A majority of Sikh bodies, which are otherwise critical of Shiromani Akali Dal, have supported debarring of Sehajdhari Sikhs from voting in Shiromani Gurudwara Parbhandak Committee (SGPC) elections that came into effect with the passage of the Sikh Gurdwaras (Amendment) Bill, 2016 in the Lok Sabha Monday.
United Akali Dal (UAD), which was on the forefront to organise Sarbat Khalsa and its leaders were put behind bars for months under sedition charges, has also supported the move. Similarly, bodies of former Sikh militants Dal Khalsa and Panch Pardhani too have welcomed the amendment. “All Sikh bodies had unanimously decided in 2003 that this amendment was required to stop inclusion of fake voters of other religions. Those born in Sikh families and have shorn hair are Patit and never had voting right,” said Kanwarpal Singh of Dal Khalsa.
Sarbat Khalsa organiser Gurdeep Singh of UAD said, “We welcome the amendment to the bill. SGPC elections should now be conducted as soon as possible. It was just a technical issue. It is sad that it took so long to bring this amendment.”
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Former minister and former SGPC chief Manjit Singh Calcutta, who is also known for slamming Badals but is often consulted by CM Badal given his understanding on Sikh issues, too, welcomed the move.
“The issue has been misrepresented. Any person with shorn hair never had any right to vote. There is no question of exclusion of 70 lakh voters from SGPC elections. There are some Sehajdharis and that too only in Pakistan. As of now, there are no Sehajdharis in Indian Punjab,” said Calcutta. Meanwhile, the petitioner of Sehajdhari Sikhs Paramjit Singh Rannu claimed that it was the RSS was trying to take advantage of the situation.
“I never wanted voting rights for non-Sikhs. We have no problem with barring those from other religions and in the process of adopting Sikhisam from voting in SGPC. I only want voting right for those born in Sikh families only,” he said.
Rannu added: “Now RSS is trying to take advantage of the situation by creating a feeling of alienation among those 70 lakh born in Sikh families and excluded them from voting right.
The petitioner also said that he has made it clear that though Parliament has made the amendment, we all Sehajdharis should remain dedicated to the Guru Granth Sahib . “There is no sense in making calls to not make offering at gurdwaras because we have been debarred from voting. Making offering at gurdwara has nothing to do with voting right issue. Also Sehajdhari word is still there in Act and amendment is no damage to Sikh identity of Sehajdharis,” said Rannu.