HindustanTimes Sun,26 Oct 2014

‘Not a demand by Sikh masses, it's a political move to divide community’

Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Hindustan Times  Chandigarh, June 26, 2014
First Published: 12:10 IST(26/6/2014) | Last Updated: 13:11 IST(26/6/2014)

As the issue of separate gurdwara management committee in Haryana again comes to the forefront ahead of elections in the state, daggers are drawn. The Amritsar based Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak committee (SGPC), which seeks to have all gurdwaras across the country under it, is vehemently opposed to a separate body. SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar says the clamour for a separate body is for political gains. Excerpts from a telephonic interview:

Why are the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) and the SGPC opposing a separate gurdwara management committee for Haryana?

It’s not a demand of the Sikh masses in Haryana, but of a handful of people in the state with a political motive. The SGPC is not just opposing the move but trying to tell people in the government and the Sikhs masses that the move is unjustified. Those demanding a separate body lost the SGPC polls in 2011.

There is an allegation that the SGPC is not working for the welfare of Sikhs of Haryana but is taking away the entire donation received in gurdwara of the state to Punjab. What do you say to that?

The allegations have no basis. Donation from gurudwaras in Haryana – seven big and 18 small — falling under the control of SGPC are just sufficient to manage gurdwaras in that state. SGPC is, in fact, supporting Haryana gurdwaras.

The Sikh leaders demanding a separate gurdwara body in Haryana say the SGPC runs school and colleges only in Punjab, and ignores Haryana. Are they correct?

There is no basis in these allegations too. We are running a number of schools and colleges at Sirsa, Kaithal, Karnal, Panjokhra Sahib, and Shahdbad Markanda. SGPC runs a music academy in Karnal and two public schools are coming up in Jind and Damtaan for which clearance is awaited. The SGPC also plans to start a medical college at Shahbad Markanda, but the Haryana government is not giving clearance since 2006.

Leaders in Haryana also say a separate gurdwara body would empower Sikhs in the state.

A separate body doesn’t mean empowerment for Sikhs. It would weaken them as the SGPC would be divided. If Sikhs face a problem anywhere in the country or even outside, it is the SGPC that comes to their rescue. Sikhs should have one supreme body at the national level to manage gurdwaras, with members from all the states. The SGPC and the SAD-Badal want Sikhs to be united.

But there’s already a separate gurdwara body for Delhi. Is there not a contradiction in your argument?

There is historical perspective to the issue. The SGPC exists from the days of unified Punjab of preIndependence era. The Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee was formed with the efforts of the Akali Dal as, in 1970-71, a board was controlling the gurdwaras of Delhi and the Akali Dal objected to that. Then, the central government agreed for a separate body and asked the Akalis to contest its polls. Before the formation of that board, the SGPC used to nominate members to manage gurdwaras in Delhi… The SGPC and DSGMC came into existence at different times and during a different set of political and social conditions.

Now Haryana CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda says he respects Sikh sentiments and will make all efforts to realise it.

He is playing a political game. Why has he suddenly swung into action when assembly elections are approaching in Haryana? Technically, the state government cannot do much, and any move by the Haryana government [to constitute a separate committee] would be illegal under the Gurdwara Act 1925. As a counter move, I met union home minister Rajnath Singh, making him aware that the law must not be violated.

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