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Above: "Lord of Miri-Piri", a painting by Kanwar Singh []


The Akal Takht:
Postcards From The Road







A few days have passed since I posted my missive on Punjab and how dramatically events are shaping up day by day.

It is like a miracle unfolding. And I am here to witness it!

Akal Purakh nudged us, the Sikh Quom, nay, smacked us into wakefulness, to the pristine supremacy of the twin Guruship of Guru Granth and Guru Panth, within a matter of a couple of weeks.

First was the desecration of Guru Granth Sahib, leading to a universal Sikh awakening of ‘how dare anyone desecrate our Guru!’ It does not matter who did it or what ulterior motive anyone had – but, how dare anyone?

Punjab is in turmoil. Sikh-Britons have raised their voices. In fact, there have been agitations worldwide and concern raised.

A few days later came the highly suspicious reversal of a previous HukamNama and under pressure from the Khalsa Panth, its re-instatement a couple of days later, by the Jathedar of Akal Takht and his colleagues.

The whole affair smells.

Three days ago, five relatively unknown Punj Pyarey at the Darbar Sahib demanded a ‘show’ by the Jathedar and his colleagues -- to ‘show cause’ for their rather dubious actions.

They refused to show up. The unseen (unditha) Guru Panth awoke – the Sikh quom awoke. To add fuel to the fire, the President of SGPC termed these Punj Pyarey as ‘unconstitutional’, illegal even, and claimed to ‘sack’ them.

These Punj Pyarey stood firm. SGPC has had key resignations and suddenly, the ‘sargun’ institutions are in turmoil. The ones who think they are in power and are abusing it, suddenly realize that there is a higher power to which they are all accountable. The Akal Takht Jathedar, his associates and their current ‘employer’, the SGPC and its president, had forgotten that they are all accountable to the … Guru Khalsa Panth.

The five jathedars and their earthly ‘masters’ are squarely, and fairly I might add, in the sights of the cosmic Guru Khalsa Panth represented in ‘sargun’ form in the
shape of the Akal Takht.

In my consciousness and awareness of the role of the Jathedar of the Akal Takht -- over the course of about 30 years -- I have witnessed, at some point or the other, the jathedars issuing HukamNamas which sometimes were high handed and sometimes smacked of political interference.

In the 1980’s, there was the highly controversial ‘sit on floor and eat langar’ HukamNama by Ranjit Singh which sent the whole quom into turmoil. Gurdwaras closed or witnessed disputes over whether chairs and tables should be allowed
in gurdwara langar halls. Some gurdwaras had split committees. Committee members were harassed, bullied and summoned to appear before the jathedars, and so on.

One gurdwara in Brisbane, Australia, has never recovered from this HukamNama.

Every such HukmNama was greeted with derision from some quarters and slowly but surely the position of the jathedars was being questioned. Unfortunately, alongside the position of the jathedars, there were those who started questioning the role of the Akal Takht!

Some argued vigorously for a Supreme Sikh Council based perhaps in London or Washington or Vancouver. Some, only recently, wanted to agitate for a Principal Jathedar to oversee the jathedars in Amritsar, and so on.

Today, I believe very strongly, we stand at a watershed moment. The opportunity has been presented by Akal Purakh to firstly ‘cleanse’ the Akal Takht of all that is rotten and incestuous. Why can’t the Akal Takht now be served by Sikh representatives from all over the globe and not be pawns of the SGPC, the ‘SAD’ Shromani Akali Dal, and even the Sikh and pseudo-Sikh political parties of Punjab and India?

Let us all forget about an Akal Takht in exile; a Supreme Sikh Council to oversee global Sikh affairs; a Jathedar to oversee the jathedars or any other parallel organization outside India to replace the Akal Takht.

Why can’t we strengthen the position of our Guru-given Akal Takht and what it stands for – to tackle the temporal and religious matters of the universal Sikh quom, as was originally intended?

Chardi Kalaa to all Sikh brothers and sisters!

October 26, 2015

Conversation about this article

1: Ajay Singh Goraya (Rockville, Maryland, USA), October 26, 2015, 12:33 PM.

But are there any ideas of what the role of Akal Takth, the Jathedar should be? This turmoil is reactionary, not a bad thing, but we have gone through these before. It is heartening to see the enthusiasm in people, coming out with such passion but I fear it will all be for naught. The parallels to the beginning of Gurudwara Reform Movement a hundred years ago are frighteningly similar, farmer debt, political suffocation, Gurudwara control, religious interference, are sadly at the forefront again. What followed then was such an inspirational, dedicated movement that has no parallel in Indian history. The results, however, were thoroughly sub par. We got a flawed SGPC, mainly because we lost will power, follow through and sell out of our leadership. We did not understand the legal ramifications of the working of SGPC, which basically allowed legal interference both in the religious affairs and the election process. Nehru adamantly refused to change the Gurudwara Act, he took adavantage of our post-1947 situation and squeezed what little juice was left in us. We need to ratify the Anandpur Sahib Resolution, solidify it with the addition of a demand of removal of travel and trade restrictions with Pakistan, pass it again in Sarbat Khalsa, have a recognised leadership, with a long succession. We need to send the message to India, that we fought for your Independence and subsequent defence vigorously, make no mistake we will fight you for our Independence and defence with the same vigor, if not more. Let us not ask for a constricted Khalistan, make all INDIA our Khalistan. We need Brahminism's animosity and regressive philosophy to prosper or else we will destroy ourselves. This latest turmoil will get a band aid fix, nothing will come of it and it will not be acceptable, but we need a vision, path, a goal for our future. Anandpur Sahib Resolution is the best we have ... we can improve upon it.

2: Hardev Singh (Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada), October 26, 2015, 3:46 PM.

The idea of a Supreme Sikh Council with global representation is long overdue. The Sikh Panth is once again passing through an existential crisis. The desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib, challenges to Sikh identity, an unpopular, corrupt and discredited Akali Party and its leaders, and a clueless leader of SGPC, who is no more than a puppet of his political masters, besides the environmental degradation and a prevailing drug culture, paints a dismal picture of Punjab. There have been many voices and proposals raised for a representative body of Sikhs. The Institute of Sikh Studies had proposed the idea of an International Sikh Confederation and also drew up the Constitution of ISC (Kharak Singh, Abstracts of Sikh Studies, Jul-Sept 2004). There is also much to learn from the Catholic Church which draws the members of the Curia world-wide. This administrative apparatus of the Holy See is analogous to a sovereign state. To begin with, each diaspora country should choose an individual who could represent it at any Sarbat Khalsa, whenever called upon. This body should be free and independent of any existing Government Acts or political interference of any kind.

3: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), October 26, 2015, 7:35 PM.

For a true Sikh, knowledge of the Sikh Code Of Conduct and practice should be ample to live out a moralistic, ethical and Sikh life ...

4: Dya Singh (Melbourne, Australia), October 27, 2015, 7:57 AM.

We need to pursue a Vatican-like status for the Darbar Sahib Complex with an international forum overseeing all matters. Guru Granth - Guru Panth are Guru-given to us, not a Supreme Council. Punj Pyarey and the Akal Takht are Guru-given, jathedars are not. Let us not throw out the baby with the bathwater. We can operate within the guidelines as set by Guru Sahib. We do not have to attempt to re-invent the wheel. Guru Sahib invented that for us already. Let us work within His guidance, with his 'oat-aasra'. The Darbar Sahib Complex should be our global Panthic Vatican with an international administration. The Akal Takht is the strength and roots of the global Sikh community. I have felt it, sitting in Punjab, as events have unfolded before my very eyes ...

5: TJ Singh (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), October 27, 2015, 4:05 PM.

Without tainting your message, that it is long overdue to bring independence and objectivity to the Akal Takht -- with which I whole-heartedly agree -- I want to clarify your comments on Jathedar Ranjit Singh regarding the issue of the the Langar issue. It pains me when Sikhs who possess such depth and substance trivialize certain edicts and as mere political interference. The issue of tables and chairs came to a head in the late 1990's in Vancouver and Surrey (British Columbia, Canada) which was termed by the local media as a battle for gurdwara management between 'Fundamentalists' and 'Moderates'. As a matter of fact, Jathedar Ranjit Singh pleaded with the Vancouver and Surrey community leaders to solve this issue independent of the Akal Takht and use common sense. Both groups held their ground and consequently divided the 100 years old Sikh community into two camps. This was not caused by Jathedar Ranjit Singh as the edict issued was common sense as certain Sikh traditions must be protected. Can you imagine if tables and chairs ended up at the Golden Temple? Please understand the meaning of traditions started by our Gurus and protect them. This issue should never have been brought to the Akal Takht in the first place. Common sense should have prevailed. Both sides failed the Vancouver/Surrey Sikh community by using Guru's Langar as a tool to win votes for Gurdwara leadership which caused insurmountable damage. Instead of education of Sikh traditions around Guru's Langar and some sort of accommodations for weddings where Guru's Langar is not served, given the rising popularity of catering companies that bring in food to be served at the Gurdwara during a wedding, ego and arrogance prevailed instead of practical considerations. Until we have a body of independent and objective Sikh leaders who are motivated only in protecting Sikh values and traditions, our Sikh Panth will remain embroiled in such disputes that are shaped by politics and power.

6: Rup Singh (Canada), October 27, 2015, 4:32 PM.

@4: Dya Singh ji - Thank you, very well said. Agree 100%. We cannot go above what Guru Sahib has established for us.

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Postcards From The Road"

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