|SGPC (Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee), Sri Amritsar
Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Sri Amritsar abbreviated as SGPC and called as mini-parliament of Sikhs, is directly elected through election by the Sikh sangat i.e. Sikh male and female voters above 18 years of age who are registered as voters under the provisions of the Sikh Gurdwaras Act, 1925.
This Act was enacted by the British Punjab Government after assent of the Punjab Governor-General on July 28, 1925, A.D. which was published first time in Punjab Gazette of August 07, 1925, A.D. This Act came into force on November 1, 1925, A.D. following its official notification No. 4288-S dated October 12, 1925, A.D.
Following the demise of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in June 1839, A.D. the Sikh Empire started to decline and it finally lasted till March 1849, A.D. when the British government took over the charge in Punjab.
To take control of Sri Harmandar Sahib, Sri Darbar Sahib, Amritsar, the British government first appointed a “Chief Administrator” (Sarabraah) through deputy commissioner (DC), Amritsar and the use of gurdwara management started to take place for establishing Christianity in Punjab.
Slowly, the devout Sikhs began to break away from the Guru Ghars (house) and during the British rule, the management of Gurdwaras came into the hands of udasi mahants, and these managers played in the hands of the ruling power.
Following, to rectify the deterioration in the management of the Gurdwaras, the alert or conscious Gursikhs organized themselves to consolidate the power and capability and formed Singh Sabha Lehar (movement) and Chief Khalsa Diwan. With these developments, the Sikhs started Gurdwara Reform Movement to improve management in Gurdwaras.
Gurdwara Reform Movement
A diwan (congregation) of the Sikhs was organized at Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar on October 12, 1920, A.D., to end casteism and untouchability and a large number of Sikhs from so-called backward classes were initiated (took Amrit) into Khalsa and decorated. Then the Sikhs proceeded to offer prayers with Degh at Sachkhand Sri Harmandar Sahib. But the mahants of Sri Harmandar Sahib refused to accept Degh offered by the recently initiated Sikhs (from so-calle backward classes). After some arguments, the priests agreed to offer ardas (prayers) and take holy Hukamnama. After this, the jatha of these Sikhs came to Sri Akal Takht Sahib for prayers, but the priests left Sri Akal Takht Sahib empty. The Sikhs took the possession of Sri Akal Takht Sahib.
On October 13, 1920, A.D. Amritsar deputy commissioner (DC), a British officer, formed nine-member committee of reformist Sikhs to manage Sri Harmandar Sahib.
Another assembly of Sikh leaders and representatives was called on November 15, 1920, A.D. and in this assembly, a 175-member committee was set up which was named as “Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Sri Amritsar”.
This committee held its first meeting on December 12, 1920, A.D. at Sri Akal Takht Sahib and a sub-committee was formed to draft the constitution of the SGPC.
Amid reformist movement, on January 25, 1921, A.D. Akali jatha was attacked by mahants and their accomplices in Gurdwara Sri Tarn Taran Sahib and some Sikhs were injured. On January 26, 1921, A.D. Sikhs took control of Sri Tarn Taran Sahib. On January 27, 1921, A.D. fatally injured Hazara Singh of Aladinpur got martyred and Hukam Singh of Wasau Kot got martyred on February 4, 1921, A.D. and the two became first martyrs of the Gurdwara Reform Movement.
On February 20, 1921, A.D. the Nankana Sahib massacre took place and about 168 Sikhs got martyred after murderous attack by Mahant Narain Dass and his hired men. On February 21, 1921, A.D. Lahore commissioner handed over keys of Nankana Sahib gurdwara to a seven-member committee of Sikhs representing SGPC.
On March 14, 1921, A.D. a resolution was brought in Punjab legislative council, moving the local government to take steps to introduce a bill and urging the governor general to promulgate an ordinance to alter and reform existing management of gurdwaras.
On April 16, 1921, A.D. the Sikh Gurdwara and Shrines Bill was tabled in Punjab assembly council and on April 23, 1921, A.D. British Punjab government organized conference between SGPC representatives and mahants.
On April 30, 1921, A.D. the SGPC was registered with the authorities.
Chabian da Morcha
SGPC passed a resolution on October 29, 1921, A.D. that keys to the toshakhana (treasury) of Sri Darbar Sahib should be with the president of SGPC, which were with the then British government appointed Sarbaraah (chief administrator) Sundar Singh Ramgarhia, who was also vice-president of SGPC. When the news came to the notice of Amritsar DC, a British officer; on November 7, 1921, A.D. Lala Amar Nath additional district magistrate (ADM) along with police guard reached Sundar Singh Ramgarhia’s house and demanded the keys to the treasury. Sundar Singh Ramgarhia received the keys and handed them over and at the same time informed the SGPC. The British government changed him and appointed loyal Capt Bahadur Singh as Sarbaraah in his place.
Sikhs started Chabian da Morcha on November 21, 1921, A.D. which was successfully completed on January 17, 1922, A.D. and in a big gathering at Sri Akal Takht Sahib, the keys of toshakhana were handed over to the President of SGPC Baba Kharak Singh by the administration on January 19, 1922, A.D.
Guru Ka Bagh Morcha
On the issue of Sikhs taking wood for langar (community kitchen) from land attached to Gurdwara Guru Ka Bagh, about 20 kilometers from Amritsar, the arrests of Sikhs were made by the British government. The issue took form of a peaceful agitation known as Guru Ka Bagh Morcha on August 8, 1922, A.D. and about 100 Sikhs were injured in police lathi-charge at this front. The Sikhs continued agitation for their right to take wood for langar from attached gurdwara land and on September 13, 1922, A.D. the police started arresting Sikhs going towards Guru Ka Bagh. About 5,605 Sikhs, including 35 SGPC members were arrested till November 17, 1922, A.D.
The British government at last gave up and found escape route by involving Sir Ganga Ram of Lahore, who took Guru Ka Bagh land on lease from mahants and wrote to government that he required no police protection. The government had an excuse not to interfere with the Sikhs, who could then go to cut wood from the concerned attached land.
Sikhs launched Jaito Morcha against the removal of Maharaja of Nabha and later disruption of Sri Akhand Path Sahib (48 hours continuous recitation of Sri Guru Granth Sahib) at Gurdwara Gangsar, Jaito by the British officials on August 27, 1923, A.D. The British Punjab government banned SGPC and Shiromani Akali Dal on October 12, 1923, A.D. after they launched this Jaito Morcha and the Sikh leaders were arrested on the charge of sedition. Dozens of Sikhs got martyred and injured in firing by police when their jatha reached Jaito from Sri Akal Takht Sahib to restart Sri Akhand Path Sahib on February 21, 1924, A.D. and later Punjab Provincial Government withdrew the ban on holding Sri Akhand Path Sahib in Jaito on July 21, 1924, A.D.
During a specially convened session of Punjab legislative council in Simla on May 7, 1925, the Sikh Gurdwara and Shrines Bills, 1925, was introduced and the select committee of legislative council submitted a report on legislation on June 20, 1925, A.D.
The bill was passed unanimously in July, 1925, A.D. and it got assent of governor-general on July 28, 1925, A.D. and became an Act.
After the enactment of the Act, the first election to central board of SGPC was held under this act on June 18, 1926, A.D.
The present house is comprised of 191 members, of which, 170 are elected from different areas including Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, and Chandigarh, 15 members are nominated from all over the country, six members include Hon’ble Jathedars of five Takht Sahibs and Head Granthi of Sachkhand Sri Harmandar Sahib. Among these 30 seats are reserved for women.
Legacy of 100 years
With over 100 years since its formation, the SGPC is managing historic gurdwaras in the states of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Chandigarh, and to run this management, the members and representatives are elected by the sangat through votes from their respective areas in a transparent manner.
Under Section 85 of the Sikh Gurdwaras Act, the SGPC is running smooth and transparent management of 83 historic gurdwaras and the same under Section 87 is 200 gurdwaras.
For the research on authentic history of the Sikhs, a Sikh Itihas Research Board and a Sikh Reference Library are established at Sri Amritsar.
For flourishing education in the rural and backward areas, many educational institutions are running under the SGPC management.