BJP demands statement from PM on gurdwara committees


New Delhi : Both houses of parliament were repeatedly disrupted Thursday following protests from the Akali Dal and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over Haryana’s decision to form a separate Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) to manage Sikh shrines in the state, even as a demand for a statement on the issue by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was turned down.

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“Why are you bringing the leader of the house into this?” Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman K. Rahman Khan asked S.S. Ahluwalia when he demanded a statement from Manmohan Singh

MPs from the Akali Dal and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were on their feet in both houses against what they saw as the government’s move to have separate SGPCs in each state. Currently, the SGPC in Amritsar is the supreme body controlling Sikh shrines and religious affairs.

Unable to pacify the MPs, presiding officers of both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha were forced to adjourn proceedings twice.

In the Lok Sabha, two Akali Dal members Harsimrat Kaur and Ratanjit Ajnala went towards the speaker’s podium to demand the suspension of question hour to discuss the issue.

There was also a heated exchange of words on the issue between leader of the house and Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee and Janata Dal-United (JD-U) chief Sharad Yadav.

Speaker Meira Kumar had initially adjourned the house till 11.30 a.m. However, the protests continued when the house resumed and she adjourned the house till 12 noon.

Both the houses reassembled at noon. In the Lok Sabha, Akali Dal members were allowed to put forth their opinion. However, the Rajya Sabha was adjourned till 1 p.m. after the protests continued unabated.

When the Rajya Sabha reassembled, Ahluwalia said: “This is a religious matter. The leader of the house should respond.” Khan, however, shot this down.

Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda has declared that the separate SGPC will become a reality on Nov 1, Haryana Day. The announcement was received with both anger and anxiety by the SGPC, a mini parliament of Sikhs with an annual turnover of around Rs.400 crore.

The Haryana government’s decision has come five months after the Chatha Committee, set up by Hooda to study the possibilities of having a separate Sikh body in the state, gave its recommendations this February based on 128,566 affidavits of Sikh activists. Following this, the government had formed a three-member committee under the advocate general to examine the case and facilitate its implementation.

The demand first came to the fore when seven Haryana members of the 170-seat SGPC levelled allegations of neglect of the state’s historical gurdwaras “even though they were adding Rs.10 crore of revenue in the SGPC’s kitty every year”.

There are seven major historical gurdwaras in Haryana under the direct control of the SGPC. Eighteen others are under its indirect control — elected members form the local management and one member from the SGPC is co-opted into the panel.