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Separatist seeks Sikh council coup

Mohali, Oct. 26: Sikh separatist leader Jagjit Singh Chauhan today sought the removal of all Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee members, terming them “traitors”. He also said the demand for a separate Khalistan state should be stepped up after they are ousted.

The SGPC is an autonomous body entrusted with overseeing Sikh religious affairs under the Gurdwara Act of 1925. The 170-member SGPC has 120 seats in the general category, 30 reserved for women and 20 for the Scheduled Castes. Another 15 members are coopted in the House.

“I have filed a petition in Punjab and Haryana High Court, seeking the holding of immediate elections to the SGPC general house. The petition will come up for hearing on December 1,” Chauhan said.

“The term of the members expired in 1996. But they are still continuing because of vested interests in looting the community,” he added.

“Looters and drunkards have become SGPC members. They deal with drugs and have nothing to do with Sikhism. We must throw out these beimaan. Once they are removed, we can carry on and win our struggle for Khalistan. We can also force the government to change the Gurdwara Act,” Chauhan said, amid loud cheers from the 5,000-strong gathering.

The separatist leader was addressing the controversial World Sikh Council convention held at Mohali, near Chandigarh, to challenge the powers of the Akal Takht priest, especially the hukamnamas (edicts) passed at the behest of Akali politicians.

This is the first time the Takht priest’s powers have been questioned. The council — comprising many religious organisations trying to rid Sikhism of practices which they say are not part of the religion — says there has been no instance of the Takht appointing priests. The council passed seven resolutions calling Sikhs to get rid of malpractices and corrupt leaders.

There was strict security at the venue, especially as the SGPC was opposing the convention. There were police pickets all over town, diverting traffic and people away from the venue to ensure few could attend the meeting.

Shiromani Akali Dal chief Parkash Singh Badal expressed concern over the developments, calling the convention a “Congress-sponsored tamasha”.

“This is a direct state-engineered challenge to the authority of the Akal Takht, the highest Sikh temporal body. The Congress is indulging in its old gameplan of trying to undermine the authority and dignity of Sikh religious institutions. The Khalsa Panth will not allow these designs to succeed,” Badal said.

The Akali chief had spent recent weeks trying to ensure that the convention was not held.

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