The Union home ministry recently issued guidelines notifying the debarment of Sehajdhari Sikhs from voting in Shiromani Gurdwara Parbhandak Committee (SGPC) elections.
The move is likely to trigger fresh protests from the Sehajdhari Sikhs, who, unlike baptised Sikhs, may trim their hair and may not wear the five articles of the faith. A Sehajdhari Sikh, however, believes in the 10 Sikh Gurus and the Guru Granth Sahib. As per the amended Sikh Gurdwaras Act, 1925 (Punjab Act Number 1 of 1959), a Sehajdhari Sikh is a person who performs ceremonies according to Sikh rites, who does not use tobacco or halal meat, who is not a patit (an apostate) and who recites the mul manter. There are over 70 lakh Sehajdhari Sikhs in Punjab.
In a notification last week, the Ministry of Home Affairs omitted form I A that allowed voting rights to Sehajdhari Sikhs. The latest guidelines from the ministry came nearly a year after the Centre amended the Sikh Gurdwaras Act, 1925, said officials.
The matter has been hanging fire since 2011 after the Punjab and Haryana Court restored Sehajdharis’ right to vote, quashing the Centre’s 2003 notification.
According the new rules, only Keshdhari Sikhs can be registered as electors and will be required to declare that: a) I am a Sikh, b) I do not trim or shave my beard or kesha, c) I do not smoke or use kutha (halal) meat, d) I do not take alcoholic drinks and e) I am not a patit (an apostate).
The decision is likely to concetrate power only in the hands of Keshdhari Sikhs, explained and official privy to the matter.
Sehajdhari Sikh representative Paramjit Singh Rannu blamed the RSS for trying to take advantage of the situation. He said Sehajdhari Sikhs may have lost the right to vote in SGPC elections but will remain dedicated to the Guru Granth Sahib.