The North American Sikh Summit took place at Yuba City, California, on October 31 this year. The summit organisers claimed that, in their deliberations on the current Sikh crises in Punjab, they had the support of a hundred Gurdwaras and Sikh organizations. The summit passed three resolutions. On the same date, in England, the Federation of Sikh Organizations conducted the World Sikh Summit at Birmingham and claimed that Sikhs from over twenty nations had participated and passed eight resolutions. The two summits might not be directly related to each other but the resolutions they both passed form a complex relationship. The current crises in Punjab – the general pardon of the Dera Sacha Sauda Head and its revocation, the sacrilege of the Guru Granth Sahib, the matter of the Five Chosen Ones, and the Behbal Kalan police firing in which two young men died – are being presented as the express reason for the two summits but reports in the media reveal that these are mere immediate provocations.
Though the two resolutions have by-passed a few contentious terms, the intent of the resolutions is clear – they are linked to the Gurdwara management and the religious activities of the Sikhs. By including points on Akal Takht’s decorum as sanctioned by the Sikh Gurus, the behaviour of the leaders – Jathedars – as per their status, and the plenary religious congregation – Sarbat Khalsa, the North American and Europe Sikhs make a strong pitch for their own greater participation in the religious affairs of the Sikh community. Given how the chief players in Punjab have wrecked havoc with the institutions there is no doubt that the Sikh politics, Shiromani Akali Dal – Badal and even others, the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee need to be reformed. This article attempts to analyze how much say the diaspora voice should have in the matters and what are the consequences of surrendering control to only these voices.
The Yuba City resolution seeks to re-establish the Akal Takht to its pristine Sikh Guru sanctioned status beyond the interference of political and ruling party machinations. It seeks to listen to the voice of thirty million Sikhs by ushering in transparency and accountability to the selection and function of the Jathedar of the Akal Takht. Alongside, it seeks to restore the status of the Five Chosen Ones – Panj Piyare. The second point is on supporting the Khalsa plenary – Sarbat Khalsa – on November 10. The resolution states that it represents the North American Sikhs and gives the community the right to finalize the Jathedar of the Akal Takht by Baisakhi 2016. It calls for the next Sarbat Khalsa before April 2016 and requests all factions, irrespective of ideological and other differences, to participate on the November 10 Sarbat Khalsa. The third point exhorts the Sikhs of North America to strengthen their voice and calls for nominating two persons per Gurdwara or organization to the committee to attend the November 10 Sarbat Khalsa. It seeks representation of local views, without discriminations and with equality, into shaping its agenda by April 2016.
The Birmingham resolution seeks a free and prosperous Sikh rule. The second point calls for a revocation of Punjab chief minister Prakash Singh Badal honorific title Pride of the Nation to Traitor of the Nation and removal of the name Singh from the names of Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and Avtar Singh Makkad, the current head of the SGPC. It is symbolic of them they no longer being Sikhs for they have betrayed the Sikh community. The third point calls for a social boycott of the leaders of Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) and the SGPC and calls for their resignations and sacking of the heads of the five Takhts. The fourth point calls for the Sikhs to unite and create their own parliament and bank. The fifth point calls for consensus candidates from the Sikh community to be elected the Jathedars of the five Takhts. The point contests the hegemony of the SGPC and their being considered the representatives of the Sikh Gurdwaras. It states that SGPC’s jurisdiction is confined to historial Gurudwaras of Punjab and a few other states of India so diaspora Sikhs are not under it.The sixth point strongly emphasises that the Sarbat Khalsa be called for in Punjab with the express consent of all Sikh organizations and leaders. The seventh point is for action against police personnel who fired on the peaceful demonstrators protesting the sacrilege of the Guru Granth Sahib. The last point is a call for the 30th anniversary of the Sarbat Khalsa conducted on April 29, 1986 in which the Sikh Self-Rule was announced.
Even if we ignore the internal contradictions between these resolutions, we need to ask whether these North America and England resolutions are to be implemented in Punjab. The two resolutions force the Sikh political leaders in Punjab to disclose if they are beholden to these the political aspirations of the Sikhs in North America and Europe or sovereignity has a meaning for them? These two summits seem to represent the political beliefs and understanding of the affluent Sikhs in those parts of the world. That makes it incumbent upon us to ask if these resolutions reflect the arrogant shine the dollars.Have we now come to such an impasse that Punjab’s issues can only be resolved by expatriate communities or does our own humble effort mean something?
When everything in today’s politics is evaluated with reference of intelligence agencies then why should the dollar politics not be subjected to such scrutiny? Who can study the behaviour of migrant communities and their political aspirations? Isn’t it ironical that most migration studies are conducted themselves by the migrant communities – a south Indian in America or a south Asian or European scholar? Most of these studies are about the emotional aspect of migration. It is only when we study how potential migrants – to America, Europe and Australia – compromise their ethical, religious, social and humanistic values that we shall understand the layers of hatred concealed by the pride that such communities project outwards. Also note that the American and European nation’s government has allowed their citizens to speak against their native lands and that draws the migrants to these countries. These migrants support their foreign policies, actively. The Sikh diaspora communities settled in NATO countries has supported the NATO attacks on different countries.The powerful North American Sikh community tries hard to showcase itself as the ideal of American values. If this community seeks to create a separate identity for itself from the Muslims, it also participates in the anti-Islam discourse of its adopted country.
The migrant Sikhs keep their contacts with Punjab’s organisations and religious-political wheeler-dealers but their own loyalties lie with their adopted countries. On the Canadian-American border, a religious person was caught smuggling drugs inside the Holy Book. When the sacrilege issues from Punjab reaches the expatriate Sikhs they burst out in anger.Why didn’t they feel a similar anger when the Guru Granth Sahib is insulted in their adopted countries? Has there been any protest about that in North America? On top of that, the tone in which they sermonise Punjab imitates the way their adopted nations instruct the world through armed invasions and dole out lessons on tackling corruption and install dictatorial regimes. It might help us to remember that before invading Afghanistan the United States had rained leaflets filled with messages of the Holy Quran.
No doubt the Punjabi expatriates feel about Punjab but that does not mean they become automatically the well wishers of Punjab. Even if they don the garb of Punjab’s issues, we need to ask how their arrogance can improve Punjab. No doubt it is difficult to ask these questions to our friends and relatives, the questions can even cause us momentary pain, but Punjab will have to ask these tough questions. Not that these questions reduce the culpability of the Punjab politicians and organizations, in fact they enhance the responsibility of Punjab’s betterment on its inhabitants. After all, if Punjab has to walk straight it has to bear the brunt of its autumnal sun on its back; it has to drink the water of its own hand pumps. Will the shower of dollars on the martyrs of Behbal Kalan allow the Sikhs to re-connect with their own Gurus? Can the dream of self reliant sovereign Punjab as expressed in folklore with reference of Dulla Bhatti – ‘first demolish Delhi’s seat of power’ and ‘then Lahore’s throne’ – be realised in the lustre of dollars?It is a matter of autonomy and not hiding in the shadow of the diaspora. For, finally the answers to Punjab’s crises will have to come from Punjab’s land.
Translated from Punjabi by Amandeep Sandhu
Reprinted with thanks from: Countercurrents.org
07 November, 2015
Daljit is an independent filmmaker from Punjab who has made over a dozen documentary films on different issues. He worked as freelance journalist with Punjabi Tribune, Day and Night News and BBC Hindi. His most recent work is translation of Amandeep Sandhu’s novel ‘Roll of Honour’ from English to Punjabi as ‘Gwah De Fanah Hon Toh Pehilan’.