Perneet Singh,Tribune News Service
Amritsar, December 21 A day after the Punjab and Haryana High Court restored voting rights to Sehajdhari Sikhs, SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar said they would not let the verdict go unchallenged while reiterating that the judgment would have no impact on the newly constituted SGPC House.
Talking to mediapersons here today, Makkar claimed “the court didn’t go into the details as to who was a Sehajdhari Sikh and merely passed its order on the notification barring Sehajdhari Sikhs from voting in the SGPC elections”. “The court has termed the notification invalid and has only given the legal point of view in the verdict,” he said.
Makkar sounded confident that there would be no glitch in the functioning of the new SGPC House, stating that the notification regarding the election of new members had already been issued and co-option had also taken place. He said they were consulting legal experts to decide their future course of action in connection with yesterday’s HC judgment. He hoped the co-option of 15 members would be notified soon, following which another meeting of the new SGPC House would be called to elect the office-bearers.
He said once the new office-bearers were elected, they would make efforts to get the necessary amendment made in the Sikh Gurdwara Act, 1925, to bar Sehajdhari Sikhs from voting in the SGPC elections.
Meanwhile, the HC verdict has prompted various Sikh intellectuals to say that the concept of Sehajdhari Sikhs was being misinterpreted. Noted Sikh scholar Bhai Ashok Singh Bagaria said a person who was born in a Sikh family could not call himself Sehajdhari.
Former SGPC general secretary Bibi Kiranjot Kaur, in whose tenure the notification barring Sehajdhari Sikhs from voting in SGPC elections was issued, said, “A Sehajdhari Sikh is the one who follows basic Sikh tenets, one of which is keeping “kesh” (hair). Those who are born in Sikh families but have trimmed their hair cannot be termed as Sehajdhari. For the individuals born in Sikh families, the next step should be to get baptised and not shear one’s hair.”
She said a Sehajdhari Sikh was expected to show minimum commitment towards Sikhism, which is to have a “sabat surat saroop”.
Radical Sikh outfit Dal Khalsa leader Kanwarpal Singh claimed Sehajdharis were non-Sikhs and, therefore, describing them as part of Sikhism was untrue. He slammed politicians, including former CM Captain Amarinder Singh, for creating unnecessary confusion over the definition of Sehajdhari and mixing it with “patits” (apostates) for vested interests.
He said the apostates were not eligible to vote in the SGPC elections ever since the Sikh Gurdwara Act, 1925, was enacted, whereas Sehajdharis were debarred in 2003 with a government notification.