In the absence of Gurdwara Prabandak Board in J&K, all Gurdwara Prabandak Committees have become defunct, making it difficult for the Sikh community to run administrative affairs at religious places across the state.
Gurdwara Prabandak Board is the highest body of Sikhs responsible for the management of Gurdwaras across the state, looking after administration, finance, maintenance and all other religious affairs of the community.
The members of this board are elected by an electoral college. The Jammu province comprising 10 districts elect eight members for the Board while seven members are elected from Kashmir province, including Ladakh.
However, after completion of election process for Gurdwara Prabandak Committees in 2015, the polls to elect members for Board are yet to be initiated.
"The term of the elected Board members is five years. The last elections held for the Board were in 2003. Its term ended in 2008. Since then, all administrative matters are hanging in air," said Inderjeet Singh, executive member of Gurdwara Prabandak Committee of Budgam.
As per the Jammu and Kashmir Sikh Gurdwaras and Religious Endowment Act (1973), general powers of the committees are subject to the superintendence and control of the Board.
In absence of the Board, the elected Gurdwara Prabandak Committees have become defunct as the implementation of any decision by these committees is subject to approval by the Board.
"There are issues of Gurdwara employees which need to be redressed, budget has to be passed by the Board, other important decisions need to be taken for maintenance of our religious properties. All these matters are hanging in air due to non-holding of polls to Board," said Mohindar Singh Pal.
Pal added that the Board is as important for Sikh community as the Wakf Board is to Muslims and as Shri Mata Viashno Devi Shrine Board is to Hindus.
According to the Jammu and Kashmir Sikh Gurdwaras and Religious Endowment Act (1973), the notification for the election to Gurdwara Prabandak Board shall be issued within fifteen days after holding of these district level polls. However, it has not happened in present case.
"In absence of the Board we are not able to run religious affairs effectively at Gurdwaras. Although the matter is in the court, government has done nothing so far to fight the issue legally to get the stay vacated to complete the process of constituting the Board for smooth functioning and management of Gurdwaras in the state," said Gurmeet Singh.
In 2015, the government had replaced district Pulwama with district Bandipora in the Electoral College which the Sikh community opposed saying, "Bandipora has no population of Sikhs."
The Sikh community members from Pulwama approached the state High Court and secured a stay for the replacement order.
"The way government has adopted casual approach in this issue, it appears that those at the helm of affairs are not interested in completing the election process," Singh added.
There are around 500 Sikh shrines in Jammu and Kashmir. All Gurdwaras in the state are managed by the Board through respective District Parbandhak Committees constituted under the Jammu and Kashmir Sikh Gurdwaras and Religious Endowment Act (1973), Act.
Law Secretary Abdul Majid Bhat said he has to check the file to know present status of the case. "Presently, I am out of station. I will check the case status once I am back," he added.