Gurcharan Singh | Opinion | 5 July 2015 | Asia Samachar |
Have your agendas as you will like them but do it together under one name.
It took me a lot of courage and motivation to pen this down. To start with, I am not knowledgeable enough in Sikhi. I struggled to come to terms with the many possibilities or rather consequences of my writing this piece. It was for the sheer sake of progress that I decided to finally put my thoughts on paper – with Waheguru Ji’s mercy and blessing.
We, Sikhs in Malaysia, are a qaum that takes pride in who were are. We take efforts to ensure that Sikhi flourishes. We try to help other Sikhs in what ever way possible. Granted, we have done so much and so much more is being done on a daily basis. Some do it with lots of publicity, others quietly. Sikh-related organisations strive to fulfill their objectives. I bow in respect to the efforts undertaken by our sewadars (volunteers). I truly am humbled by the efforts done and the sewa they undertake.
I believe we can achieve so much more if we are more focussed and plan in a concerted manner. If a Sikh has a problem regarding any issue, where should he or she go? See another Sikh or see someone through a Sikh brother or sister and hope to get some solution to the problem. Some will go to a Sikh organisation, either known to them or others, that could be approached to help. Some will try their local Gurdwara. But many also complain that their Gurdwara is not doing enough to address issues, other than organise congregation from time to time. Where will a single mother with problematic kids go to ask for help? Where do children from poor families who want to pursue further studies go for help. Where do they seek information? Where do we go to seek legal redress or ask advice on legal matters?
We have many organisations which seem to be doing, more or less, the same thing. Are they really different? The objective at the end of the day will be to help Sikhs.
Let me give an illustration. Recently there were reports that some Sikh students were not allowed to spot their moustache and beard in schools. There was an exsiting Ministry of Education (MOE) circular but there were some loopholes in it. It allowed the Sikh students to wear the Kara but kept the old ruling on not allowing moustache and beard. Looks like it was overlooked by those who coordinated with the MOE to allow Kara in schools.
Let us see how we handled this issue. The issue was in the newspaper as well as the social media. At that point, I asked: Who is taking up this matter with the Ministry? Many organisations started making some noise concerning the issue. Some took it to the media. Even the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbhandak Committee (SGPC) expressed that it was not happy that Sikh children in Malaysian schools are not allowed to keep moustache and beard.
I waited for some news on which organisation will be handling this issue and their approach. Some had even went up to see the Minister/Deputy Minister of Education and assured that something was being done.
I was somewhat perplexed at the way we handled such an issue. I also cannot help but question if there was a proper and clear method of addressing such issues.
FEDERATION OF SIKH SOCIETIES
Let us do a bit of imagining at this juncture. There is a problem about schools adhering strictly to the effective circular and not allowing Sikh students to keep their moustache and beard. The incident is reported to the Sikhs ‘complaints bureau’. This bureau comes under a ‘Federation of Sikh Societies Malaysia’. The problem is picked up with the bureau directing it to the relevant body within the federation to take further action. The Federation makes a statement to the Sikhs that the said complaint is received and action is being taken. This is relayed through the Federation’s channel (be it a website and Facebook page) and other media. The body under the Federation takes the necessary measure and goes to the right channel to address this issue. The problem is discussed and the solution is agreed and then relayed to the Panth.
So what is the specialty of this Federation? What does it do? It is a federation of Sikh organisations in Malaysia? There could be various sections and the organisations are clearly given their standard operating procedures (SOPs) to what area they have to take charge of regarding the Sikhs. We can have a unit taking care of youth development, a welfare wing taking care of the homeless and poor families, an education development section in charge of education and development of students, a career guidance unit helping Sikhs to choose their career paths and various other sections, a legal bureau to take care of legal or constitutional matters, an economic unit to help Sikhs with business matters and so forth.
So, what will be the basis of planning by these various organisations or sections under the Federation in their particular areas?
Oh! This is the tough one. Do we have some kind of a ‘Blueprint for Sikhs in Malaysia’? Do we have a comprehensive plan for Sikhs in Malaysia for the next 5 years or 10 years? We might have it but where is it? Who has it? What is it about?
Maybe we have it but is it fragmented within the various Sikh organisations. If you are good at planning and have some foresight, you are likely to have one for your organisation but if you are waiting for issues to rise and then think of an action, then you are acting reactively and probably lack this part of foresight wisdom. But how do we go about having a blueprint that covers all the aspects? Well, to an extent, we have now all aspects being covered by many organisations.
I had the opportunity to speak to some organisations recently. To my surprise, fantastic efforts are being done by these organisations, albeit in silos.
Some are taking care of 50 poor and needy families each and others up to more than a 100 families. But how many are being taken care of in total? Well, that’s not important, or is it? We can say individually that 50 families are being taken care by each of us but can we also say 500 families are being taken care of in a concerted effort and the database is clear and up to date? How do we get to that point?
Is this an impossible dream? I am not the only ‘mad’ one here. A line from John Lennon’s famous song ‘Imagine’ comes to mind – “You may say I’m a dreamer, But I’m not the only one”. There are so many successful Sikhs out there who might have the same thoughts; or rather I pray they do! I am sure we all want to see a clear planning on the future of our Sikhs in this country. We also want to see clear methods of tackling issues.
We have some problem with Sikhs converting to Christianity and we all jump, again in our own spot. Some make the reactive move to tackle the issue at hand. Fingers start pointing at all directions and we all feel sad of the state of affairs. The heat of the moment gathers some concerned individuals or organisations to sit and talk about the problem. But what happens next? We then find the alleged culprit behind this act and some form of action is taken. We might get to see the ending of the saga or just get distorted somewhere in the midst of it. So, all is well until we get some problem and then inevitably its time to come together for a common cause, normally in the form of a common enemy. What about the other times when things are going alright?
Another beautiful blessing we have got is in the form of our beautiful Gurdwaras. We are experts in renovating and building gurdwaras. We talk no less than millions nowadays when it comes to upgrading gurdwaras. One dear Sikh brother was on a donation drive. He told me the gurdwara fund needs a few millions to extend and renovate the existing gurdwara. I did my little part and whispered in his ears: “Please do something for the poor families and students in the area too.” He assured me that they have been thinking about it.
Are all Gurdwaras helping the society, beyond the efforts of holding prayers and getting the Sangat to sit and pray together? Do we approach the Gurdwara when we have our kids having good results but no financial means to go for further studies? Do we approach the Gurdwara for counseling help, both for us and kids? Do we approach the Gurdwara to help our kids with their studies and career guidance? Do we approach Gurdwara to help us when we have no shelter on our heads and nothing on the plate? What might be a good model for the functions of a Gurdwara? I cannot answer all these questions and I hope you can.
AGENDA, POSITION, EKTA
I think I have said what I think about and hopefully many of these concerns are also in the minds of others amongst us. No one else perhaps can have the Federation and lead it but the existing leaders of the existing organisations. No one is as steadfast as what many of you are doing and no one perhaps wants to take your position away from you. What we probably want is one voice and one vision – EKTA. Keep your positions and the sewa you are doing but come together in a unified federation or a big umbrella that has all aspects of the Sikhs qaum covered. We probably can speak with one voice and relay our aspirations to the powers that be if we think we need to get that help – after all the Sikhs have been paying as much taxes as others in this country and we deserve our bit.
Is it necessary for Sikh Naujawan Sabha Malaysia (SNSM), for instance, to get the views and help of Sikhs to plan a school on Khalsa Land [the land owned by SNSM in Kuala Kubu Bharu, Selangor] and do it as an effort by Sabha alone or is it good to have a school in the blueprint of the Sikhs and the Sabha is given the lead to do it? What about having a university in the future?
We take it in good faith and with utmost respect that none of you leaders of the organisations want to work alone without the help of others but you perhaps just cannot help it. We might have different ideals and we surely have strong egos. That is not necessarily bad but it could hinder progress as a whole. Have your agendas as you will like them but do it together under one name. I reiterate that we are doing great individually but there is also some truth in synergy where your current one plus another’s one could potentially equal three. Whatever said and done, at the end of the day, it is for the sole aim of panthic sewa.
With my hands folded and my head bowed to your great sewa, let us move together to plan things for the future and ensure we achieve more than what we are getting now.
Am I just a dreamer like thousands of Sikhs who are silent out there or have I drifted out of reality and context? With God’s will, we shall see the way if we seriously take it as a joint responsibility. I pen off here with a beautiful quote I saw this morning – The best time to start was yesterday, the next best time is now.
[Gurcharan Singh is an educationist who feels strongly the need to unify Sikh organisations in Malaysia]
Dear commentators: what Sdr Gurucharan Singh ji has said are facts. Egos aside see the wisdom in his thoughts. The is a saying ” an old book does not render the wisdom in it to become old too”. Further before running others down WE must hv a good look at ourselves first. Do we measure up? Are WE not guilty of ‘sleeping’ all this while when much was needed to be done for the Sikh Panth? Looks like you & me have juz been awokened from our slumber. So lets walk the talk. The Sikh Federation is good for a starter.
Balwinder Kaur ji, there is an old saying which says ” an old book does not make the wisdom in it old”. What Sdr Gurucharan Singh ji has stated is wisdom. We should work on it for Panth di Chardi Kala. A Sikh Federation would be good to avoid duplicity of seva & for purposes of accountability. Gurufateh. Sarb da bhala.
SPOT ON- Awtaar Ji, It is interesting that one has been sitting silently regurgitating his infected mouth wash,then when issues are highlighted, discussed, shared and pointed to drive the points home,. that sputum comes alive, and thinks, the push of the buttoin will make things honkey donkey glorious.For me it was an eye opener to read both the Gs, and ralise just how many stupoids we have who used recycled mouthwash,and sat around doing nothing!These are the cause of no unity towards unity in the community, as they spoew their venom frustratedly.
Interesting how a discussion, has landed one to use regurgitated mouthwash, and thinks at the push of his oral flow things take place at once forward.
Baldev Singh ji,
Gurfateh Dear Brothers and Sisters,thank you for giving your views and support on this issue which is a concern of many a Sikh in this country. I thank you for the support of this idea and it will be good to see more effort done towards this goal. There are currently some organisations that have come together but we need more efforts to get the rest of them believe in the importance of having one voice and Ekta. We will soon be quiet and the noble aspiration will again wither away until we need to bring it up the next time. In our own capacities, keep this going and we ought to speak about it all the time in order to move towards some affirmative action on it. Waheguru bless all.
Reading comments below many commenters instead of agreeing to move forward and at least make another effort decided to share their 2 penny’s worth of advice. Now you see why we cannot move forward. We are all advisors and love to hear our own voices never one to shy away from giving our pennies worth of mouthwash.
Absolutely support the idea of speaking & acting in one voice. Not only internally will problem resolution be smooth; but externally too the impact will be great as all stakeholders will know abt this one point of contact. Maybe to begin with some comparison can be made to MCA’s complaint bureau. But that is only to address problems, not development as mentioned by the writer here, which is equally if not more important. The existing groups could perhaps get together and unify, with a pledge to put aside egos & nepotism, for the sake of the community.
Hoye ikater mere bhai,dubida door kareh liv laye
Harpal JI, I concur.Some writers have believed tribalism to be a positively active way to unite people. But in the case of Punjabis,and esspecially Sikhs, this has had a totally opposite effect.It has appeared to be worthwhile to be played to divide the community.It is intrinsically built into the Sikh mindset.It appears to be a genetic trait, as history currently leads us to believe,unless scientifically proven otherwise.
Casteism,on the other hand, has been generally stamped out amongst the Sikhs.The religion prohibits catseism.We can blame individuals, if found to be pratcising such.
But the tribalism, which leads to clans,is very prevalent, cannot be blamed upon individuals, but the whole group of people.
Sticking to Malaysia, history tells us, the Sikhs not only brought this destructive tribal mentality, but pockets of casteism too as they arrived in Malaysia.In addition, they brought along , or developed a 3rd ingredient, that was to reinforce the divisional mentality among us.This was simply based upon mainly three major geographical areas of the Punjab, that was mainly under the British and never part of the Sikh Raj of Maharajah Ranjit Singh.The British encouraged these divisions among all communities, for perhaps, ease of rule and to keep the communities divided, enhanced their position.
Sikh Army and police units were formed based upon the caste,tribal/clans and geographical divisions in case of Malaya/Singpore.Thus we saw with early arrival Sikhs, Gurduaras were based upon the geographical divisions of Punjab- Majha, Doaba and the Malwa.Surprisingly, we still see some main Gurduaras divided on this point,and practising these anti Gurmat values.
With casteism, tribal divisions and now geographical divide, Sikhs soon got sucked into it big time, all to contribute to future division of Sikh mentality.
These various types of divisions have taken years to be knocked out of real Sikh practices, but strong pockets of such backward anti Sikh thinking remains here and there that contributes to the continued lack of UNITY.These negative developed attributes have now added various personal agendas, objectives, likes and personal dislikes often from so called many pious and holier than thou individuals,coupled with materialism;failed desires and jealousies of the other do not help the community, nor can help any community.Grants from Government to develop disjointed groups have created many limited groups with conflicting, and undermining each other philosophical mindset.There is simply no mindfulness of the community as a whole.Yet millions are spent on the naam ras..which bores no fruit, for these same individuals, let alone the poor and needful of the community.
Added to this is the dilution of Sikh values,the half baked Sikhs-confused about their mother tongue, their culture, their Sikhi roots-the cosmopolitan living has allowed the creeping in of practices that are not Sikh; but hindu, Moslem or christian- all in the name of some Muhibah slogan- we trade ‘ours’, for ‘theirs’.Integration does not mean degradation or abandonment of our own.
These challengingly confusing issues that have developed over the last 50 years have produced mainly individuals, who ADORE the position of presidency, secretary of Gurduara, or of some Sikh organisation, or the CEO of some sikh group, BUT with little or NO knowledge of Sikh ethos,Punjabi language, Sikh history,GURBANI, or its message or understanding;the constitution of Sikh rehat maryada , the concept of sangat or pangat or gurduara, except what they have learnt “dekho dekhi”, run kirtan dabars, sponsor ragis from abroad;build bigger gurduaras, while ignoring the poor, the sick and needy of the community!Sports and , bhangra have become a bigger game than Sikh identity and Guru message.
Very Few have made good, learnt Sikhi along the way, most have learnt to line their own pockets and have absolutely no idea of basic Sikh religion and it’s identity, but are very fast to enter a book of records with ladoos etc!
This lack of real education about Sikhi has developed a management structure based upon political vested interests.It is not suitable for preaching the TRUE Sikhi ETHOS-Gurmat!
This has developed a directionless “preaching”structure going on by keeping the main aim of ONLY livelihood of the Gurduara and committee; thus it has been unsuccessful in uniting the community of developing the Sikhs mind set.
The majority of the Sikh sangat is divided into small factions, while many are entangled into individual sadh babas and gurus!Each is attempting to promote their own version of “sikhi” and guru.
Many Sikhs out there feel the pain, perceive the problems, but are incapable to understand or offer the proper solution.
The list could be endless.We can continue to be critical.But that is not a solution.This is but a baseline to understand where we are wrong and have gone wrong. I hope these discussions,keeping the religious and national compassion in mind would be able to develop meaningful reformers for the community.
The wise says, never consider an illness and an enemy weak.The delay and carelessness can make the enemy /challenge powerful and the illness becomes incurable.
The Jews,a community very similar in numbers to the Sikhs, has created much more awareness about them, their needs and their national desires, with forward planning, mindful of the arising challenges and responding appropriately as a single VOICE at national level and international level, while strengthening their position with education and producing intelectuals who not only control more than half the world economy but countries like US, Australia and Canada with their small numbers.
Can we learn something from them, them from Gurbani?
Before I part,one of the best steps taken forward in current times towards UNITY is by Sr Jageer Singh Ji and the sangat of Tanjung Rambutan -who went on a walkabout to connect the community.Well done Ji!Guru Nanak Ji did that in practice.
[In modern times Jat, Tharkan or Bhatra are very much tribal mentality communities.We accept there is a strong tribalist mentality that people want to marry within their own communities. Perhaps this is due to a common lifestyle, values, and beliefs. Similar to university graduates marrying only university graduates, or doctors only wishing to marry doctors. However, being Sikhs of the Guru, a Gurmukh shares the lifestyle, values and beliefs of Gurmat. A Sikh marries a Sikh. Consideration to caste, race or colour in matters of matrimony should be discouraged]
A sound observation indeed, Bhai Gurucharan Singh Ji. However, having been involved in several Sikh issues in India, South East Asia and Europe, it is my opinion that we Sikhs cannot simply be united because we are genetically wired to act as clans. Its simply the need to belong to a small pyramid, where we have our jathedar and we want o be seen as the party keading the quam. The Dogra’s of Maharaja Ranjit asingh Ji era are a classic example of the extend we will go to , to simply eliminate another simply to attempt to be the leader. The DSGC, HSGC and the many multitude of gurudwara councils in India and a similar trend to do the sane in other countries, as in the UK certainly is evidence that Sikhs will continue to remain disunited and continue the fight for their clanmanship
Will Sikhs ever re-develop and remain loyal to the interest of Sikhi and the Quam, we eventually may, when future generations continue the trend of inter-clan and inter-race marriages, and the few who remain as Sikhs, simply identify themselves as Sikhs, and not their jathebandis.. Until then, we are all members of a declining breed of clan members, who happen to practice Sikhi.
There is a very very old saying in Punjabi :-Jadon Gurduara kache San, Sikh pakke san;JADON Gurduara pakke banana shuru ho gaye ,Sikh kache ho gaye.Kaum di badkismati hai-This nirbhau, nirvair based mind provoking line of thought is based upon, the ever forwarding looking Gurmat development of a Sikh mind, that remains intact, while preparing with hindsight the future of the Sikhs at personal level, and of the Sikh Panth at the coporate level, both ingredients found in Gurbani based ETHICS of a Sikh living.
What, my name sake Sr Gurcharan Singh has shared cannot be denied nor disowned regards the current all inclusive weak state of the community-that has strayed very far not only from Gurbani, but the service of sarbat da bhalla collectively.Instead this centres on individual egoistic projects and unnecessary Gurduara buildings -rather than invest in the education of children and strengthening, and supporting the current & future citizens of community, in all aspects of daily living skills and long term goals. This is at zero currently in the community.
There is an absense of a unified systematic, planned and focussed approach, that is so necessary for any minority, to survive and to continue our foot prints,upon all arenas of not only the Malaysian nation, but the ever growing global village.
Sadly, Sikhs in Malaysia have not appeared to recognise these wider issues,but concentrate on the small traditional gathering of hymn singings,gurduara buildings,raising funds for the golak, inviting relentlessly ragis from another culture to sing, that no body among Malaysian born understand-this cycle of events like a used record has gone on so long, people simply attend for the sake, and nothing is understood or gained or can be put to use.The record is then played again and again by various organisations.Hyms were also sung for 24 /7 at Harmander sahib-it did not prevent sad events in 1984.Hymns are an important part, but understanding and practising the message in daily life is far more important, and should be the objective.Have we got tools in place for the community to feed back after each such event, so that the event could be geared to meet any shortage, a BIG No.
Without going all over, the message from Gurcharan Singh ji, as I see it, SIKH EKTA-SIKH UNITY is the need that should have been in place 50 years ago, and today, for a community that has moved away from simple selfless HUMANITY,and is drowned in deep wasteful slumber of AGIANTA[lack of knowledge] and inadvertently often anti Gurmat actions, that will not provide a bright future for the future generations.
Gurcharan Singh ji VOICES, the irresponsible currrent existentsially unviable pathway the community is threading upon.Any trials of the community’s current actions, paths, the non cordinated and non existent single point of VOICE will never stand any trials of a succesfull community, when history of Sikhs is re-written in 50 years.
I hope many will take this timely call to introspective examination of Sikhs, the organisations, and the ad-hoc responses, the community offers to challenges and issues arising, and when they have arisen!It is by no means that we find ourselves in this position, as we have the blind leading the blind , who lead because they have been either put into a position of which they have no knowledge, or never learnt about.SIKHI.Many of these have gone the way like an over used record.
Whatever you said in yr article is also the dream of many of us…the silent majority who want nothing but unity among the Sikhs & the organisations in this country. There is alot to be done yet nothing has actually taken off in facing a number of issues regarding our community. We cant keep on going to the establisment in our own individual capacity, they wont bother about us unless we see & meet them with one voice.
When I used to go the Mara college to visit my daughter…there was a dream…..hopefully one day we have our own Maktab Rendah Sains Khalsa….hopefully it becomes a reality in time to come…if we give due attention to the points you raised on your article…Tanvaadji.
Well said today and done.Tomorrow will be their own agenda. I was shocked when I went once personally to met together with a Gurudawa President and saw the way [a leader] behaved,as if the whole Gurudawa council belongs to him.He was acting unprofessional and I told him when a Sikh had a problem to whom he can address his problems. I’AM not SUPRISED why our Sikhs have to go to another religious platform as to address their problems. WELL if you ask me that if a Muslim society would have approached me and helped me then I’am also ready to convert into a Muslim?
THE BEST SOLUTION FOR OUR SOCIETY IS TO HAVE ALL COLLECTED FUNDS FROM GURDAWARAS TRANSFERRED EVERY MON OR TUESDAY IN TO ONE CENTRALISED FUND IN THE COUNSEL.
THEN WE WILL SEE HOW MANY WHO WANTS TO BECOME THE PRESIDENT OF THAT PARTICULAR TEMPLE.IT IS THE MONEY COLLECTION OF THE FUNDS THESE PRESIDENTS ARE SITTING ON.AND THERE IS NO RESPECT FOR THE SRI GURU GRANTH SAHAIB JI AS EVEN THESE PEOPLE HAVE THEIR HEAD SHAVED BALD AND CLEAN SHAVEN BUT STILL CALLS THEM AS SIKH GURDWARA PRESIDENTS .WHO IS GOING TO RESPECT YOU WHEN YOU YOURSELF IS OUT FROM THE RELIGION AND WANTS TO SIT IN THE EDUCATION MINISTRY TO HIGH LIGHT ALL THE SAID PROBLEMS OF THE SIKH STUDENTS WHEN THE TIME COMES.
THE GURUDAWA COUNSEL MUST DO FIRST IS FIRST.HAVE BASIC DISCIPLINE OF THE CODE OF ETHNICS AND THEN GO FOR THE CENTRALISED FUNDS TRANSFERRED AND WE WILL SEE HOW WANTS TO BECOME THE NEXT PRESIDENT, SECRETARY, AND VICE PRESIDENT?
SATNAAM SRI WAHEGURU JI. FATHEY.