The Sikh community and the country at large have been pushed into a needless and dangerous crisis by the Congress government in Haryana. Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda has got a law enacted through the state Vidhan Sabha to break up the democratically elected and highest religious body of the Sikhs, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC). This body, also known as the religious parliament of Sikhs, had been created to manage, interpret and protect the religious affairs, institutions and identity of the community.
By its action, the Haryana government has chosen to show complete lack of trust in the elected representatives of the Sikh community in that state and has sought instead to hand Sikh shrines and the sublime values of Sikhism to a few handpicked agents nominated by it.
WHY ARE SIKHS ANGRY WITH HOODA?
Why are Sikhs feeling agitated and hurt over Hooda’s action? If it were merely a matter of management of Sikh shrines, does it matter if the representative members of the community, constitutionally elected by the Sikhs of any state manage Sikh shrines? Surely not. But in Haryana, constitutionally elected members of the Sikhs have been deprived of this right and control is sought to be given to non-elected, defeated but Congess government nominated agents. This means that the shrines will be managed not by those whom the Sikh masses elected but by those whom Hooda chooses.
If one were to accept this injustice, then tomorrow, in the event of a Congress majority in the Punjab Assembly, the SGPC can be disbanded in Punjab and replaced by the nominees of the Congress government. Will this ever be tolerated by the Panth or any right thinking person in the country?
The need for a central elected religious parliament for the Sikhs had arisen because the British Government at that time had installed its own paid agents, known as Mahants, in Sikh gurdwaras to distort, nullify and vitiate the sacred atmosphere of Sikh shrines. The Sikhs wanted that the religious affairs, including the management of the gurdwaras, be in the hands of representatives of the Sikh masses alone.
HARYANA GOVT’S WRONGFUL CLAIM
The Haryana government now wants to hand over the sacred shrines not to the elected representatives of the Sikh masses already in place but to its nominated appointees who would function as “public servants” as per the intent of the Haryana act. The Haryana chief minister has made a false and wrongful claim that the new arrangement is in response to a demand of the Sikhs in Haryana. This is a huge lie. In the last elections to the SGPC in Haryana, this issue of setting up a separate body to manage gurdwaras in Haryana was one of the major issues. The Sikhs rejected all 11 candidates who were raising a demand for a separate body and elected those who stood for a unified SGPC.
If the move to break this historic institution is not opposed and effectively stopped, then the Khalsa Panth will lose the single and united religious rallying point. The SGPC is not just a managing institution for historic gurdwaras but is also a global democratic religious platform through which the Sikh community articulates its spiritual values, safeguards its religious legacy and fights any ideological or other attack on the religion. The conspiracy is aimed at ensuring that the community should disintegrate into separate centres and even parts in different states, districts and even villages.
CRITICAL HOUR FOR SIKH COMMUNITY
The situation at this hour is critical. As a humble servant of the Khalsa Panth, I consider no sacrifice too big in our peaceful and democratic struggle to safeguard the community’s cause and interests.
This is an hour of crisis. The community and its historic institutions are being assaulted. It’s time for every Sikh to join the peaceful and democratic struggle to safeguard the values bequeathed to us by our great Gurus, and to protect the legacy handed down to us by our forefathers through unparalleled sacrifices.
(The writer is the chief minister of Punjab)