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Raveen Thukral
State of Affairs

Let sanity prevail for peace

Dealing with such emotive situations requires sanity, which politicians often fail to display.

he tension prevailing at Haryana gurdwaras for the last fortnight, a fallout of the Hooda government's decision to enact a separate Gurdwara Management Act for the state, took a volatile turn in Kurukshetra on Wednesday when supporters of the newly formed HGPC tried to forcibly take control of the Gurdwara Chhevin Patshahi.

While the police foiled their attempt at Kurukshetra, the HGPC managed to wrest control of the Cheeka Gurdwara in Kaithal. The violent clashes happened on the day the Supreme Court had agreed to hear a PIL challenging Haryana's newly enacted law for the creation of a separate managing committee. The petition, filed by a member of the Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) from Kurukshetra, has sought quashing of the law on the plea that it had created "fissures" within the Sikh community.

Mercifully, on Thursday the apex court stepped in and ordered maintenance of status quo on the management of the gurdwaras. The order has defused the tension, at least for the time being.

However, it was ironical and unfortunate to see Sikhs fighting Sikhs to take control of the gurdwaras that they both revere. Like all religions, Sikhism too preaches non-violence. So it was appalling to see such clashes happening at a place where the devout pray and seek peace and tranquillity.

Dirty politics is solely to be blamed for this situation. While Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda cannot escape the blame of sowing the seeds for the ongoing crises, his Punjab counterpart, Parkash Singh Badal, is squarely responsible for precipitating them.

Rather than taking the logical and legal recourse of challenging the legislation enacted by the Haryana government, Badal chose the path of confrontation. The belligerent stand of the SGPC of not handing over the management of the gurdwaras to the HGPC "at any costs" was the root of the problem.

If the formation of the HGPC is "illegal", as Badal claims, he should have not wasted time playing politics over it and instead challenged the decision right away in the courts. However, Badal chose to involve the Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of the Sikhs, in the fight.

The two dictates issued by the Akal Takht at Badal's behest, (i) excommunication of the key members of the HGPC and (ii) directions for maintaining status quo at Haryana gurdwaras, with SGPC remaining in control, have backfired, putting the credibility of the temporal seat at stake. The wide support being received by the "excommunicated" HGPC leaders in Haryana and their attempt to gain control of the gurdwaras, despite the Takht's dictates, have willy-nilly trivialised the sacrosanct nature of such directives.

The SGPC precipitated the crises by sending armed jathas (groups) of workers from Punjab to Haryana gurdwaras to thwart any attempt of takeover by the HGPC. Their act not only smacked of arrogance but also displayed their scant respect for the law of the land. The same could be said of the HGPC, as they surrounded the gurdwaras with the intention of taking control forcibly. They both behaved like Mafias rather than religious bodies and created an undesirable situation.

Dealing with such emotive situations requires sanity, which unfortunately our politicians often fail to display. Rather than allowing the crises to precipitate to this extent and allowing the HGPC and the SGPC come face to face, both Badal and Hooda should have acted beyond their political interests and cracked the whip on those who were trying to take the law in their own hands.

It would have been in the fitness of things if Badal and Hooda had persuaded the SGPC and the HGPC, respectively, on maintaining the status quo on the management of Haryana gurdwaras until the issue is decided by the courts. It's unfortunate that the Supreme Court did what these two Chief Ministers ought to have done.

Wednesday's clash would not have happened had Hooda and Badal acted more responsibly. The ugly situation would have been avoided had Hooda directed the HGPC to back off and advised them to take legal recourse for seeking control of the gurdwaras. On his part, Badal should have persuaded the SGPC to withdraw its armed men from the gurdwaras and wait for the court's verdict on the legality of the new Act. Alas, they did not.

It's said, "Peace is a fragile thing. It takes courage to secure it. It takes wisdom to maintain it." Both Badal and Hooda have fallen short of displaying that courage and wisdom when most needed.

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