Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee
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Sri Akal Takht Sahib
|Formation||15 November 1920|
|Type||Sikh Gurdwaras Management Organisation|
|Headquarters||Teja Singh Samundri Hall, Sri Harmandir Sahib Complex, Sri Amritsar|
|Professor Kirpal Singh Badungar|
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (or SGPC) is an organization in India responsible for the management of gurdwaras, Sikh places of worship in three states of Punjab, Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh and union territory of Chandigarh. SGPC also administers Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar.
The SGPC is governed by the chief minister of Punjab. The SGPC manages the security, financial, facility maintenance and religious aspects of Gurdwaras as well as keeping archaeologically rare and sacred artifacts, including weapons, clothes, books and writings of the Sikh Gurus. SGPC is also referred to as Parliament of the Sikhs.
In 1920 the emerging Akali leadership summoned a general assembly of the Sikhs holding all shades of opinion on November 15, 1920 in vicinity of the Akal Takht in Amritsar. The purpose of this assembly was to elect a representative committee of the Sikhs to administer the Harimandir Sahib Complex and other important historical gurdwaras. Two days before the proposed conference the British government set up its own committee consisting of 36 Sikhs to manage the Harimandir Sahib. Sikhs held their scheduled meeting and elected a bigger committee consisting of 175 members and named it as Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee. The members of the government appointed committee were also included in it. Harbans Singh Attari became vice president and Sunder Singh Ramgarhia became secretary of the committee. By that time Master Tara Singh had started taking interest in Sikh religious affairs. He was one of the 175 members elected to the committee. The formation of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee provided a focal point for the movement for the reformation of Sikh religious places. The Committee began to take over management of gurdwaras one by one, and were resisted by incumbent mahants.
Starting in late 1920, a large number of reformers both in urban and rural Punjab had joined to form separate and independent religious orders called jathas. The primary purpose of a jatha was to gain control over local gurdwaras. A jatha under the command of a jathedar would occupy a shrine and try to take over management in its favor from its current incumbents. Sometimes the transfer went peacefully especially in the case of smaller Gurdwaras with less income resources. This was done sometimes with the threat of force. The Sikh leadership was fully aware of the importance of the press for the success of any movement. It enlisted the active support and sympathy of some of the important nationalist papers in the country like 'The Independent', Swaraj (Hindi), The Tribune, Liberal, Kesri (Urdu), Milap (Urdu), Zamindar (Urdu) and Bande Matram (Hindi). Two of the vernacular dailies Akali (Pbi.) and the Akali-te-Pardesi (Urdu) also played an important role. It brought the necessary awakening among the Sikh masses and prepared them to undertake the struggle for reform. Master Tara Singh remained the editor of these two papers. With the direct and indirect support of the Central Sikh League, the Indian National Congress and the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, the Shiromani Akali Dal started a non-violent struggle against the government for the control of the Gurdwaras. The reports of some immoral acts perpetrated at Tarn-Taran reached the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee at its meeting on January 14, 1921. A fortnight earlier a local jatha was beaten up and not allowed to perform kirtan at the gurdwara. It decided to send a jatha from Amritsar under Jathedar Teja Singh Bhuchar. Jathedar Kartar Singh Jhabbar with Akalis from 'Khara Sauda Bar' joined him. On January 25, a group of about forty workers took over the control of Sri Darbar Sahib Tarn-Taran from its Mahant. In the ensuing conflict two Akalis were killed and several others wounded by the henchmen of the Mahants. The Mahants were ousted from the Gurdwara and the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee appointed a managing committee.
Gurdwaras Act of 1925
At the same time Malcolm Hailey, the governor of the Punjab showed his readiness to assist the Sikhs in taking possession of all the important Gurdwaras in the province through a five-member committee constituted by the Sikh members of the legislative council. Hailey presented a draft of a new Gurdwara Bill to the Akali leaders imprisoned in Lahore fort. Master Tara Singh, Bhag singh Advocate, gurcharn singh Advocate, Teja Singh Akerpuri(Jathedar AkalTakht Sahib) Sohan Singh Josh and Sardar Teja Singh Samundri studied each clause of the bill carefully. The bill met all the Akali demands and was passed into law on July 28, 1925 by the Governor General of India after its ratification by the Punjab legislative council. The Act came into force on November 1, 1925 with a gazette notification from the government of Punjab. According to the Act a Central Gurdwara Board elected by the Sikhs was to be the custodian of all-important Sikh places of worship. The first meeting of the Gurdwara board passed a resolution that its designation be changed to Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, which was accepted by the government. Thus ended what came to be known in common parlance as the 'Third Sikh War'. The Punjab government withdrew its orders declaring the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and other Akali organs as unlawful associations and recognized the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee as a representative body of the Sikhs. In making the Punjab government agree to such recognition, the Akali leadership undoubtedly scored a victory over the bureaucracy. The Sikh Gurdwara bill met most of the demands of the Sikhs, but the government was willing to release the prisoners conditionally i.e. on the understanding to be given by the Akalis that they would agree to work for the Gurdwara Act. The Shiromani Akali Dal and the executive declared conditions imposed for the release of prisoners as wholly unnecessary, unjust and derogatory. Among the prominent Akalis, Mehtab Singh and Giani Sher Singh along with twenty other Akali leaders accepted the conditional release. Master Tara Singh, Bhag Singh Advocate, Teja Singh Samundari, Teja singh Akerpuri (Jathedar Akal Takht)and Fifteen other Akalis did not come out as government emphasis on eliciting written assurance and acceptance was to Master Tara Singh, an attack on the self-respect of the Sikhs. He said, "We ourselves have enacted this Act and we are responsible for implementing it, then why this condition?" Teja Singh Samundari died of a heart attack in the jail after some time. The Punjab Government failed to prove the charges against Master Tara Singh and the remaining Akalis, few months later they all were released unconditionally. The courage and sacrifice shown by the Akalis during the trial very soon drove the Mehtab Singh's group out of the political field and led to a rift in the Akali ranks, as the newly released Akalis condemned Mehtab Singh's group as collaborators. Mehtab Singh's group was also known as 'Rai Bahadur Party'. This group had majority in the committee and Mehtab Singh was elected its President. The Akali Party launched a campaign against the conditionally released leaders. When the new elections for the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee were held, the Akali Party won majority and the newly elected Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee elected Kharak Singh as the President and Master Tara Singh as the Vice President. Since Baba Kharak Singh had not yet been released the responsibility of the president fell on the shoulders of Master Tara Singh.
1953 Amendment to Gurdwaras Act of 1925
In 1953, an amendment to the 1925 act allowed the reservation of 20 out 140 seats on the SGPC for the members of the Sikh scheduled castes
2016 Amendment to Gurdwaras Act of 1925
The 2016 amendment to the act by the Indian parliament stripped around 7 million ‘Sehajdhari’ Sikhs of voting in the SGPC elections
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