‘Patit’, and indelibly inked
Amrita Chaudhry,Anju Agnihotri Chaba Posted: Sep 19, 2011 at 0045 hrs
Jalandhar Sikh men with trimmed beard & shorn hair find name in electoral rolls, vote with élan, Sehajdharis too exercise their franchise
Giving two hoots to a directive issued by the Gurdwara Election Commission (GEC) that only Keshdhari Sikhs (those with unshorn hair) can vote in the SGPC elections, a large number of `Patit Sikhs’ (those with trimmed beard and hair) were seen exercising their franchise across Punjab on Sunday. A number of women who have their eyebrows plucked, and are thus ineligible for voting, were seen casting votes.
It may be noted that the the GEC had warned that if any non Keshdhari Sikh was found voting in the elections, they would be arrested.
The warning, however, had little effect. A prominent person with trimmed beard who voted in the SGPC polls was Amarjit Amri, the brother of Shiromani Akali Dal’s Jalandhar unit president Gurcharan Singh Channi. Amri even showed the black indelible ink mark on his finger for the benefit of the media after casting his vote in a booth in Jalandhar city.
A visit to the polling booths in Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Kapurthala and Nawan Shahr districts revealed that Patit voters exercised their franchise without any fear.
“We are clear of heart. We are true followers of Sikhism so what if we have trimmed our beards,” a Patit Sikh asked at a booth in Government School, Kartarpur.
Such voters were also seen exercising their franchise in Bholath while in Hoshiarpur several men with close cropped hair were seen casting votes after tying a turban.
A presiding officer on the condition of anonymity said that they cannot stop those, who have their name in the voters’ list from exercising the franchise. It was duty of the GEC to revised the voters’ list to rectify the mistakes, he added.
Meanwhile, the elections passed off peacefully in Moga and Faridkot districts, where a large number of Sehajdhari Sikhs were seen casting their ballot freely.
The SAD(B), which has been against Sehajdhari Sikhs voting in SGPC polls, allegdly took the help of its young turks, who transported and even tied turbans on many of such Sehajdhari voters to help them cast their votes. The policemen on duty said that they could not stop this, as this was not a law and order situation and hence, not under their powers.
Meanwhile, while some tense moments were witnessed at Baddowal in Kishanpura and a few other villages in Moga district, no incidents of violence were reported.
Deputy Commissioner Ashok Singla said that Moga district has witnessed an overall poll percentage of 63.07 per cent.
At Faridkot district, youth from the ruling SAD(B) could be seen transporting voters to the polling booths on their SUVs. Some had also stationed themselves at the polling booths with turbans, which they tied on the Sehjahdahri candidates, said an eyewitness. S P S Sidhu, Faridkot SSP, however, claimed: “There is no report of any such incident.” The district, which has two seats, witnessed 52 per cent of polling.
In related news, barring minor incidents of scuffles, polling passed off peacefully in border districts of Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Pathankot and Tarn Taran. While the voter turnout was around 50 to 53 per cent in rural areas, the figure was 45 to 50 per cent in urban areas.
A scuffle broke out at Patti in Tarn Taran where Opposition leaders objected to the behaviour of presiding officer Mehar Singh.
In Gurdaspur’s Dalam village, a scuffle broke out when the two groups of the ruling SAD(B) clashed and the police had to intervene. A revolver was recovered from Meharban Singh, son of a SAD (Panch Pardhani) leader Baldev Singh Sirsa.
Tempers ran high at various places in Jandiala Guru, Ajnala, Amritsar-West SGPC constituencies as well.