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Press pause

Akal Takht jathedar defuses HSGPC controversy while new Haryana governor rushes in unwisely.

By: Express News Service | Published: July 28, 2014 12:00 am

For the moment, Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh has averted a building confrontation on the setting up of a Haryana Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (HSGPC). Ever since the Haryana Assembly passed a law paving the way for a separate body to manage Sikh shrines in the state, Punjab’s ruling Shiromani Akali Dal has been trying to work up popular passions on the issue. There has been threatening talk of morchas and jathas. The SAD announced a congregation in Amritsar on July 27; another convention was scheduled by Haryana leaders in Karnal the next day. The jathedar directed that both be called off, cautioning the Sikhs of Haryana, the SAD and the entire Sikh community against any rally or gathering that could lead to violence. Arguably, the jathedar’s intervention may also reflect political calculation — it could even be seen to provide Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal with a way out of a situation that could have escalated out of his control, or worked to the advantage of a rival party in Haryana ahead of assembly polls in that state. A subsequent directive of the jathedar, restraining the newly elected members of the HSPGC from functioning, has provoked concern. Yet, the Akal Takht has brought in a much-needed moment of calm for the Punjab and Haryana chief ministers to reassess and rework their positions on a sensitive matter.

Taking the SHGPC issue to the streets would be irresponsible, and especially so at a time when Sikh-Muslim violence has flared in Saharanpur. In this moment, the attention of leaders and representatives of the community must be concentrated on defusing the situation in UP. The jathedar’s suggestion that Sikh politicians, organisations and intellectuals discuss the HSGPC issue under the aegis of the Akal Takht is a serious consideration. Leaders on both sides of the argument need to acknowledge that a solution can only be found through negotiation and dialogue — or in court.

If the Akal Takht jathedar has rightly urged a more considered resolution, Haryana governor-designate Kaptan Singh Solanki has been intemperate in rushing to air his “personal opinion”. The Centre’s directives to annul the act passed by the Haryana Assembly “must be obeyed”, he has said. The new governor must study the matter and then arrive at a position. As someone who holds a high constitutional office, he cannot be seen to be taking a stand that is either partisan or cavalier on a fraught issue.

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