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Mini-Sikh parliament SGPC disregarded at both Kartarpur Sahib functions

Jagtar Singh

Chandigarh, November 29: Scenario at the Kartarpur Sahib corridor functions would have been different had a person of the stature of Gurcharan Singh Tohra been heading the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee.

This so called mini-Parliament of the Sikhs was completely overlooked first at Dera Baba Nanak function on November 26 and then 2-days later at Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan. Both the functions related to laying foundation stone of corridor connecting Dera baba Nanak border on Indian side to Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan where Guru Nanak Dev, founder of the Sikh faith, spent his last more than 17 years and  put into practice his ideas.

SGPC chief Gobind Singh Longowal was totally ignored at both the functions that amounts to denigration of this once the most powerful and statutory religio-political organisations of the Sikhs.

Such a situation was unthinkable at least till the times Tohra headed this body.

What is little known that for years, the leader heading the jatha of pilgrims to shrines in Pakistan used to be met by the President of that country. The leader invariably used to be a leader from the SGPC.

It was intervention by Tohra through Manjit Singh Calcutta that had ended isolation of the first group of Dal Khalsa activists who had hijacked an Indian Airlines plane to Lahore on September 29, 1981 to demand release of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale who was arrested in the case if gunning down of newspaper owner-editor Lala Jagat Narain. Manjit Singh was in Pakistan heading the jatha of pilgrims and he conveyed the message on Tohra’s behalf. They had been kept in solitary confinement till then.

The management of the main shrines in Pakistan too was streamlined similarly.

However, the status of the SGPC chief has been degraded over the years. It is pertinent to mention here that the SGPC was converted mainly into a management body under the Sikh Gurdwara act, 1925 but it managed to perform its dominant religio-political role at crucial junctures. However, the situation has changed over the years.

It is the Akali Dal president, earlier Parkash Singh Badal and now his son Sukhbir Singh Badal, who controls this body and can replace its president at will. In the process, the SGPC as a powerful institution has been hit severely. It is no more the mini-Parliament of the Sikhs.

The very nature of the two functions could have been different. The main victim at both the functions was  solemnity. The Dera Baba Nanak function was marred by petty politics.

It is in this context that yet another aspect  needs to be taken note of. Union food processing minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal attended both these functions at representative of the Narendra Modi government. She took contradictory stands at the two functions. She profusely thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for Kartarpur Sahib corridor at Dera Baba Nanak. However, her tune was different at Kartarpur Sahib. She thanked the blessings of Baba Nanak  for the same cause, not Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan.

It was Imran Khan’s friend and Indian Punjab’s local bodies minister Navjot Singh Sidhu who thanked him.

For the Indian media, the function was not without controversy due to presence of Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee general secretary Gopal Singh Chawla. But then he was photographed with Gobind Singh Longowal and several others too. He has posted all his pictures of the day on his facebook page.

The Sikhs had been demanding this corridor to connect the two shrines for years but the same was never projected as corridor to peace. But then it can be corridor to peace in case the initiative is taken to the logical conclusion. Let the structure first come up.

Meanwhile, after crossing the zero line back to India today, Sidhu hailed it as a positive beginning saying he had returned after connecting the two Punjabs. He expressed the hope that this might lead to opening up of Amritsar and Ferozepur border.


Jagtar Singh


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