Prof. Maria Bohmer,
UNESCO World Heritage Committee.
Subject: Request to delete the name of Sri Harmandar Sahib, Amritsar Sahib from the world heritage nomination list sent by India Govt. in 2014.
Respected Prof. Bohmer,
Your committee will be considering nominations in the forthcoming 39th session in June 2015. The Indian Government has sent to you a list of some Indian Sites in 2014, among which our Darbar Sahib (Sri Harmandar Sahib) in Amritsar is also included.
Sri Harmandar Sahib was founded by the Sikh Gurus. Sikhs have their history attached to Sri Harmandar Sahib, Amritsar Sahib, Punjab, India for the last four centuries during which countless Sikhs have sacrificed their lives for its sanctity and maintenance. Since the early 17th century up to today, Sikhs have dedicated their lives, time and efforts for the upkeep, maintenance and sanctity of Sri Harmandar Sahib, Amritsar.
This sacred place is not a tourist place but a worship place where people come with devotion and try to connect themselves to God. It is an active and highly vibrant place which is being managed by Sikhs through their Sikh representative body, SGPC, Shromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee. The money that is coming for the upkeep of Sri Harmandar Sahib comes from devotees who offer money with devotion, love and faith. Sri Harmandar Sahib is being managed by the Sikhs in a traditional manner and with a lot of devotion. The right of the management of this sacred place is integral to the Sikh principles, sentiments and stated in our daily prayers.
To declare Harmandar Sahib as a heritage site is highly shocking to the entire Sikh community. This place belongs to the Sikh community and it is not the right of anyone to take it over. The present generation Sikh community is looking after Sri Harmandar Sahib very well and it stands as the most important place of Sikhs and Sikhism.
The take-over of Sri Harmandar Sahib is an absolute infringement of fundamental rights of Sikhs and a challenge to the religious freedom of the Sikh community. It is also construed as an interference in the internal matters of the Sikhs. This move also violates many of the Articles as laid out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by UNO.
The Sikh community does not endorse the consideration of Sri Harmandar Sahib as a Heritage site by the Indian Government to UNESCO / UN. This move has not been done by involving the Sikh community but has been silently done without sharing information about it to the Sikh community. In fact, it stands as a complete deceit to the entire Sikh community by offering away the rights of our holiest shrine. Sri Harmandar Sahib is the Sikh community’s highest and holiest place. It’s consideration as a heritage place is not acceptable to anyone in the Sikh community. Therefore we strongly oppose the nomination and any deliberation of the nomination.
The institution is a sovereign institution. Its sovereignty has been defended by the Sikhs throughout history. The State of India has no authority over it. Some years ago, a similar attempt was made by the Indian Government but owing to a wide-spread protest from the Sikh community, this attempt was not implemented. Now, once again, the Indian government has knowingly pursued this move against Sikh sentiments. If any nomination has already been rejected on the grounds of strong opposition by the stakeholders, it should not be sent again for consideration for the same purpose.
Your application requires the State party to take into confidence the key stakeholders. The stakeholders of this institution are the worldwide Sikh community which includes us. We have not been consulted and neither have we given authority to the State of India to nominate Sri Harmandar Sahib for heritage status.
So we request you, as chairperson of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, to cancel this nomination as it has not met with the basic and technical requirements, those of the consultation of stakeholders and that of legal jurisdiction to nomination. In the absence of a cancellation or rejection of this nomination, it would amount to creating unrest and resentment within the entire Sikh community globally.
(On behalf of the Sikh community)