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HindustanTimes Thu,25 Dec 2014

Amid noisy debate, Punjab assembly passes resolution against HSGMC

Pawan Sharma, Hindustan Times  Chandigarh, July 17, 2014
First Published: 21:39 IST(17/7/2014) | Last Updated: 08:16 IST(18/7/2014)

The Bhupinder Singh Hooda government’s prickly move for forming the Haryana Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (HSGMC) came under a withering attack from ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) legislators in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha here on Thursday.

As former Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) chief Bibi Jagir Kaur led the SAD charge that triggered a noisy debate lasting more than two hours, the opposition Congress attempted to steer clear of taking any definitive position against or in favour of the Congress government in Haryana. And, legislators of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the SAD’s alliance partner, preferred to keep mum.

Finally, the Vidhan Sabha passed a resolution by ‘voice vote’ recommending to the SAD-BJP government to take up the matter (Haryana’s move) with the Centre to “restrain any state government from interfering in the religious affairs/religious institutions of other states.”

The tactic of moving a resolution through Jagir Kaur is part of a multi-pronged strategy of the SAD, which is using every platform to protest and undo the law enacted by the Haryana government for setting up a separate gurdwara management committee in the state. While chief minister Parkash Singh Badal is camping in New Delhi and mounting pressure on the Centre to explore legal and administrative remedies, the Akal Takht has excommunicated three Sikh leaders of Haryana who were instrumental in the formation of the separate gurdwara panel in the neighbouring state.

Tracing the history of how the SGPC came into being and referring to sacrifices made by the Sikhs, Akali MLA Jagir Kaur referred to the atrocities committed by Mughals and the British on the Sikhs. “What Haryana has done is a major blow to the Sikhs. All of us should shed our political differences to protect our religion. The Haryana government wants to divide the Sikhs and make them fight among themselves,” Jagir Kaur said in a choked voice.

“This matter is very serious,” speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal pointed out. As some Congress MLAs tried to disrupt Jagir Kaur’s speech, Atwal pointedly warned legislator Kuljit Singh Nagra, saying: “Please sit down, otherwise I will show you the door.”

With the HSGMC move, Jagir Kaur said, the Congress has damaged and divided the Sikhs. “This may pose a danger to the peace of the nation and is a threat to the federal structure,” she said, adding that this Haryana move was a threat to the country’s unity and integrity.

“The SGPC is not the personal property of any individual. It belongs to every Sikh,” she said before wrapping up her emotionally-charged speech.

The SAD then fielded justice Nirmal Singh (retd), who described the issue in question a conspiracy of the Congress for political gains and referred to Operation Bluestar and how “the Congress demolished the Akal Takht and wounded the Darbar Sahib” in the 1984 Army operation.

While Congress MLAs were causing disruptions, deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal ticked off the Opposition. “You are making a mockery of such a serious debate. This is an issue of the Sikh community and not of the Akali Dal or the Congress,” Sukhbir said.

When the Congress MLAs didn’t budge, the deputy CM said: “Please tell this House who is behind this move of the Haryana government. Then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had assured chief minister Parkash Singh Badal that as long as he was the PM, Haryana would not be allowed to form the separate body.”

This led to sharp exchanges between the treasury and opposition benches. Akali MLA Virsa Singh Valtoha said the Sikhs would not lie low and would give a befitting reply to the Congress.

Charanjit Singh Channi of the Congress questioned why Haryana was not named in the resolution. Nagra, another Congress MLA, stated that this was an issue of the community and that if the Sikhs of Delhi could run affairs of their gurdwaras, why did the SGPC want to have control over Haryana Sikh shrines.

Before the resolution was put to voice vote, Ajit Inder Singh Mofar (Congress) said: “It’s a serious matter. Are we honest with our religion? Or are we playing politics? The enemy cannot enter our house without help from an insider. The All India Gurdwara Act should be enacted by Parliament to manage all Sikh shrines.”

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