The Sikhs of Nanded in Maharashtra, backed by leaders of various political parties, on Wednesday took out a protest march to expresses their opposition to the demand of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) for enacting an All India Gurdwara Act, so as to bring all historical gurdwaras in the country under the control of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC).
The march had the support of Takht Hazoor Sahib jathedar, Giani Kulwant Singh, and the entire clergy and management of this important shrine.
The march commenced after 'ardas' (prayer) was performed at the Takht by Giani Jyot Inder Singh, additional jathedar of the Takht. All those who took part in the protest wore black bands around their arms to show their opposition to the SAD demand.
After passing through various parts of Nanded, the march culminated near the office of the district collector, where a 'dharna' was also held.
Later, the management of the Takht presented a memorandum to the district collector expressing their opposition to the All India Gurdwara Act.
Others who lent their support to the demand included Nanded mayor Abdul Sattar, deputy mayor A Chavan. Leaders of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the Congress and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena also lent their support.
While addressing the protesters before they set out for the march, Giani Kulwant Singh reiterated that the Sikhs of Maharahstra and other states would oppose the demand of SAD, which was aimed at bringing all historical Sikh shrines under the control of the SGPC.
He asserted that the Sikhs of Maharashtra were capable enough to manage their own shrines.
Addressing the protesters, Madan Mohan Singh Khalsa, a member of the Gurdwara Board Sachkhand Sri Hazoor Sahib, said that whenever an NDA government comes to power in Delhi, chief minister Parkash Singh Badal comes up with this demand.
In this context, he pointed out that a similar proposal was put before Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1999, but it could not materialise due to its opposition by Sikhs of other states. Now again, Badal put forward this demand during his recent meeting with PM Narendra Modi, he added.
"Those who cannot manage the affairs of the Akal Takht are talking of managing the gurdwaras of the country. It will be better that Badal and the SGPC concentrate in improving the management of shrines under the latter's control rather than looking beyond its borders", added Khalsa.
Similar views were expressed by other speakers who categorically claimed that gurdwaras not under the control of the SGPC were better managed. They also claimed that the tenets of Sikhism were better understood by Sikhs residing outside Punjab and the SGPC is squarely to be blamed for such a situation.
The management and the clergy of Hazoor Sahib accused Badal of trying to create fissures in the Sikh community in Maharashtra.
Besides Takht Hazoor Sahib, the other important Takht outside the control of the SGPC is Takht Patna Sahib. In the past the SGPC has passed resolutions in its general house meetings in favour of an All India Gurdwara Act, apparently with the motive to extend its sway to Sikh shrines outside the states of Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh and the union territory of Chandigarh.