In Punjab, sacred hymns and political video games


As devotees stroll thru Heritage Boulevard of Amritsar, the sound of melodious Gurbani kirtans (sacred hymns) fill the air. This is likely one of the oldest streets of town and is covered with stores. 1000’s throng the no-traffic zone, which ends up in the Golden Temple. Gurbani kirtans are sung when the portals of the temple are open within the wee hours of morning. The making a song stops when the portals shut all through the night. The hymns are sung by means of Sikh clerics sitting within the gilded complicated of the temple. Nowadays, the Gurbani is on the centre of a political controversy in Punjab.

On June 20, 2023, the Punjab govt handed the Sikh Gurdwaras (Modification) Invoice. During the Invoice, the Aam Aadmi Celebration (AAP)-led govt is looking for to amend the Sikh Gurdwaras Act, 1925, which was once enacted for the management of positive Sikh gurdwaras in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, and Chandigarh. The federal government’s intention is to make sure that the printed and telecast of the Gurbani from the Golden Temple is loose for all channels. The rights up till this level lay with G-Subsequent Media Personal Restricted, which runs PTC Punjabi, a channel during which Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal has a majority stake. Leader Minister Bhagwant Mann mentioned that the Invoice aimed to make sure that there was once no undue keep an eye on of a “specific circle of relatives” over the rights to telecast the Gurbani.

On June 26, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), the apex governing frame of all of the Sikh gurdwaras in India and out of the country, rejected the Invoice. An offended SGPC mentioned it might no longer tolerate “the Punjab govt’s interference within the Sikh Gurdwaras Act”. Terming the transfer unconstitutional and politically motivated, it requested the federal government to withdraw the Invoice or be able to stand an “intensified battle”.

The president of the SGPC, Harjinder Singh Dhami, additionally identified that an modification to the Act was once imaginable most effective with the suggestions of the governing frame. “Sooner than making any modification to the Sikh Gurdwaras Act, the approval of two-thirds of the individuals of the SGPC’s basic space can’t be omitted,” he mentioned. Political events together with the Shiromani Akali Dal additionally criticised the federal government.

Whilst some persons are offended concerning the transfer, others reinforce it. For the AAP, which has shaped the federal government for the primary time within the State that borders Pakistan, this controversy poses but any other problem.

‘Catastrophic resolution’

A number of other folks mentioned the verdict was once an useless blending of political and spiritual problems. Gurpreet Kaur, 23, a legislation scholar on the Guru Nanak Dev College in Amritsar, termed the mix of politics and faith in Punjab “catastrophic”. Sitting outdoor the Gurdwara Sahib within the campus of the college, she mentioned, “The Sikh Gurdwaras Act manages the affairs of gurdwaras. It mandates the SGPC to take suitable selections. The AAP govt must no longer have offered the Invoice within the Meeting. It might have one by one probed the allegations of commercial pursuits surrounding the telecast of the Gurbani.”

Her pals concurred. They mentioned selections on amendments to spiritual rules must be made by means of individuals who were related to non secular our bodies for years, and no longer politicians.

Charanjit Singh, 33, a doctoral scholar on the college, mentioned political events use faith to serve their pursuits. “The federal government and the SGPC are having a face-off and apparently that each don’t seem to be doing sufficient to get to the bottom of the problem,” he mentioned. He believed that this may in the end harm Punjab. “The AAP has shaped the federal government in Punjab for the primary time. To create and stabilise a vote financial institution, the celebration appears to be looking to woo Panthik (Sikh) citizens. The AAP has been in energy for round one and a part years. In this brief duration, how a lot readability has it collected on delicate Sikh problems? Sooner than introducing a Invoice, the federal government must have made an effort to construct consensus. The celebration appears to be in a hurry. This factor does no longer worry simply Sikhs, however the entire of Punjab and Punjabiyat,” he mentioned.

Devotees at the Golden Temple, Amritsar.

Devotees on the Golden Temple, Amritsar.
| Picture Credit score:
R.V. Moorthy

A couple of kilometres from the college, devotees thronged the Golden Temple. Jasbir Singh, 53, a devotee on the Bazaar Mai Sewan marketplace adjoining to the temple, mentioned the federal government was once growing war. “If the AAP feels that the SGPC has been grabbed by means of any individual, it must contest elections and get the frame freed,” he mentioned.

Harvinder Singh sells Rumala Sahib (oblong items of silk used to hide the Guru Granth Sahib within the gurdwara), kadas (bangles) and different ceremonial articles related to the Sikh religion on Heritage Boulevard. He mentioned if events made up our minds to “intrude” in issues associated with Sikhism, it might be “unhealthy for the quom (neighborhood).”

“If there are allegations that the telecast of the Gurbani has been monopolised by means of one TV channel belonging to a political celebration, the SGPC may just get started its personal channel. However the govt must keep away,” he mentioned firmly.

‘A just right step’

The Vidhan Sabha handed the Sikh Gurudwaras (Modification) Invoice with a majority. Segment 125A stipulates that it is going to be the “accountability of the Board (SGPC) to propagate the lessons of the Gurus by means of making uninterrupted (with none on-screen working commercials/advertisements/distortions) are living feed (audio, or audio and video) of [the] holy Gurbani from Harmindar Sahib [Golden Temple] to be had freed from price to all media homes, retailers, platforms, channels and so on. whoever needs to broadcast it.”

The rights to broadcast the Gurbani are granted by means of the SGPC. In step with Dhami, as in line with the principles, since 1998, the SGPC had given the rights to broadcast the Gurbani from the Golden Temple to quite a lot of channels. The present settlement with G-Subsequent Media is as much as July 2023. “This settlement was once signed on July 24, 2012 for 11 years and now, after its expiration, a recent procedure might be carried ahead,” Dhami mentioned. Beneath the continued settlement, G-Subsequent Media had made up our minds to pay ₹1 crore once a year, with a annually hike of 10%, to the training fund of the SGPC. Dhami claimed that the due quantity were deposited.

Mann alleged that the SGPC, beneath the affect of a “circle of relatives”, had given the highbrow belongings rights of telecasting the Gurbani to a channel owned by means of that circle of relatives. He additionally disregarded the transfer as an assault on Panth. That one circle of relatives had keep an eye on over the telecast of the Gurbani is unwarranted and unjustified, he mentioned.

Some Sikhs consider the federal government’s reasoning. “If the Act is amended, there might be additional succeed in of the Gurbani as extra channels might be allowed to telecast it. That’s a just right step, proper,” mentioned Sonu Singh, a seller at Dharam Singh marketplace on Heritage Boulevard.

Students and faculty at the Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar.

Scholars and college on the Guru Nanak Dev College, Amritsar.
| Picture Credit score:
R.V. Moorthy

Suraj Singh, who runs a commute trade in Amritsar, agreed. “The transfer is commendable. It looks as if the Opposition events and the SGPC are looking to make this a non secular factor,” he mentioned.

Query of autonomy

The SGPC, which may be known as the “mini-Parliament of Sikhs”, is at once elected by means of Sikhs who’re registered as citizens beneath the provisions of the Sikh Gurdwaras Act. Alternatively, questions are steadily requested concerning the SGPC’s autonomy being subverted by means of the Badals.

Professionals mentioned that whilst the federal government’s strikes have created an argument once more, it has additionally sparked a debate at the SGPC’s autonomy. “All through the early years of the SGPC’s inception within the Twenties, most effective those that have been deeply dedicated to the religion fought the election. They controlled the shrines and propagated the religion effectively. Now, not anything is being carried out concerning the evil practices within the electoral gadget. The Akali Dal, which was once born of the SGPC, slowly started to keep an eye on the mum or dad frame. The Akali Dal management has been within the palms of 1 circle of relatives because the Nineties,” mentioned Dharam Singh, former professor of Sikh Research at Punjabi College, Patiala.

Singh mentioned that over the top political interference within the functioning of the SGPC, whether or not within the choice of applicants for election or the swearing-in of the president, is simply too obtrusive to be overpassed. “As in line with the Sikh idea of miri piri, non secular values are meant to dominate politics, however apparently to be the other. The desire of the hour is to make sure that the SGPC isn’t managed by means of one circle of relatives and to let it serve as in a democratic and clear method,” he mentioned.

The century-old Akali Dal, which claims to be the only real consultant of the Panthic neighborhood, suffered a drubbing within the ultimate two Meeting elections indicating that its Panthic reinforce base has eroded considerably. At a time when the celebration goes thru a coarse patch, the AAP’s newest transfer may just result in extra checking out occasions. The Akali Dal has been dealing with fees from Opposition events of destroying the autonomy of the SGPC and the Akal Takht, the best possible Sikh temporal seat.

Singh added that the Akali Dal gave up its Panthic time table at its 1996 convention in Moga and changed into a Punjabi celebration. “Consequently, many non-Sikhs no longer most effective changed into its individuals, however occupied workplaces of significance as effectively. The wealthy categories joined the Akali Dal to additional their trade pursuits. This resulted within the sluggish alienation of Sikhs. Without a doubt, this has helped the Akali Dal retain energy in Punjab, however there were events of Sikh reasons struggling on the altar of political exigency,” he mentioned.

“For truthful play, no political celebration must be allowed to contest the SGPC election,” he added. “Most effective well-meaning Sikhs, no matter be their political affiliations, must contest independently.”

The duty of carrying out elections for the SGPC lies with the Central govt. The elections are meant to be held after 5 years. The ultimate SGPC elections have been held in 2011.

The Akali Dal disregarded those allegations. “There’s a democratic procedure for electing the SGPC frame. Different events additionally contest elections. If a majority of individuals of the Akali Dal contested and received the election, you can’t say the SGPC has develop into Akali Dal. A majority people are represented within the SGPC, and the elected space and its president have the appropriate to take selections,” mentioned celebration chief Daljeet Singh Cheema.

Given the resistance from a number of Sikh our bodies and the general public, the federal government would possibly in finding it tricky to put into effect its resolution. Amarjit Singh, Director on the Centre on Research in Sri Guru Granth Sahib at Guru Nanak Dev College, mentioned the federal government’s resolution was once mistaken as a result of it’s the SGPC that has the appropriate to take selections on gurdwara affairs beneath the 1925 Act. “Even if a number of Sikhs would need the Gurbani telecast to be to be had on as many alternative channels as imaginable, the way during which the federal government has acted has in large part been unacceptable to the Sikhs. The federal government must have deliberated the problem with the SGPC and others,” he mentioned.

He additionally identified that Sikhs have by no means approved interference of their affairs. “In 2015, the Akali Dal was once in energy. The SGPC, which was once in its keep an eye on, organized an Akal Takht-stamped pardon to Dera Sacha Sauda leader Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh within the 2007 blasphemy case. But, the celebration confronted a serious backlash from the Sikhs, and the pardon edict needed to be rescinded. This presentations that Sikhs don’t settle for govt interference in non secular issues.”

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