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SAY NO TO UNESCO

UNESCO has sent a specialist to Amritsar to investigate the suitability of Sri Darbar Sahib to be included in the world heritage site list. Heritage status will put the Sri Darbar Sahib on the list of sites whose architecture will have to be preserved by the Indian government with the help of the international community, i.e. UNESCO.

It is argued that this will also give Sri Darbar Sahib prestige and exposure once it is considered to be an important site for world heritage by UNESCO.

However there are important implications that arise as a result of fulfilling the criteria and through the responses sent, these will have been considered to have been endorsed by the Sikh community. One of the responses implies that India 's jurisdiction and administration applies in Sri Akal Takht Sahib.

The result could alter the sovereign status of the Sri Akal Takht Sahib irretrievably in the near future and will have involuntarily ended the controversy of the question 'whose jurisdiction runs at the Sri Akal Takht Sahib?'

It is important to debate these issues before a major step such as compromising the sovereignty of Sri Akal Takht Sahib is taken.

In the list of sites already granted heritage status, no seat of sovereignty has either applied or listed. For instance Buckingham Palace , White House, Rashtarpatti Bhavan and so on.

The reason is that such institutions potentially face danger from man made damage resulting from conflicts. By submitting an application for such status, the institution is effectively stating that the property does not have seat of sovereignty. For instance, for Buckingham Palace to be included, the Queen will have to be resident elsewhere as she is the head of state.

For the Sri Darbar Sahib complex , this will mean, the Sri Akal Takht Sahib is no longer the seat of sovereignty of the Panth but just another building with cultural functions. While this may suit the Indian State and many 'modernised' Sikhs, it may not be agreeable to Amritdhari Sikhs.

The second deeper and complicated question concerns Sri Harimandir Sahib itself. Philosophically, the Sri Darbar Sahib complex is instituted so that no manmade agency has assumption of power of jurisdiction over Sri Harimandir Sahib except Akal Purakh. Does this submission conflict with this arrangement in anyway?
These questions arise from the criteria set and requirements of the continuing listing:

The state is required to take the appropriate legal, scientific, technical, administrative and financial measures necessary for the identification, protection, conservation, presentation and rehabilitation of this heritage;

Under the "Juridical data" section of the nomination form States Parties should provide, in addition to the legal texts protecting the property being nominated, an explanation of the way in which these laws actually operate. This requires the state government to show how it

1 exercises jurisdiction over the site
2 what mechanisms are in place
3 How do they operate

If the Indian government states that it has legal statutes in place to ensure its juridical management in the Sri Darbar Sahib complex, this brings into question the sovereignty of Sri Akal Takht Sahib. Since the application is approved by the Sikhs and promoted by SGPC, any statements made by the state party, ie India , will be considered to be the official position of the Sikhs henceforth.

The indian government is seeking to bind Sri Darbar Sahib within Indian jurisdiction. If there are problems in future, or concerns, the Indian State can bypass the SGPC and install its own management structures. The Sikhs will be at a loss having given that authority to the State through this document.

The Committee shall have a list of Heritage sites in Danger where there is

POTENTIAL DANGER - The property is faced with threats which could have deleterious effects on its inherent characteristics. Such threats are, for example:
o modification of juridical status of the property diminishing the degree of its protection;
o outbreak or threat of armed conflict;

The government could stop a Sarbat Khalsa taking place at Sri Akal Takht Sahib as it could potentially precipitate a political movement. The government would simply remind the Sikhs that they had signed up to the rules of the Heritage Status criteria

The inclusion of a property in the World Heritage List requires the consent of the State concerned.

This is a challenge to the Sikhs, Is Sri Darbar Sahib formally within Indian territory or is it still an issue of contention? Does India 's jurisdiction end at the doors of Sri Darbar Sahib or was 1984's reactions all a silly mistake by the Sikhs? Will the Sikhs concede now that Sri Akal Takht is under the jurisdiction of India ?

However no contentious claim has yet been made to UNESCO by any Sikh authority..

By implication the application effectively requires the rationale of Sri Akal Takht Sahib, as intended by the Gurus, to be brought to an end. By default or by intention this will have been done.

In the past the Sikhs have walked into many situations without examining the implications of the documents they agree to for spurious and small promises, only to regret later when grave consequences occur. Are the advantages of an international committee to assist preservation of the site worth throwing away the sovereignty of Sri Akal Takht Sahib?

Lastly as the application process requires participation of local people in the nomination process is essential to make them feel a shared responsibility with the State Party in the maintenance of the site.

Has this been done and who are the local people in this case, Isn't it the worldwide Sikhs community who needs to be made to share responsibility by consulting it first?

Have the owners, ie the Sikh community been asked? Has the Sikh community given SGPC ownership of Sri Darbar Sahib to do as it feels?

Here are our questions

If possession lies with the community, why has the community not been consulted? Moreover which community has possession? Just the Sikhs in Punjab or the Sikhs worldwide?

The SGPC is a statutory body. That is effectively a government sanctioned body. How can it represent the Sikhs worldwide since it is under the jurisdiction of India . Does it represent British, Canadian, American and other Sikhs?

As the self proclaimed highest authority in religious matters that claims its decisions are final in religious matters for all Sikhs, has the SGPC, a local body in Punjab, superseded Sri Akal Takht Sahib now. When did this happen? Do the Sikhs know? Is this response factually correct? Will it not create problems for us in future having accepted this and submitted it at the international level.

Where is the documentary evidence of government's intention of non-interference.

Has the government repealed Article 146 of Gurdwara Act: 'The [Central] Government may make rules not inconsistent with the Act to carry out all or any of the purposes of the Act.'

Why does the DC of Amritsar have control over SGPC elections and ensure that Indian Constitution is observed in any decisions, implementing Indian jurisdiction over SGPC affairs.

Among the buildings included in the plan are Sri Akal Takht Sahib. Is it necessary to put Sri Akal Takht Sahib in the application?

Only countries, and not organisations, such as SGPC, can send applications for heritage status to UNESCO. Therefore the Indian authorities sent an application, after demands from the SGPC. But, the application stated that 'it was Indian authorities, that had the legal charge of Sikh shrines, as SGPC was constituted under the Indian laws. However the highest seat of spiritual and temporal authority for the Sikhs is Sri Akal Takht.

Lest us forget Operation Bluestar, when the Indian government dared send in its troops and tanks and destroyed most of the Akal Takht and other religious buildings as well as burnt the important Sikh Library. And now we can trust them with the very sacred things that they have repeatedly set out to eliminate?

The Panth alone will decide on all matters regarding Sri Darbar Sahib complex and no UNESCO, Indian authority, political party or the Indian government controlled SGPC should dare stand in the way of the Panth. If they choose to do so then they will face the same fate as the rest of the people in history that have tried to take the Sikhs holiest Gurdwaras off the Sikhs.

Please send the following sample letters to UNESCO particularly and other bodies.

LETTER TO UNESCO

LETTER TO SGPC

Director General UNESCO
Mr. Koichiro Matsuura
Director-General
UNESCO
7, Place de Fontenoy
75007 Paris
France
Fax number : 00 +33 (0)1 45 67 16 9
EMAIL Spokesperson@unesco.org

SGPC FAX 0091 [0]183-2553919
E-mail : sgpc@vsnl.com

Capt. Amarinder Singh
Chief Minister
Punjab
cm@punjabmail.gov.in
Tel 2740325, 2740769

The President of India
Mr Abdul Kalam
Rashterpatti Bhavan
New Delhi , India
Tel +91 (011) 2301 7824
Fax +91 (011) 2301 2290

Prime Minister of India
Dr Manmohan Singh
New Delhi
Tel +91 (011) 2301 8939
Fax +91 (011) 2301 6857
Email: http://pmindia.nic.in/write.htm

With thanks to:

W!N, Witness84 & SHRG