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Controversy over Amritsar DC going on leave ahead of SGPC House meet
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 3
In keeping with Sikh traditions, this time too, a Sikh Deputy Commissioner will preside over the first meeting of the newly elected SGPC members scheduled to take place at Teja Singh Samundari Hall here on Monday.

Tarn Taran Deputy Commissioner Satwant Singh Johal will preside over the meeting as he has got additional charge of the holy city after Amritsar DC Rajat Aggarwal proceeded on a week’s leave.

The development has paved the way for maintenance of Sikh traditions, as in the last 50 years, no non-Sikh DC has presided over the first meeting of the new SGPC House.

Co-option to SGPC

Various names have been doing the rounds for co-option to the new SGPC House which will take place in Monday's crucial meeting. Among them are Kirpal Singh Badungar and Karnail Singh Panjoli from Punjab, Raghujeet Singh Virk from Haryana, Surjeet Singh Kang from Rajasthan and Gurinder Singh Bawa from Mumbai. A total of 15 members will be co-opted to the SGPC House during the meeting, out of which, five will be from Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh and Himachal Pradesh, while the remaining 10 will come from the rest of India. The SGPC House has a total of 191 members, including 170 elected members, Jathedars of all five Takhts and head priest of the Golden Temple.

However, the timing of the leave is such that it has given an opportunity for many to come out and state that a non-Sikh DC should not have been appointed at the first place. Former SGPC Secretary Manjeet Singh Calcutta said he had opposed the posting of Aggarwal immediately after the latter took charge in Amritsar.

“There are certain traditions which need to be followed. For instance, the government never appoints a Muslim DC in Banaras, while the V-Cs of Banaras Hindu University, Aligarh Muslim University and Guru Nanak Dev University come from the respective religions these institutions are associated with. These appointments have never raised a question mark on our secularism,” he added.

According to former Sikh Gurdwara Judicial Commission Chairman Kashmir Singh Patti, though the Sikh Gurdwara Act 1925 states that the Amritsar DC presides over the first meeting of the newly elected SGPC members, there is no clarity in the Act as to whether the DC should be a Sikh.

“After the Act came into being, even British officials had presided over SGPC meetings. A DC is a DC, irrespective of whether he is a Sikh or a non-Sikh,” he added.

SAD Secretary Daljeet Singh Cheema said though he was not aware about the Amritsar DC proceeding on leave, if he had, he might have done so owing to personal reasons.

He pooh-poohed the talk that this had been done to facilitate a Sikh presiding over the first meeting of the new SGPC House.

“Technically, there is no problem even if a non-Sikh DC presides over the meeting,” he added.

When The Tribune rang up Rajat Aggarwal today, his mobile phone was switched off while his PA Subhash Sharma, when contacted, said he was on leave and will be back by next Monday (December 12).

Johal has confirmed that he has got the additional charge, which points to the fact that he would obviously be presiding over the first meeting of the new SGPC House at the SGPC headquarters at 1 pm here on Monday.

Aggarwal took charge as Amritsar DC in June, succeeding Kahan Singh Pannu. It was after 34 years that the holy city got a regular non-Sikh DC. The last non-Sikh DC in Amritsar was JD Khanna (1975 to 1977). Amritsar has mostly had Sikh DCs post-Independence.

The tradition of having a Sikh DC preside over the meet has been continuing for the past many years. Even various Sikh organisations like Shiromani Panthic Council, Dal Khalsa and SAD (Delhi) had stressed in the recent past that a Sikh DC should be there to preside over the meeting.

During the SGPC poll in 2004, Raminder Singh was the Amritsar DC. In 1996, another SGPC election year, Amritsar saw three DCs, KS Sidhu, AS Chhatwal and Amarjit Singh. During the 1979 elections, JS Gill was the DC. In 1965, Amritsar had Iqbal Singh and SS Bedi as the district administrative heads while in 1960, when the second SGPC elections took place, Balwant Singh and HS Achreja were DCs.





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