GUWAHATI, Aug 29 - A Sikh delegation led by the Delhi MLA and Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) general secretary Manjinder Singh Sirsa today met Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, demanding a Sikh Development Council in the State for the Assamese Sikhs, along with special status facilities.
The Sikh delegation informed the media here today that the Chief Minister has agreed to implement the Anand Marriage Act in the State at the earliest for registration of marriage of Sikh couple, starting a pilgrimage tour for the Sikh community to their places of religious importance in the country including Sri Darbar Sahib, Amritsar.
The Assamese Sikh community is the progeny of the Sikh commandoes sent by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the ruler of Punjab, to help Ahom king Chandrakanta Singh fight invaders from Burma in 1822. The survivors decided to settle down in Assam, married local women and with time their link with Punjab was cut off. Assimilated to the greater Assamese society, the community is still an ardent follower of Sikhism.
It may be noted that there are nearly one lakh members of the Sikh community in Assam, out of which, 15,000 are the Assamese Sikhs, mostly concentrated around Nagaon.
While acknowledging the role of the Sikhs in forming the greater Assamese society, the Chief Minister assured the delegation of taking up all of their demands on priority basis to empower the community.
�The Chief Minister has agreed to most of our demands, including approved allotment of 10 bighas of land for setting up social welfare projects in Guwahati and Nagaon and also approved setting of three skill development centres in Nagaon as early as possible. He also accepted the demand for renovation and restoration of historical Gurdwaras in the State and asked the delegation to provide a list of the same,� Sirsa, the MLA of Rajouri Garden (Delhi Assembly Constituency) said.
Apart from Sirsa, the Sikh delegation comprised Kuldeep Singh Bhogal, senior Shiromani Akali Dal leader, Partap Singh, president local Gurdwara Committee, and Indu Singh, a social activist.
Along with appointing a nodal officer for taking up the issue, the Chief Minister has also agreed to sanction an amount of Rs 5 crore for building a Community Centre and Education Complex in Nagaon and installing a statue of General Chetanya Singh, the first Sikh general who was sent by Maharaja Ranjit Singh during the Burmese attack on Assam.
�Despite staying here for more than two centuries, the existence of the local Sikhs has been almost ignored by successive governments. We have sought the help of Chief Minister Sonowal so that this microscopic minority and neglected community could come out of imminent danger of getting extinct and so that members of this historic community can stand on its feet to serve the country like any other citizen of India,� the delegation stated.
Media Adviser to the Chief Minister Hrishikesh Goswami, Chief Secretary VK Pipersenia, Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister Sanjay Lohia were also present in the meeting.