Control of gurdwaras in Haryana: SC orders for status quo

The Supreme Court has directed the SGPC and newly formed Haryana Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (HSGMC) to maintain status quo on the management control of gurdwaras prevailing at 2:30pm on August 7 in Haryana till further orders. During the hearing, the Haryana government informed the SC that the new state committee has forcibly taken control of Sikh gurdwaras in the state.

The SC asked Haryana DGP and district administration to maintain status quo with regard to gurdwaras and not permit any violence. The next hearing in the case would take place on August 25. The SC order came on a petition filed by Harbhajan Singh, a resident of Haryana and member of SGPC. Petitioner Harbhajan Singh – an SGPC member from Kurukshetra – contended that the Haryana Sikh Gurdwara (Management) Act, 2014 was not only a hasty enactment but also against the constitutional provisions and the Punjab Reorganisation Act, 1966.

The petition said a wilful attempt was being made by Sikhs of Haryana, prompted by the state government, to wrest control of gurdwaras from the rightful members of SGPC by use of force. The on-going tussle between Amritsar-based SGPC and HSGMC in Haryana turned violent on August 6 when members of HSGMC “forcibly” tried to take control of a gurdwara in Kurukshetra and clashed with police leaving several people injured. Clashes erupted outside ‘Chhevin Patshahi’, one of the biggest gurdwaras in Haryana, when members of HSGMC “forcibly” tried to enter the Sikh shrine and were stopped by police, Kurukshetra superintendent of police (SP) Ashwin Shenvi said.

Police used water canons, lobbed tear gas shells and resorted to cane charge to disperse the agitated members. The members owing allegiance to HSGMC brandishing naked swords and lathis threw stones towards the shrine where the Amritsar-based Shiromani Gurdwara Parbhandhak Committee (SGPC) members were keeping watch. Some of the stones hit the policemen who acted as a buffer between the two rival groups.

Police fired water canons to stop the marching HSGMC members to avoid a direct contact between the two rival groups. Policemen deployed at the barricades used force to check the movement of the marchers towards the shrine. Shenvi said five police personnel were injured in the violence while the HSGMC claimed 65 of its members received injuries, five of them serious. HSGMC president Jagdish Singh Jhinda said police used force in which 65 people owing allegiance to the newly constituted body were injured.

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