Chandigarh, April 29: The basic Sikh issues continue to be as sensitive to the members of the community as ever and the unprecedented support that has poured in to the latest amendment to the Sikh Gurdwara Act, 1925 revoking voting rights to the Sehajdhgaris in the general election to the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee that dominated social media on Friday evening under #SGPC4Sikhs is a surprising indication.
Interestingly, the three tweets that have received overwhelming support across the board are from Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, Union Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal and revenue and Information and Public Minister Bikram Singh Majithia. It is the first sign of the reversal of trend on the social media.
The Sehajdharis, the term that refers to the non-Sikhs professing faith in Sikh tenets, were given the right to vote in the SGPC elections by amendment to the Act in the Punjab Assembly in 1959. This Act came under jurisdiction of Parliament under Punjab Re-organisation Act, 1966. There is no such provision for Sehajdharis in the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Act, 1971 in the adoption of which Gurcharan Singh Tohra had played a major role.
The universal aspects of Sikh religion are different from its specifics for the community. The 1925 Act and Sikh code of conduct adopted by the SGPC adopted on the recommendation of a broad based committee after years of deliberations have given the definition of Sikhs that does not cover Sehajdharis. It is wrongly being propagated by certain leaders and sections that the amendment is divisive. However, this amendment does not bar anybody from paying obeisance at any Sikh shrine. The basic issue was plugging the loophole through which the SGPC could be taken over by non-Sikhs under the garb of Sehajdharis.
It may be recalled that the SGPC general house had adopted resolutions at least thrice recommending to the centre to drop this 1959 amendment. Both Sukhbir as the Shiromani Akali Dal chief and Harsimrat have been pressing the centre to rectify this historical wrong. This could not have been done without support from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP.
The Congress has never contested the SGPC election directly but there has always been proxy support to the anti-Akali forces in the general election. The centre put pressure on both Parkash Singh Badal and Tohra when they were in jail during militancy to replace this elected body with a nominated gurdwara board but they refused to succumb. Ironically, the radicals at the January 26, 1986 Sarbat Khalsa congregation ‘dissolved’ the SGPC through a resolution that was part of the Gurmata. But then a statutory body cannot be dissolved through a gurmata and it can only be done by the Parliament but the Congress was not willing to take such a risk.
“Sikhs stand united on Sikh Gurdwara Amendment Bill; Anti-Sikh forces should stop playing politics on our sensitive matter”, tweeted Sukhbir. “Only Sikhs will decide whom to elect their representative” was his other Tweet. This is his first major success as the Akali Dal president. It was the Vajpayee government at the centre that had revoked this right given to the Sehajdharis with the Home ministry issuing executive order. The procedure was wrong and the same was challenged in the court. The matter is with the Supreme Court and this amendment ends this controversy. The amendment restores original character of the 1925 Act so far as election to the general house is concerned.
Harsimrat tweeted, “Shiromani Akali Dal succeeded in correcting a historical wrong”. It is the Sikhs who have the right to manage their own shrines and this right has not been taken from any section of the community that is covered under the definition of the Sikh.
Bikram asserted in his tweet, “The valiant Sikh community will not allow the outsiders to interfere in its religious matters”.
Here are some other tweets:
It would be written in the golden letters in the history of SGPC.
It’s a great development in SGPC.
SAD government’s effort has brought respite for Sikhs.
It is the changing trend and support to the Sikh issues on social media that are significant.