers", approved and certified by the Punjab Government of Captain Amarinder Singh.
(To read the Punjabi version of this piece, please click here.)
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