KARACHI: The recent appointment of members to the Sikh Gurdhwara Prabandhak Committee in Lahore has irked the Pakistan Sikh Council (PSC) patron in Karachi.
Speaking to Dawn, PSC head Sardar Ramesh Singh said: “The Sikh community in Karachi has been ignored during the selection of the Prabandhak Committee. The committee has been there since 1999 and not even once a member from Karachi has been taken in it.”
The appointment to the Prabandhak Committee, which simply means a committee that looks after religious affairs, is a sought-after affair in the Sikh community.
The prime minister recently gave the nod to a 13-member committee on recommendation of Evacuee Trust Property Board chairman Siddiq ul Farooq. Additional secretary of shrines Khalid Ali will be its secretary.
Selection of the committee head will, however, be done after Baba Guru Nanak’s birth anniversary celebrations beginning on Tuesday in Punja Sahib, Hasan Abdal, on Nov 8. The PSC reservations in this regard are about not taking “enough members” from Sindh. Ramesh Singh said: “Only two members have been appointed and that too from Deherki, Sindh, where Sikhs are already in a very small number”. He said there were just 20 families there, whereas in Karachi there were 5,000 Sikhs and the representation would have been much fairer, had the committee chosen to look towards the city as well.
The PSC reservations come at a time when both the government and the Sikh community are taking a step towards maintaining cordial relations after the events of May, when angry Sikhs stormed the parliament house in Islamabad after incidents in Sindh of desecration of Guru Granth Sahib (the holy book of Sikhs).
Amarnath Motumal, an activist and formerly associated with the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, said this disagreement over appointments had more to do with the brewing conflict between Sikhs and “Hindus converted to Sikhism” in Sindh.
“Even in the case of desecration of Guru Granth Sahib in Madheji in May, the PSC had pointed its finger at the Hindu Panchayat rather than investigating the matter,” he added.
He said there was a thought among Sikh elders that those appointed from Sindh were “recent converts to Sikhism”, who were earlier Hindus. “A majority of Sikhs across Sindh are recent converts to Sikhism. That’s the actual bone of contention — who is the real Sikh with legitimate roots.”
But with the growing distrust between Sikhs and Hindus, who recently converted to Sikhism, the conflict is deepening, he added.
However, PSC’s Ramesh Singh refuted the claims of a rift between Sikhs and Hindus.
“We have lived side by side with Hindus for centuries. What I’m definitely against is the unfair treatment meted out to Sikhs of Karachi over those who do not represent a majority in their towns,” he added.
*Published in Dawn, November 3rd, 2014