By Gurcharan Singh
Let us look at Gurmukh Singh ji’s lamentations over his article about Gurduara elections in the UK. Although he has points, but do these matter among the UK Sikhs? No.
Gurmukh Singh has been deeply involved with Sikh issues but has always been kept out. Why? That’s a six million dollar question that needs exploring!
Gurmukh Singh is an outsider in among the UK Sikh community, who are mostly associated directly with the Punjab, and still owe loyalties to the Punjabi politics.
Gurmukh is Malaysian-born. Thus he has little connection with Punjab political parties, most of whom have branches among the 470,000 counted Sikhs in UK.
An observer of UK Sikh politics will soon realise that Gurmukh has always been sidelined in almost all issues and organisations by pendu mentality related, conspiratorially active minded Indian Sikhs, who form the substantial majority of UK Sikh population.
A quick glance at the aims and objectives of any of the Indian-led and dominated Gurduaras (also spelt gurdwaras) and organisations, always has the Khalistan issue as one of the main objectives, or lurking in the background.Thus the present position of the community, and the future, are usually secondary issues to worry about, after the initially money-making and leadership squabbles.
As such, Gurmukh will not fit into their box, as Gurmukh will speak of the all inclusive community rights and needs, not Khalistan.
No, let us look at the manner the Sikhs in UK appear as groups in themselves. As said, the majority of UK Sikhs are from Punjab, then Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan, Mumbai, etc. All term and see themselves as the rightful custodians of the Sikh Gurduaras with the right origins and know how from India.
The next biggest segment comes largely from the three east African states of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.These Sikhs largely belong to the Ramgharia gotra, or sub tribal/caste.They have their own Guduaras and organisations, thus have very little dealings in affairs of the largely Indian controlled organisations.They also almost operate closed shop Gurduaras and organisations toward non-Ramgahria Sikhs. Despite the rulings of Guru Granth sahib, they are almost always keen on the Ramgahria caste and back ground, and never miss a moment to exhibit their dislike towards non-Ramgahria Sikhs and particularly the Indians, who they consider to be lesser educated, lacking socially,and outdated etiquettes than themselves! In other words they do look down upon the Sikhs from India, who coincidently also happen to be largely from the farming Jat backgrounds! Referring to jats as jat boot is a common communalistic phrase used in their private conversations; as much as probably the Jat background Sikhs refer to them in equally degrading manner, when within their on kind! An appalling racist state of Sikhs in reality!
Interestingly, their attitude towards Malaysian or Singaporean Sikhs is far more warm and welcoming largely.They appear to see the Malaysian and Singapore as educated and socially equal to themselves or an assumption build up, as like them, we too hail from an ex-colony, and socially are liberated as them.
The Ramgharia Gurduaras are generally not frequented by non-Ramgharia Sikhs, unless invited by Ramgharia friends, who are and can be great friends at personal levels.
After, the above come what is referred to as Mazhabi or Ravidasia Sikhs.They have numerous Gurduaras, like the Ramgharias, all over the country, and are largely associated with Guru Granth Sahib.Their self declaration as Ravidasia Sikhs has to do with the social exclusion they appear to have suffered at hands of the self declared custodian babas of deras and Jat Sikhs in the Punjab, a very sad state of affairs.Their Gurduaras will display a bright orange coloured triangle flag with Ekongkar and Om written on it.
In recent times, thousands of the Afghan Sikhs have arrived and formed their own block, where they run their own Gurduaras in places where their numbers are large enough, namely Southall and Birmingham.They generally associate among themselves and tend to speak in the Pushto language. Their Punjabi is very accentuated, and distinct. They are a close knit community that supports each other to set up businesses.They have national organisational organisation, but are very low profiled.They are very welcoming in the gurduaras and as I have observed, close to Sikhi. They have almost all taken over the business that Indian Sikhs at one time owned, and do dominate the Southall business scene.
A small number of Bhatra, Namdhari and other groups exist, too, but they have their own Gurduaras like the Bhatra Gurduara in Plumsted, the Namdhari Gurduara in Forest Gate, and perhaps a small number of other places.
The Bhatra group of Sikhs, largely from the Patohar region, were among the first Sikhs to arrive in UK, before the Second World War and settled in East London, Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow, Cardiff and Norwich, where their descendants are found today, still in numbers.
They remain staunch in Sikhi. Their women folk, like Moslem women, practice face veils, even in Gurduaras and lots of jewellery. Their degh is methi di roti in Gurduaras. They will politely refuse any donation to their Gurduara coming from a non-Bhatra Sikh! I saw this happen, where a Malaysian Sikh was granted to hold a function at their Gurduara, but when he offered some further donation, it was politely refused!
Finally, comes the Sikhs from Malaysia and Singapore, who are dispersed all over the country, but not enough in any one area to build their own Gurduara or organisation! A very large number are found around Southall, Hounslow or Feltham,but nevertheless shadowed by those from India!
These Malaysian-Singapore Sikhs, added to some from Myanmar and Fiji, are left in the cold, out of the major existing Sikh organisations or Gurduaras, despite a lot of dear advice and skills from Malaysians like Gurmukh Singh.
An active volunteer once lamented to me that these Sikhs from India do not listen to rationality. I said: “I could not agree more, and that is why I waste no time with these confused Indian citizens, who say they are Khalistanis; instead of Guru Granth, follow babas and deras, dual gurus/godmen and once a year throng the streets protesting against the same India, they carry passports of, and yearn to return to at every opportunity!”
I recognised this very many years back!
An issue that Gurmukh tried to lead on, the British Sikh Consultative Forum (BSCF), was after a while hijacked by Indian Khalistan crony Dr Jasdev Rai, who was quite effectively instrumental in screwing up the French turban case, now sitting silently in some back room, after having having upset the pendu-led leadership of the Sikh Federation, just as Gurmukh is now writing a simple English column in a Punjabi weekly.
Another issue Gurmukh mooted and tried to lead on was the Sikh monitoring. Gurmukh propagated that Sikhs as per laws of UK should be monitored separately as an ethnic group.
For many years, Lord Indarjit quite effectively led against this and Gurmukh, to the extent of threats of civil litigation, has now suddenly made a turnabout and asks for Sikh monitoring on grounds of religion! He has taken the issue and steam out of Gurmukh’s earlier campaign.
So Sikhs among the Sikhs, unless one hails from India, will not find wide acceptance at the head of the general UK Sikh community unless he/she can deliver the politics of India and the empty Khalistan rhetoric from the self-styled groups in the Punjab from time to time, or some benefits related to the Punjab political parties, registered in UK as extensions of their Punjab bases.
Gurcharan Singh is a Malaysian-born who now resides in the UK.
* This is the opinion of the writer, organisation or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.
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