Following criticism by Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) has decided to come down heavily on its employees who do not abide by the principles of Sikhism and are not “sabat soorat” Sikhs in appearance.
SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar has warned of strict action against all such employees who fit the category of “patit” (apostate) Sikhs. The word “patit” is generally used by the SGPC for Sikhs who cut their hair short and clip their beard. However, at times, this description is also used for baptised (amritdhari) Sikhs, who consume liquor or indulge in other social evils. Makkar’s warning is not just limited to the SGPC employees but also covers their family members.
The warning by Makkar comes a few of days after the Akal Takht Jathedar stated that the “biggest threat to Sikhism was not from external sources but from within”. He had referred to the SGPC and claimed that it had failed to check violation of Sikh principles within the organisation. In this context, the Jathedar had also made a mention of the growing number of “patits” among the family members of SGPC employees.
The warning by Makkar is an open admittance of violation of Sikh principles within the gurdwara body. In his nine years in office, it is the first time that Makkar has made such a confession.
ONE-MONTH NOTICE ISSUED
Saying that only the lucky ones get an opportunity to serve the SGPC, Makkar gave employees a month's time to imbibe the principles of Sikhism and become “sabat soorat” Sikhs. “Strict action will be taken against the SGPC employees who do not abide by the Sikh principles. The employees will also be responsible for the actions of their family members,” Makkar said in a statement issued here on Tuesday, without specifying the likely action to be taken.
The SGPC chief is well within his rights to proceed against SGPC employees as the Sikh Gurdwara Act specifies that to join the SGPC, one must be baptised and well versed in the Sikh religion. However, in the case of family members, there is no such binding.
To check the growing number of “patits”, especially among the youth, the SGPC has launched the “Sikhi Saroop Mera Asli Roop” campaign in schools, under which young boys and girls are made to take a pledge not to cut their hair or clip their beard.
Makkar said a campaign to check the “Sikhi saroop” of every SGPC employee and his family members would be launched. To begin with, families putting up in SGPC-owned residential colonies or in residences attached to SGPC-managed gurdwaras would be checked, he added.
The SGPC has decided that all newly appointed employees will go through a refresher course on Sikhism. The new recruits should have the knowledge of Sikh religion and history, said Makkar.
Doesn’t cover SGPC members
While Makkar's warning covers all SGPC employees and their family members, he refrained from issuing the “hukamnama” to SGPC members. Makkar was not available for comments despite repeated attempts.
However, SGPC additional secretary Daljit Singh Bedi said: “We cannot issue an order to SGPC members as most of them are members of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) or of any other Akali faction. It is for the political party to frame rules for them.”
Bedi, however, said all members of the 15-member SGPC executive, including office-bearers, are “sabat soorat” Sikhs and so are their family members. He said all SGPC members are baptised. They have to be so as it is prerequisite to contest SGPC elections, he added.