Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and his deputy Sukhbir Badal on Friday expressed divergent views on the issue of Sikhs being part of the Hindu community, as mentioned in Article 25(b) of the Constitution.
When asked for his take on the issue, the chief minister evaded a direct reply. However, Sukhbir was more forthcoming and favoured amending the Article to separate the two communities.
Sukhbir’s stand is similar to that of Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh who has already slammed the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for describing Sikhs as part of the larger Hindu community. When the CM’s views were sought on the subject at a sangat darshan at Attari on Friday, he cautioned the media. “Why do you ask such questions? Don’t you like the harmony and the close bonds that prevail between various religions?” he asked.
He said the Sikh gurus believed in the concept of secularism and respected all religions. He exhorted the people to maintain communal harmony, peace and brotherhood.
He preferred not to respond when the media pointed out that in 1984-85, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), including Badal, had burnt copies of the Constitution related to Article 25 (b) as a protest in Delhi. The SAD has all along demanded amendment of this particular clause of the Constitution.
Sikhs have distinct identity: Sukhbir
However, the deputy CM had a different view when the media put the question to him. He said, “It is a universally known fact that Sikhs have a distinct identity. Sikhism is an independent race and the entire community has the same stand on the issue. There is no need for a second opinion on this.”
The Sikh clergy and the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), too, hold similar views. Giani Gurbachan Singh two days back had appealed to the Sikh community to unite on a single platform on the issue. He had asked all Sikh MPs to highlight the issue in Parliament. SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar had earlier made it clear that he did not agree with the RSS viewpoint that Sikhs were part of Hinduism.
The jathedar has already lent his support to the ‘Sikhs are not Hindus’ petition of Sikhs For Justice, a US-based human rights group. The online petition has been addressed to US President Barack Obama with the plea to take up the amendment in Article 25 (b) with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to India next month.
Two sides of same coin: BJP
State BJP chief Kamal Sharma, who was in the city, when asked to comment on this, said, “Ours is a secular country and everyone has the right to practise any religion. However, for ages we have known that Hindus and Sikhs are two sides of the same coin.” When asked to comment on Sukhbir’s view, Sharma said, “Everyone has the right to express his view and this does not change the ground reality.”
Sukhbir for all-party meet on conversions
Meanwhile, Sukhbir has urged the PM to call an all-party meeting to allay apprehensions of the minorities on the issue of religious conversions even as he called upon the government to frame a law to restrict such conversions. “Religious conversions could add to communal tension and this matter should be handled sensitively,” he added.