SGPC authorities defy lockdown guidelines, offer langar at Golden Temple

Amritsar/Chandigarh, Jun 8 (PTI) The Golden Temple restarted its 'langar' and distributed 'prasad' among devotees as it reopened on Monday, defying the Punjab government's lockdown guidelines.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh too appeared to defend the practice, saying his government had 'never believed in interfering with the customs and practices of any religion'.

The CM in a statement said the decision was taken by the Union government, of which the SAD was an integral part.

He said the state government was constrained by the guidelines of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs and accused the Shiromani Akali Dal of 'misleading' people.

Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee president Gobind Singh Longowal had on Sunday urged the government to review its guidelines prohibiting the offering of 'prasad' and 'langar' (community kitchen).

SGPC secretary Kulwinder Singh on Monday said, 'It is very strange that during the lockdown period, governments were urging religious institutions, including the SGPC, to come forward to make food available for the needy. The SGPC then did not discontinue the Guru ka langar.' 'Now, religious places have opened to the public. In such circumstances, how the SGPC could stop its decades-old religious tradition of serving food whosoever visits the Golden Temple. The SGPC will never shut down its community kitchen, since it is a round the clock service for visiting devotees,” he added.

Amritsar Deputy Commissioner S S Dhillon was not available for comments. Earlier,the SGPC authorities had said they ensured complete hygiene at the community kitchen centre.

At the Golden Temple, devotees underwent thermal screening before entering the shrine. Various teams of doctors were deputed at the entry points of the shrine, officials said.

An SGPC task force ensured hand hygiene before allowing entry to devotees and all norms of social distancing were strictly followed, they said.

'I am very happy to be here again. We pray that with the blessing of the almighty, the world gets rid of this coronavirus disease,' said a devotee at the Golden Temple.

However, on the first day of reopening, the usual rush of devotees was not visible.

Religious places shall remain open between 5 am and 8 pm in the state. PTI JMS CHS VSD RDK RDK