Sikh shrine refuses prayers for former Army General Gautam Dheer The family of a highly decorated hero of the 1965 war with Pakistan, Lt Gen RS Dayal, a Maha Vir Chakra (MVC) who died last year in January, was refused prayers to mark his first death anniversary by a gurdwara in Haryana citing the general’s participation in the 1984 Operation Blue Star. Left with no choice after the unceremonious refusal by the management of the gurdwara in Panchkula, a satellite township adjoining Chandigarh, the family of the general performed the prayers as per Sikh rituals at their residence with the help of Army priests on December 30. Later, the family organised a “langar” (community kitchen) within the Western Command cantonment in Chandimandir. The issue has sparked off a controversy with many ex-servicemen terming it unfortunate. Lt Gen Dayal was the chief of staff at the Western Command when Operation Blue Star was carried out in 1984 to flush out armed militants from inside the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar. The officer, who died on January 29, last year, had also served as lieutenant-governor of Pondicherry and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Gen Dayal was awarded the MVC, the country’s second highest war gallantry award, for displaying exemplary courage while capturing the Haji Pir Pass in Jammu and Kashmir in the 1965 war with Pakistan. Surprisingly, the move by the Sikh shrine to decline prayers has in no way offended the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbhandak Committee (SGPC), the organisation managing a majority of Sikh shrines across India. SGPC President Avtar Singh Makkar said Lt Gen Dayal was a decorated officer but played a major role in the Operation Blue Star. He said the Army had attacked Akal Takht—the highest temporal seat of Sikhism—and the officer never regretted his action nor tendered an apology. Political commentator and Sikh scholar SP Singh said: “The move is reprehensible. Would the SGPC explain as to how many families of rapists, murderers and those convicted for heinous crimes have been similarly denied an opportunity to perform last rites. Also, it is deeply problematic to start denying the kith and kin of a deceased the opportunity to perform the last rites on the basis of their perceived sins.” Objectionable The gurdwara management’s decision is even more objectionable because Gen Dayal was never excommunicated from the Panth by the Akal Takht, the only authority that can do so, Singh asserted. The general’s wife, Barinder Kaur, said the local gurdwara management flatly refused to perform rituals for her husband citing his participation in the Operation Blue Star. “It came as a shock. I told them my husband was following the orders and performing his duty,” she said. “They rake up the Operation Blue Star and forget his contribution in the 1965 war.” Gurdwara secretary Harbans Singh, however, said the gurdwara had only respected the sentiments of the Sikh community. The community had objected when the shrine had conducted the “bhog” (prayers) ceremony on the death of Lt Gen Dayal a year ago, which is why the shrine this time refused to perform the prayers. The developments came in the backdrop of the Akal Takth honouring the assassins of former prime minister Indira Gandhi.