Haryana move to set up separate gurdwara panels upsets Punjab

Haryana move to set up separate gurdwara panels upsets Punjab

After the poll-bound Congress government in Haryana announced the formation of a separate body to manage historic Sikh shrines in Haryana, which are currently managed by the SGPC Amritsar, alarms bells have rung in neighbouring Punjab with Chief Minister P S Badal calling on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to seek his intervention to deter the Haryana government from doing so.

Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Hooda, who plans to advance Assembly elections   to October this year, announced last week that a separate body for managing Sikh gurdwaras would be set up on November 1. Interestingly, Hooda did nothing to accede to the Sikh demand during his almost five- year term and his recent announcement is being viewed as attempt to mollify and woo over 12-lakh strong Sikh community in Haryana before the elections. A peeved Badal met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Delhi on Monday and reportedly told him that the move by the Congress in Haryana to set up a separate gurdwara panel was “highly ill-advised and ill-conceived” and sought his intervention to stall the move.

He said the move was “anti-Sikh” and would have “religio-political implications besides being bad in law, precedent and practice.”

Badal’s Akali Dal, which has  ruled the 170-member SGPC based in Amritsar, staunchly opposes any dilution of powers of the SGPC which currently manages 25 gurdwaras in Haryana too.

The Akali Dal considers the SGPC as its religious arm which is also a source of its political strength.

The SGPC, Amritsar was formed in 1925 by an Act of Parliament, and is statutorily entrusted with managing historic Sikh gurdwaras in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Chandigarh. Twenty of these historic gurdwaras in Haryana are currently under the tutelage of the SGPC management and contribute nearly Rs 10 crore annually to its kitty.

A section of SGPC members from Haryana has in the past raised a banner of revolt against the Amritsar-headquartered body for failing to advance funds for maintenance and upkeep of gurdwaras in Haryana and have been demanding a separate body to manage Sikh gurdwaras in the state.

Badal reportedly reminded Manmohan Singh about the historic pact of Sikh community with former PM Pandit Nehru in 1959 which said “any amendments in the Gurdwara Act should only be undertaken after obtaining the approval of General Committee (House) of the SGPC. A convention may be established that such approval may be by two thirds majority of the SGPC.”