Thursday, Oct 30, 2014

SGPC row: Centre stares down, makes Akalis blink

badalsgpc CM Parkash Singh Badal before the Core Committee Meeting at SGPC Office in Amritsar. (Source: Express Photo by Rana Singh)
Written by Vijaita Singh , Navjeevan Gopal | Delhi/ Amritsar | Posted: July 28, 2014 2:55 am | Updated: July 28, 2014 9:02 am

Before the Akal Takht intervened on Saturday and asked the warring factions of Punjab and Haryana to call off their proposed congregations on the Haryana SGPC issue, it was Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh who did some “tough talking” with ally Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD).

According to sources, Singh asked Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal not to disturb the law and order situation. Badal was in Delhi on Friday, when he met Singh and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on the issue.

“The Home Minister made it clear to the Punjab Deputy CM that the Centre is looking for a resolution to end the impasse and the law and order situation in the two states should not be disturbed by any type of congregations. He took a principled stand — that the government is looking for a legal route to end the impasse and extreme steps should be avoided,” said a senior official.

Singh also deputed veteran party leader and party in-charge of Punjab, Shanta Kumar, to speak to the SAD. “I was asked by Rajnath Singh to speak to SAD and other leaders. There are certain terrorist elements in Punjab who could have taken advantage of the congregation to incite tension. I even apprised PM Narendra Modi of the matter and he asked me to convey to SAD that the government was taking legal recourse in the matter,” Shanta Kumar told The Indian Express.

A senior official said the government was yet to take a final decision on the SGPC row and they were still studying the options suggested by Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, which includes a presidential reference to annul the Haryana legislation.

Haryana has brushed aside the Centre’s directive calling for annulment of the Act, saying it has every right to enact a law and the Haryana Gurdwara Act has been passed under its legislative powers. It has instead asked the Centre to withdraw its letter. The Union Law Ministry has told the Home Ministry that it has the executive powers, under Article 256, to give directions to a state in such cases.

Meanwhile, in a fresh directive, the Akal Takht on Sunday restrained the newly-elected office bearers of the Haryana SGPC from functioning. The order came a day after Jagdish Singh Jhinda and Didar Singh Nalwi were elected president and senior vice-president respectively of the 11-member executive body of the HSGPC.

The Akal Takht ordered that the management of gurdwaras in Haryana should be run according to the earlier arrangement, meaning that the Amritsar-based SGPC should continue to manage them.

“I am satisfied that both the groups have called off the conventions in the wake of Akal Takht order. To ensure that the initiatives begun by Akal Takht fructify, I order that there should be no arguments till the issue is resolved. The administration of Haryana gurdwaras should be allowed continued…

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