Saturday, Nov 01, 2014

Return of gurdwara politics

The government should restrain the Akalis and advise them to prove their case in court, rather than indulging in rabble-rousing and intemperate language. Source: CR Sasikumar The government should restrain the Akalis and advise them to prove their case in court, rather than indulging in rabble-rousing and intemperate language. Source: CR Sasikumar
Written by Virender Kumar | Posted: July 22, 2014 12:03 am

The Akalis accuse the Haryana government of dividing Sikhs, but the HSGPC controversy is also of their own making.

The Akalis of Punjab appear angry. A law enacted by neighbouring Haryana to create a committee to manage the affairs of gurdwaras in the state has upset them so much that they have likened Haryana’s action to Mughal and British oppression. They have vowed to resist any attempt by the proposed Haryana Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (HSGPC) to take control of the gurdwaras from the Akali-controlled Amritsar-based Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC). The Akalis  say that the Congress government  in Haryana is attempting to divide the Sikhs, and that the new law  is unconstitutional.

The political motive is obvious. With assembly elections in Haryana approaching, Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda is anxious to win over the Sikhs who dislike the Punjab Akalis’ hegemony in gurdwara affairs. They have been demanding a separate committee to manage gurdwara affairs in the state, and the Congress had previously promised such a committee. Now Hooda has delivered. Isn’t this part of normal electoral politics? And where is the conspiracy? The law was presented, discussed and passed in an open session of the Haryana Assembly on July 11, and Governor Jagannath Pahadia gave his assent on July 14.

The Akalis have some influence over the Sikhs in Haryana, and  have supported the now-jailed Om Prakash Chautala’s  ndian National Lok Dal. In the Lok Sabha elections, the Akalis formed an alliance with the BJP, but Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal preferred to campaign for the INLD, which had put up candidates against the BJP and its ally for all 10 seats in Haryana. (Incidentally, the BJP  was initially not enthusiastic about supporting the Akali campaign against the Haryana law.) By  giving Haryana Sikhs the right to manage gurdwaras, Hooda is trying to weaken the INLD. But the
new law will also empower anti-Akali Sikhs in Haryana.

The Akalis may accuse the Haryana government of dividing the Sikhs but the problem is partly of their own making. They never really addressed the grievances behind the demand for a separate gurdwara management committee. Broadly, the allegations are that the Akali-controlled SGPC is Punjab-centric, works arbitrarily, lacks transparency in the handling of funds and serves the interests of Punjab politicians, not Haryana Sikhs. Kiranjot Kaur, SGPC member and granddaughter of the late Master Tara Singh, one of its founders, has blamed the present leadership for the crisis, saying  it could have been prevented  with better accommodation of  the Haryana Sikhs.

The SGPC denies it is taking money out of Haryana and claims it is actually spending more there than the gurdwaras get by continued…

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