The case of missing saroops of Guru Granth Sahib from the SGPC office has become murkier with the changing stand of the Shiromini Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee. The executive of the SGPC first decided to hold an enquiry on the directions of the Akal Takhat acting Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh and even a retired lady judge of the High Court was appointed for this purpose.
This lady judge recused herself from holding the probe giving personal reasons. Then the executive committee appointed a three member committee headed by a lawyer Isher Singh of Telengana to probe the alleged theft of the saroops. Isher Singh Committee completed the enquiry and submitted its report to the acting Jathedar of the Akal Takhat who forwarded the same to the SGPC authorities for necessary action on the report.
Following receipt of the report from the Akal Takhat, the SGPC Executive discussed the report and decided to take action against the erring officials of the SGPC.
The President of the SGPC Gobind Singh Longowal announced that no one would be forgiven howsoever high he may be. But there was overnight U-turn in decision and the Executive again met and decided that no criminal proceedings would be launched against any official of the SGPC and the SGPC itself would take action according to panthic traditions. Longowal said that the SGPC had the authority to take action against the culprits.
As a matter of fact, the decision to refer the case to the police for criminal proceedings caused lot of upheaval in the hierarchy of the SGPC and it was felt that this would expose the alleged irregularities being committed in the SGPC and the political interference in the functioning of the SGPC – the Sikh parliament of religious affairs.
The executive of the SGPC had named some of the employees allegedly involved in the case. Those who were indicted by the SGPC Executive included Harcharan Singh former Chief Secretary and Dr Roop Singh, Sceretary of the SGPC. Both Harcharan Singh and Dr. Roop Singh had resigned from their posts.
Harcharan Singh resigned a year ago after serving the SGPC for two years and without completing his tenure of three years whereas Dr Roop Singh who promoted as Chief Secretary after the resignation of Harcharan Singh had also submitted his resignation before the enquiry committee had conducted the probe.
The whole case pertains to the printing and maintenance of records of saroops of Guru Granth Sahib and the saroops were printed at the official printing press of the SGPC at Gurdwara Ramsar Sahib in Amritsar. It was in May 2016 that a fire broke out in the record room of the gurdwara where the saroops were kept.
It was reported that only fourteen saroops were damaged in the fire and no sacrilege or desecration had taken place. This incident happened during the tenure of Avtar Singh Makkar as President. It was Punjab State Human Rights Organisation which unearthed the alleged scandal of missing saroops.
The Punjab State Human Rights Organisation which is headed by Justice Ajit Singh Bains (retired) alleged that as many as 267 saroops of Guru Granth Sahib were missing.
The matter was referred to the acting Jathedar of Akal Takhat Giani Harpreet Singh who asked the SGPC to probe the matter.
Lawyer Isher Singh Committee who finally probed matter has reported in a 1000 page report that the number of missing Saroops was 328 and not 267.
The SGPC has put up a 10 page note on its website regarding the Isher Singh Committee report findings whereas the actual report consists of 1000 pages. The Isher Singh Committee has put the SGPC in dock and questions are being raised regarding the U-Turn being made by it.
The Sikh political and religious circles point out that these U-turns have been made to save some of the high ups in the SGPC and the Akali Dal who have been allegedly interfering in the functioning of the SGPC for the past many years.
While the SGPC authorities were changing their stand on the question of probe into the missing of the saroops of Guru Granth Sahib, an unfortunate incident took place last week when Harcharan Singh former Chief Secretary of the SGPC expired following a heart attack in Chandigarh.
Harcharan Singh was a devout Sikh and he had been appointed Chief Secretary at the instance of Sukhbir Singh Badal, President of the Akali Dal for a period of three years at a salary of Rs. 3 lakhs per month. Harcharan Singh resigned before the completion of his three years tenure and he accepted only Rs 2 lakhs salary instead of three lakhs per month. He felt suffocated in the SGPC as he was not allowed to function independently, he had told this writer after his resignation from the SGPC.
Harcharan Singh wrote a book on the functioning of the SGPC entitled, ‘Shiromini Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee di majooda Sthiti’ (The present state of the SGPC). He had strongly criticized the functioning of the SGPC based on his experience and he had also mentioned the political interference in the affairs of the SGPC. He had pointed out corruption in the SGPC at all levels and he failed in his mission to curb the malpractices because he was not allowed to function independently.
Regarding the political interference in the functioning of the SGPC, he mentioned that the President of the SGPC and other office bearers were appointed with the permission of the President, Shiromini Akali Dal. On page 109 in his book, he was mentioned that Prof. Kirpal Singh Bandugar who was President of the SGPC rang him up and told him that Sukhbir Badal and his wife Harsimrat were interfering in his working and he wanted to resign. He further wrote, on the next day, he presented his (Badungar’s) resignation letter to the executive of the SGPC which met at Fatehgarh Sahib.
Harcharan Singh was also critical of the pardon granted to Gurmeet Ram Raheem head of the Dera Sacha Sauda for attiring himself in the robe of Guru Gobind Singh and had praised the exposure made by Giani Gurmukh Singh who was jathedar of the Takhat Damda Sahib Talwandi Sabo.
Tarlochan Singh former Chairman of the National Minorities Commission has alleged that it was because of the book written by Harcharan Singh that he was indicted by the SGPC Executive and this had greatly stressed him. Harcharan Singh was the first Sikh who had written a book which exposed the Badals for their interference in the functioning of the SGPC, he said.
Tarlochan Singh alleged that saroops of Guru Granth Sahib were given to influential persons on the recommendations of the Badals. Tarlochan Singh criticized the SGPC for selling Guru Granth Sahib and pointed out ‘they are selling the Guru’. The Muslims, Christians and Hindus were distributing the Quran, Bible and Ramayan free of cost among their followers. The SGPC and Delhi Gurdwara Management Committee should also distribute the Guru Granth Sahib among the Sikhs free.
Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, President of the AkaliDal (Democratic) demanded that a high level enquiry should be held in the circumstances leading to the death of Harcharan Singh. Harcharan Singh was a devout Sikh and had exposed the interference in the functioning of the SGPC. Prof. Prithipal Singh Kapoor former Pro-Vice Chancellor of Guru Nanak Dev University and a renowned Sikh Scholar has also criticized the functioning of the SGPC and maintained, ‘SGPC has no policy and rules’.
There was no accountability in the SGPC and political interference was supreme. Because of the political interference, the SGPC has become a deadwood. SGPC has forgotten its basic duty of doing Dharam Prachar and maintain the sanctity of the gurdwaras.
K S Chawla is a senior journalist based at Ludhiana.
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