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Gross Neglect and Violations of Maryada In Pakistan Gurdwaras

By STAFF, Lahore, Jan. 18, 2003

Even as the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (P.S.G.P.C.) claims to have undertaken the renovation of gurdwaras in the country, the majority of gurdwaras are in a dilapidated condition. Only those gurdwaras are properly maintained that are frequently visited by Sikhs from across the world. The P.S.G.P.C. has shown some interest in the development of gurdwaras like Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak, and others like Sacha Sauda, Panja Sahib (Hasanabdal), Dera Sahib (Lahore) and Rori Sahib (Gujjranwala). The developments in these gurdwaras have included renovations of their structures, construction of sarais (inns) with modern facilities for the visiting devotees, construction of new langar halls (community kitchens), beautification of the surroundings, besides making security arrangements. However, the P.S.G.P.C. has turned a blind eye to other historical gurudwaras, which are often situated within short distances of other gurudwaras in the city.

Among the historical gurdwaras that are being grossly neglected are Singh Singhania, Janamasthan Guru Ram Das, Bhai Taro Ji, Bal Leela, Pattee Sahib, Keyara Sahib, Maaljee Sahib, Sacha Sauda, Sach Khand, Tamboo Sahib, Chakkee Sahib, Bhai Lalo Di Khooyee, Nanak Garh and Chowbacha Sahib. Several gurdwara buildings are either rapidly deteriorating, in process of decay, or have already collapsed. There are as many as 172 historical Sikhs shrines spread across Pakistan whereas the Pakistan government allows Indian Sikhs to visit only the developed gurdwaras.

When it was determined at the time of India's partition in 1947 that many of the Sikh historical sites would fall within Pakistan's borders, the responsibility for the maintenance of Sikh sites in Pakistan was given to the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbhandhak Committee (S.G.P.C.), Amritsar. The S.G.P.C. was also given powers to appoint sewadars (caretakers) [for the gurdwaras in Pakistan]. The S.G.P.C. was the only Sikh organization authorized to organize annual visits of jathas [troops] to the gurdwaras in Pakistan and to collect the charhava (cash offerings) from these gurdwaras. Citing the failure of the S.G.P.C. in discharging its responsibilities towards the Sikh gurdwaras in Pakistan and the channeling of Pakistan gurdwara offerings to India, the Pakistan government constituted a gurdwara management body, the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (P.S.G.P.C.).

However, P.S.G.P.C.'s sincerity and emotional attachment to these holy places has often been questioned. Further, P.S.G.P.C. employees are not well-versed with the Sikh maryada (code of conduct). Matters have been made worse by the ad hoc approach of the S.G.P.C. towards the gurdwaras in Pakistan and the blame game between the two entities. Land grabbers have encroached upon the gurdwara properties without challenge from the P.S.G.P.C. For example, the structures of both gurdwara Singh Singhania and gurdwara Bhai Taro Ji, in Lahore, have been damaged and the locals have even constructed toilets in the gurdwara premises. People can be seen smoking in the gurdwara compounds. There is no Guru Granth Sahib in the majority of gurdwaras where, instead, in violation of the Maryada, the P.S.G.P.C. has installed pictures of Sikh Gurus. No sewadars have been appointed.

Often policemen in uniform walk into gurdwaras. During Gurpurab celebrations, 'mini bazaars' include P.S.G.P.C. stalls with shoe and cloth shops in the gurdwara premises. Visitors are allowed in with uncovered heads. During a recent Gurpurab at gurdwara Janamasthan, the birthplace of Guru Nanak, the P.S.G.P.C. allotted a Rs. 80,000 (US$1500) contract for a bazaar on the premises. When asked to comment on the violations of Sikh maryada, an officer of the P.S.G.P.C. gave the justification that the P.S.G.P.C. was itself unaware of the maryada. He, however, said that for the purpose they would seek help from the S.G.P.C.