|Tuesday, April 4, 2000,
will we go? ask Udasis
BILASPUR (Ludhiana) April 3 Udasi Darshan Das got up as usual today to take a round of his land and check whether his sons had done the work assigned to them yesterday. Satisfied, he paid homage at the samad constructed on the land he ploughs jointly with relatives and came back to the village to sit under the peepal tree and exchange notes with other village elders.
Little did Darshan know that in far away Delhi, the Supreme Court had decided against him and his relatives by holding that Guru Granth Sahib was a juristic person and could use and hold properties given to it in charity by its followers.
The villagers did not know of the development when The Tribune team reached here today afternoon. Harnek Singh of the village had a newspaper in his hand but had not read the news . Our villages name has never figured in a news item emanating from New Delhi, he said by way of explanation.
The mahants, however, are well known and everyone knows that they are involved in litigation with the SGPC. The villagers say although there is no gurdware by the name of Dharamshala Guru Granth Sahib at present, the land had been given to the mahants by way of loh (grant of food to feed the devotees of their dera). It was, however, transferred to Guru Granth Sahib in 1921 by way of a royal order of the Patiala state. The formal entry in the land records was made in 1928 in the name of Guru Granth Sahib Virajman Bilaspur. After Pepsu state merged with Punjab and the Sikh Gurdwara Act was imposed on the new territory, some worshippers filed a petition that it should be treated as a Sikh gurdwara.
Darshan Das, who is a retired Subedar Major of the Army, alleged that he and his nephew had not been served any notice before the court decided against them. He claimed that nine generations of his family had lived on the land, measuring about 22 acres, on the village periphery. He said at present the mahant family was divided into three groups living in different parts of the village. At present about 50 persons are dependent on this land for their daily survival. Tell us where we should go, says Harmail Kaur, a member of the mahant family. Other members of the family added that they would not leave the land as the samadh of their forefathers had been established there and they worshipped it.
The exact dates relating to the case are not clear. Even the SGPC Secretary, Mr Gurbachan Singh Bachhan, when contacted at Amritsar said he did not know the exact history of the case as the file was in Chandigarh. He said the term dharamshala stood for a gurdwara during Guru Nanak Devs time and that it must have existed in the village. He claimed it was possible that the dharamshala in which Guru Granth Sahib resided had been dispensed with by the mahant family to strengthen their case. Darshan Das, however, said that the SGPC had filed a case against his family in 1962. Village folk said Baba Mitt Singh, an SGPC member from the village, had been instrumental in initiating the case.
Mr Bachhan said the SGPC, however, welcomed the judgement of the Supreme Court and felt that by granting constitutional acceptance to the godliness of Granth Sahib the court had done justice with the Sikhs. He said while the court had settled the issue by accepting that Guru Granth Sahib could hold properties in its name, the SGPC would take practical steps to take control of the land in Bilaspur village once it received the Supreme Court order.
Varinder Walia adds from Amritsar: The landmark verdict of the Supreme Court, which has held Guru Granth Sahib as juristic person, will help in vacating encroachments worth crores not only in Punjab but in other states of the country too.
For collecting information on encroachments in various parts of the country, the SGPC will set up a special cell comprising retired revenue officials and legal experts. The entire records will be computerised so that nobody tampers with them. Besides, a subcommittee will be constituted for finalising the constitution of special cell in this regard. Before constituting the cell or subcommittee, the matter would be discussed at the forthcoming executive committee meeting of the SGPC.
This was announced by Mr Balbir Singh Naushehra Pannu, senior vice-president, SGPC, while talking to TNS here on Monday. He said that there were hundreds of cases where unscrupulous elements had encroached upon prime land donated by devotees in the name of Guru Granth Sahib. In Amritsar, more than 400 such cases had come to light. We will make all-out efforts to get these lands vacated so that the income generated from this can be used for the propagation of the faith.
The landmark verdict of the apex court would also help in getting these pieces of land vacated which were donated in the name of loh langar (community kitchen). Many devotees had donated their land for the sake of running the community kitchen in the past.
Dr Gurbachan Singh Bachan, secretary of the SGPC, said that it was a matter of great pleasure that the judgement had come a few days before the concluding functions of the Khalsa tercentenary.
Bibi Jagir Kaur, SGPC chief, while addressing the budget session on March 30, had disclosed that there was more than 7000 acres of land in the name of the SGPC.
Mr Partap Singh advocate
and member of the SGPC, said that the endorsement of the
apex court that Guru Gobind Singh had expressed in
no uncertain terms that henceforth there would be no
living Guru would have far-reaching consequences.
It would sound warning to all those who claim
themselves to be a living Guru, he said.
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