States Of The SGPC

States of the SGPC

Vipin Pubby - Indian Express - Friday , Aug 14, 2009

Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s announcement that, subject to legal opinion, the state government would set up a separate Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee on November 1 has reignited opinion on both sides of the issue. He has sought legal opinion on a committee his government had set up to examine the demand for a separate Haryana SGPC. The committee had recommended setting up the separate SGPC.

This committee was the result of a promise in the party manifesto — for the 2005 assembly elections — of a separate SGPC for Haryana. Thus the pressure on the government to act. But the announcement’s timing, and that the government would go by legal opinion with effect from November 1, that is, after the assembly elections likely in October, has provided some respite for the administration.

A section of Sikhs from Haryana, who constitute around 11 per cent of the state’s population, wanted an end to the SGPC control over the state’s gurdwaras. Their plea: the SGPC was “ignoring” their demands and the money collected in Haryana (about Rs 22 crore annually) was being added to the SGPC kitty, without utilisation in the state.

However, the committee’s recommendations and Hooda’s announcement led to strong protests from the Sikh clergy and the Shiromani Akali Dal. Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and senior leaders called on the prime minister to register their protest. They cautioned the Centre that any interference in Sikh religious issues could lead to serious repercussions and open old wounds. Even senior Congress leaders from Punjab met Sonia Gandhi. Not wanting to invite a backlash from the clergy and radicals, a message was conveyed to Hooda to go slow.

The SGPC and the Sikh clergy were opposing any dismemberment of the SGPC. It manages about 150 gurdwaras, notified or historic. Other gurdwaras have local managing committees. Delhi has its own managing committee and two of the five Sikh Takhts (high seats) are not within the SGPC’s ambit. Besides Haryana, there has been a growing demand for
separate SGPCs from states like Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. At the heart of the problem is the fund collection through donations, the source of the SGPC’s wealth and power. The SGPC’s annual budget is Rs 386 crore while annual collections are about Rs 180 crore. Besides, the SGPC remains dominated by members and supporters of the SAD (Badal). For instance, of a total of 180 members, 155 are from this one party. Members from other states are far outnumbered to have any say. Haryana has only 11 members.

Some think the SGPC’s neglect and failure to introduce reforms led to the formation of deras across Punjab, and consequently the movement of a section of Sikhs away from the religion — particularly those still regarded by many as “Dalits” despite Sikhism’s founding principle of equality. The killing of a Ravidassi Dera Sachkhand leader in Vienna and the consequent unrest are being seen in this context.

Evidently influenced by these, the Akal Takht has finally agreed in principle to the idea of an All India Gurdwara Act (AIGA). It aims to formulate common rules for all gurdwaras and a code of religious practices (maryada). Though this proposal has been around for nearly five decades, there has been no unanimity about the provisions. Several recommendations were made, chiefly by a panel headed by Justice Harbans Singh, a former chief justice of Punjab and Haryana high court; but so far no consensus has emerged.

The Sikh clergy’s consent for the AIGA, which it had been resisting for several years, is being seen by some as a move towards reforms and a deflection of the growing demand for financial autonomy of the gurdwaras. The clergy has been, however, also forced to consider more financial autonomy for the various states because of the troubles, particularly in Haryana. They hope that “rebel” leaders from these states would be satisfied if given more power to manage their affairs and funds. Several state leaders have also expressed willingness to give up their demand for separate SGPCs if they are given a fair say in their areas. It is in the interest of all that such sentimental and religious issues are not allowed to linger and give a chance to fundamentalists to push their agenda.


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Thanks Soul-Jyot ji

This article has in fact been very helpful in answering several questions I had on a Newsmaker thread earlier in the week. Fateh!
Yes the issues can no longer be brushed under carpet.

Apart from Badal's SAD, SGPC and the Punjab's polity as a whole is dominated by Jat Sikhs who consider themselves as a superior race and true inheritors of Sikhism. However unpalatable it may, this is the stark reality.
To a very large measure this the reason for the mess Punjab and Sikhs in particular find themselves in.

The basic principle is that Sikhs of all categories (though this may be a contradiction in terms but desperate circumstances force such a use) must have a say in the running of Sikh affairs, be it a ALL India Gurudwara act, Seperate SGPCs or State wide autonomy or whatever.

The present state of affairs cannot continue.

Gurfateh and Chardian Kalan