Didar Singh Nalwi, 78, is a key leader demanding that gurdwaras of Haryana be freed from control of Amritsar-based Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee. He is president of a group of the Haryana Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (ad hoc). A former registrar of Punjabi University, Patiala, Nalwi had joined the BJP before Lok Sabha elections and is back in Sikh politics after CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda agreed to attend a Sikh convention called by him in Kaithal on July 6. Excerpts from an interview:
Why do you demand a separate panel to manage Haryana’s gurdwaras?
When Haryana was carved out of Punjab, section 72 of the Punjab Reorganisation Act, 1966, guaranteed formation of an independent body to run gurdwaras in Haryana. As the respective state governments failed to execute it, the SGPC controlled by the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has illegal control over the shrines of Haryana.
You have been alleging that the SGPC has ignored interests of Sikhs of Haryana. How?
There are seven historical gurdwaras associated with the Sikh gurus, which are under the direct control of the SGPC. And 72 other shrines are managed by the SGPC-controlled local committees. Of the average donations of Rs. 180 crore collected annually from the Haryana shrines, the entire money is spent in Punjab to suit the political designs of the SAD. Moreover, 5,500 persons from Punjab are employed in Haryana gurdwaras for various jobs whereas Haryana youths are overlooked.
Is the move of the Bhupinder Singh Hooda to form ‘HSGPC’ aimed at appeasing Sikhs ahead of the assembly polls?
Certainly, it is a matter of equipping the minority community with its constitutional right. Even if the Hooda government fulfils its promise, which was made in 2005, now, the Congress will have an edge in Sikh-dominating segments in the polls.
Hasn’t the government kept the Chatha Committee report on the backburner and restarted the issue only for electoral gains?
Interests of Sikhs of Haryana were ignored by respective state governments. Following Punjab’s reorganisation, Haryana Agriculture University, Hisar, and Kurukshetra University were established whereas no effort to form a Sikh panel. It seems that following false claims made by Punjab’s Akalis and the SGPC — that formation of HSGPC would lead to law and order problem — the Haryana government was postponing the Sikh panel. If the Congress regime continues to ignore the issue, it would have electoral repercussions.
You and Jagdish Singh Jhinda [another faction leader] lost SGPC poll in 2011, and the SAD and SGPC claim it as a rejection of the idea of a separate panel.
The SAD is known for its muscle and money power, which are used even in the SGPC elections.
Akalis and SGPC have termed the Haryana panel as interference in affairs of Sikhs, and you and Jhinda as power-hungry.
It is the Akalis and the SGPC which are interfering in the legislative business of Haryana. The SAD and SGPC project themselves as global representatives of Sikhs. I dare them to approach the Supreme Court against the Punjab Reorganisation Act. The Akali leadership was signatory to formation of Punjab and Haryana.
You and Jhinda have levelled allegations against each other. How will you work together?
There is difference of opinion between us but we are fighting for the same cause.
Other leaders have raised their voice for the HSGPC. Do you support their ideas?
Congress is at the helm of affairs and can fulfil the demand. No one can forecast which party would come to power. Even the BJP, an ally of the SAD in Punjab, has not made its stand clear. We are waiting what the Hooda government has to do, and other parties would benefit if Sikhs feel cheated.