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Akal Takht intervenes: Sikh conventions called off

Posted on Jul 26 2014 | IANS

Chandigarh, July 26 : Two separate Sikh conventions called by opposing groups over the controversy around the creation of the Haryana Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (HSGPC) have been called off after the Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of the Sikh religion, intervened Saturday.

The Akal Takht Saturday directed that all conventions of Sikhs called by various groups on the HSGPC controversy be called off.

Akal Takht Jathedar (chief) Gurbachan Singh said that as per the order all Sikh conventions called on Sunday and Monday should be cancelled.

The conventions were called by the Shiromani Akali Dal in Amritsar and by Haryana Sikh leaders, who are part of the ad hoc HSGPC committee, in Karnal (Haryana). Both sides are locked in a bitter stand-off over the creation of the HSGPC.

The conventions were being seen as a flashpoint between the two sides with the potential of dividing the Sikh community.

"All Sikhs are concerned today. Whatever happened in Saharanpur today has increased our concern. The Sikh quam (community) is facing a new challenge today. In this situation, I order all groups to call off their conventions in Amritsar (Punjab) and Karnal (Haryana)," Gurbachan Singh announced in Amritsar, 250 km from here.

He said that the Akal Takht will call a meeting of Sikh high priests and senior Sikh leaders later to resolve the issue (over the creation of the HSGPC in Haryana).

Punjab's ruling Shiromani Akali Dal, which had called for a World Sikh convention in Amritsar's Golden Temple complex Sunday (July 27), immediately announced that in view of the Akal Takht directive, Sunday's Sikh convention stood cancelled.

"We have called off the Sikh convention to be held tomorrow (Sunday). We have taken this step in the interest of the Sikh community following the Akal Takht's directive. We are informing the Sikh leaders about this," Punjab education minister and Akali Dal spokesman Daljeej Singh Cheema said.

The other convention called by the HSGPC leaders Monday (July 28) in Karnal was also postponed. These leaders are supporting the creation of the HSGPC.

"We hold the Akal Takht in supreme respect. We have called off our Sikh convention to be held in Karnal Monday," HSGPC leader Jagdish Singh Jhinda said in Kurukshetra, 110 km from here.

The Akali Dal and the Amritsar-based Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) are locked in a bitter controversy with the Congress government in Haryana led by Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda over the creation of the HSGPC. They have both strongly opposed the creation of the new HSGPC for Haryana Sikh shrines.

The Haryana assembly had June 11 passed a bill under which a new committee would be set up to manage gurdwaras (Sikh shrines) in Haryana. The Haryana Sikh Gurdwaras (Management) Bill, 2014, got the assent of the Haryana governor June 14.

The SGPC, the mini-parliament of Sikh religious affairs, which controls gurdwaras across Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, will lose control over 72 gurdwaras in Haryana with the new law.

The SGPC, which has a Rs. 950-crore annual budget, controls majority of the gurdwaras in Punjab, including the holiest of all Sikh shrines 'Harmandar Sahib' (popularly known as Golden Temple) in Amritsar.

Badal has warned of an agitation over the issue and said that this could disturb peace in the region.

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