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 to run in the same manner as earlier,” said Akal Takht chief Giani Gurbachan Singh.
Terming the Akal Takht order as “one-sided”, Jhinda said, “We obeyed the Akal Takht order to cancel the convention at Karnal since the order came in the wake of tragedy at Saharanpur where the Sikh community was targeted. But today’s order smacks of bias. We have been made a party and this is one-sided order against us,” Jhinda told The Indian Express.
Jhinda said while the Akal Takht had earlier excommunicated him, Nalwi and Haryana Finance Minister Harmohinder Singh Chatha, a new order had been issued even as the matter was “still pending”. On July 16, the Akal Takht had excommunicated the trio on charges of defying its directives by forming a separate HSGPC.
“We will discuss the issue at our executive committee meeting,” said Jhinda. “HSGPC has been set up in the same legal manner as the SGPC and DSGMC were formed,” he added.
Dal Khalsa, the radical Sikh organisation, also questioned the Akal Takht order. Asking the Akal Takht chief “to first withdraw the unprincipled edict excommunicating three Sikhs of Haryana,” Dal Khalsa spokesperson Kanwar Pal Singh said only then would he be entitled to issue directions to them.
“By directing the SAD to call off their conclave, Giani Gurbachan Singh has provided them an escape route. It is strange and ironic that the Jathedar is issuing directions to the HSGPC leaders who he had excommunicated from the Sikh Panth a few days back,” said Kanwar Pal.
— With inputs from Ashwani Sharma, Shimla