‘ Things were the worst in SGPC, time now to reverse trend ’
In July 2017, he gave up position of leader of opposition to
continue fighting the cases of 1984 anti-Sikh riots victims. In
December 2018, he came in for praise after conviction of senior
Congress leader Sajjan Kumar. In January 2019, senior advocate
Harvinder Singh Phoolka resigned from AAP to work and rid the
Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee of politics. He tells TOI
how plans to go about his latest mission.
You have announced a movement to free SGPC of political control. What is your roadmap for it?
We don’t want to shift control of SGPC from one political party to another. We shall provide a platform to all those against the politicization of SGPC. Idea is to bring Sikh religious groups — missionaries, preachers, sant samaj and other non-political groups — together, urging them to set aside their differences and chalk out a common minimum programme. There are several jathas already serving the gurdwaras and the community but they don’t get any opportunity. We shall act as facilitator to so that they can perform the sewa at larger level.
Have you planned the organizational structure?
There will be a core group of five members, then a 21-member committee, and then 51-member committee. None from the core group or the 21 members would contest the SGPC elections. They would be guiding and running the movement. The core group will be taking up the issues with the Centre, Punjab government, Chief Commissioner Gurudwara Election and if required moving the courts to ensure that elections are held in a free and fair manner, rules are implemented in letter and spirit. They would create an atmosphere where spirit of Sikh ethos is not lost in the elections.
What’s your criteria of picking up people?
Our foremost condition will be for those who are against political control on SGPC. We shall pick up those who have good religious and social standing and whose first loyalty is towards the Guru, the community and its interests and not to a politician or a political party. Our idea is that no office-bearer of a political party can contest the election of a SGPC member and latter can’t contest the other elections as in latter case there remains big possibility of misuse of SGPC resources.
So far, you appear to be moving alone?
I am not alone. Justice Kuldeep Singh (retd) is already on board and has agreed to mentor the movement. We are in touch with other well-meaning and prominent Sikhs. Moreover, there has been tremendous positive response from the community and already several have offered to volunteer.
Why this movement now?
The urge within the community is over two decades old. In 1999, there was brazen political interference in the working of SGPC and even in working of Akal Takht that had triggered a debate in the community and issue was strongly discussed at Sikh forum in Delhi too. While community wanted improvement but things kept on deteriorating and in last few years, with pardon to Sirsa dear chief and then SGPC spending funds to justify it, Bargari sacrilege etc made it clear that things were at worst level. Now, it is time to completely reverse the trend. It is a now or never situation as the urge within the community to free it from political clutches is at its peak. The strongest institution of the community has become subservient to vested political interests.
Are you facing any negative reaction too?
It has already started coming. After all those directly affected would be opposing the movement. In addition, those who wanted to use the same channel to use SGPC as springboard to get power in Punjab would also be opposing it as they also did not want to change the system but only faces. There is another section which has been speaking about the change but is skeptical as they consider it a very big challenge. The challenge, however, has to be accepted.
Will you call it ‘Gurdwara Reform Movement-2’?
I shall call it cleansing of SGPC administration and freeing it from political clutches.