Aggressive tactics of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) were in full display at the Golden Temple on Monday as its security task force backed by Punjab police personnel blocked the entry of members of the ad hoc Haryana Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (HSGMC) to the Akal Takht.
The group led by HSGMC president Jagdish Singh Jhinda, who remains excommunicated from the Sikh Panth by the Takht over the separate gurdwara panel, had come to pay obeisance as thanksgiving before taking charge. The SGPC’s contention was that excommunicated community members could not enter Sikhism’s temporal seat; it was disputed by some sections.
The SGPC is controlled by Punjab’s ruling Shiromani Akali Dal which, led by chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, has been on warpath against the HSGMC’s formation by the Congress government of Haryana. Both the SGPC and SAD have been terming the HSGMC’s formation as unconstitutional and a means to divide Sikhs.
Though Jhinda, 10 members of the HSGMC executive, and five other supporters paid obeisance at the Harmandar Sahib sanctum sanctorum, they could not enter the Takht. Amid this show of strength by the SGPC, the Haryana leaders remained calm.
SGPC additional secretary Vijay Singh said Jhinda could not be allowed into the Akal Takht, “an institution which has excommunicated him and asked the Panth to boycott him politically, religiously and socially till he seeks pardon”. Besides Jhinda, HSGPC senior vice-president Didar Singh Nalwi and Haryana finance minister Harmohinder Singh Chattha were excommunicated last week for their role in formation of the separate gurdwara body. Nalwi was the only HSGMC executive member who could not come, due to health reasons, while Chattha was not expected anyway. Vijay Singh added, “We had orders that Jhinda must not be allowed to enter; but others were free to pay obeisance at the Takht.”
Haryana leaders remain calm, firm
Strategy employed by the SGPC was to form a human chain on the flight of steps to the Akal Takht building. As soon as the HSGMC members emerged from the Harmandar Sahib and headed towards the Takht, SGPC task force and policemen in civil clothes joined hands to block the stairs leading to the first floor of the structure. But neither Jhinda nor any of his supporters made any attempt to move towards the stairs or question SGPC officials. They bowed before the Takht while standing on the ‘parikarma’. They then sat down to recite prayers before moving on and paying obeisance at Thara Sahib and the Bluestar memorial.
Thereafter they partook of food and washed utensils at the ‘langar’ (community kitchen) before leaving, expressing satisfaction with the visit. Jhinda also appreciated friendly overtures of some SGPC officials towards his supporters. Before departing, he made it clear that the HSGMC was here to stay. He said they would soon request the SGPC and the SAD to vacate the gurdwaras of Haryana. But he refused to comment on the Akal Takht’s directive calling for status quo on the gurdwaras in Haryana.
Question over contention
Challenging the argument advanced by the SGPC to stop Haryana leaders, Akali Dal (Panch Pradhani) vice-president Baldev Singh Sirsa said, “An excommunicated Sikh cannot be barred from entering the Akal Takht. He can go inside and bow before Guru Granth Sahib. However neither can he offer ‘parsad’ inside nor ask anyone to perform ‘ardas’ (prayers) for him.”
He pointed out that prior to 1984 there was a board inside the Takht which clearly stated that a Patit (apostate) Sikh and excommunicated ones could not offer ‘parsad’. Sirsa’s claims were backed by a couple of SGPC members, though off the record.