Amritsar, Punjab: The Akal Takht’s calling off Sunday’s Sikh convention of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) at the Golden Temple has brought relief to not only the police and Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) officials but also the pilgrims, the tourists, and the general public here.
The decision to seal the old walled city for 24 hours from Saturday evening for security reasons had upset traders of the commercial complex. The police had decided to not let any fourwheeler in; but in the evening, when the ban was not enforced, the visitors had a pleasant surprise. They were earlier worried how they would return to their hotels and inns from the retreat ceremony at the Attari-Wagah border. They would have had to abandon their taxis and personal vehicles at Hall Gate and then get a rickshaw or walk.
With the event called off, the police also gave up the idea of emptying all parking zones around the shrine. The preparation of special parking zone for buses and trucks near Burj Akali Phoola Singh and a few other places had been stopped.
The police also did not get the Kairon Market parking lot vacated. It had, anyway, fewer than the usual number of vehicles, since most shopkeepers of Hall Bazaar had preferred to come on two-wheelers instead of cars.
BIGGEST RESPITE TO STRANDED DEVOTEES
However, the greatest relief was for the devotees who were stranded on the roads outside the shrine since morning. The SGPC had denied them accommodation in its rest houses, since the rooms were reserved for the participants expected at the convention.
After the cancellation, there was a rush for these rooms that are far cheaper than the hotels. The devotees will also not be frisked. Sunday is when maximum pilgrims visit the Golden Temple, and if the restrictions had persisted, the rush would have been hard to manage.
Besides the local police, nearly 3,000 personnel from the five nearby districts were called to the holy city to guard the VVIP routes, parking lots, and the area around the shrine. Cops in civvies were also to be deployed inside and around Manji Sahib Hall, venue of the convention. However on Saturday evening, most of the contingents from other districts made their way home to be with families.
UNPREPARED HOST HAPPY TO RELAX
As the SGPC was to be the host, its officials were most tense. They had to make arrangements to feed more than 1-lakh participants and adjust them in mere 700-plus rooms in the ‘serais’ (inns). They also had the daunting task of getting some of these rooms vacated and cancelling all the advanced reservation.
Still, some rooms were reserved for the VIPs coming to the Shiromani Akali Dal core committee at Teja Singh Samundri Hall in the shrine. The SGPC had made room at some of its educational institutions for the stay of the party leaders, and laid mattresses in the halls and classrooms, which were all, later, rolled up and shipped back to the source gurdwaras.
The convention was a blessing in disguise for the pilgrims, who rest under the fans at Manji Sahib in the hot, humid weather. The SGPC had got all the ceiling fans repaired. As the cancellation directive came well in time (around 1pm), the SGPC did not even have to add to the ‘langar’ (common kitchen) menu. The provisions were yet to be bought.