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OP-ED: Managing gurdwaras – A matter of the Sikhs, for the Sikhs

July 8, 2014 | By

The announcement of intent for the formation of a gurdwara management committee for Haryana has led to predictable reactions from various Sikh leaders and organisations. On the one side is the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), which manages historical gurdwaras in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Chandigarh, and the Shiromani Akali Dal, which dominates its functioning. On the other side are prominent Sikh leaders of Haryana and the Congress government in the state. The party politics angle is so strong that it is clouding some important real issues.

The SGPC came into being because of mismanagement of gurdwaras by hereditary mahants. It became a body that not only represented the voice of the Sikhs but also one that standardised various practices and provided religious leadership to the Sikh masses. Its status is such that it is often referred to as the mini-parliament of the Sikhs. However, even as the SGPC maintained its hold over the areas that had been assigned to it since it came into being, other gurdwara management committees too came into being, notably the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Committee in the 1970s. An All-India Gurdwara Act was proposed, but it has been put into cold storage, [..].

The SGPC’s pre-eminent position as a Sikh organisation rests on its moral authority, and its overall role. The SGPC has provided leadership to the community, but some questions have arisen about whether it is representative enough. There have been other allegations, which have dented the image of the organisation that was once looked on as a paragon of virtue and democratic expression in the sacred space. The SGPC needs to look within to see why its constituents now seek to break away. The political parties that seek to replace the SGPC would be well advised to be careful in their approach. In the matter of religion it is best if the adherents are allowed to sort out the issues themselves. It is for the Sikhs to decide who should administer their gurdwaras and how.

Source: The Tribune, Editorial, dated: 08 July, 2014.

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