A majority of the members and employees of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) have moved from Amritsar to Haryana, fuelling fears of a possible showdown with the Sikh leadership of the neighbouring state over the contentious issue of a separate gurdwara committee.
The SGPC headquarters in the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar wore a near-deserted look here on Friday, with most of the officials and workers having left for Haryana on the orders of their superiors.
A couple of senior SGPC officials, including secretary Dalmegh Singh and additional secretary Daljit Singh Bedi, did not attend office on Friday. When asked about their ‘bosses’, some sewadars said, “They have gone to Ambala or Kurukshetra.”
Several SGPC employees, when contacted on the phone, said they had been stationed in gurdwaras of Haryana following verbal orders. Sources said they were sent to SGPC-controlled shrines of Haryana, including Gurdwara Nada Sahib near Chandigarh.
The ‘exodus’ began on Thursday evening after the Akal Takht rejected the appeal of Haryana Sikh leaders for a review of the ‘hukamnama’ (edict) against Haryana minister Harmohinder Singh Chattha and Haryana Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (HSGPC, ad hoc) leaders Didar Singh Nalwi and Jagdish Singh Jhinda. The trio was excommunicated on Wednesday for their efforts regarding the formation of the Haryana Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (HSGMC).
Speculation is rife that in the SGPC that HSGPC (ad hoc) members, backed by the Haryana government, may try to take over some of the gurdwaras in the state after evicting the Amritsar-based body’s employees.
When contacted, SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar denied that employees had been moved to Haryana for a possible showdown with HSGPC (ad hoc) members.
“Some of them have been sent to Haryana gurdwaras for administrative purposes, while others have gone there to deal with important issues. There is no question of confronting anyone and they will be back soon after attending to their assigned duties,” Makkar added.
Meanwhile, ‘bhog’ of Akhand Path was held in the Golden Temple complex on Friday morning for the ‘chardikala’ (in high spirits) of the SGPC task force. The task force is in charge of the security of the Golden Temple and other important shrines.
Dal Khalsa warning
Commenting on the ‘exodus’ of SGPC employees, the Dal Khalsa observed that the Akalis led by chief minister Parkash Singh Badal were preparing the ground for a showdown with the Sikhs of Haryana. Terming the situation as dangerous and volatile, party head HS Dhami and senior leader Satnam Singh said there was a possibility of a clash between Akalis and Haryana Sikhs. They said such an eventuality would bring a bad name to the community. In a statement, the two leaders blamed the Badals for the present chaos.
Kurukshetra gurdwara being ‘fortified’
In an apparent bid to foil any attempt by the Haryana Sikh leadership to take over the control of gurdwaras, hundreds of SGPC supporters, including women, have been gathering at the historic gurdwara Chhevin Patshahi in Kurukshetra since Thursday evening.
Members of the SGPC security task force and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) from Punjab and Haryana are also camping there to guard the shrine.
SGPC supporters from the adjoining districts of Saharanpur and Meerut in Uttar Pradesh are also reaching Kurukshetra.
Gurdwara Chhevin Patshahi shrine is on the radar of intelligence sleuths, while police officials in plain clothes have been deployed around the shrine to keep a tight vigil on the developments inside.
Though SGPC senior vice president Raghujit Singh Virk denied the deployment of any security task force, sources in the Haryana police confirmed the presence of Sikhs in large numbers from outside the state, roped in by the SGPC and the SAD to fortify the shrine.
“The Sikh sangat is well aware how the Congress government has tried to divide Sikhs through the HSGMC move. People having faith in the institution of the Akal Takht are voluntarily arriving. We will not hesitate from reacting with full force to foil any attempt by any authority, including the Haryana government, to take over the management from the SGPC,” said Virk.
Kurukshetra is tipped to be the headquarters of the yet-to-be formed HSGMC. The SGPC had its sub office on the Chhevin Patshahi premises. “In 2009, Jagdish Singh Jhinda had forcibly taken control of the shrine with his supporters,” a police source said.
“Once the Haryana government notifies the HSGMC Act, the procedure to hand over management of the shrines would start soon. We may take covert help of HSGMC supporters to get the premises evicted without the direct involvement of the police,” an official said.