Op/Ed: Episode of missing 328 saroops mars centennial celebrations of SGPC

File Photo: Bhai Ranjit Singh (Jathedar) and other Sikh leaders at a protest against the SGPC

Only two days to go to start of historic celebrations of the centenary of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), row over missing 328 saroops of Guru Granth Sahib is refusing to die down, in which the apex gurdwara body is facing wrath of Sikh masses.

The Sikh masses feel that the SGPC was formed to uphold Sikh maryada, ensure respect of gurbani and preach Sikh principles in the historic gurdwaras including Sri Harmandar Sahib. In light of this, taking care of holy saroops of Guru Granth Sahib with proper respect and maryada was the primary responsibility assigned by Panth to this body which is also called Sikh Parliament having members elected after five years. The misappropriation practiced in its publishing house where saroops of Guru Granth Sahib are printed, has severely hit its status and credibility of the custodian the Sikhs as 328 saroops were found missing from the record thanks to this misappropriation.

Its reputation has gone down so much so that it is difficult for it to get rid of this situation. After all Akal Takht Sahib honoured this body by declaring it the only organization that has the right to print the holy saroops believing that respect of the saroops would be ensured under its supervision. After the episode of the saroops going missing also because of a fire incident in the publishing house damage of which was underplayed by the SGPC, it has lost the moral right of printing the saroops.

All the small and big Sikh organizations are resenting the SGPC which is touching new lows under the control of Badal family. The Badal family, through the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), established control over the Sikh gurdwara body after the demise of its former president Gurcharan Singh Tohra in 2004.  Since then, the SGPC has witnessed consistent downfall in its character. The issue of missing saroops of Guru Granth Sahib Who is Guru (Master) of the Sikhs, has made it more complicated for them.

Secondly, the incumbent president Gobind Singh Longowal who is also responsible for what happened in the organization being headed by him for the last three consecutive years, has badly mishandled it and did not take care of Sikh sentiments.

First, he formed a committee to probe this matter that was exposed by the volunteers of the Punjab Human Rights Organization (PHRO). However, he included members of the SGPC into the probe panel. Naturally, this move was supposed to be opposed as guilty cannot be investigating the accusations against him. After opposition, the Akal Takht Sahib set up an independent probe panel led by Sikh lawyer Ishar Singh.

On Takht Sahib’s order, the SGPC executive committee led by Longowal first passed a resolution to file criminal cases against its staffers indicted in the probe report, but during the next meeting it reversed its decision. The U-turn invited harsh criticism from the Sikh masses. It still did not make the probe report public. After the Sikh bodies lodged strong protest over it, the SGPC made the last ten pages of the 1000-page report. The Sikh got angered over not declassifying the full report. After many days, it bowed to the pressure of the Sikh bodies and finally met their demand which was genuine. However, it did not give any clarification on the whereabouts of the missing saroops, nor it assured that it would investigate the matter to ascertain the whereabouts.  After many days, the SGPC president chairing a meeting of the Dharam Parchar Committee made an appeal to the Akal Takht Sahib to  punish SGPC staffers guilty of the misappropriation. With this appeal, the SGPC once again drew flaks as the Sikh bodies and also a group of the SGPC members dubbed it as move to shirk its responsibility and put a ball to the court of Akal Takht Sahib, the highest Sikh temporal seat.

Then, the SGPC badly thrashed the Sikh agitators twice on the premises of Sri Harmandar Sahib. Thereafter, tussle started between the Sikh bodies and the SGPC over the cases registered against the former.

In a nutshell, we can say that the SGPC itself prolonged the row which goes against it. It was taken to the celebrations of its 100th foundation day falling on November 15. Thanks to the episode of the missing saroops, no enthusiasm is being witnessed today neither among the SGPC functionaries nor the Sikh community. Yes, the SAD (Badal) is mobilizing its rank and file to ensure its presence in the main centenary function to be held in Manji Sahib Diwan Hall in Sri Harmandar Sahib complex on November 17 as the ordinary Sikhs have no interest to attend this function.

Meanwhile, another indefinite stir is being undertaken on the heritage street leading to Sri Harmandar Sahib. This will even continue during the celebrations. Prior to this, former Akal Takht Sahib Jathedar Bhai Ranjit Singh organized an impressive demonstration against the SGPC over this issue on November 8 giving sleepless nights to the gurdwara body.


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