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The Supreme Court ordering the status quo on the operation of the law passed by the Haryana assembly on the control of the 52 gurdwaras in the state is only a brief respite to a portentous problem that can have grave consequences. The Haryana government’s support to the breakaway movement of the gurdwaras in the state from the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) has been caught up in the politics of the times because the assembly elections are just a few months away. With Punjab being ruled by the Akalis, the Congress in Haryana thinks that in this manner it can wean away the small Sikh community in the state. In this it seeks to justify the correctness of its action in terms of the legislation that divided Punjab in 1966, mandating the division of properties between the two states. Predictably this has drawn fierce opposition from the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). However, the BJP has been able to calm it down because the party sees the prospects of coming to power in Haryana and does not wish to alienate the Sikhs of the state.
The subject is political, going far back into history. The SGPC was formed in 1925 through legislation and has been exercising control over the gurdwaras of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and, up to a point, Delhi. This movement was enmeshed with the Akali movement, which stressed the purification of the gurdwaras and led to the assertion of Sikh identity. Over time Delhi had its Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee, but this did not diminish the power of the SAD in the functioning of the SGPC. All the SGPC presidents starting from Gurcharan Singh Tohra have been confidants of SAD chief Parkash Singh Badal. Hence as long as the Akalis are in power in Punjab, the SGPC will try to cow down any move that tries to diminish its clout in the Sikh panth.
Herein lies a possibility of danger. The Constitution enjoins upon all parties that they keep religion and politics apart. In the days of the Khalistan movement, some of the misguided Sikh youth were goaded into the belief that their religion would be swamped if they were to remain part of India. Hence, given that secularism is not negotiable in our polity, all parties must respect this and stay away from any potential sources of trouble.