NEW DELHI

Contentious Sikh meet passes off peacefully

CHANDIGARH OCT. 26. Even as a conglomerate of fringe Sikh organisations posed an open challenge to the authority and functioning of the community's apex clergy especially the Jathedar of the Akal Takhat, questioned the functioning of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) and appealed for the ousting of the present leadership, its congregation "World Sikh Convention" passed of peacefully.

The President of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), Parkash Singh Badal, has expressed grave concern over the developments surrounding the convention, which he described as a "Congress-sponsored tamasha" and as a "direct Government engineered Congress challenge to the authority of the holy Shri Akal Takhat. The congress is indulging in its old game plan and trying to undermine the authority and dignity of Sikh religious institutions. The Khalsa Panth will not allow these designs to succeed."

The convention faced various problems including fixing a venue. Its previous venue, a studio, was cancelled a few days ago. Finally, the convention was organised in the Community Centre of Phase-V of Mohali, which is Chandigarh's satellite township in Punjab. Tight security arrangements, with armed police personnel and regular patrolling of the town prevented any untoward incident.

Various organisations owing allegiance to the SGPC, Mr. Badal's Akali party, different factions of the Sikh Students' Federation, religious seminaries, fundamentalist outfits and set-ups opposed to any change in the status quo, had threatened to disrupt the convention. Some of these outfits had even threatened to resort to violence. However, the vigil by the administration prevented any ugly scene, while 250 persons were said to have been rounded up as they began marching to protest against the convention.

At the convention, six resolutions were drafted at a delegate session and subsequently adopted in the open house. The resolutions sought to bring about changes in the functioning of the religious institutions and restoring the Maryada (code of religious conduct) as per the spirit and directions of the Sikh Gurus laid down in the Guru Granth Sahib. The convention sought to cleanse the religious practices from the various brahmanical practices and dilute the influence of RSS and it various outfits.

One of the most interesting developments was that the Khalistani ideologue, Jagjit Singh Chohan's call for reviving the struggle for Khalistan, as a separate Sikh State, was vociferously rejected by the gathering. Dr. Chohan's earlier suggestions seeking replacement of the Gurdwara Act of 1925, early elections to the SGPC and ouster of the present Akali leadership were reciprocated by a major response.

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