By Hb Singh | OPINION | MALAYSIA
Looks like they wanted to start with a bang. In their rush to resolve the prolonged unease from the Dasam Granth (DG) issue, I’m afraid the new team at the Sikh Naujawan Sabha Malaysia (SNSM) may have just gone out with a bang and a clang, instead.
In their first meeting itself, the executive committee (exco) of this Malaysian outfit issued a four-page letter that was supposed to do the job. At one glance, they have fallen short of the objective. Nay, it may actually have the opposite effect.
The underlying issue is the divide in the wider community when it comes to DG, a granth previously known as Bachitar Natak. We won’t go into the details. Suffice to say that the community is divided on this issue. To be precise, probably a small portion of the Sikh community. The rest are really not bothered with the debate. I was at my Nani’s farewell prayers and I could hardly find someone really interested in the topic.
The issue, as expected, cropped up at SNSM’s recent annual general meeting. Many spoke. During the time I stayed at the meeting, some grouchy and waspish members took to the stage. That’s fine. No harm in blowing off some steam.
I was seated at the back row. I could see a few long-time SNSM members passing notes to each others, whispering into their ears. That’s a sign that something was brewing, something more than the tea at the Langgar.
At the end of the day, the pro-DG members manoeuvred their way to control the organisation. The jathedar – that’s the title of the sole executive that is voted in by the members – was reelected. But the composition of the committee was set to change. The whispering saw to it. And members were told to expect a letter to clear Sabha’s stand on the DG issue.
At lunch with a long-time SNSM member, we casually spoke about the impending letter. I made two observations.
First, the new exco has brought back some big names in the local Sikh seva circles. That’s great. A volunteer organisation like the Sabha, as it is fondly called, relies on such volunteers. They make a difference. Each member can add magic to the organisation, add flavour to the work. Together, my quick estimation tells me that the new exco members bring more than 400 years of experience of doing seva. Now, that’s fabulous!
On the flip side, though, this same exco is packed largely with pro-DG minded volunteers. There is a danger that this may colour their decisions, rightly or wrongly, towards a particular direction when it comes to Sikhi parchaar.
“I hope the letter will not reflect the one-sided exco. I hope they will put aside their personal alignment, and work towards crafting a document that truly reflects this worthy organisation,” I said.
In their eagerness to stamp their version of Sikhi, the new exco has lost a golden opportunity to truly consult members and to try to mend the rift, if that is even possible.
The exco could have composed a draft and send it out to members for feedback. This was an opportunity to engage members. Instead, they dished out a pronouncement, telling members how they should think on this issue. They basically issued a fatwa.
My fears came true. The letter is such a disappointment. It relies on faulty and flimsy arguments. It has open the organisation to ridicule. It may or may not end there. Some members may challenge the stance adopted by the new exco.
Looks the like the hawkish elements of the new exco won the day.
But there is a silver lining. Lucky for us, as I mentioned earlier, this matter is of interest only to a smaller segment of the community.
Now that they have put this off their chest, let up hope that they will put to work the collective over 400 years of experience that they bring to the table each time they meet. The Sabha really needs to get cracking if it wants to stay relevant. Chakday!
Hb Singh is a Kuala Lumpur-based journalist with some experience in dealing with Sikh organisations, both from within and outside.
* This is the opinion of the writer, organisation or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.
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Newly appointed SNSM exco issues stand on Dasam Granth (Asia Samachar, 21 July 2018)
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