November 15,2020: The Sikh elected their first Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) , non-statutory body themselves by choosing practicing amritdhari Sikhs over the age of 21 years who gave dasvandh (one-tenth of earning) in service. Elected SGPC members then presented themselves at the Akal Takht where they had confessed and received ‘religious punishment’ for their wrong-doings, if any, in the presence of panj piaras during suddhai (purification) ceremony. Following those principles, later the SGPC completed the election of 175-member house formally on its own on 14 August 1921 by sending polling officers to the electorate at different centres to conduct elections there.In the aftermath of liberation of the Durbar Sahib and Akal Takht, the Sikh Panth formed the on its own SGPC in 1920 which was developing its autonomous existence and distinct character. The then British feared that completely emancipated the Akal Takht, the fountain of the Sikh sovereignty would infuse the idea of revolt among the Sikhs, sulking over loss of the Khalsa Raj in 1850. Therefore, the British sought to keep Durbar Sahib complex under their control. Acting on that policy, and under the compelling circumstances that erupted with 5-year-long Gurdwara Liberation Movement, the British transferred the Sikh shrines control and formal recognition to the Sikhs’ representative body, the SGPC but with a catch. The British secured the enactment of the Sikh Gurdwaras Act in 1925 from the Punjab Legislative Assembly incorporated some sophisticated clauses that provided them indirect control over the SGPC. At the same using that Act, the British also indirectly destroyed the consolidating autonomy of the SGPC, a signifier of Sikhs’ political autonomy along with cultivating a section of the Sikh leadership as the British loyal.Remember, since the capturing of Punjab, the British had made special arrangements for controlling Sikh shrines despite their claims of non-interference in Indian religious affairs. Punjab Lieutenant Governor RE Egerton provides evidence in his letter to Viceroy Lord Ripon on 8 August 1881: “I think it will be politically dangerous to allow the management of Sikh temple to fall into the hands of a Committee (of Sikhs) emancipated from government control ….”Keeping that in mind, the ruling British managed Hindu, Muslims and Christian members of the Punjab assembly to support the passage of the Sikh Gurdwara Bill, piloted by their loyal Tara Singh. Moving the resolution, Tara Singh himself admitted “the Bill as it stands has its own imperfections and shortcomings”.The then Sikh leaders got divided over acceptance of the Act. Those leaders who signed the Act were freed from the prison while those refused kept behind the bars till they subscribed to the British policy. Immediately, in 1926, the government announced election to the SGPC as per the Act. Since then, the rival Sikh groups fighting elections of the SGPC without bothering the secular Act running Sikhs’ religious affairs has practically enslaved the Sikh Dharma through indirect control of the Durbar Sahib, Akal Takht and other Sikh institutions.The Act’s Hidden Agenda: The act allows the Delhi regime to exercise its control on the SGPC affairs as being the sole authority to appoint the Gurdwara Election Commission (temporarily) for conducting its elections. The Act has no mandatory provision for holding regular elections after five years or dissolve the SGPC houses thereafter. The Nationalist Central rulers used this prerogative to hold elections as and when it politically suits to them. That is why the SGPC election never been conducted regularly after 1947. After 1944 SGPC polls held in 1955 then 1960 and 1965 to be conducted after 14 years in 1979. Thereafter, SGPC polls held after 17 years in 1996. After conducting the 2000 and 2004 elections on time again election has not been held since 2011.The Act has many clauses that authorize the government to set-up one or more Gurdwara Tribunals, appoint its head and staff and fix jurisdiction for settling the SGPC disputes over property and even on deciding if someone is Sikh or not.Some articles, particularly 26 and 27 of the Indian Constitution of India overshadow the SGPC and grant power to the State to regulate, restrict the management of Sikh religious institutions and endowments under the law of property, law of taxation and law of public religious trusts.In 1959, the Amended Act merged 173 PEPSU gurdwaras into the SGPC and the Sikh Gurdwara Act was placed on the schedule of the Inter-State Corporation Act, 1957. In 1978, the SGPC declared as an Inter-State Corporation by the Punjab Reorganisation Act ,1966. That transferred the responsibility for the administration of the Sikh Gurdwara Act from Punjab Government to Delhi (the Central Government).The election system—the First-Past-the-Post, was introduced by the British in 1925 has been helping the larger Sikh group to control the SGPC. For instance, in 2000 elections the Panthic Morcha secured 46 percent polled votes got 35 seats and the Badal group earned 54 percent votes to win 135 seats. The Proportional election system ensures proportional representation to each contesting group as per their vote-share.That first voluntary SGPC body represented the true management of the Gurdwaras– the abode of Sacred Scriptures—which are associated with the spiritual and social practices of Sikhs. Present SGPC constituted under the Indian State’s secular Gurdwaras Act rarely bothered about the theological aspects and manages the Gurdwaras as mere ‘properties’ and allow the misuse of offerings for promotion of politics of the leaders controlling the body.The statement jointly signed by Ex Genral secretry SGPC,Sukhdev Singh Bhaour, Pro Davinder Singh, Amrinder Singh ex SGPC member, Gurdial Singh Pandher ex IPS, Dr Piare Lal Garg,Jaspal Singh Sidhu Journalist,Ajaypal Singh Brar (author ), Prof Manjit Singh and Gurpreet Singh ,President Global Sikh Council, Malwinder Singh Mali,Balwinder Singh
Issued by Khushhal Singh, General Secretary Kendri Singh Sabha
The views and opinions expressed by the writer are personal and do not necessarily reflect the official position of VOM.
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