Saturday, October 26, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



Political dominance and survival of religion

Mr Mal Singh Ghuman with 20 other members of the SGPC has raised a voice of sanity from the sacred land of Anandpur Sahib. It is a place where the Khalsa Panth was initiated a little over 300 years ago. It is the same place from where the ninth Guru had started the last march to Delhi and ultimately sacrificed his life to save truth and dharma. Once again, at the close of the second year of the new century, 21 Amritdhari Sikhs have raised the voice to save the Sikh religion from the clutches of political influence and interference. Previously, the SGPC has been protecting the Panth and fighting government interference in the internal affairs of the Sikhs.

Unfortunately, in the last few years, the SGPC could not resist heavyweight Akali Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and succumbed. Mr Badal proved to be too strong and completely dominated and destroyed the independence and prestige to the SGPC. He unnecessarily interfered with the religious ceremonies of the 300th birthday of the Khalsa at Anandpur Sahib and laid the foundation of the subsequent split in the Akali party. He also eroded the independence of the Sikh Gurdwara Judicial Commission by completely removing the old judges and appointing new ones.

Prior to this, two Chief Ministers — Lachhman Singh Gill and Darbara Singh — had tried and failed. Mr Badal also removed Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra and Mr Ravi Inder Singh from the political party. Mr Tohra was also removed from the post of Chairman of the SGPC. In his place, Mr Badal appointed three persons of straw to head the prestigious institution, one after the other. They brought bad name to him and to the institution and brought it under hundreds of controversies. These steps destroyed the independence of the Panth and unity amongst the Akalis.


Now, the party is split into many factions. As a consequence, at the time of the Assembly elections, the divided Akalis fought the united Congress and lost. The present leadership of the SGPC is most controversial. There is no religious leader in power in the Panth who is not being named in one scam or the other, involving moral turpitude, land grabbing or even bribery. When the leadership degenerates, society suffers beyond measure.

Religion is the foundation for the value-based survival of a human being in a civilised society, says the Supreme Court in 2002 SCC 368, para 31. If we make religion subordinate to politics, then we weaken our own foundations and betray the teachings of the Gurus. Religion is more important than political power to survive.

In this background the appeal of the 21 Sikhs, who are eminent members of the SGPC, from the sacred gurdwara of Anandpur Sahib has great relevance. It is the need of the time that the head of the SGPC should be a non-governmental and non-political person. He should be a religious man with a clean background.

The second step to insulate the institution from unhealthy political influence is to change the rules. The election to the SGPC should not be fought on political symbols. The MLAs and MPs be debarred from contesting the election. Each candidate should file an affidavit to the returning officer that he is not a member of any political party. Let the religious parliament of the Sikhs be powerful and independent. If necessary, politicians may look towards it for guidance and not vice versa.

The voice has been raised. Most people feel the need for it. It is for the Sikh community to rise up to the occasion to protect the religion and its institutions. If we do this, politics will automatically improve.

G.S. GREWAL, Chandigarh

Crisis in Nepal

In an otherwise comprehensive commentary on “Constitutional crisis in Nepal” (Oct 11) there appear two factual inaccuracies. The writer recalls how in the wake of the 1942 movement “Jaya Prakash Narayan was provided asylum by Koirala in Nepal”.

Maharaja Judh Shamsher, a staunch ally of the British Raj, was in power at Kathmandu in 1942. Hence, how could a Koirala offer asylum to JP? It is true that JP stayed underground for a brief period in Nepal terai bordering Bihar and he escaped the Rana administration’s efforts to arrest him.

Next, in a reference to King Gyanendra’s recent consultations with political leaders on October 6, the writer recalls how “King Tribhuvan had called BP Koirala of the Nepali Congress to form a popular government”. To be correct, the person summoned by the King in 1951 was Matrika Prasad Koirala, President, Nepali Congress. At that time “BP” was NC General Secretary. He was appointed Home Minister in his elder half-brother MP Koirala’s interim government in 1951.


Malwa vs Majha

I read Poonam Khera Sidhu’s article “Malwa versus Majha” (Oct 8). According to her, “the royal families of Patiala, Nabha, Faridkot and Jind from Malwa while Jassa Singh Alhuwalia, Maha Singh Sukerchkya and his son Maharaja Ranjit Singh and his general Hari Singh Nalawa, Desa Singh Majithia, Attar Singh Sandhawalia, and finally Sunder Singh Majithias fashioned the fabric of present-day Punjab, pre-partition”.

She has omitted two families that played a great part in the history of pre-partition Punjab. These families were the Atariwalas and the Manns of Mughal Chak. I quote from a book titled “Heroes and Villains of Sikh Rule” by Ajit Singh Baaghaa and Nirmal Singh Mukandpuri, “There is a well-known saying in the country to the effect that three families in Punjab viz. Atariwalas, Manns and Majithias have possessed the greatest number of remarkable men. Atariwalas are brave and fearless, Manns are handsome, gallant and true, Majithias are knave and timid”.

Khushwant Singh’s “History of the Sikh’s, Volume 1, has this to say about the Mann family, “Pahar Singh Mann was the son of Surja Singh Mann of the village of Mughal Chak. his father and grandfather had served the Sukerchakias before him and he, along with three other brothers, was with Ranjit Singh in taking Lahore in 1799. He saw action in many of Ranjit Singh’s campaigns and held a Jagir of Rs. 2 lacs. He died in December 1813”. Even after the annexation of the Punjab by the British in 1849, these three families played a big roll in the history of Punjab till 1947.


DGP’s position & powers

Having made a good start against corruption, the Chief Minister of Punjab seems to have adopted the habit of abusing his power like a maharaja. His latest turn and U-turn over the positions and powers of senior police officers is a good example. In the UK I served as an elected member of a prominent police authority from 1981 to 1993. We in the police authority could not have even dreamed of interfering in the allotments of duties to various officers and undermining the dignity and integrity of the office of the chief of the police known as Chief Constable. This is bound to undermine the authority of that office and have an adverse effect upon the people working under that person. The same Chief Minister had appointed the serving DGP to this position only a few months ago. If the CM now feels that Mr Bhullar cannot be trusted with the responsibility, then he himself must also admit that his own judgement was flawed. As a former Army Captain he should also remember that there is something known as “the line of command”. Undermining that may have been acceptable during the princely times, but in democratic society it should never be tolerated.

PARAMJIT BAHIA, Southampton (UK)


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