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Live Broadcast of the Holy Gurbani

Sikhs across the world, as also a large  number of Punjabis and Sindhis, have great faith in and reverence for the Golden Temple in Amritsar especially the live holy Gurbani which is relayed from the precincts of the sanctum sanctorum in the presence of the Guru Granth Sahib. In fact the live telecast of the Gurbani by Doordarshan was one of the key demands of the Akali Dal in the eighties, and at least two Governors of Punjab during the period of turmoil, Arjun Singh, a diehard politician, and the veteran ICS officer, BD Pande, were agreeable to accepting this demand as an olive branch to the agitating Akalis. However,  this demand, as well as the renaming of the Flying Mail as the Golden Temple Express was not accepted by the Union Government until after the 1984 Blue Star operation.

During the previous regime of the Akali Dal, the exclusive rights for the broadcast of the  holy Gurbani were accorded by the Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), which controls this shrine, to the PTC, a television channel owned by the Badal family. The present AAP government has brought about an amendment in the Sikh Gurdwaras Act, 1925, by inserting Section 125 A in the Act, thereby making it incumbent on the SGPC  to ensure ‘free-to-air’ live telecast of the holy Gurbani from Sri Harmandir Sahib. This will certainly cut into the revenues of the G-Next Media (PTC Channel), which is owned by Shiromani Akali Dal President and former Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal. The SGPC, which is still controlled by the Badals, has urged Punjab Governor Banwari Purohit to nullify the Sikh Gurdwaras (Amendment) Bill, 2023, which clears the path for free-to-air telecast of the holy Gurbani from the Golden Temple.

Meanwhile another issue has cropped up – that of the legitimacy of the current SGPC, as elections have not been held to this body for the last eleven years, and most positions are occupied by ‘acting‘ office holders. It bears recall that the first Gurudwara Act was passed by the then government of (British) Punjab to free the control of the Gurudwaras from the hereditary Udasi Masands, who had established their stranglehold over the Gurudwaras. The Act was the outcome of a long drawn struggle in which the Akali Dal received complete support from the Congress leadership including Mahatma Gandhi.

It is high time that the Centre, the state and the SGPC sit together and resolve this issue in a non adversarial mode, for acrimony in this sensitive border state does not augur well for its people, the state and the country.