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HindustanTimes Fri,19 Dec 2014

Punjab, Haryana head for confrontation on separate SGPC issue

PTI  Chandigarh, July 05, 2014
First Published: 16:45 IST(5/7/2014) | Last Updated: 22:52 IST(5/7/2014)

Punjab and Haryana were headed for confrontation over the issue of separate SGPC for the Congress -ruled state, with Parkash Singh Badal appealing to the Centre to intervene in the matter, while his counterpart Bhupinder Singh Hooda asserting that any decision will be taken keeping in view "aspirations" of Sikhs of his state.
 
Badal also said that Haryana's move was "politically motivated" and with an eye on assembly polls due in October this year even though the issue had been hanging fire since long.
 
On its part, the Amritsar-based Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee, which at present controls the affairs of the gurdwaras in Haryana but stands to lose authority if separate panel is formed, warned action against supporters of separate SGPC, saying that any such move will be "directly challenging" Akal Takht - the supreme temporal body of the community.
 
"If the separate SGPC is formed, the step will be directly taking on and challenging the Akal Takht. The word of the Akal Takht is final, but if some Sikhs still chose to ignore it and go against it, they are guilty and can invite any action as the supreme temporal body deems fit," SGPC President Avtar Singh Makkar said.
 
Badal slammed Haryana's move, saying "its nefarious designs to divide the Sikhs" would never materialise.
 
"It is unfortunate that the Haryana Government is reviving this contentious issue despite of the fact that the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had refrained it from taking this step during the rule of the UPA government," he said speaking to reporters in Kapurthala.
 
"I hope that the Union Government will intervene in the matter," he said.
 
Later in the day, Badal while interacting with reporters at Gurdaspur and Hoshiarpur said, "this election stunt of Congress will not yield dividends for them as the Sikhs of Haryana have time and again rejected the demand for having separate body for managing the gurdwara affairs in the state."

 "I want to put some things straight. The SGPC has an annual budget of around Rs. 900 crore. There are eight big gurdwaras in Haryana which generate over Rs. 35 lakh while 17 gurdwaras fall below the Rs. 35 lakh category. Out of an annual Rs. 30 crore spent on the upkeep of these gurdwaras, about Rs. 3 crore is saved.
 
"But SGPC spends far in excess of just these Rs. 3 crore. We run a number of schools, colleges and other institutions in Haryana." Makkar said.
    
Slamming the Hooda government, Makkar said, "the issue of a separate Sikh body in the state has suddenly become important for them when elections in that state are drawing close.
 
"The Congress party is only now eyeing the Sikh voters, but the voters are wise enough and wont fall into the trap laid by the party which has always tried to divide the community for narrow political gains."     

The issue of carving out separate SGPC was a poll promise made by the Congress in 2005, but not settled in the first term of the Hooda government. The issue remained alive in Hooda's second term from 2009 and is now again at the forefront when Haryana goes to polls in October this year.
    
The committee, headed by Haryana Finance Minister Harmohinder Singh Chatha, himself a Sikh from the State, had in its report submitted to the state government, recommended the setting up of a separate body to manage the gurdwaras in Haryana, which are at present under the control of the Amritsar-based SGPC.
    
"The Congress government in Haryana is directly interfering into our religious affairs," Makkar alleged.
 
Makkar also claimed that land lease agreements of a number of Sikh families in Kokhri village near Pehowa in Kaithal, who had been tilling land for years had been cancelled.
 
"But leaders like Chattha have found no time to visit them. As many as 117 families have been affected with alternate avenues of employment. For the past one year, the SGPC has been supplying ration to the affected families. We have distributed Rs. 21 lakh to them and promised jobs. None of the so-called Sikh leaders from Haryana raises this issue."     

Chief Minister Hooda has maintained that any decision with regards to separate SGPC for the state will be taken keeping in view the "wishes and aspirations" of the Sikhs of Haryana.
    
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has said the Haryana government's move to create a separate body in the state was "ill-conceived" and "unconstitutional" and has already petitioned the NDA government against such a move.

Amarinder today cautioned Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh against being "misled" by the Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son Sukhbir Badal on the issue of a separate SGPC for Haryana.
 
"It would be better if the government of India keeps off the matter," Amarinder said in a statement.
 
Referring to the reports that both the Badals had requested the Union Home Minister to not allow Haryana set up a separate SGPC, Amarinder said, "this will not only amount to interfering into the constitutional and legislative right of the state but also ignoring and overlooking the sentiments of an overwhelming majority of lakhs of Sikhs living there."      The former Punjab Chief Minister reminded Rajnath Singh about separate Gurdwara managing committees at places like Delhi, Bihar and Maharashtra.
    
"When these states can have their separate and independent gurdwara managing committees, why deny a similar right to the Sikhs of Haryana?" he asked.
    
Meanwhile, Parkash Singh Badal today said the Haryana government's "nefarious designs to divide the Sikhs", by constituting separate SGPC, would never materialise.
 
Criticising Amarinder Singh and Punjab Congress Chief Partap Singh Bajwa for supporting Haryana government's move over the separate SGPC, Badal said that "they are not aware about the history of supreme sacrifices made by countless Sikhs for formation of (Amritsar-based) SGPC."      

Badal while interacting with reporters at Gurdaspur and Hoshiarpur said "this election stunt of Congress will not yield dividends for them as the Sikhs of Haryana have time and again rejected the demand for a separate body to manage the gurdwara affairs in the state."

Badal also cautioned the Congress to refrain from "meddling" in the religious affairs of the Sikhs "just for the sake of its vested political motives."

"It is unfortunate that the Haryana Government is reviving this contentious issue despite of the fact that the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had refrained from taking this step during the UPA rule," he said.

Meanwhile, speaking to reporters in Kapurthala, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal said that he was confident that the Centre would intervene in the matter of separate SGPC for Haryana.
    
"I hope that the Union Government will intervene in the matter," he said.
    
He hoped that Prime Minister Narendra Modi "will also intervene at an appropriate time as former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had earlier intervened and stalled the move of Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda to create the separate SGPC."
 
Badal said that he had kept the Centre abreast about Haryana's move on the issue and it would be "disastrous" if separate body is formed by the state.

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