Friday, March 30, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

‘Sehajdharis’ lose voting right
Definition of ‘Sikh’ remains unchanged
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 29
“Sehajdhari” Sikhs stand disqualified as voters in the general elections to the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), even as the definition of ‘Sikh’ remains unchanged.

The SGPC has decided to amend the qualification of a voter least “non-Sikhs under the garb of sehajdharis” were entitled for a say in the affairs of gurdwaras.

Both “keshadhari” and “sehajdhari” Sikhs are covered under Section 2, clauses (10-A) and 10. Hence, they have a right to vote and are entitled for becoming members of the SGPC. The “sehajdhari” Sikhs were given the right to vote in the year 1959 when gurdwaras falling in Pepsu were brought under the Sikh Gurdwara Act, 1925.

The decision of the SGPC to delete the word ‘sehajdhari’ from the electoral rolls seems to be based on the draft notification regarding essential amendments to the Gurdwara Act, 1925, forwarded to the Government of India by Justice Harbans Singh (retd), Chief Commissioner, Gurdwara elections.

However, the word ‘sehajdhari’ could not be deleted from the Act as there were strong protests by various quarters, especially Sindhis (sehajdharis). Justice Harbans Singh had stated that during the gurdwara elections in 1978-79 and again in 1996, there were complaints regarding habitual smokers and even Muslims having been introduced in the electoral lists through false declaration.

Mr Jagdev Singh Talwandi, SGPC chief, has said that the age of Sikh voter for gurdwara elections would be reduced from 21 to 18 (as described in Section 2 of clause 49 and 92).

In yet another significant decision, Section 49 (A) would stand amended by deleting the word ‘sehajdhari’. It may be mentioned here that Section 49-A reads: “No person shall be registered as an elector who trims or shaves his beard or keshas, except in case of sehajdharis”.

However, as per the statement of Mr Talwandi, after the amendment it should read: “The person who trims beard or keshas cannot become a voter”. The word “except sehajdharis” does not figure in the amendment.

The SGPC has also decided to include more conditions for a ‘baptised’ Sikh. The definition of “amritdhari” (baptised) as mentioned in the Gurdwara Act, Section 2 (clause 10) reads: “Amritdhari Sikh means and includes every person who has taken ‘khande-ka-amrit’ or ‘khanda pahul’ prepared and administered according to the tenets of Sikh rites and religion at the hands of the five beloved ones”.

However, as per the amendment, the terms that the person does not trim his beard or hair, does not eat ‘kutha’ (halal) and does not consume tobacco in any form also applies to “amritdharis”.

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