Efforts for takeover of gurdwaras in the state took a serious turn on Saturday as the Haryana Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (HSGMC) started a dharna outside the historical Gurdwara Chhevin Patshahi here. Presence of armed men with allegiance to the Amritsar-headquartered Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) inside the shrine set the stage for a conflict, though so far the HSGMC leadership has said it won’t resort to violence.
The Akal Takht, Sikhism’s temporal seat, had ordered status quo, and again appealed for peace on Saturday. The sit-in came after the HSGMC executive committee held a meeting to discuss its next move as its August 2 deadline for submission of financial details of gurdwaras was not followed by the SGPC-appointed staff. The row has been escalating as Punjab’s ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), which controls the SGPC, has termed the formation of the HSGMC as unconstitutional and an “election stunt” of Haryana’s Congress government.
‘READY, IF FORCED’
The HSGMC leadership, which now wants the gurdwara to be its headquarters, while saying they would not resort to any “wrongful method”, added that Sikhs of Haryana were “ready for any step, if forced by those occupying the gurdwaras”. Security task force members of the SGPC locked the gates and, equipped with their swords and spears, were gathered in large number inside. SAD MP Prem Singh Chandumajra was also present and told the media they were ready for talks.
Earlier, at the HSGMC meeting at Dera Baba Kar Sewa Charan Singh, many favoured using force to take over the shrine. Then, HSGMC ad hoc president Jagdish Singh Jhinda, senior vice-president Didar Singh Nalwi and general secretary Joga Singh Yamunanagar locked themselves in a room for four hours for a meeting, while a group of 50-odd supporters started a march towards Gurdwara Chhevin Patshahi.
The slogan-raising brigade was stopped a few yards away from the shrine by police. Jhinda and Nalwi joined them later.
Indecision on strategy was apparent when HSGMC general secretary Joga Singh said they would not move away without taking over management, but Jhinda stressed there would be no use of force. Jhinda did add that the dharna was about takeover of all 50-odd gurdwaras in the state. Executive member Gurmeet Singh Tirlokey Wale refused to attend the meeting, saying: “Do not mislead the Sikh sangat.
Take control of gurdwaras, or I am out of the committee!”
HT has learnt that the HSGMC had no unanimity on how to go about the takeover. Jhinda repeatedly appealed to supporters not to take any hasty decision. It was opined that a forcible takeover would invite negative response. “In 2009, a group of Sikhs led by Jhinda had forcibly taken over the gurdwara. It turned out to be a drama as Jhinda announced that it was a symbolic step to prove strength. Later, his conduct was widely criticised, and the Akal Takht even awarded tankha (religious punishment) to Jhinda and others,” recalled the source.