Once again the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has raised the demand for an all India gurdwara Act, six decades after the private bill was moved in 1954.
It is after the Sikhs in Haryana have asked for a separate body to manage their shrines, breaking away from the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) that Punjab’s ruling party dominates with 165 of 170 members.
The bill proposes to bring all gurdwaras in India under the control of a unified body of Sikhs elected from across the country. The draft bill speaks of uniformity in the system of religious practices and the making of regional and state-level committees, besides a 71-member central committee chosen from them.
‘PUNJAB ROLE WILL BE DILUTED’
Speaking on the draft, former SGPC secretary Kulwant Singh said there was no better way of uniting Sikhs. “Punjab’s role in managing major gurdwaras would be diluted if all five temporal seats, including the Akal Takht, and the Golden Temple, were the central-body control; but leaving politics aside, if Sikhs accepted to make it an Act, it would be landmark change for the community worldwide,” he added.
In a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 13, Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal, who is also president of the SAD, had demanded an amended Sikh Gurdwara Act of 1925 that would make the SGPC an interstate body. They also asked for taking away voting rights from Sehajdhari Sikhs in the SGPC elections and not allowing a separate gurdwara body for Haryana.
WHAT DRAFT SAYS
The draft says that the five head priests are to be appointed for 15 years, with provision for extension, if the central committee agrees by two-third majority. It doesn’t allow any member of the SGPC to contest for the MP’s or legislator’s post or become a union or state minister.
On many occasions, the draft was sent to the Centre, and at times, it even started the process to approve it, sending it to the Punjab government and the SGPC (for comments), from where it never moved. When it last reached the SGPC in 2002, it was kept in abeyance without even a discussion in the executive body.
Reportedly, the draft has anomalies such as the Akal Takht being mentioned as a gurdwara; and the proposal that its jathedar will take oath before the board president or a nominee.
It permits no new gurdwara to be established without permission from the registering authority.
Violation of the rule will draw punishment. “The concepts of gurmat, sangat, Panj Piaras, Guru Panth and rehat maryada (religious code of conduct) find no mention,” said an expert.