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Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee
AbbreviationSGPC
Formation16 November 1920[1]
TypeManagement Organisation
HeadquartersTeja Singh Samundri Hall, Sri Harmandir Sahib Complex, Sri Amritsar
Location
Harjinder Singh Dhami
Websitehttp://sgpc.net

The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (abbr. SGPC; "Supreme Gurdwara Management Committee") is an organization in India responsible for the management of Gurdwaras, Sikh places of worship in states of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh and the union territory of Chandigarh.[2][3] SGPC also administers Darbar Sahib in Amritsar.[4]

The SGPC is governed by the president of SGPC.[5][6] 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.[7]

Bibi Jagir Kaur became the first woman to be elected president of the SGPC for the second time in September 2004. She had held the same post from March 1999 to November 2000.[8]

History

Main article: Akali movement

Foundation

In 1920 the emerging Akali leadership summoned a general assembly of the Sikhs holding all shades of opinion on 15 November 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 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), edited by Master Tara Singh also played an important role. It brought the necessary awakening among the Sikh masses and prepared them to undertake the struggle for reform. 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 14 January 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 25 January, 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

Main article: Gurdwaras Act of 1925

In early 1920s, 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 signed into law on 28 July 1925 by the Viceroy of India after its ratification by the Punjab legislative council. The Act came into force on 1 November 1925 with a gazette notification from the government of Punjab.

The Act made a Central Gurdwara Board elected by the Sikhs 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[9] 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.At the time of 1996 the first time SGPC election is held in Himachal Pradesh and the first person who won from that seat is the candidate of Panthak Akalidal whose name is Satnam Singh Gill.

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[10]

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[11]

Presidents

President of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee
Incumbent
Harjinder Singh Dhami
since 29 November 2021
StyleJathedar
AppointerMembers of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee
Inaugural holderSundar Singh Majithia
Formation12 October 1920; 103 years ago (1920-10-12)
WebsiteOfficial website

Not to be confused with Jathedar of the Akal Takht.

The president of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) is elected by the Members of SGPC.[12] The president holds powers to organise the meetings of SGPC and deal with matters related with issues of Sikh religion and oversees the managements of the Gurdwaras.[13] Since 2008, the president also serves as Chancellor of Sri Guru Granth Sahib World University.[14]

In 1920 SGPC was established when Gurdwara Reform Movement was started.[15] Sundar Singh Majithia was appointed first President of the committee. This post got legal status after the passing of Sikh Gurdwaras Act, 1925 by legislation in British India.

After passing of this act Baba Kharak Singh became the President. The longest-served president of SGPC till now[when?] is Gurcharan Singh Tohra and shortest-served is Gopal Singh Qaumi who served only for one day in June 1933. The first and the only woman president was Jagir Kaur.

List of presidents

S. No. Name Portrait Tenure[16]
Before Sikh Gurdwara Act (1920-1926)
1 Sundar Singh Majithia 12 October 1920 14 August 1921
2 Kharak Singh 14 August 1921 19 February 1922
3 Sundar Singh Ramgarhiya 19 February 1922 16 July 1922
4 Mehtab Singh 16 July 1922 27 April 1925
5 Mangal Singh 27 April 1925 2 October 1926
After Sikh Gurdwara Act (1926-till now)
(2) Kharak Singh 2 October 1926 12 October 1930
6 Tara Singh 12 October 1930 17 June 1933
7 Gopal Singh Qaumi 17 June 1933 18 June 1933
8 Partap Singh Shankar 18 June 1933 13 June 1936
(6) Master Tara Singh 13 June 1936 19 November 1944
9 Mohan Singh Nagoke 19 November 1944 28 June 1948
10 Udham Singh Nagoke 28 June 1948 18 March 1950
11 Chanan Singh Urara 18 March 1950 26 November 1950
(10) Udham Singh Nagoke 26 November 1950 29 June 1952
(6) Tara Singh 29 June 1952 5 October 1952
12 Preetam Singh Khuranj 5 October 1952 18 January 1954
13 Ishar Singh Majhail 18 January 1954 7 February 1955
(6) Tara Singh 7 February 1955 21 May 1955
14 Bawa Harkrishan Singh 21 May 1955 7 July 1955
15 Gian Singh Rarewala 7 July 1955 16 October 1955
(6) Tara Singh 16 October 1955 16 November 1958
16 Prem Singh Lalpur See article 16 November 1958 7 March 1960
(6) Tara Singh 7 March 1960 30 April 1960
17 Ajit Singh Bala 30 April 1960 10 March 1961
(6) Tara Singh 10 March 1961 11 March 1962
18 Kirpal Singh 'Chak Sherewal' 11 March 1962 2 October 1962
19 Sant Chanan Singh 2 October 1962 30 November 1972
20 Mohan Singh Tur 30 November 1972 6 June 1973
21 Gurcharan Singh Tohra 6 June 1973 23 March 1986
22 Kabal Singh 23 March 1986 30 November 1986
(21) Gurcharan Singh Tohra 30 November 1986 28 November 1990
23 Baldev Singh Sibiya 28 November 1990 13 November 1991
(21) Gurcharan Singh Tohra 13 November 1991 16 March 1999
24 Jagir Kaur 16 March 1999 30 November 2000
25 Jagdev Singh Talwandi 30 November 2000 27 November 2001
26 Kirpal Singh Badungar 27 November 2001 27 July 2003
(21) Gurcharan Singh Tohra 27 July 2003 31 March 2004
27 Alwinderpal Singh Pakhoke 1 April 2004 22 September 2004
(24) Jagir Kaur 23 September 2004 22 November 2005
28 Avtar Singh Makkar 23 November 2005 4 November 2016
(26) Kirpal Singh Badungar 5 November 2016 28 November 2017
29 Gobind Singh Longowal 29 November 2017 27 November 2020
(24) Jagir Kaur 27 November 2020 29 November 2021
30 Harjinder Singh Dhami Harjinder Singh Dhami ਹਰਜਿੰਦਰ ਸਿੰਘ ਧਾਮੀ 29 November 2021 Incumbent

Controversies

Casteism

See also: Caste_system_in_India § Sikh

The SGPC has been accused of representing the interests of Jat Sikhs over other castes and its membership and leadership being dominated by members of the Jat community, which makes other castes feel left out and discriminated against.[17][18] In defence, the SGPC's early history of fighting casteism has been highlighted[19] and the actions they take against reported instances of caste-based discrimination.[20] Also, a former Jathedar of the Akal Takht claims to be from a lower-caste background.[21]

Allegations of apathy to heritage

Colour photograph with the caption of ‘Two Sikhs sit in front of the small sanctuary next to the western door of the Darbar Sahib (Golden Temple)’, taken on 15 January 1914 by a Frenchman by the name of Stéphane Passet. This structure and the frescoes seen inside are no longer extant and were demolished some time later

The SGPC has been criticized by Sikh organizations and individuals for having an apathetic and destructive attitude towards historical Sikh heritage sites, artwork, and architecture.[22][23][24][25][26][27] In response to these criticisms, the SGPC announced that it has launched a project to document Sikh heritage.[28][29] As many as ninety percent of Sikh heritage monuments have been destroyed in Punjab in the name of renovation and kar seva.[30] Historic trees associated with Sikh history are also at risk due to neglectful and poorly made judgements without consulting botanical experts, such as strangling the roots and base with concrete and marble, covering the trees with fibre glass, and erecting steel beams around the trunks.[31] Efforts are ongoing to revive and preserve the life of the Beri trees surrounding the Golden Temple.[32][33][34][35] The SGPC has also been criticized for their lack of action on preventing beadbi (desecrations) of the Guru Granth Sahib and other Sikh scriptures from occurring.[36] Large amounts of historical Sikh scriptural manuscripts have been systematically "cremated" (burnt to destruction)[37][38] over the years at secretive ‘Angitha Sahib’ gurdwaras in Punjab.[39]

According to Sikh scholar, Gurtej Singh, on who is to blame for the plight of Sikh historical heritage:[40]

Whether it is the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee or the Akal Takht or even the political Akali Dal which draws its strength from the former two, there is no appreciation for our heritage. Scholars like us do not matter in the scheme of things, because we obstruct their commercial aspirations. The SGPC patronises these babas and they do not realise that they are converting history into mythology by destroying historical evidence.

— Gurtej Singh

On 6 September 2023, the SGPC announced plans to digitize Sikh literature and scriptures kept in the collection of Sri Guru Ramdas Library in Amritsar.[41] There are plans to make the digitized works available to the public on a website in the near future.[41]

Lack of action towards missionaries

See also: Christianity in Punjab, India

After being criticized for their lack of action in responding the growing number of Sikhs leaving the fold and converting to Christianity and not addressing the caste and social issues that gives impetus to the phenomenon,[42][43][44][45] and as a response to the allegations and growing tension between the local Sikh and Christian communities,[46] the SGPC had announced a drive called Ghar Ghar Andar Dharamsaal (meaning 'sacred shrine within every home') to counter missionaries targeting Sikhs and to educate the Sikh population on the tenets of their faith.[47][48][49][50][51]

Monopoly on determining Sikh identity

See also: Rehat

The SGPC has been accused for enforcing their standards on who and who is not considered a Sikh.[18] This leaves many heterodox sects, such as Nirmalas, Nirankaris, Udasis, and others feeling marginalized and erased from the Sikh community by the orthodox SGPC.[52][53][54] The SGPC has clarified that members of the Udasi and Nirmala sects are "Sikhs".[55][56]

Sexism

See also: Women in Sikhism

Women currently are unofficially banned from singing or performing kirtan (religious devotional singing and musical performance) in sanctum sanctorum of the Golden Temple, a gurdwara under the management of the SGPC.[57][58][59][60] The Punjab Legislative Assembly passed a motion to allow women to perform there in 2019.[61] In 1999, Bibi Jagir Kaur became the first female president of the SGPC.[21]

Religious discrimination

See also: Islam and Sikhism

Traditional Muslim rababis and kirtanis, including claimed descendants of Bhai Mardana (companion of Guru Nanak),[62] have been banned from performing at the Golden Temple since 1947 as the SGPC has altered the rules to only allow baptized Khalsa Sikhs to perform services at the Golden Temple.[63][64][65][66] Before partition, they were granted special allowance to perform at the temple.[62][67]

Corruption

Allegations of large-scale corruption have been claimed against the SGPC.[68][69][70][71][72][73]

See also

References

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  3. ^ "Education thrust area in Rs 1,064-cr SGPC budget".
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  7. ^ "About Us". Welcome To DESGPC Website. Retrieved 23 April 2016.
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  65. ^ Aslam, Irfan (7 May 2015). "Bhai Ghulam Muhammad Chand: lost gem of Rababi kirtan singing". DAWN.COM. Retrieved 8 January 2023.
  66. ^ "Noted rababi kirtan singer Bhai Chand passes away in Lahore at 80". Hindustan Times. 1 May 2015. Retrieved 8 January 2023.
  67. ^ Brar, Kamaldeep Singh (23 May 2022). "Remove harmonium from Golden Temple? Sikh music scholars strike differing notes". The Indian Express. Retrieved 8 January 2023. There were Muslim rababis, too, who used to play in gurdwaras. This system of supporting ragis and rababis collapsed after the British came.
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Further reading