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A first: Akal Takht to hold prayers for Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims killed during Partition

To mark the 75th anniversary of the Partition, Akal Takht will hold common prayers on August 16 for the peace of souls perished during the division of Punjab between India and Pakistan in 1947.

“Around 10 lakh Punjabi men, women and children were killed during the Partition of Punjab between India and Pakistan in 1947. Common prayers for the peace of souls lost during the Partition will be held at Akal Takht Sahib on August 16,” reads the poster released by Akal Takht Sahib, the highest temporal seat of Sikhs, on Monday.

Sikh activist Parmpal Singh said, “Akal Takht has already issued instructions to all the gurdwaras across the world to hold such prayers during this week. Gurdwaras can hold prayers whenever it is convenient to them to remember those killed during the Partition. The concluding ceremony will be held at Akal Takht on August 16. Representatives from Hindu and Muslim communities will also be part of these prayers.”

Alami Punjabi Sangat, a group of Punjabi activists, had offered prayers for the victims on the 70th anniversary of the Partition in 2017.

Gangveer Rathour, one of the founders of Alami Punjabi Sangat, said the Akal Takht prayer initiative will be a big step in understanding the Partition and the problems created due to it.

“Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh understands the phenomenon of the Partition very deeply. So when we made a request to him to hold prayers for the Partition victims, he not only agreed to it but also chalked out the idea of prayer at Akal Takht,” said Rathour, who belongs to a Hindu family from Rahon near Nawanshahr.

He said, “Personally I am not a victim of the Partition. No-one from my family migrated during the Partition. But my hometown Rahon still has many symbols of civilisation depicting coexistence of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs before 1947. Rahon helped me develop my understanding about the Partition, and I think every single Punjabi is still affected by the two-nation theory whether their family members migrated or not in 1947.”

Talking to The Indian Express about the idea of prayer, Giani Harpreet Singh said, “The Partition is the biggest blot in the history of India and Pakistan. The then top leadership completely failed to foresee the large-scale ill-effects of dividing the country on the basis of two-nation theory. While leaders on both sides managed to get top posts for themselves after the division, lakhs of Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims from Punjab perished without a trace during the Partition with many not even getting the solace of the customary last rites. The problems of today’s Punjab have their origin in the two-nation theory.”

He said, “The story of the Partition is still untold. We are suffering the effects of the Partition even today. What we call the border area now, it was the most prosperous region of Punjab before the Partition. Now, this border belt is infamous for smuggling. Relations between India and Pakistan are not allowing smooth official trade between the two countries which is again affecting Punjabis on both sides economically. While Urdu has taken over Punjabi language in West Punjab, the monopoly of Hindi has been threatening Punjabi in East Punjab. All these have their origins in the Partition.”

He added, “Sikhs were the worst-hit. Sikh farmers lost their agricultural lands. Not only temporal loss, Sikhs were at the receiving end of losing spiritual wealth as well. Owing to the Partition, the Sikhs had to leave behind a big chunk of their spiritual property in Pakistan. That’s why we have empathy for the Hindu and Muslim victims of the Partition. So we have decided to hold prayers for all the victims. The Akhand Path will begin on August 14 and end on August 16.”

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