Security around major gurdwaras in Haryana has been tightened after Jagdish Singh Jhinda, a prominent Sikh leader from the state, set a Sep 15 deadline for taking over control of these shrines from the Punjab-based Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC).
Armed personnel from Haryana Police have been stationed outside major gurdwaras in Kurukshetra, Karnal, Ambala and other places, with local police not wanting to take a chance in the event of violence if Sikh leaders led by Jhinda try to forcibly take control of the shrines.
"We have stationed our force outside the gurdwaras for security reasons," Kurukshetra station house officer Jaipal Singh said. Barricades have been erected by the police and the district administration near Sikh shrines to control crowds."
The Sikh leadership in Haryana has accused the SGPC of neglecting the state's gurdwaras and Sikhs, despite these shrines contributing over Rs.100 million (Rs.10 crore) to the SGPC kitty annually, over the past few years.
Jhinda is seeking a separate SGPC for Haryana and has set the Sep 15 deadline for the Bhupinder Singh Hooda government to announce a new committee for the state.
"Haryana's Hooda government was to announce a separate SGPC last year (2009). We have waited long enough. The government should take a decision by our deadline," said Jhinda, who heads an adhoc SGPC committee in the state.
However, the SGPC, which is headquartered at the Golden Temple Complex in the Punjab city of Amritsar, has made it clear it is in no mood to let go of the control of Sikh shrines in Haryana.
The SGPC manages seven historical gurdwaras directly and 18 other gurdwaras through local managements linked to it.
"We have asked the Haryana government to ensure security outside the gurdwaras. We will take care of things inside (the shrines). Police do not have to go inside," said SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar, who has been visiting Sikh shrines in Haryana in the last one week.
The Jhinda faction of the SGPC in Haryana had forcibly taken control of the Gurdwara Chhati Pathshai (Sixth Master) here, 110 km from Chandigarh, in September last year. The SGPC regained control of the shrine after one day.
The SGPC, called the mini-parliament of Sikh religion, is dominated by the ruling Akali Dal in Punjab and is a cash-rich organisation with an annual budget of nearly Rs.4.5 billion (Rs.450 crore).
Much of this money comes from offerings made at gurdwaras, especially the holiest of Sikh shrines, the Golden Temple.
The majority of gurdwaras in Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh are under the control of the SGPC under the Sikh Gurdwara Act, 1925. It controls nearly 200 Sikh shrines, religious and educational institutions.
In recent months, the SGPC president has accused the Congress governments at the centre and in Haryana of trying to divide Sikhs through the move to set up a separate SGPC for Haryana.
Following demands from a section of the Sikh population which is a minority in Haryana, the state government had set up a committee in 2008 under then cabinet minister and now assembly Speaker Harmohinder Singh Chatha, himself a Sikh leader, to prepare a report. A total of 128,566 affidavits were filed before the committee seeking a separate SGPC for Haryana.
The Sikh leadership in Haryana is demanding a separate SGPC on the basis of separate gurdwara managements in Delhi and other places.
The SGPC has no control over gurdwaras in Delhi, which are managed by the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (DSGPC), Maharashtra, Jammu and Kashmir and some other states.
Gurdwaras in Pakistan, especially Sikhism founder, Guru Nanak Dev's birth place Nankana Sahib near Lahore, are also now controlled by the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee. The SGPC had vehemently opposed the formation of the PSGPC a few years ago, but the Pakistan government paid no heed.
A number of gurdwaras in the US, Canada, Britain, European countries and other parts of the world are run by local managements which have no SGPC control.
Of the five 'takhts' (high religious seats), the Patna Sahib Takht (Bihar) and the Hazur Sahib (Nanded, Maharashtra) are also not under SGPC control. Three other takhts - Akal Takht (Amritsar), Takht Keshgarh Sahib (Anandpur Sahib, 90 km from Chandigarh) and Takht Damdama Sahib (near Bathinda) - are with the SGPC. The Akal Takht is the highest temporal seat of Sikhism.