The Union Ministry of Culture said on Monday that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address the country from the Red Fort on April 21 to commemorate the 400th birth anniversary of Guru Tegh Bahadur, the ninth Sikh Guru.
The Prime Minister’s speech would be the finale of a two-day mega event organised by the ministry at Red Fort in partnership with the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee, according to Union Culture Minister G Kishan Reddy. According to sources, the PM’s speech, which is expected around 9:30 p.m. after a’shabad kirtan’ by 400 ragis (Sikh musicians), will likely focus on relaying a message of interfaith peace.
According to ministry authorities, the Red Fort was chosen as the venue for two reasons. ‘First, it was the location from which Mughal king Aurangzeb issued orders for Guru Tegh Bahadur’s execution in 1675. Second, the Red Fort ramparts are where the Prime Minister addresses the nation on Independence Day, making it a perfect location to reach out to the people with a message of interfaith harmony,’ said an official.
In 2018, Modi raised the national flag and delivered a speech from the Red Fort to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Subhas Chandra Bose’s Azad Hind Fauj.
Reddy announced the event on Monday, saying, ‘Guru Tegh Bahadur stood up to Mughal atrocities by protecting the freedom of dharmic faiths; he stood up to Mughal atrocities by protecting the freedom of dharmic faiths; to Mughal atrocities by protecting the freedom of dharmic faiths; to Mughal atrocities by protecting the freedom fought for the rights of Sikhs and Hindus. Despite being physically tortured for conversion by the Mughals, he stayed firm and chose to give up his life rather than his spiritual system… He fought against forcible mass conversions of Kashmiri Pandits, which enraged the Mughals,’ the minister said. Gurdwara Sis Ganj Sahib in Chandni Chowk was built at the site of his beheading by the Mughals, while Gurdwara Rakab Ganj Sahib was built at his cremation site.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah, according to Reddy, will kick off the event on April 20 evening, which would be attended by 11 chief ministers and notable Sikh leaders from around the country. Families of 400 Sikh jathedars, including those from Amritsar’s Golden Temple, have also been invited.
The very first programme will include a laser light show. There will also be an exhibition on the life and times of the Sikh guru at the Red Fort forecourt for two days. Following his talk on April 21, the PM will issue a postal stamp and a commemorative coin honouring the Sikh guru, which will be followed by a langar ceremony (community kitchen).
Despite the party’s poor performance in the Punjab elections, in which it won only two seats, the BJP has made a deliberate attempt to court the Sikh population. Modi invited a delegation of Sikh intellectuals from Punjab to his official residence in Delhi just four days after the results were announced. Those who attended the meeting described it as an interchange of ideas with a Prime Minister who appeared open to their concerns.
On April 1, the BJP sent Gajendra Shekhawat, its union minister and Punjab in-charge, to attend a memorial service for SGPC president Gurcharan Singh Tohra at his ancestral village near Patiala, despite the fact that most state officials stayed absent. The party also pushed its Haryana section to commemorate Bhagat Singh’s death anniversary with a series of events across the state.
Previously, on Guru Nanak Jayanti last year, the PM abolished three unpopular farm regulations in a series of gestures to Sikhs ahead of the February elections. A handful of Sikhs, including Tohra’s grandson Kanwarveer Singh, joined the party as well.