CHANDIGARH: IN a comment that can only be interpreted as rather brazen and casual, Harish Khare, Editor-in-Chief of The Tribune group of newspapers, has suggested that the Sikh community, currently seeking exemption from GST, may place "separate GST golaks" in gurdwaras instead of asking for relief from the Centre.
In his widely-read Sunday column, Kaffeeklatsch, Khare wrote that since the "government cannot possibly make an exception in the case of one religious institution...(p)erhaps, there can be a separate ‘golak’ for GST?"
A golak is a collection box invariably kept in front of the holy Sikh scriptures, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, and devotees are free to deposit any amount they can afford - from one paisa to lakhs or crores. The Sikh community takes pride in its gurdwaras and shrine managements never forcing any devout visitor to make any offering. The money thus collected is considered sangat's contribution meant solely for purposes in keeping with the religion's principles.
Khare's idea that the devotees be asked to contribute an amount equivalent of the GST has riled many Sikh scholars who consider the idea preposterous and made in utter disregard of a community’s sensitivities.
On his part, Khare followed up the suggestion by calling it an "out-of-the-box idea," which, he said, "calls for (a) coffee."
In today’s (Monday’s) edition of Punjabi Tribune, Khare’s freewheeling column was published in Punjabi that made the same argument, betrayed Khare’s own opposition to the GST exemption for langar since he said the government cannot grant such relief to any one religious organisation, and then went on to describe his "out-of-the-box” idea. Savour his words, verbatim, though these may render your brewed cup a little too bitter: "ਇਸ ਦੀ ਬਜਾਏ ਇਹ ਸਲਾਹ ਦਿੱਤੀ ਗਈ ਹੈ: ਸ਼ਰਧਾਲੂਆਂ ਨੂੰ 17 ਫੀ ਸਦੀ ਵਧੇਰੇ ਦਾਨ ਕਰਨ ਲਈ ਕਿਓਂ ਨਾ ਕਿਹਾ ਜਾਵੇ? ਸ਼ਾਇਦ, ਜੀ.ਐੱਸ.ਟੀ. ਲਈ ਵੱਖਰੀ 'ਗੋਲਕ' ਵੀ ਲਾਈ ਜਾ ਸਕਦੀ ਹੈ! ਇਹ ਤਾਂ ਇਕਦਮ ਵਿਲੱਖਣ ਵਿਚਾਰ ਹੈ ਅਤੇ ਇਸ ਤੇ ਤਾਂ ਕੌਫ਼ੀ ਪੀਣੀ ਬਣਦੀ ਹੈ। ਆ ਜਾਓ, ਮੇਰੇ ਨਾਲ ਕੌਫ਼ੀ ਦਾ ਪਿਆਲਾ ਸਾਂਝਾ ਕਰੋ।"
It will be interesting to see which section or leaders of the Sikh community will take up Khare’s offer for some caffeine. The Tribune’s editor-in-chief, who had earlier left the profession to take up the (more exalted?) job of Media Advisor to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had earlier rubbed the Sikh community the wrong way with his suggestion in the same column that the Sikhs should "permit” a closure on the issue of 1984 massacres.
Arguing that "on the eve of every Lok Sabha election, a few ‘investigative’ journalists come up with ‘new evidence’,” Khare had even blasted "the Phoolkas of this world,” who he said have "made a career — and, now an electoral career” out of pursuing 1984 cases.
A senior SGPC member said the community leaders find themselves in a quandary when it comes to taking up cudgels with editors of powerful and mass circulation newspapers as they fear being blacked out. He cited the recent case of the Hindustan Times publishing a graphic illustration of a Sikh lighting up a cigar pressed between his lips and the refusal of the newspaper to remove it from the website despite apologising for it. "These are newspapers with massive circulations and we have seen how news items and concerns of the community can be sidelined if one as much as squeaks out,” he said.
(For a detailed report on the Hindustan Times' publication of the objectionable illustration, please click here)
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