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Takht leash on Haryana panel

Amritsar, July 27 (PTI): The Akal Takht, Sikhs’ highest temporal body, today restrained office bearers of the new Haryana Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (HSGMC) from carrying out duties till a dispute over the panel’s formation is resolved.

The Takht said the Punjab-based Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) — Sikhs’ supreme body for management of gurdwaras — will continue to manage the day-to-day affairs of the Haryana shrines.

Takht chief Gurbachan Singh also directed all Sikh outfits and parties not to issue any statements till the row over the HSGMC is “resolved amicably”, the move seen as virtual gag order.

The directives came a day after the Takht intervened in the stand-off and forced congregations of Sikhs, planned in Amritsar and Haryana’s Karnal today, over the new body to be called off.

While the meetings cancelled, the Takht chief asked Sikh leaders in Haryana not to disturb the SGPC’s administration of the state’s shrines. Haryana has around 25 big gurdwaras, with an average annual income of around Rs 30 crore.

“A crisis was created recently after the formation of the HSGMC by the Haryana government. The management of the Haryana-based gurdwaras will be in the hands of the Amritsar-based SGPC…nobody should interfere in the previous management,” a statement quoting Singh said.

The order was directed at the new 11-member Haryana gurdwara committee, including president Jagdish Singh Jhinda.

The Takht had earlier this month “excommunicated” some Haryana Sikh leaders, including Harmohinder Singh, the finance minister in the state’s Congress government, on charges of defying its directive and forming the separate gurdwara committee.

The Haryana Assembly had on July 11 passed a legislation for the body’s formation. Then governor Jagannath Pahadia gave his assent three days later despite opposition from leaders of the SGPC and Punjab’s ruling Akali Dal, a BJP ally.

Akali leaders have termed the law “unconstitutional” and “illegal”, and sought the intervention of the Narendra Modi government. The Centre has asked Haryana to revoke the law but the state has refused. State polls are due in a few months.

Some Sikh leaders have, however, questioned the Takht’s directives. Kanwar Pal Singh, a spokesperson for Dal Khalsa, said by forcing the two meetings planned today to be called off, the Takht head had provided the Akali Dal leadership “an escape route”. He said it was strange the Takht chief had given directives to Haryana leaders whom it had barred weeks ago.