Withdraw Sikh Gurdwaras Bill or face stir: SGPC chief tells Punjab govt : The Tribune India

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Withdraw Sikh Gurdwaras Bill or face stir: SGPC chief tells Punjab govt

Calling Dhami a “chief spokesperson” of Shiromani Akali Dal, CM Mann said SGPC chief called a special session only to criticise him

Withdraw Sikh Gurdwaras Bill or face stir: SGPC chief tells Punjab govt

SGPC chief Harjinder Singh Dhami addressing mediapersons in Amritsar on Monday. Tribune Photo: Vishal Kumar



PTI

Amritsar, June 26

The SGPC special general house session on Monday completely rejected the Sikh Gurdwaras (Amendment) Bill, 2023 while calling it a “direct attack” on the independence of the apex gurdwara body.

Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) chief Harjinder Singh Dhami also warned that an agitation will be launched against the AAP-led Punjab government if the Bill was not withdrawn.

The special general house session of the SGPC was convened here against the state government's move of bringing the Bill.

The Punjab Assembly on June 20 passed the Sikh Gurdwaras (Amendment) Bill, 2023, which is aimed to ensure free telecast of 'Gurbani' from the Golden Temple.

The session was also attended by Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Raghbir Singh, Jathedar of Takht Kesgarh Sahib Giani Sultan Singh and SGPC members.

In the house, the SGPC members jointly condemned the Punjab government's “interference” in the Sikh Gurdwaras Act, 1925, and the management of SGPC and announced that it will “not be tolerated”.

In a resolution passed on this occasion, a warning was given to start a 'morcha' (agitation) after offering 'ardas' (prayer) at the Akal Takht, as per Sikh traditions, against the “anti-Sikh” decision of the state government.

The resolution was presented by Dhami and approved by the SGPC members present in the house.

According to the resolution, the SGPC demanded the government to withdraw the Sikh Gurdwaras (Amendment) Bill, 2023, or be ready to face an “intensified struggle”.

Dhami said the amendment in the Sikh Gurdwaras Act, 1925, is possible only with the recommendations of the SGPC.

Referring to the pact between senior Akali leader Master Tara Singh and former Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in 1959 and Section 72 of the Punjab Reorganization Act, 1966, Dhami said before making any amendment in the Sikh Gurdwaras Act, the approval of two-thirds of the members of SGPC's general house cannot be ignored.

“However, the Punjab government led by Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann, is making this interference with the aim of implementing the anti-Sikh ideology of his Delhi-based boss and Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal and to usurp the Sikh organisation SGPC,” Dhami alleged.

He said in the resolution that the “anti-Sikh” intention of the state government will not be allowed to succeed at any cost and a struggle will be fought against it.

Shortly after the SGPC's meeting, Mann took a swipe at Dhami and said the SGPC chief called a special session only to criticise him.

Calling Dhami a “chief spokesperson” of the Shiromani Akali Dal, Mann said it was unfortunate that instead of dwelling on a serious issue related to spreading the message of Gurbani, the SGPC session has been merely confined to his “backbiting”.

Mann said he failed to understand why the issue of the free-to-air broadcast of the Gurbani took a backseat in the session.

Rather the session was nothing more than an "assembly of leaders to shield the family ruling the roost in the SGPC", Mann said while making an apparent reference to the Badal family.

People are aware of everything and they know how the SGPC and its president are acting as a “stooge of the family at the helm of affairs in SAD (Badal)”, he said.

In the resolution, a public apology was sought from the chief minister and AAP MLA Budh Ram, for allegedly interfering in the Gurdwara management, insulting 'kes' (unshorn hair) and hurting the dignity of 'Raagi Singhs' of Harmandir Sahib.

The resolution said the Sikh Gurdwaras (Amendment) Bill, 2023 brought by the Punjab government is “a direct attack" on the jurisdiction and independence of the SGPC because it does not have any right to go beyond its jurisdiction to make “an arbitrary and unconstitutional decision regarding the SGPC affairs.”  Those who expressed their views in the SGPC House included SGPC junior vice-president Avtar Singh Raya, general secretary Gurcharan Singh Grewal, former SGPC president Bibi Jagir Kaur, members Rajinder Singh Mehta and Kiranjot Kaur.

The speakers said the “mistake” of the Mann government is “unforgivable” and a strong response must be given.

Meanwhile, former SGPC president Bibi Jagir Kaur asked Dhami to initiate the process to launch its own satellite channel.

She repeatedly asked Dhami to give assurance in the house about the launch of the SGPC channel but her mic was allegedly turned mute when she sought assurance from the SGPC president in this regard.

Kaur, without naming Badals, said the move of SGPC to bring this special session was not only to protect the PTC channel but also to protect the interest of one particular family.

Currently, Gurbani is broadcasted from the Sikh shrine by PTC, a private channel often linked to the Badal family.

SGPC members Kiranjot Kaur, Jaswant Singh Prain and Gurpreet Singh also suggested Dhami to launch its channel and said that there would be “no dearth of funds” for this.

Speaking to the media after the meeting, Dhami said all the members present expressed strong resentment against the government for which he is grateful to them.

He clarified that in the struggle to be started following the Sikh traditions, the protests will be started from the Akal Takht under the leadership of SGPC members and Shiromani Akali Dal constituency in-charges.

He, however, made it clear that before starting the protest, and adopting the constitutional means, the President of India and Union Home Minister will be approached, about which the communication has been initiated.

About the Gurbani broadcast, Dhami said it is the responsibility of the SGPC to deliver Gurbani Kirtan from Harmandir Sahib to 'Sangat' and for this progress is being made actively.

He said some meetings of the sub-committee have been held and in due course, a decision will be taken.

Meanwhile, AAP leader Malvinder Singh Kang slammed Dhami for rejecting the Bill and said it was “a shameful attempt to save the politics of one family.” “Whereas today the committee had an opportunity to act according to the sentiments of the Sikhs and free this great institution from the influence of the Badal family,” said Kang who is the chief spokesperson of the Aam Aadmi Party.

Kang termed the SGPC's rejection to broadcast free Gurbani as unfortunate and questioned Dhami whether it was in line with Sikh traditions to forward “your own political agenda, limit the broadcasting rights to one particular channel and build a business of crores through advertisement, TRP etc., all in the name of Gurbani.” Questioning Dhami on what basis he termed the Mann government's decision as “anti-Sikh”, Kang said, “Doesn't he know that Bhagwant Mann was also elected by the Sikhs of Punjab? So, according to Dhami only the three elected MLAs of the Akali Dal represent the Sikhs, then what about the rest of the MLAs.”  

#harjinder singh dhami #SGPC #shiromani akali dal #Sikhs


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