In a significant decision, the Sikh clergy have decided that while historical gurdwaras cannot be shifted under any circumstances, non-historical holy places of the community could be moved to another place "as per the needs and requirements of the local people".
A decision to this effect was taken at a meeting of the five Sikh high priests at the Akal Takht secretariat in Harmandar Sahib complex here on Wednesday.
The meeting was presided over by Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh and attended by Takht Damdama Sahib Jathedar Giani Balwant Singh Nandgarh, Takht Keshgarh Sahib Jathedar Giani Tirlochan Singh, Takht Patna Sahib Jathedar Giani Iqbal Singh and Bhai Jagtar Singh, priest of the Golden Temple.
Briefing the media after the meeting, Giani Iqbal Singh said, "There can be no question of shifting a historical gurdwara. However, non-historical gurdwaras can be shifted to another place if the local population where such a gurdwara is located, are in favouring of shifting it due to various local reasons."
This decision has obviously been taken in the backdrop of the controversy surrounding the demolition of a non-historical gurdwara at Warraich village some time back following a decision by the village panchayat.
Various 'panthic' groups had protested the demolition which led the Akal Takht Jathedar to direct the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) to form a probe panel.
The probe committee after visiting the village concluded in its findings that the shrine was demolished on the directions of the panchayat and that "no outside influence or pressure" was put on panchayat members. Thereafter, the Akal Takht had given a clean chit to the panchayat and had directed all panthic groups not to stage any protest on this issue.
However as 'panthic' groups continued with their protests, the Sikh clergy in its meeting drew a clear line between historical and non-historical holy places, allowing the local people to decide on the future of all non-historical gurdwaras.
In fact, at the meeting, the Jathedars took note of voices of discontent from certain quarters and sought to make it clear to all Sikh groups and organisations that the Warraich gurdwara issue was now a closed chapter and hence no one should comment on it any more. The clergy also directed that all panthic organisations should abide by the directions of the Akal Takht.
"Sikhs are hereby directed that they should move away from anti-panthic forces which cannot uphold the honor and dignity of the Akal Takht," said Giani Gurbachan Singh while talking to the media.
The Akal Takht head also sought to make it clear that new shrines can only be constructed on land registered in the name of Guru Granth Sahib.
Panthic groups continue protests
Despite Akal Takht orders, various 'panthic' groups continued to protest over the Warraich gurdwara issue. They submitted a memorandum to the deputy commissioner on Thursday to demand an inquiry into the demolition.
Meanwhile, the Dal Khalsa took exception to the clergy decision on shifting of non-historical gurdwaras.
Its head HS Dhami said that the clergy have opened a Pandora's box with this decision which is "so vague and generalised that it would set a wrong precedent".
"There is lot of grey area for manoeuvering and mischief in such a decision. It will come in handy for the land mafia to get holy places located on prime land demolished," Dhami claimed.