Just as the issue of naming the new Chandigarh airport after Shaheed Bhagat Singh stood resolved with all political parties arriving at a consensus over his name, another controversy has erupted involving the great martyr. The Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) has raised an issue with Bhagat Singh’s headgear. The committee has written a letter to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, asking him that the hat on the martyr’s statue in the Delhi Legislative Assembly be replaced with a turban.

“There is a strong resentment in the minds of the Sikh community and their feelings have been hurt (because of) showing Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh without turban at a statue installed at the Legislative Assembly of Delhi,” wrote DSGMC chief Manjit Singh G.K. to the Chief Minister.

Manjit Singh claimed that Bhagat Singh, who was awaiting his execution in Lahore prison, had “expressed a desire to have darshan of Bhai Sahib Bhai Randhir Singh (a Sikh leader who founded the Akhand Kirtani Jatha) before his death. On being approached, Bhai Sahib refused to see him saying that he had violated the basic tenets of Sikhism by shaving off his hair.”

The DSGMC chief further asserted that Bhagat Singh was “quick to express his repentance and after a two-hour meeting with Bhai Sahib he became a true Sikh at heart and later went to the gallows as a true believer in Sikhism.”

However, this move of DSGMC chief, who represents Shiromani Akali Dal, is being seen by many opposition parties as a political stunt with elections in Punjab less than a year away. Even the family of the martyr is not convinced by the logic and rationale given by the DSGMC. “Will they tell us what the DSGMC has done for Shaheed Bhagat Singh over all these decades?” questioned the martyr’s nephew Abhey Singh Sandhu while talking to NewsX-Sunday Guardian at his Mohali residence on Saturday.

He said that it is a needless thing to rake up. “More than what he wore or how he looked, what matters and needs to be propagated are the ideas and ideals he stood for and how he took on the might of the British,” Sandhu said, adding, “No one is talking about all these issues and he (Bhagat Singh) is being dragged into such unnecessary controversies.”

Incidentally, this is not the first time that a controversy has arisen over his headgear. A few years ago when the government of India came out with Rs 100 and Rs 5 coins of Bhagat Singh, a similar row had erupted. “Bhagat Singh was shown wearing a hat in the coins and the function was almost over when Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal objected to the picture,” Abhey Singh Sandhu recalled. “He said that not using the picture of the martyr in a turban amounted to humiliation of the martyr and the Sikh community.”

The turban row comes close on the heels of the Punjab deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal demanding Bharat Ratna for the martyr.

While no one questioned Bhagat Singh’s entitlement to the highest civilian award, Sukhbir Badal was criticised for raising the issue ahead of next year’s Assembly elections.

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