In a significant decision, the Sikh clergy has decided that while historical gurdwaras cannot be shifted to any other place under any circumstance, non-historical shrines can be moved to another place "as per the needs and requirements of the local people".
This decision was taken at a meeting of the five Sikh high priests held at the Akal Takht secretariat in the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar on Wednesday.
The meeting was presided over by Akal Takht jathedar, Giani Gurbachan Singh and was attended by Takht Damdama Sahib jathedar, Giani Balwant Singh Nandgarh, Takht Keshgarh Sahib jathedar, Giani
Tirlochan Singh, Takht Patna Sahib jathedar, Giani Iqbal Singh and Bhai Jagtar Singh, priest of the Golden Temple.
Briefing the media after the meeting, Giani Iqbal Singh said, "There can be no question of shifting a historical gurdwara. However non-historical shrines can be shifted to another place if the local population where such a gurdwara is located, are in favouring of shifting it due to various local reasons".
This decision was taken in the backdrop of a controversy surrounding the demolition of a non-historical gurdwara at Wariach following the decision taken by the panchayat of that village.
Various panthic groups had protested the demolition which led the Akal Takht jathedar to direct the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandik Committee (SGPC) to form a probe committee.
The committee after visiting the village concluded in its findings that the shrine was demolished on the directions of the panchayat and that there was no 'outside influence or pressure' on the panchayat members.
Thereafter, the Akal Takht had given a clean chit to the panchayat and had directed all panthic groups not to stage any form of protest against the decision.
The panthic groups continued with their protests and the Sikh clergy in its meeting drew a clear line between historical and non-historical shrines, allowing the local people to decide on the future of all non-historical gurdwaras.
In fact at the meeting, the jathedars took note of the voices of discontent coming from certain quarters and sought to make it clear to all Sikh groups and organisations that the Wariach gurdwara issue was now a closed chapter and hence no one should comment on it any more.
The clergy also directed that all panthic organisations should abide by the directions of the Akal Takht.
"Sikhs are hereby directed that they should move away from anti-panthic forces which cannot uphold the honor and dignity of the Akal Takht," said Giani Gurbachan Singh while talking to the media.
The Akal Takht head also sought to make it clear that new shrines can only be constructed on land which has been registered in the name of the Guru Granth Sahib.
Panthic groups protest
Despite the orders of the Akal Takht, various panthic groups continued to protest over the Wariach gurdwara issue. They submitted a memorandum to the deputy commissioner on Thursday demanding an inquiry into the demolition.
Meanwhile the Dal Khalsa took exception to the jathedars declaring that non-historical gurdwaras can be shifted to another place as per the need and requirement of local people.
The head of the group HS Dhami said with these remarks jathedars's have opened a Pandoras box. The decision is so vague and generalised that it would set a wrong precedent, he said.
"There is a lot of grey area for maneuvering and mischief in such a decision. It will come handy for the land mafia to get shrines located on prime land demolished", said Dhami.