Wednesday, June 4, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

No Nanakshahi holidays in Punjab
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 3
The Punjab Government today formally rejected the Nanakshahi Calendar. It refused the SGPC’s request to order holidays as per this calendar.

In fact, while rejecting the Nanakshahi Calendar, the government, in a very clever manner, has tried to throw the ball in the Union Government’s court. In a sketchy press note, the government today said that “the State Government will follow the national calendar and be guided by the Union Home Minister in the matter of determining dates of national holidays and other religious festivals”.

The government further said that “the SGPC had approached the State Government to follow the Nanakshahi Calendar for declaring the holidays in Punjab”. The State Government, in fact, has advised the SGPC to take up the matter with the Union Home Ministry, which is an appropriate authority for making any changes and amendments to the dates of national holidays and other religious festivals.

The State Government has done so because it is aware of the fact that the Shiromani Akali Dal headed by Mr Parkash Singh Badal, who has political control over the SGPC, is part of the coalition government at the Centre, which may take its own time to examine the calendar before taking the decision. There may be several political and other compulsions for the Centre not to accept the Nanakshahi Calendar. If the Centre refuses to accept the calendar, it will be a sort of victory for the State Government. In that case the SAD leadership will be put in a fix.

Rejection of the calendar in a way marks the beginning of the confrontation between the SGPC and the ruling Congress government in the state.

The Punjab Government has made no change in tomorrow’s holiday pertaining to the Martyrdom Day of Guru Arjan Dev. The government offices will remain closed tomorrow. In fact, in a message to the people of the state on the eve of Martyrdom Day, the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, urged them today to observe the Martyrdom Day with traditional devotion, dedication and spirit of oneness rising above petty considerations of caste, creed and religion.

However, legal experts say that it is well within the jurisdiction of the State Government to declare any holiday in its territory under the Negotiable Instruments Act or otherwise also. In the past, the common practice was to declare holidays on religious functions by the Chief Minister concerned. Several holidays have been added to the State Government’s calendar in the years gone by because the announcements to declare such holidays were made by the respective Chief Ministers.

The SGPC will observe the Martyrdom Day on June 16. It wanted the government to declare holiday on that day. In fact, no holy procession was taken out by any gurdwara yesterday or today to observe the Martyrdom Day tomorrow. It is now certain that all gurdwaras in this part of the country will go by the Nanakshahi Calendar. And the “sangat” will obviously visit the gurdwaras on that day when the Martyrdom Day will be observed there.

Experts say that sooner or later, at least the State Government will be left with no other choice except to follow the Nanakshahi Calendar. It cannot afford to annoy the “sangat”. Moreover, the SGPC is an elected body and its writ would prevail as far as the decision is to be taken for celebrating any “Parkash Utsav” or to observe any “shaheedi’ divas” relating to Sikh Gurus.

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