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January 2018 Edition of Power Politics is updated.         January 2018 Edition of Power Politics is updated.
Issue:Jan' 2018

SIKHISM

Tough task before SGPC chief

Gobind Singh Longowal

K S Chawla

Gobind Singh Longowal who has been elected President of the Shiromini Gurdwara P r a b a n d h a k Committee, courtesy Badals, faces tough challenges. Sikh intellectuals and leaders strongly feel that he may not come up to the expectations of the community as a whole. We will have to play a second fiddle to the Badals who are his virtual boss in the Sikh political arena after Sant Harchand Singh Longowal adopted him as his son. Gobind Singh Longowal served as driver of the late Sant who was gunned down by the militants after he signed the Rajiv- Longowal accord to bring peace in Punjab.
The most tough task before the new SGPC President is to restore credibility of the highest temporal seat of the Sikhs, the Akal Takhat. The credibility of the Akal Takhat has received a severe setback due to largescale interference of the Badals. Sukhbir Singh Badal, President of the Shiromini Akali Dal and former Deputy Chief Minister, acted as an authoritarian ruler of Punjab during 10 years of the SAD-BJP rule in Punjab. The Sikh high priests in general and the Jathedar of the Akal Takhat in particular failed to resist the dictates of Sukhbir Singh Badal and followed his orders like subordinate bureaucrats.
The high priest fell prey to Sukhbir when the Akal Takhat jathedar granted pardon to Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim for his action of dressing up as Guru Gobind Singh. Later, when the Badals could not face the wrath of radical Sikhs, the Akal Takhat jathedar had to retreat and withdrew the pardon given to Ram Rahim is now in Jail in Haryana in a rape case in which he has been convicted and given sentence of twenty years. There could be no bigger humiliation of the Akal Takhat.
The 2015 October witnessed very serious situation in Punjab when incident of desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib took place in Faridkot district and a Sarbat Khalsa was called in November 20, 2015 in TarnTaran which sacked all the five jathedars of the Takhats and appointed parallel jathedars.
The parallel jathedars are taking up the issues which the Sikh high priests are reluctant to take up. The parallel jathedars are becoming a big headache to the SGPC and the AkaliDal leadership. Can Gobind Singh Longowal tackle this menace? The parallel jathedars have tacit support of the radicals and the Sikh diaspora.
Another challenge has been thrown up by the RSSBJP to the SGPC and the Akali Dal. After the defeat of the SAD-BJP in the 2017 Vidhan Sabha elections, the RSS and its affiliate Rashtriya Sikh Sangat, has become active and has set up its branches in rural areas in Punjab.
With the NDA government under Narendra Modi at the Centre, the Akali Dal is feeling weak, the Rashtriya Sikh Sangat has started interfering in religious affairs of the Sikhs. Recently it organized a conclave where the jathedar of the Akal Takhat was also invited. He did not participate. The RSS has been describing Guru Gobind Singh as a national hero, not as the Tenth Guru of Sikhs. The RSS has always equated Guru Gobind Singh with Shiva Ji Marhata and described Sikhs as a part of the Hindus. Ram Rahim.

Akal Takht The RSS and BJP leaders have started demanding share of seats in the SGPC and the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee on the ground that both the Akali Dal and BJP are alliance partners and seat sharing is done in case of the Vidhan Sabha and the Lok Sabha.
This has caused a lot of resentment among the Sikhs. They feel this amounts to interference in their religious affairs. The Sikh scholars strongly feel that RSS and BJP have made this demand due to weak policies of the Badals.
The Shiromini Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee leadership has become absolutely weak after the death of Jathedar Gurcharan Singh Tohra who headed the SGPC for record 27 years. The Senior Badal who was Chief Minister of Punjab could not rule over jathedar Tohra. After the demise of Tohra, Parkash Singh Badal found an opportunity to politically finish the Tohra-loyalists.
He succeeded in his mission. First, he eliminated Manjit Singh Calcutta who is considered a great Sikh scholar. He was a staunch loyalist of Tohra. Manjit Singh Calcutta never betrayed Tohra and demanded that Amarinder Singh, who was Chief Minister in 2002-2007, be also given a siropa along with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh when he came to participate in a function in Amritsar. Manjit Singh was expelled from the Akali Dal then. After Tohra and Badal separation in 1999, Jathedar Jagdev Singh Talwandi was made chairman of the disciplinary committee of the Akali Dal. Badal got Tohra expelled from the Akali Dal through Talwandi.
Talwandi was made president of the SGPC for one year as a reward of expelling Tohra from the Akali Dal. Similarly, Tohra's son-in-law Harmail Singh and his family has also been forced to leave the Akali Dal. Avtar Singh Makkar who was made president of the SGPC to win over the urban Sikhs, was more inclined towards Tohra. He was also not allowed to work independently. He could serve as president for ten years, thanks to petition in the Supreme Court challending the high court decision over the issue of Sehajdhari Sikhs. He could have been shown the door if the case was not pending in the apex court.
This year's election of SGPC President witnessed a significant change. There was no 'lafafa' containing the name the candidate for the presidentship of the SGPC. The credit must go to Sukhdev Singh Bhaur. He formed a Panthic United Front, put up a rival candidate against Gobind Singh Longowal, though got defeated. Thus the election of the president was not unanimous or uncontested.
The Sikh scholars are worried over the fact that there is deficit of competent Sikh religious leaders who could take up the duties of Sikh parliament. Before the arrest of Sucha Singh in a rape and cheating case, his name was making rounds for the presidentship of the SGPC.
It has been alleged in a section of the press that Gobind Singh Longowal also went to the Dera Sacha Sauda head to seek his blessings for votes in the 2017 Vidhan Sabha elections. He was also given religious punishment. However, Gobind Singh has denied the charge and maintained that he never went to the Dera Sacha Sauda to seek votes. He says that he is a humble Sikh, has accepted the punishment and sent a written petition to the Akal Takhat explaining his position.