For the Congress, which is trying to get its house in order in Punjab amid a tussle for power between a defiant Navjot Singh Sidhu on one hand and a resolute Captain Amarinder Singh on the other, the ‘Panj Pyare’ controversy couldn’t have come at a worse time.
For the uninitiated, Rawat — party incharge for the state — stoked a controversy when he met Punjab Congress chief Sidhu along with working presidents Pawan Goel, Kuljit Singh Nagra and Punjab Congress general secretary Pargat Singh and addressed the leaders as ‘Panj Pyares’ while speaking to the media.
As the controversy refuses to die down, even with Rawat tendering an apology and the opposition demanding cases be registered against him, News18 tells you who the ‘Panj Pyare’ were and what ahead for the Grand Old Party now.
Who were the ‘Panj Pyare’?
The Panj Pyare, or the Five Beloved, are the men who, under the leadership of Gobind Singh (1666-1708), the last of the ten Sikh gurus, were initiated into the khalsa or the brotherhood of the Sikh faith. They have a revered place in the Sikh tradition. It is said that in an effort to revive the community, and instill in it the virtues of courage and fearlessness, Guru Gobind Singh hit upon a certain expedient to safeguard the interests of Sikhs.
At a gathering of the Sikh community, Guru Gobind Singh asked for five men who would be willing to lay down, at that very moment, their lives for him and the community. When no one came forth immediately he chastised the after which a man stepped forth. Gobind Singh took him to a nearby tent, and soon a thud was heard, following which the Guru emerged from the tent, his sword dripping with blood. The process was repeated and as the fifth man entered the tent, the Guru came out with all the five men, and five decapitated goats. These men, later immortalised in the Sikh faith as the Panj Pyare, or the Five Beloved, were then initiated into the khalsa, given the name of Singh (lion), and were henceforth enjoined to wear the symbols of the faith, abstain from alcohol and tobacco, and entrusted with the safekeeping of the community.
What did Rawat say?
Rawat compared Sidhu and his team to ‘Panj Pyare’, a term of reverence for Sikhs, which angered the community, On the back foot, Rawat apologised for his remarks and promised to atone for the blunder by volunteering his services at a gurdwara.
“Sometimes while showing respect, you use words that are objectionable. I too made the mistake of using the term Punj Pyare for the Punjab chief (Mr Sidhu) and his working presidents. I am a student of history and the Punj Pyara cannot be equated with anybody. I apologise for hurting sentiments. As penance, I will go to a gurdwara in my state and clean the complex with a broom," the Congress leader said.
What is the opposition saying?
The Akali Dal accused Rawat of “hurting religious feelings" and demanded an apology from him. “Harish Rawat must take his words back and apologise to the Sikh Sangat," said party spokesperson Daljit Singh Cheema.
Rawat compared his party leaders with Punj Pyara, a term highly regarded by Sikhs… a very unfortunate comment coming from the party’s Punjab affairs in-charge… the Congress leaders should not make such light comments," Cheema said, urging the state’s Congress government to file a case against its leader.
“The Congress has always been anti-Sikh and hurting Sikh sentiments. Statements made by Punjab Congress in-charge Harish Rawat should be withdrawn immediately, and the entire Congress should apologize to the entire Sikh community,” Cheema was heard saying in a video.
Headache for Congress
At a time the party should be focusing on the 2022 elections, several controversies have not only hit the morale of the cadre but also brought more trouble for the top brass which is trying to resurrect the party.
What started with a power tussle between Navjot Singh Sidhu and Capt Amarinder Singh seemed to be placated as the former was appointed Congress chief in the state but the blow hot, blow cold relationship between the leaders has only given rise to new controversies and made headlines every day.
Just before Rawat’s gaffe grabbed eyeballs, Punjab Congress’ General Secretary and MLA from Jalandhar Cantonment Pargat Singh had questioned his statements backing the chief minister. Singh questioned and sought clarification on state political affairs in-charge Rawat’s statement as to when had the Congress decided to contest the Assembly polls under CM Amarinder.