Balancing act or power struggle: The story of the Gurbani’s broadcast from Golden Temple

Broadcast rights moved from channel to channel before settling on PTC – but now the AAP govt has stepped in.

WrittenBy:Gurmehar Kaur
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In the simmering heat of June, the wheels of governance in Punjab turned towards a landmark decision. A revision was in the offing, a tweak to the pages of legislation drawn up nearly a century ago.

On June 20, the Aam Aadmi Party government amended the Sikh Gurdwaras Act, 1925, which administers certain Sikh gurdwaras scattered across Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Chandigarh. The amendment said it was the “duty” of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee to enable the free broadcast of Gurbani from the halls of the Golden Temple in Amritsar.

The SGPC is the primary religious organisation responsible for the management and maintenance of gurdwaras. Gurbani refers to the sacred hymns and compositions by Sikh gurus and others in the Guru Granth Sahib. Until June, the broadcast of Gurbani from the Golden Temple took place only on a channel called PTC, apart from All India Radio. The agreement in this regard was struck in 2011 between the SGPC and G-Next Media, the company that owns PTC. The contract expires this year.

The government’s intent was the democratisation of spiritual broadcasts. But despite the AAP’s seemingly egalitarian move, the amendment stirred controversy among opposition parties and the Sikh electorate. 

Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann defended it as an attempt to dissolve the “monopoly over Gurbani telecast”. Critics called it a state directly involving itself in a minority community’s religious matters.

Where does the truth lie? Newslaundry spoke to stakeholders to find out.

Gurbani’s journey into a million homes 

The first mention of the relay of Gurbani was in the Shiromani Akali Dal’s Anandpur Sahib resolution of 1978. The document was a plea for greater autonomy to Punjab, safeguarding the rights of Sikhs and other minorities, and the preservation of the Sikh religion and culture which was primarily led by prominent Sikh leaders of the time, including Harchand Singh Longowal and Gurcharan Singh Tohra. 

The ninth resolution in this document called for the state to “install a broadcasting station at Golden Temple, Amritsar, for the relay of Gurbani Kirtan”.  The cost would be borne by the Khalsa Panth – a religious community within Sikhism that was established by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699 – while overarching control would remain with the Indian government.

Kanwar Sandhu, a journalist and former AAP member, said it was a “very harmless demand”. “I wonder why it was not granted,” he added. 

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