Sukhbir Singh Badal blames Congress for trying to divide Sikhs

Chandigarh, July 20 : The Deputy- Chief Minister of Punjab, Sukhbir Singh Badal, accused the Congress party, of dividing the Sikh community by creating a separate body to oversee their Gurdwaras in Haryana. The state government in Haryana on July 11 passed a bill in the state assembly to create an independent committee, Haryana Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee(HSGPC) to monitor Sikh temples, or Gurdwaras, in the state.

The Haryana Sikh Gurdwaras (Management) Bill, 2014, got the assent of the Haryana governor on Monday (July 14). The decision came despite opposition from the chief of neighbouring northwestern Punjab, Parkash Singh Badal, who had earlier appealed the federal government to intervene in the matter. The bill, introduced on the first day of the monsoon session of Haryana legislature, was opposed by Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and BJP.

After a meeting with leaders of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in Chandigarh on Saturday, Badal said the Congress is trying to divide the Sikh community. ”This is a major attack on the Sikh community by the Congress. We will defend and the Sikhs will be made secure at any cost,” said Badal. Slamming the Congress government in Haryana, Badal said Chief Minister, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, had no right to order the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) to interfere with this act, which will set up a distinct body to monitor the issues of Gurdwaras in the state.

“First of all, wherever in the world any Sikh issue comes up, whether it is a turban issue in France or anything else, Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee’s responsibility is to defend the interest of the Sikhs. So Haryana, being a part of SGPC, the Haryana government has no right to tell us or the SGPC not to interfere. Haryana government, themselves, is interfering in the Sikh community affairs, which they are not supposed to do,” added Badal. Reportedly, after the SAD leaders met Union Home Minister, Rajnath Singh, a letter was shot off to the Haryana government seeking withdrawal of the governor’s assent to the controversial bill, which was out rightly rejected by Hooda.

A SAD legislator, Daljit Singh Cheema, said because of such an unconstitutional blunder committed by the Haryana government, immediate action must be taken against them by the union government. ”Everybody knows they have committed a constitutional blunder. As per the Reorganisation Act, 1966 and as per Section 72 of the act, they have no power to legislate and to form a separate Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee. So, that is why, the union home ministry has taken such a strong step that they have written a letter. We want that the union home ministry should take strict action against the Haryana government,” said Cheema.

The Amritsar-based SGPC, the mini-parliament of Sikh religious affairs, which controls Gurdwaras across Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, will lose control over 72 Gurdwaras in Haryana with the new law in the state. The SGPC came into existence following the 1925 Gurdwara Act after years of struggle and sacrifice by thousands of people against the British ploy to divide the community. The SGPC is the apex religious body of Sikhs throughout the world.

There are 72 Gurdwaras in Haryana under the SGPC and they contribute over rupees 300 million to the SGPC. The SGPC controls majority of the Gurdwaras in Punjab, including the holiest of all Sikh shrines, Harmandar Sahib, popularly known as the Golden Temple, in Amritsar.