Akal Takht approval for new gurdwaras worldwide edict comes under question

| Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia | 12 Sept 2015 | Asia Samachar |


By HB Singh

The Akal Takht has issued an edict requiring Sikhs worldwide to get its permission before opening up any new gurdwara sahibs, a move that is certain to cause consternation in the Sikh diaspora.

The decision was taken after a ‘thorough deliberation’ of the 5 Singh Sahibs at the Akal Takht secretariat in Amritsar, Punjab, according to a letter dated 10 Sept 2015 from the Sikh religious authority.

The letter is available on the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbhandak Committee (SGPC) website. It was together with a  number of other letters, including one bestowing the ‘Shiromani Sewak’ title to SGPC president Avtar Singh.

In immediate reactions to queries from Asia Samachar, quarters involved in Sikhi parchaar (Sikh preaching) in Malaysia were hard pressed to justify the decision.

“Until we understand the rationale for the ruling, it seems at first reading to be difficult to implement and enforce,” said Coalition of Malaysian Sikh Organisations (CMSO) secretary general Autar Singh.

After a thorough deliberation, the five Singh Sahibs had decided whosoever intends to build a gurdwara sahib any where in the world should first get the approval of the Akaal Takhat, according to the letter.

It was signed by Akal Takhat jathedar Gurbachan Singh, Takht Sri Patna Sahib jathedar Giani Ikbal Singh, Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib jathedar Mal Singh, Takht Sri Damdama Sahib jathedar Gurmukh Singh and Takht Hazoor Sahib granthi Ram Singh.

The Akal Takht edict dated 10 Sept 2015 requiring Sikhs worldwide to get its permission before opening up new gurdwaras.
The Akal Takht edict dated 10 Sept 2015 requiring Sikhs worldwide to get its permission before opening up new gurdwaras.

“I’ve put some thought to it but I don’t seem to be able to think of any conceivable reason for the 5 Singh Sahibaans to come up with such a ruling,” said Sikhi Lehar Malaysia (SLM) founder Balvinder Singh, a lawyer by profession.

“Necessity for new Gurdwaras anywhere in the world should be left to the collective wisdom of the local Sikh sanggat.”

SLM is a Facebook-based closed discussion group that has more than 3,000 members.An official from a Amritsar-based Sikh organisation, who declined to be named, also questioned how the Singh Sahibs will put the edict into practice.

“They should work with the local Sikh sanggat. That would be a better option,” he tells Asia Samachar.

In his response, Autar, who was also the former jathedar of Sikh Naujawan Sabha Malaysia, said that as Sikhs move away from traditional neighbourhoods, they will need to set up gurdwaras in their new localities.

“Also as populations grow within established neighbourhoods, the sanggat will need additional Gurduaras to meet the demand for programmes.

“Instead of centralising decisions on this basic need of the community, the Akal Takht Sahib should consider this to be within the purview of local sanggat,” he says.

Balvinder expressed concern on the impact of the decision. “This ruling has obviously not been thought through and will further erode the respect Sikhs worldwide have for this institution of the 5 Singh Sahibaans,” he says.


[ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs in Southeast Asia and surrounding countries. We have a Facebook page, do give it a LIKE. Follow us on Twitter. Visit our website: www.asiasamachar.com]



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  1. Sr Balwant Singh Ji, That is a very sweeping statement.One does not throw out the baby from the dirty wash basin.

    SGPC has every right, but often with limited understanding, it jumps upon the band wagon, and finds it is not practical to be on that wagon safely.

    It is a democratically elected institution -though there are flaws now with the election process itself.Currently,it is corrupted, controlled by polictics, favoritism, bias and largely unskilled people are elected, who also have no knowledge of the Sikh protocol.

    It cannot have international representation, as it is governed by an Indian statue, and law.It was originally to manage historical Sikh Gurduaras in pre 1947 Punjab, Himachal.It now includes Haryana.

    Subsequent new Gurduaras in the three states generally chose to follow the directions of the Akal Takhat, which is governed by the SGPC.

    The Sikh population has now gone viral internationally.Many Sikhs are foreign citizens, thus they cannot be elected,represented or actively participate in the activities of the Indian based SGPC.

    Early in 2000 suggestions were put to make the SGPC more inclusive , foreign based Sikhs could be given representation limited to a discussion and advisory role only, but as the current ideology of the foreign based Sikhs was largely anti Badal stance,and also there was a large pro Khalistan element, this has been abandonned.

    The SGPC can be wiped off by the single signature of the DC of Amritsar, if he so wishes.All minutes passed by the SGPC has to be confirmed by the DC before released.Although, todate, the DC has largely been rubber stamping the workings of the SGPC, but he has often sent back for ratifications, esspecially over issues that do not directly relate to the Sikh religion.

    However,there is no reason, why Sikhs in their own countries cannot set up a Gurduara Management Board, that can work paralell to the SGPC, and issue edicts to local arising issues, following the Guru Granth Sahib and Gurbani directions, past precedents from the SGPC and Sikh history.These decision can then be ratified by the Akal Takhat, so as to maintain the status of the Akal takhat.

    Such will also open up the Akal takhat to understand issues abroad and the specific challenges for Sikhs. But this requires individuals with in depth understanding of the Sikh protocol.

    Many people, still refer to the SGPC as “Mini Parliament” very mistakenly,do not realise it is not, and can be struck off by the signature of a mere low level DC of the district. Until, we have an alternative, throwing the SGPC out would only open the doors more unabted abuse and insult to the Sikhs nation, and it’s institutions.

  2. Following a number of complaints the following was discussed widely in The Punjabi press.

    This follows issues that the SGPC faced with in the UK and US, following actions by some gurduaras to bar certain people; who have alleged current parbandhks were not following the SRM protocol and also over the issues of the Anand karaj marriages.Some Gurduaras were allowing discreetly to hold marriages between non Sikhs and Sikhs, as a common ritual with no meaningful purpose; and bordering on farce and abuse of the Guru guided practices.

    In UK, esspecially, many caste based gurduaras are in place, which has created unnecessary divisional issues.It is not only caste based, but often countries of origians has alo become an issue, where Sikhs from East Africa have their own Gurduara set up[although largely caste based in origins]as opposed to the Indian migrants.

    Lately, a number of gurduaras have been established by individuals or families, where largely non Sikh practices have gone on.This is in the cases of Deras , that have mushroomed in the Punjab and now spreading abroad.

    Lastly, some institutions set up as Gurduaras are not really Sikh Gurduaras but that of cults like Ram rahim or some others.

    The reallity is the SGPC cannot police the set up of Gurduaras outside India, and only limitedly outside the Punjab itself.

    Thus, how they intend to control the non Sikhi set is the question that arises.

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