Nanki Kaur: Successful Sangat Challenge Of London Gurdwara Committee Behaviour Proves Power Of Direct Action
"It is quite disheartening that the Kaum has reached such a state that our supposed committee members, who seek to run our institutions, are not even aware of the basic principles of Sikhi."
April 11, 2022 | 5 min. read | Opinion
In early April, Sikh Sangat from around the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) drove all the way to London, Ontario, in order to address a persistent issue that the local Gurdwara committee had failed to take care of.
An individual at London Sikh Society Gurdwara had removed pictures of Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwale and Deep Sidhu twice alongside taunting Sangat that he would continue to do so each time they are put back up. In addition to the removal of these pictures, the individual was allegedly disrespecting the pictures as well.
When word of this matter spread, outraged Sikhs confronted the committee as it is their job to prevent such disrespectful acts, however, the committee did absolutely nothing. Members of the perpetrator’s family even stated that the committee was allegedly encouraging the individual to remove the pictures.
After seeing this lack of action from the committee, Sikhs took matters into their own hands, and organizations such as 5abunited, and sevato decided to spread awareness about the matter and organize a day for the Sikh Sangat to visit the Gurdwara and come to a resolution.
On Saturday, April 3, around 20 of us from the GTA arrived, in addition to local London Sikh Society attendees who were also upset due to this incident. Initially, the committee tried to avoid speaking to us and even called the London Police in an effort to have us removed from the property while citing the 3-foot kirpans that Sangat were carrying as “a threat”.
However, after explaining to the committee and the police the significance of the kirpans and shastars overall within the Sikh faith, alongside the fact that we have religious freedom to carry them, that complaint was predictably redacted.
We explained this using many examples, such as an excerpt from Gurbilas Patshahi 10 about the importance of being shastardhari in the Guru’s darbar.
ਇਹੈ ਮੋਰ ਆਗਿਆ ਸੁਨੋ ਲੈ ਪਿਆਰੇ | ਬਿਨਾ ਤੇਗ ਕੇਸੰ ਦਿਵੋ ਨ ਦਿਦਾਰੇ |
Listen to this command, without Kesh and Shastar, I will not bestow my darshan upon you.
- Gurbilas Patshahi 10
It is quite disheartening that the Kaum has reached such a state that our supposed committee members, who seek to run our institutions, are not even aware of the basic principles of Sikhi. If those who are in power do not know the basics, how can we expect those under them to thrive, learn, and grow in their Sikhi? If those who we entrust to maintain the respect and sanctity of Guru Maharaj and Shaheeds do not do so, how can we not expect outsiders to come into our sovereign, sacred places and do the same?
After clearing up the matter with the police, the committee finally agreed to speak to us but on the condition that we do not speak in front of the entire Sangat as we had asked for initially.
They were adamant about only five of us speaking to five members of the committee in a private room.
In the meeting, the committee clarified that they did not support or condone the individual’s behaviour and disrespect as alleged by his family. They claimed they had no issue with hanging pictures of Shaheeds and they acknowledged the significance of Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwale being the greatest Sikh of the 20th century.
We, on behalf of and as representatives of the Sangat, put forth four demands:
Pictures of Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Khalsa Bhindranwale & Deep Sidhu put back up
Pictures of more Shaheed Singhs fill the langar hall of this Gurdwara from now on
The individual be banned/given a trespass notice [as he refused to apologize or even show up]
The committee address the matter and apologize publicly in Darbar to the Sangat for their lack of action
While all four demands were agreed to and met, as the committee did go out and address the entire Sangat in the Darbar Hall about the incident, the committee initially did not feel comfortable with the fourth demand. However, this changed as we reminded them of other occurrences within the region where disrespect had occurred and committees had stepped up, fixed the issue, and apologized that they even let it occur under their watch in the first place.
In previous years when Beadbi has happened, situations only improved when Sikhs addressed and stood up against these occurrences happening at local Gurdwaras. Such as the issue of Beadbi at Oakville Gurdwara regarding chairs during an Anand Karaj in July of 2019.
Swift action against perpetrators in such cases is what prevented such things from occurring again. If no one had raised their voice against the Beadbi that occurred at Oakville Gurdwara then the Akal Takht would not have gotten involved and this type of Beadbi may have occurred again.
This is a perfect example of how much we can accomplish if we actually get up and do the work instead of just discussing or complaining about an issue. Discussion is important, but it means nothing without advocacy and proactive action. In the words of Sant Jarnail Singh Ji, “don’t just gear up; gear up and move forward!”
What is the point of joining the Panth or calling ourselves Sikhs if we see injustice happening and do nothing?
The Khalsa was born to end tyranny, harassment, injustice, and all evil in this world. But if we cannot even prevent that from occurring within our own spaces, then are we even true Sikhs of the Guru?
If someone walked into your house and disrespected pictures of your family members or acted disrespectfully towards your father or the head figure in your house, you would not allow it. Similarly; if someone comes into Sikh spaces, if someone comes into our Father’s house and acts disrespectfully; it will not be tolerated.
Sikhs showed up to address and solve this issue through dialogue out of their love for Sikhi, their Shaheeds & for the sovereignty that Sikhs must maintain in our spaces and places of worship. As long as we have the power of love for Sikhi and righteousness on our side, nothing can stop us.
Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh
Nanki Kaur is an undergraduate student who resides in Canada and is the co-founder of Kisan Rally Toronto. She served as the co-president of her university's Sikh Students Association. Over the past few years, she has conducted many inter-SSA seminars and guest presentations on Sikh history across various Ontario University SSAs. You can find Nanki on Twitter at @NankiKaur_.
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