SHIROMANI GURDWARA Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) president Kirpal Singh Badungar has said the apex religious body of Sikhs had “lost its focus on religious preaching” over the past few years and that it had also “hurt Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)” during the recent Assembly elections in Punjab. He also blamed former SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar for SGPC’s “failure in sticking to its main job of religious preaching.” Badungar said he had now chalked out a campaign for SGPC to reach every village of Punjab for religious preaching from July 1. SAD leaders are set to be part of this campaign “as common Sikhs,” he said.
“The then SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar is responsible for the deterioration of SGPC. The committee had weakened and it affected every aspect of life in Punjab. It should be no surprise if it also affected SAD in the elections.” Despite repeated attempts to contact him, Makkar was unavailable for comment. According to sources, SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal, after the poll debacle, issued strict instructions to SGPC to strengthen its religious campaign in Punjab. Sukhbir Singh Badal also had differences with former SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar as Sukhbir had expressed his resentment publicly about the SGPC’s increased focus on developing educational institutes rather than religious preaching during Makkar’s tenure.
Badungar said, “We will reach every village. We have been focusing on children. We are organising Gurmat camps for the children where they will be taught about Gurbani, Kavishri, Gatka and other aspects of Sikh culture. We will also give Rs 500 to the priests to teach Japji Sahib to 25 children. They will be given Rs 1,000 for 50. Children will be also given a prize for winning Gurmat competitions. First prize will be Rs 2,100.” As part of the outreach progarmme, in Malwa, eight villages will be treated as one circle. A collective Kirtan Darbar will be organised after a week-long campaign in all villages of the circle.
On whether SAD would also be part of the SGPC campaign, Badungar said, “SAD leaders can be MLAs or MPs but they for us, they are Sikhs first. And every Sikh can come and participate in this campaign and they will, too.” SAD Rajya Sabha MP Balwinder Singh Bhunder said, “Our role in the SGPC campaign will be to mobilise sangat for the functions planned by SGPC. Religion plays an important part in the life of every individual and it helps them to stay away from drugs and other social evils.” Bhunder added, “We are not doing this for any political benefit. Even Chief Minister Amarinder Singh goes to the Golden Temple. In fact, I will urge Congressmen to be part of the SGPC campaign.”