On April 18, India reported over 2,60,000 Covid-19 cases. The country’s healthcare system is overwhelmed, and it is essential for everyone to take precautions. However, some social media posts and WhatsApp forwards have suggested that Harmandir Sahib Gurudwara in Amritsar is not following the required protocol.
When I had gone to Amritsar in last December, I was asked to put off my mask while entering the Harmandir Sahib main complex. You had to take off your mask before going in. While mask was compulsory everywhere, Golden Temple seemed to have own rules! Nobody protested either!— Shubham Chakrawar (@vividshubham) April 8, 2021
Respected @SGPCAmritsar— Amiteshwar Singh (@amiteshwar3900) March 23, 2021
I was stopped thrice by some Sevadars in Sachkhand Sri Harmandir Sahib for wearing a mask and was asked to remove it immediately. May I please know the reason behind not allowing wearing of mask inside the Gurdwara Sahib?
We scanned through social media, mainstream media reports and live sessions of Harmandir Sahib from the last one week to see what the truth is. It has to be noted that the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) that takes care of the Akal Takht at the Golden Temple had refused to abide by the norms last year. There were several reports by news agencies like Dainik Bhaskar, The Print and others where it was mentioned that no one was wearing a mask at Harmandir Sahib.
In June last year, when religious places were reopened for the public, SGPC refused to follow the norms that made it mandatory for everyone to wear masks. They agreed to sanitisation but refused to ask people to wear masks inside the premises.
In September 2020, The Print visited Golden Temple and found out that no one was wearing masks and social distancing protocols were not being followed. Even the Police Officers at the premises were not wearing masks. When they asked a sewadar why he was not wearing a mask, he replied, “We have our God’s blessings, God won’t let anything happen to us.”
Punjab is facing a crisis amidst an increasing number of cases every day. In the last one month, the state has consistently reported over 2,000 cases. Since April 8, the number of new cases crossed 3,000 marks, and on April 15, the state reported over 4,000 cases. As the numbers are increasing, the state has imposed a night curfew in several districts.
On March 24, The Tribune reported that when their reporters visited Harmandir Sahib, the administration of the Gurudwara had left it to the ‘discretion’ of the devotees to follow Covid-19 protocols. It was not mandatory to wear a mask or maintain social distancing norms. This was the time when Punjab was reporting over 2,000 cases every day.
On April 2, the Amritsar administration under the Congress-led Punjab government met the representatives of SGPC. SGPC president Jagir Kaur, Deputy Commissioner Gurpreet Singh Khaira, Commissioner of Police Sukhchain Singh Gill, SDM Vikas Hira, municipal corporation officials and some SGPC members were present at the meeting. The aim of the meeting was to discuss the plan to curb Covid-19 and following Covid-19 protocols in Harmandir Sahib.
After the meeting, Kaur issued a statement in which she urged the devotees to wear masks, use sanitisers and follow social distancing norms. SGPC chief secretary Harjinder Singh Dhami said that they have been motivating devotees to follow the protocols. However, he mentioned that no one would force the devotees to wear mask sanctum sanctorum of the Golden Temple. He said, “We have installed banners at various places around Golden Temple to inform the public about Covid-19 guidelines. We have asked our Sevadars on duty inside Golden Temple premises to motivate people to wear mask. We will not force mask-wearing inside sanctum sanctorum of the Golden Temple.”
No one was wearing masks on Baisakhi at Golden Temple
On Baisakhi, thousands of devotees visited Harmandir Sahib. News agency ANI shared some photos and videos of the Gurudwara in which it was clearly visible that no one was following the Covid-19 regulations.
Punjab: Scores of devotees pay a visit to Sri Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) in Amritsar on the occasion of Baisakhi pic.twitter.com/LSsW9BEEWM— ANI (@ANI) April 13, 2021
Baisakhi was only ten days after the meeting between the Amritsar administration and SGPC.
It has been five days since Baisakhi, and the state is reporting over 4,000 cases. We scrolled through live videos of Harmandir Sahib on PTC’s Youtube channel to assert the situation and found that despite SGPC’s claims that they would motivate people to wear masks, only a handful of the people were wearing masks. Social distancing norms were not being followed.
Screenshots from Harmandir Sahib Live April 17, 2021
Screenshots from Harmandir Sahib Live April 18, 2021
Though SGPC has announced that they would motivate devotees to wear masks and follow Covid-19 protocols, no one seems interested in following the regulations at the Sikh Holy site. SGPC no longer asks to remove masks in the Gurudwara premises like they had done earlier, but they have not made it mandatory to wear masks and follow protocols either.