| Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia | 20 Oct 2016 | Asia Samachar |
All is not well at the heart of the decision making process of the Sikh community. Decisions supposedly taken by Jathedar, at times, do not square with the wider Sikh diaspora, for example.
What do we do? Change the Jathedars? Well, it’s never that simple. Even that may not be the solution.
One group is out to make a difference. Calling themselves the Free Akal Takht movement, they intend to ‘engage and represent the beautiful diversity of Sikhs worldwide’ to manufacture a solution.
They aim to ‘connect’ the 30-million odd Sikhs around the world to have a say on the governance of the Akal Takht, the central body that makes decisions affecting Sikhs.
“It is not enough to replace the current governance of the Akal Takht with new leadership. It’s how we arrive at new leadership, the process we undertake for decisions, and developing representative processes that will ensure our future leaders are equipped for success in their roles,” the Free Akal Takht movement says in a note on its website.
Todate, the group has produced a 51-page draft ‘potential new future governance of the Akal Takht’ and two short-term proposals entitled ‘Jathedar Selection Criteria’ process and ‘Sarbat Khalsa Process’. All drafts are available at the movement’s website.
In a nutshell, the movement is an attempt to give some proper shape to the Sarbat Khalsa, often seen as the platform where the Khalsa Panth meets to make important decisions.
“The Sarbat Khalsa is a powerful model for collective decision-making, developed by our Gurus. Representative, collective decision-making has been available to Sikhs for centuries. The degree to which Sikh institutions have been compromised is apparent in how foreign and self-serving these institutions seem to us today,” the movement adds.
Sarbat Khalsa and Panj Pyare, acting within the spirit of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS), are two separate institutions integral to Panth’s self governane. The Akal Takht, acting as the executive arm, manages and implements the decisions of the Sarbat Khalsa and the Panj Pyare.
However, over the years, the decision making has seemingly been taken over by the Akal Takht Jathedar, acting together with the jathedars of the four other Takhts, constituting the Panj Pyare. This has raised concerns as the Jathedars are not appointed by the Sarbat Khalsa.
The Free Akal Takht movement aims to build ‘capacity’ to strengthen the operations of the Sarbat Khalsa.
“To achieve this, we must attract the necessary expertise and build capacity. A new governance framework must be developed from the ground up, based on input from our stakeholders—the global Sangat.
“Punjab is not locked in geography. We have the tools and ability to connect, engage, bring others into conversation and develop a point of view for the Sikh community. The future of decision-making in Sikhi will be representative, collective and transparent—not as the exception, but as the rule and a recognition of our old patterns of self-determination that, now rediscovered, are made new again,” the movement says.
Harinder Singh, one of the founders of the Free Akal Takht movement, will be in Malaysia to engage Sikhs in this part of the world. Prior to joining Free Akal Takht, Harinder co-founded Sikh Research Institute (SikhRi) and Panjab Digital Library.
Harinder was actively involved from the side of the US Sikhs when an attempt was made to hold a Sarbat Khalsa at Chabba, just outside Amritsar in Punjab, in November 2015. He would also be sharing his experience from that event.
Are our Gurdwaras Dysfunctional? The Assessment. (Asia Samachar, 9 Jan 2016)
Sarbat Khalsa at Chabba historic, but may have been hijacked (Asia Samachar, 11 Nov 2015)
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