Chandigarh: The Aam Aadmi Get together-led Punjab authorities and the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) have been on the warpath for a number of weeks over the difficulty of broadcasting rights to the Gurbani— the sacred hymns and scriptures of the Sikh faith— from the Golden Temple in Amritsar.
With Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann main the battle from one aspect, and SGPC president Harjinder Singh Dhami from the opposite, the controversy has taken centrestage in Punjab politics and ignited a broader debate on the administration of non secular affairs and the position of political events and the federal government.
The confrontation started with a 21 Might tweet from CM Mann, wherein he questioned why the broadcasting rights of the Gurbani, a “image of commonality”, was given to just one channel. Mann urged that a number of channels must be allowed to broadcast the Gurbani, and his authorities was keen to cowl any essential prices.
The channel that Mann focused on this tweet was the Punjab Tv Channel (PTC), which is owned by Sukhbir Singh Badal, a former deputy CM and the chief of the Shiromani Akali Dal.
PTC has an 11-year contract with the SGPC giving it unique rights to broadcast audio-visual feed of the Gurbani from the Golden Temple. For this privilege, PTC pays an annual price to the SGPC. The contract, signed when the Akali Dal was in energy in Punjab, ends this July.
The SGPC, an elected physique accountable for managing historic gurdwaras in Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, and Chandigarh, is usually referred to as the “mini parliament” of the Sikhs and has historically had shut ties with the Akali Dal.
Questions on PTC’s unique rights to relay the Gurbani have been typically raised through the years by the Congress and AAP, as a part of their criticism of the Akali Dal. The broad allegation has been that the Akali Dal workouts management over the functioning of the SGPC to additional its personal political pursuits.
Simply days after Mann’s tweet, the SGPC introduced its choice to ask open tenders from TV channels for reside telecast rights to the Gurbani.
The announcement, nonetheless, didn’t impress Mann who went forward and referred to as a particular session of the Vidhan Sabha. On 20 June, the meeting handed a invoice amending the Sikh Gurdwaras Act of 1925, making it abiding on the SGPC to permit any radio, TV or social media channel to relay the Gurbani from the Golden Temple.
The SGPC instantly condemned the transfer as “anti-Sikh” and an try to dilute its authority. At a particular normal home assembly Monday, the SGPC additionally declared that it might begin a morcha or protest in opposition to the Mann authorities if it didn’t revoke the modification invoice.
ThePrint provides an outline of the conflicting narratives on the core of this problem, the political undercurrents, and what’s at stake for the varied events concerned.
Additionally Learn: ‘Pushing anti-Sikh ideology of his Delhi boss’ — SGPC rejects Mann’s gurbani broadcast invoice
‘Ending monopoly’ to politics— CM’s stand
Mann’s official place is that the modification will finish the monopoly of a single channel over the relay of the Gurbani. He has underscored that he’s a Sikh himself and that the transfer doesn’t quantity to interference in spiritual affairs.
“Gurbani is the widespread religious heritage of all Sikhs and must be free to air out there by way of a number of channels to Sikhs the world over,” the CM mentioned within the meeting in the course of the dialogue on the invoice to amend the Sikh Gurdwaras Act.
Nonetheless, the political significance of this place has not escaped anybody conversant in Punjab politics.
It’s extensively understood that Mann is making an attempt to attraction to a piece of Sikhs who consider that the SGPC ought to operate independently of the affect of any political social gathering or chief.
The prevailing notion is that the Akali Dal makes use of the SGPC in addition to the Akal Takht, the best temporal physique of the Sikhs, to affect the Sikh voters and to keep up some type of energy even when they’re out of presidency within the state.
Mann’s rhetoric has mirrored this view. Within the meeting dialogue, as an illustration, he hit out on the Badals and likewise accused the SGPC of permitting “a specific political household” to manage its functioning.
The CM additional urged that the Badals might have used the SGPC to profit PTC financially. He identified that PTC’s viewership has considerably elevated on account of its broadcasting of the Gurbani, which in flip “brings in commercial income”.
Responding to the SGPC’s normal home assembly on Monday, Mann tweeted that SGPC president Harjinder Singh Dhami was behaving just like the chief spokesperson of the Akali Dal.
In the meantime, Dhami has maintained that there’s nothing untoward or secretive about his or different members’ ties with the Akali Dal.
“We’re all members of the SGPC immediately as a result of we fought on the tickets given to us by the Akali dal so why ought to we not be open about our affiliation with that social gathering?” Dhami mentioned, addressing the final home assembly of the SGPC Monday.
‘Non secular interference’— SGPC’s place
The SGPC has alleged that the federal government is interfering within the spiritual affairs of the Sikhs.
Throughout the normal home assembly, Dhami held that relaying the Gurbani by way of a number of channels may compromise the sanctity of the train.
The SGPC contends that the relay of Gurbani have to be carried out in a managed setting to uphold maryada, or code of conduct.
It has additionally claimed that the Punjab authorities had no proper to amend the Sikh Gurdwaras Act.
Dhami referred to a 1959 settlement between the then-Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and SGPC president Grasp Tara Singh, which stipulated that any modification to the 1925 Act may solely be made after a decision is handed by two-thirds of the SGPC’s members.
“No change may be made to the act with out the concurrence of the SGPC,” Dhami mentioned.
Talking to ThePrint, SGPC official Jaskaran Singh defined that the 1925 Act was handed by the provincial meeting and remained a state Act till 1966 when the reorganisation of states passed off. After that, he claimed, choices relating to the SGPC had been taken by the central authorities in concurrence with the Sikh physique.
“The Punjab Reorganisation Act of 1966 declared the SGPC as an ‘interstate state physique’. All choices relating to the SGPC had been taken by the central authorities in concurrence with the SGPC. Each modification to the 1925 Act from 1966 until 20 June this yr, when the Punjab authorities introduced within the Gurbani rights modification, had been carried out solely after the nod of the SGPC,” mentioned Jaskaran Singh.
Anger from Akali Dal
When Mann introduced his authorities’s choice to amend the Sikh Gurdwaras Act, Sukhbir Singh Badal took to Twitter to criticise it as an try to usurp the authority of the SGPC and the Sikh group over gurdwaras.
“This is step one in the direction of governments taking up the functioning of the Guru’s abode,” he mentioned within the 18 June tweet, additionally slamming the CM’s “conceitedness”.
“If the responsibility of relaying Gurbani with sacredness and the functioning of Gurdwaras is to be handed over to the federal government then why did the Akali Dal undertake numerous sacrifices to free the Gurdwara of masands within the first place?”
Traditionally, masands had been Sikh preachers who acted as intermediaries between the Gurus and the group, however over time got here to be related to misconduct in managing gurdwaras.
Badal mentioned that this “assault” wouldn’t be tolerated and an appropriate response could be given by the Sikh group to the CM.
Addressing a press convention Sunday, Akali chief Parambans Singh Bunty Romana referred to historic occasions pertaining to the SGPC.
He mentioned that the 1959 Grasp Tara Singh-Nehru pact was a results of an try made by the then Congress chief minister Pratap Singh Kairon to amend the 1925 Act and nominate 35 members from the then PEPSU (Patiala and East Punjab States Union) space to the SGPC.
“The transfer was made with the clear function of getting a Congress majority within the SGPC. However it was vociferously opposed by the SGPC,” he mentioned.
Romana highlighted the numerous efforts made by Tara Singh, together with a large protest, imprisonment, and the specter of a quick unto loss of life, to guard the SGPC from political management, ultimately resulting in the pact with Nehru.
“It’s sacrosanct for the unbiased functioning of the SGPC and to make sure that no authorities within the state can intervene within the spiritual affairs of the Sikhs,” he added.
Sikh Gurudwara (Modification) Invoice 2023 purchased by @BhagwantMann govt is the 2nd time a govt has tried to amend Sikh Gurudwaras Act 1925 with the intention of interfering within the spiritual affairs of the Sikhs with out the consent of @SGPCAmritsar .Congress govt tried it in 1959.
— Parambans Singh Romana (@ParambansRomana) June 24, 2023
Throughout the convention, Romana additionally pointed fingers on the AAP-led Delhi authorities.
He mentioned that the Delhi authorities ought to prioritise amending the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee Act to control the published of Gurbani from the historic Bangla Sahib Gurdwara within the capital.
“The Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Administration Committee paid a specific channel to relay the Gurbani. This channel can also be allowed to run ads and shows a QR code to collect funds on account of relaying the Gurbani,” he alleged.
“If Mann and the Aam Aadmi Get together authorities in Delhi are so involved about Gurbani reaching each Sikh family with no penny being paid, they need to first set the Delhi home so as which is instantly of their jurisdiction. For AAP and Mann, Gurbani is barely an excuse— the primary goal is the SGPC,” he claimed.
Romana gave additional examples of how the Gurbani was allegedly being broadcast or streamed in a questionable method from different gurudwaras within the nation.
For example, he alleged that the channel relaying the Gurbani from Patna Sahib in Bihar is paid Rs 1 crore a yr and likewise runs ticker ads when the hymns and scriptural recitations are being broadcast.
“Many social media handles which illegally run the Gurbani have doubtful antecedents. Will the Mann authorities act in opposition to these handles?” he requested.
“A channel which was relaying Gurbani from Hemkund Sahib in Uttarakhand was charging the administration Rs 50 lakh every year. When the contract ended, it was given to the PTC which is now relaying the Gurbani freed from price,” mentioned Romana.
‘PTC didn’t make a single penny from airing Gurbani’
Rabindra Narayan, head of the PTC Group, informed ThePrint that viewers have by no means been charged any quantity to observe any of its channels.
He additionally disputed the Chief Minister’s declare that PTC earns crores by way of ads earlier than and after the relay of Gurbani.
“No ads are run for half an hour earlier than and after the Gurbani is relayed. Bhagwant Maan claims Gurbani provides TRPs to PTC and PTC earns crores. However TRP scores are based mostly on the viewership of the programme operating, which impacts advert prices throughout, shortly earlier than, and shortly after a well-liked present. However when no advertisements are allowed earlier than or after the relay of Gurbani, how does PTC make cash from Gurbani?” Narayan requested.
“Once we got here into the image in 2007, the SGPC had gone by way of a number of agreements with a minimum of half-a-dozen channels who had didn’t ship,” he added.
Narayan additionally claimed that whereas some channels are paid to relay the Gurbani from different historic gurudwaras, PTC operates otherwise and contributes to the SGPC.
“We’re contributing yearly to the schooling fund of the SGPC. Since 2008, we’ve got paid nearly Rs 19 crore to the SGPC. Aside from that, we run a weekly programme referred to as Sikh Sargarmiyan to showcase the actions of the SGPC. It is freed from price to the SGPC though we’ve got spent over Rs 43 crore on producing and airing it,” Narayan mentioned. “Now we have not made a single penny out of the airing of the Gurbani. We contemplate it our sacred responsibility and honour to have the ability to do it freed from price.”
(Edited by Asavari Singh)
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