A very interesting article signed by some Sikh Naujawan Sabha Malaysia (SNSM) members is going viral on WhatsApp. The article is titled ‘Taking Sabha Out Of Trouble(d) Waters’.
The article starts off with a claim that it is authored by a number of persons whose names are listed at the end. The names that appear are “Master Daljit Singh, Dato Suret Singh, Prof. Dr Paramjeet Singh, Giani Lakhbir Singh, V. Sukdev Singh, V. Serjit Singh, B. Bhav Bhanjan Kaur, Gurmukh Singh, Harjinder Singh (Penang Branch), Keshmahinder Singh, Master Ajmer Singh, Gian Singh, Harbhajan Kour, and many more senior members from Malaysia and overseas.”
Subject to at least one of the authors denying any involvement in the article, I shall refer to them collectively as the disgruntled members or ‘DG members’, in short.
Apparently these DG members are not happy with the Jathedar of Sabha (Jasbir Singh) who, as it turns out, was installed by these DG members after some last minute negotiations on the eve of the 2018 AGM. The DG members refer to themselves as ‘early and senior members of SNSM’. One wonders what exactly that means. No doubt some of them are senior but I know for a fact that some of them became members of Sabha on the eve of the 2018 AGM. One of them actually pretended to be a member of Sabha for years and was even serving in the EXCO until it was pointed out that he had yet to register as a member.
These DG members had initially wanted to challenge Jasbir for the Jathedar’s post at the 2018 AGM. They were not happy with some decisions taken by Jasbir during his first term as Jathedar. I hear their main grouse was the sidelining of Lakhbir Singh (aka ‘Laboh’) as Jathedar of the Amrit Sanchaar Jatha of Sabha, as he appears to have overstayed his welcome. There was also some unhappiness over the last minute cancellation of Sukha Singh’s appearance at Sabha’s Grand Vesakhi event at Tatt Khalsa Gurdwara. Sukha Singh is a ‘Taksali’ based at the Damdami Taksal Tividale Gurdwara in Birmingham, UK and does not subscribe to the Akal Takhat approved Sikh Rehat Maryada (SRM) which Sabha adheres to, or at least claims to adhere to. This fact is accepted by most of these DG members but perhaps somewhat grudgingly by some of them. Our founding father, Sant Sohan Singh Ji, who’s name is quoted by the DG members also subscribed to the SRM. A video had gone viral of Sukha Singh performing acts which were in clear violation of the SRM and as a result the Tatt Khalsa Gurdwara committee and other associations had expressed reservations about allowing him to speak at the Vesakhi event and Sabha was forced to cancel his appearance.
However, what became clear after the 2018 AGM was that the real issue which moved these DG members to attempt to seize control of Sabha was Sabha’s stand on the ‘Dasam Granth’ controversy and in particular Sabha’s position which was taken jointly with some other panthic organization to sanction the SGGS Academy (‘Academy’) for doing parkash of the Dasam Granth at Gurdwara Sahib Titiwangsa in the presence of SGGS Ji. This act is expressly forbidden in the SRM and Jasbir as Jathedar of Sabha was simply fortifying Sabha’s position that the SRM be abided by every Sikh association and that until the Academy provides an assurance that they will not repeat what they did in Titiwangsa Gurdwara, the Academy should not be allowed stage time in Gurdwaras and events of Sabha. Anyone who genuinely subscribes to the Akal Takhat sanctioned SRM will accept that what Jasbir did was in accord with the SRM and he acted responsibly as a Jathedar of Sabha.
On the eve of the 2018 AGM, a compromise was reached to allow Jasbir to complete his second 2-year term as is customary in Sabha. In return, Jasbir agreed to take into account suggestions from these DG members for persons to form the Executive Committee of Sabha. In Sabha, only the Jathedar is elected. He then forms his executive committee. It is understood that Jasbir accepted the proposal to include 10 persons nominated by the DG members into his committee. These 10 members formed a majority in the EXCO of Sabha. It was clearly a show of good faith on the part of Jasbir and in sync with his style of inclusiveness as we all know. Some of the 10 EXCO members nominated by the DG members were given important positions including the Meet Jathedar’s post in the hope that they would dedicate their time and resources to promote Sabha’s activities and initiatives.
Post 2018 AGM and the Dasam Granth Declaration
As soon as the EXCO was formed, the 10 nominees of these DG members, some of whom are the DG members themselves, set about unravelling their true plans for Sabha. A draft letter was presented by the 10 EXCO members to Jasbir for him to sign declaring that Sabha affirms that the Dasam Granth was authored entirely by Guru Gobind Singh Ji. It was their first order of business. This was something that no other recognized Sikh authority had ever done previously. Even the Akal Takhat’s official stand is only that the Dasam Granth is an inseparable part of Sikh history and literature. The authenticity and authorship is still very much in dispute and there is no common or accepted stand among historians on this divisive issue. Akal Takhat accepts that this issue requires further investigation.
Therefore it goes without saying that when Jasbir finally agreed to sign the letter, after numerous amendments to water down the extent of the declaration, most Sikhs in Malaysia and overseas were shocked as to how and why Sabha had allowed itself to be dragged into this raging controversy. Apparently, the decision to issue the letter was imposed on Jasbir by a majority vote of the EXCO, which is an obvious mistake on the part of the Jathedar. Only the DG members can tell us why instead of focusing on reinvigorating Sabha, these 10 majority members focused all their efforts in pressuring Jasbir to make such an ill-thought declaration which has further split the Sabha and the Sikh community in Malaysia. Ill-thought, because it blatantly and squarely defies the SRM, which these same DG members would want you to believe they subscribe to. The SRM does not even make a single reference to the Dasam Granth as a ‘Granth’. Some of its compositions are accepted as Nitnem and Amrit Baanis and part of the Sikh Ardas and nothing else. Kirtan of any composition from the Dasam Granth is not allowed by the SRM. It is also a blunder for Sabha to issue this letter as most of the youth are least interested in such controversies.
But the fact that this was foremost in their agenda exposes the real purpose and intent of these DG members and their nominees. They were not in the EXCO to revive and reinvigorate Sabha or take it out of the perceived ‘troubled waters’. On the contrary, these 10 Exco members had a very clear and specific agenda which was to drag Sabha into the raging Dasam Granth controversy and align itself to the Academy. This became clearer when they embarked on the next item of their action plan which had been carefully charted and thought out. The facts will show that they were in fact intent on causing trouble in Sabha and then taking the opportunity to undermine Jasbir and seek his removal.
Reading the recent article written by these DG members, one would think that their main concern was about how and why Sabha was not thriving in its core activities which they listed down as items 1 to 13 under a very suggestive heading ‘Sabha in ICU’. They pretend to show concern about the lack of activities in various areas but in fact when the Annual Samelan 2018 was in its planning stages the same 10 Exco members showed absolutely no interest in assisting Jasbir and his team in the organizing and planning the Samelan. Even after they were asked to assist in the Samelan preparations by one of the other Meet Jathedars, none of them showed any interest or gave any commitment. They were busy plotting their next move. None of the 1-13 items listed are supported by any facts and figures. They are nothing but sweeping statements without any analysis as to what is or are the cause/s of the alleged failures and when or why the rot set in. The allegations cannot be substantiated in any manner or form as they are subjective and depend on individual perception. That however has not stopped these DG members from beating the war drums to make it look like all this happened during Jasbir’s tenure as Jathedar.
Whilst there are some items which appear to be statements of fact, like Branches becoming inactive, this did not happen during Jasbir’s leadership. Most of the rot set in much earlier. Where were these DG members then? Where were Bhav Bhanjan Kaur and Kesh Mahinder Singh when all of this was happening? They only decided to become members of Sabha in 2018 and now claim to be ‘early AND senior’ members of Sabha. Is this not a blatant lie and a deception upon Sabha members? Can I ask Bhav Bhanjan Kaur, Kesh Mahinder Singh, Prof. Dr. Paramjeet Singh, Datuk Suret Singh, Gurmukh Singh and Master Ajmer Singh, who are among the DG members, where were they when all the rot was setting in and why didn’t they raise their collective voices earlier? Have they ever helped to organize any single Samelan or Sabha activity throughout their involvement with Sabha? If so, how many? Isn’t it true that some of them only decided to become members of Sabha immediately prior to the 2018 AGM? What was their sudden motivation? Was it due to their concern for Sabha or was it due to their affiliations and sympathy with the Academy and their desire for Sabha to align itself with the Academy? .This motivation became very clear when the next plan of action of these DG members was unfolded.
It is also reliably learnt the Gian Singh, whose name appears in the article as one of the authors, has denied any involvement in the same. That is how low these DG members are prepared to stoop to give you the impression that their wild allegations against Jasbir has the support of credible members.
The straw which broke Jasbir’s back
The next and very pressing item on the agenda of the 10 EXCO members at the behest of the DG members was to coerce Jasbir and the rest of the Sabha EXCO to get them to change their stand on Sabha’s position on the Academy which stand was taken during Jasbir’s first term as Jathedar.
The opportunity presented itself when the Kajang Gurdwara committee rejected a proposal by the Academy to conduct Japji Sahib classes at the Gurdwara. The Kajang Gurdwara relied on the letter issued jointly by the MGC, Sabha and other organisations to reject the Academy’s proposal. Of course, the Academy immediately ran to the ‘Trojan Horses’ placed within Sabha, to get Sabha to distance itself from the joint stand which they had taken and convince the Kajang Gurdwara to allow Academy to conduct the classes.
The DG members must have assumed that this would have been an easy task given that they had already coerced and manipulated Jasbir to sign the Dasam Granth declaration earlier. However much to their surprise and chagrin Jasbir and the rest of the EXCO took the position that the joint position was clearly in line with the SRM and since Sabha is an organisation which upholds the SRM, it cannot retract the stand taken against the Academy. Jasbir must have realized by then that he had been duped into signing the earlier Dasam Granth declaration.
The position Jasbir took was very simple and consistent with the SRM. All the Academy had to do was to provide an undertaking that they will not do the ‘parkash’ of the Dasam Granth as was done in Titiwangsa Gurdwara in violation the SRM. Once such an undertaking was given, Sabha was prepared to assist the Academy in approaching the Kajang Gurdwara Committee to allow the classes to be held. The DG members ran to their masters in the Academy to seek a compromise. As expected, the Academy refused to budge. In order to appease their masters in the Academy, all sorts and manner of pressure was then put on Jasbir and the rest of the EXCO to cooperate with the Academy. It was as if these 10 EXCO members represented the Academy’s interest instead of Sabha’s interest. Numerous EXCO meeting were called and held until the late hours of the night. There were heated arguments and debate. Threats of walk-out were made. Threats were made to use the majority vote to overrule the Jathedar, effectively over-ruling the SRM. Jasbir was very clear in his mind and refused to budge. He took the position that the issue was one of upholding the SRM and the SRM could not be violated by a majority vote of the Sabha Exco. The DG members and their nominees in the EXCO were becoming frustrated and dejected as they thought that it would have been very easy to manipulate and coerce a seemingly mild mannered and soft-spoken Jathedar by pulling wool over his eyes. Alas, this was not to be. They were disappointed that Jasbir had a back bone and held on to his principles guided by the SRM.
Meetings were also arranged with the President of the Kajang Gurdwara by some of the 10 EXCO members without Jasbir’s knowledge. Jasbir was told about the meetings at the last minute in the hope that he would budge and agree to meet the President of the Kajang Gurdwara to do the Academy’s bidding. These underhanded tactics did not yield the results expected.
While all this drama was ongoing, Jasbir and the rest of the EXCO (except for the 10 Trojan Horses) were busy preparing for the Annual Gurmat Samelan 2018. The 10 members were urged to lend their assistance in the organizing and planning work. This was met with petty excuses. Apparently, it was more important for them to help Academy have Japji Sahib classes in Kajang Gurdwara. And they now have the gall to say that the Annual Samelan is a tiny shadow of its former glory. Anyone who attended the Annual Samelan 2018 would disagree. Ravi Singh of Khalsa Aid would certainly disagree.
Eventually, upon realising that their main goals for joining the EXCO was not being met, 9 of the 10 resigned from the EXCO. The last was politely given the marching orders as he was obviously asked to stay on by the DG members to provide inside information on the happenings in the Sabha EXCO.
These DG members need a reality check. Whose interest are they serving by calling for Jasbir to resign as Jathedar? They should respectfully leave Sabha to those who have Sabha’s interest at heart. They are free to join the Academy and further its cause. They should be true to themselves. The rest of their venomous article is riddled with worthless rhetoric and half-truths in an attempt to cover their tracks and distract all of us from the reality. It is a shameful and underhanded attempt to disparage the reputation of a hardworking, dedicated and respected member of Sabha who now serves as its Jathedar. I am no big fan of Jasbir but what is important is that he has the interest of Sabha at heart and the interest of the youth who are least interested in petty issues like the legitimacy of the Dasam Granth. These DG members have taken Jasbir as an easy target as he does not retaliate and does not believe in washing Sabha’s dirty linen in public. But something had to be said as there is too much misinformation being spread by the likes of these DG members.
If these DG members proceed with their battle cry and call for an EGM, all members of Sabha are urged to attend the EGM and take the 10 ‘Trojan Horse’ EXCO members to task for the manner in which they attempted to manipulate the duly elected Jathedar of Sabha. They must remember that they served as EXCO members at his pleasure and none of them was elected.
Lastly, the calling of an EGM to remove a sitting Jathedar of the Sabha is unprecedented. It is also a dangerous precedent because it is motivated by an ulterior motive. Those who choose this path must remember that whoever they may elect as the next Jathedar would be under similar scrutiny and can easily be subjected to similar treatment.
As the saying goes, if you live in a glass house, you should change in the dark. Sorry, I meant, ….you should not throw stones at others.
Yours in service of the Panth,
‘Tiger General Sher Singh Sher’
Disgruntled members threaten to oust SNSM jathedar (Asia Samachar, 22 Feb 2019)
Hawkish fatwa (Asia Samachar, 23 July 2018)
Newly appointed SNSM exco issues stand on Dasam Granth (Asia Samachar, 21 July 2018)