SGPC row: Political war to score brownie point ahead of assembly election

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SGPC row
The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the Shiromani Gurudwara Parbhandhak Committee (SGPC) and Haryana Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (HSGPC/HSGMC) to maintain a status quo on the issue of management control of all 52 Sikh shrines in Haryana till its further orders.

The apex court bench led by Chief Justice RM Lodha also directed the SGPC and HSGPC to open separate bank accounts in which all incomes of gurudwaras under their control will be deposited and posted the matter for further hearing on August 25.

Country's top court's ruling has temporarily ended the logjam between the two warring groups over seizing all the Sikh shrines in Haryana. The apex court has also directed the state's police administration to take all steps to maintain law and order and prevent any untoward incident. But there is a need of a permanent solution to put an end to this tussle.

Why Supreme Court intervened?

As the supporters of HSGPC clashed with cops near the Chathi Patshahi gurdwara in Kurukshetra, on Wednesday, the takeover of the Sikh shrines in the state took a violent turn. Several devotees, cops and protesters were injured as HSGPC supporters brandishing naked swords clashed with the police. This forced the Supreme Court to take up the matter immediately.

Why is SGPC against HSGPC?

But one wonders why is the matter is being stretched so much. Well the answer is quite simple, politicization of religious affairs. The ruling-Congress Government in Haryana, in an attempt to woo Sikh voters in the state, has formed a separate Haryana Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee.

Section 72 of the Punjab Recognition Act, 1966 states that the power to make law in respect of HSGMC as an inter-State body corporate is reserved for the Central Government only and there is no provision in law for its bifurcation by enacting a State legislation. But the Haryana assembly had on June 11 passed a bill under which a new committee would be set up to manage gurdwaras in the state.

The Haryana Sikh Gurdwaras (Management) Bill, 2014, got the assent of the Haryana governor on June 14 for the newly set-up ad hoc committee and elected state Sikh leader Jagdish Singh Jhinda as its first president.

Since then, the Akali Dal and the SGPC are locked in a bitter controversy with the Hooda government over the creation of the HSGPC. They have both strongly opposed the creation of the new panel for Haryana Sikh shrines. SAD accused the Congress of conspiring to weaken the SGPC, known as the mini-parliament of Sikh religion, by trying to create a separate Sikh body to take control of gurdwaras in Haryana.

The SGPC controls majority of the gurdwaras in Punjab, including the holiest of all Sikh shrines, and 72 in Haryana which accounts for a revenue of Rs 950 crore annually. If the HSGPC starts functioning, then SGPC will lose control over Sikh shrines in Haryana and it will have to face an annual loss of Rs 100 crore to its coffers that it gets from the 25 big Sikh shrines in Haryana. The SAD being an associate of the SGPC is against this move and has criticised Haryana Government's move for mixing politics with religion.

Why is the Hooda government supporting it?

To garner support from a section of Sikh leaders from the State which has been demanding a separate Sikh body for shrines in Haryana, Hooda Government had raised this issue in 2009 assembly polls. Now, that the elections are on the verge, the state Government wants to lure the Sikh vote-bank by fulfilling its promise. In the run-up to the Assembly election, the Congress is hoping for gathering vote-bank in Haryana.

Why is the Centre silent?

This entire development has put the Narendra Modi Government in a bind that was initially trying not to budge into this matter. But after Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal threatened to resign HSGPC Bill comes into effect the Centre was forced to intervene. The Government may have appointed its trusted man Kaptan Singh Solanki, who is a BJP MP, as Haryana's new Governor but the government hasn't come up with any concrete plan to solve this issue.

It is time Centre must intervene into this matter and put an end to the tussle because it is the common Sikh devotees, not political parties, who are facing the brunt of this turmoil.

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