Memorial for militants: Centre, Punjab hesitate to act

The Centre and Punjab government are dithering over invoking a law to stop reported construction of a memorial to glorify Sikh extremists inside the Golden Temple, despite the fact that an act was passed to stop misuse of religious sites fourteen years ago.  

Interestingly, the Religious Institutions (Prevention of Misuse) Act of 1988 was passed about four years after the then Congress government paid a huge price for unleashing
Army operations inside the Golden Temple in Amritsar in June 1984 to flush out Sikh radicals.

The Act particularly bars any “activity prejudicial to the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India”.

Pushed by political considerations, Punjab’s Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) government and the Congress-led UPA at the Centre are reluctant to act tough.  

During his monthly interaction with media, Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde refrained from expressing his view on the Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), the elected management panel of Sikh shrines, for building the reported memorial in the memory of the slain militants.

Surprisingly, Shinde said that the Centre cannot intervene in religious issues as per the Constitution.

"We have received information on the memorial. I have already said while visiting Attari (India-Pakistan border checkpost near Amritsar) last week that this country has witnessed so much of financial loss due to militancy in the state. Everyone has to do some introspection on this," the minister said.

While Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal on Thursday tried to downplay the controversy by suggesting that the upcoming construction would be a Gurudwara and not a memorial, the home ministry is yet to decide on a file asking for an advisory to the state to stop the construction inside the temple as glorifying Sikh militants would send a wrong signal even globally, since India is one of the worst victims of terrorism, sources said. 

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