The Haryana Vidhan Sabha on Friday passed the Haryana Sikh Gurdwaras (Management) Bill, 2014, paving the way for the setting up of a separate gurdwara prabandhak committee for the state, even as the main Opposition parties (INLD and BJP) staged a walkout over the contentious issue.
The Bill was passed amid uproar on the maiden day of the monsoon session, with the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) opting to walk out of the House against the move, terming it the Congress’ political stunt to divide Haryana’s Sikhs.
The Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led Congress government went ahead with the Bill to form the proposed Haryana Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (HSGPC) despite relentless opposition from the Amritsar-based Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) and Punjab’s ruling Shiromani Akali Dal.
The Bill, presented by finance minister Harmohinder Singh Chatha, triggered a verbal duel between the treasury and Opposition benches, with both going all out to project themselves as true well-wishers of Haryana’s Sikhs.
Unusually, Chatha as well as most of the other MLAs who spoke on the Bill did it in Punjabi. Such was the ‘preparedness’ of the ruling Congress that the assembly secretariat played Shabad on the sound system. There were also sporadic chants of “Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal”.
Having done his homework, Chatha spoke on Sikhism, the Sikhs’ sacrifices and their struggle for the control of gurdwaras in the state. Dropping names and dates effortlessly, the Pehowa MLA got thumping support from fellow party legislators. “The demand (for the HSGPC) was always there, but the Congress included it in its manifesto for the 2005 assembly elections and today we are passing the Bill,” he said.
``Eh Badal, Makkar saab sanu daraunde ne… dabke marde ne… mein dasna chahna haan, mein daran wala nahin haan,” he said, declaring that he would not be browbeaten by Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar try to him and others in Haryana but he was not to be.
Chatha also shouted at an Opposition member on being interrupted saying ``thandi khayo nahin taan munh jul javega’’, meaning that he would better have patience lest he would burn his mouth. Requesting all the MLAs to support the bill rising above the party lines, he referred to Opposition MLAs and said ``enha de munh taan urjhaye je ladage ne… je koi bill nu rokange, paap khatange’’ meaning that though the opposition MLAs had long face, the ones disrupting bills would do a sin.
Led by INLD’s MLA from Thanesar Ashok Arora, the opposition members too seemed to have come prepared and caused a ruckus and said the Congress had always divided people and always done injustice to Sikhs in 1982 (Asiad days), 1984 (anti-Sikh riots) and also since 2005 as it was only now that Congress had woken up to this bill which would divide Sikhs. He quoted instances when the Sikh leaders of Haryana had called Congress’ bluff.
Leader of the House, chief minister Bhupinder Singh stunned all when he admitted that the Congress accepted it mistake and had been punished also in the last assembly and recently held parliamentary elections for delaying the setting up of HSGPC it had proposed in 2005.
Congress MLAs B B Batra, Sumita Singh and others who also spoke in Punjabi strongly supported the bill while BJP legislative party leader in House Anil Vij and its two other MLAs Kavita Jain and Ghanshyam Saraf flayed Congress for calling a short session and that too giving bill to members only an hour before it to examine it.
Vij even said that Congress had divided Sikhs with the bill and that even the so-called 1.4 lakh affidavit collected by Chattha were fake. The BJP members staged the walk out stating the Congress was vitiating the social atmosphere by dividing Sikhs and BJP could not be part of it.
On this, Hooda and the parliamentary affairs minister Randeep Surjewala said that the stand of INLD and BJP stood exposed as it was these parties only members of which had supported a separate SGPC for Haryana in the past.
Minutes later the INLD members led by Arora also staged a walk-out terming the bill as an attempt of Congress to divide the Sikhs of state. Though INLD MLA from Ellenabad Abhay Chautala returned and on his request INLD Kalayat MLA Ram Pal Majra spoke, the INLD again staged a walk out terming the purpose of the bill as unethical and illegal.
Surjewala, backed by other members, however, held that the INLD and BJP leaders since decades had been using Akali leaders of Punjab for their political interests in Haryana and in lieu of this, supported their interests in Haryana, hence the opposition to the bill which suited Akalis.