Who Speaks For You?

In a recent news article, the SGPC has decided to respond to the many challenges Sikhs outside of Punjab face post-9/11 (better late than never, eh?). In particular, the issue of the “Turban ban” in France and the “Turban pat-downs” for air travelers in the US. How do they intend to address these issues? Creating and distributing brochures.


The Tribune reports “The SGPC today decided to make foreigners aware of the Sikhism by facilitating literature in different foreign languages apart from raising the issue with the UNO and all embassies in New Delhi.”  SGPC President Avtar Singh Makkar said,

We have decided to provide a detailed information about the Sikh identity, history, culture and five Ks to foreigners in their country and in their own language…We will also send brochures about the Sikh identity to the UN Secretary-General and all embassies in New Delhi.

Although I’m pleased to see the SGPC finding ways to make itself relevant for the millions of Sikhs living outside of India, at the same time I hardly think brochures is the best approach. In a related story, the SGPC is considering appointing 10 representatives across the Diaspora to “deal with the problems being faced by the community abroad.” Essentially, giving Sikhs outside of India more of “a say.”

A say in what?  Who knows?

As I thought about these new initiatives from the SGPC, as well as researching their history a bit – I’m having trouble understanding the real purpose of this organization. On the one hand, the SGPC was created in the 1920’s to keep the British out of managing Gurwdaras. And in the process of reclaiming these Gurdwaras, they (along with the Singh Sabhias) ousted mahants and non-Sikh practices out of the Gurdwaras.  In addition to managing historical Gurdwaras, the SGPC also runs several educational institutions. However, the SGPC is also referred to as the “mini-parliament” of the Sikhs, as it states on it’s website. which to me is a completely different set of goals. This implies that they are the representatives and decision makers on behalf of Sikhs all over the world. Is this really the case?

So what is the relevance of the SGPC in 2011?

Do we really need the SGPC to speak on behalf of those of us living outside of India?

Do they have the resources or the influence to speak to our issues? Or should we leave these matters to the civil and human rights organizations who have the skills and experience to be effective (Sikh Coalition, SALDEF, United Sikhs etc.)

And if the SGPC finds itself with loads of time on their hands, why not get back to some of its roots and reclaim some of the Gurdwaras that have fallen in to the hands of modern-day mahants and rid the non-Sikh practices we are seeing today?  Are all Gurdwaras the SGPC is managing today falling inline with the Rehat Marayada? The same document they coordinated and rubber-stamped years ago?

Maybe they can use their resources to address issues in their own backyard, like holding granthis and parcharaks to a certain standard rather than leaving it up to the Babas to promote Sikhi. Or perhaps they could lean toward charity work and support efforts to address female feticide, drug abuse, farmer suicide, Punjab’s water crisis…take your pick!

My opinion…we’ll make our own brochures, thank you.

What’s yours?

About RP Singh

Writer. Poet. Organizer. View all posts by RP Singh

5 responses to “Who Speaks For You?

  • gurdas

    I agree with your point of view that SGPC is probably biting more than it can chew. Given their track record, political tones (SGPC heads are often Akali Dal picks), and limited capabilities, I'd thank the Lord if SGPC can manage its own backyard.

  • Monnu

    I am really grateful to have the information from this blog. I liked the blog as it has been written,the information i got from here.historical gurudwaras

  • Izhaarbir

    I appreciated your perspective veerji, as this is exactly how I have felt many times. Regardless of what SGPC is, what they have accomplished, or what they ought to be doing, fact remains that they are in possession and control of the vast majority of the economic activity (the golak from Darbar Sahib and every other Gurduara in Punjab) of the Sikh Nation. Until either SGPC finds a way to separate itself from its entanglements with Akali Dal/Badal Government and finds new leadership, or Sikhs find a way to wrest back control of all their Gurduaras in Punjab, the Sikh Nation within Punjab is doomed.

  • Anonymous

    Really broad issue you blogged about here unlike your other posts but just like the SGPC the organizations you mentioned have their own flaws and come with certain strings attached but since these orgs are very small compared to the SGPC those minor issues are irrelevant at this point. Do we need a SGPC? yes we do – it has benefited us in many ways and continues.Has it set us back many years as well? yes it has. I agree with the comment that it should manage its own backyard rather than expanding at a stage where many Sikhs do not have faith in the leaders of the organization – usually appointed by political leaders many of whom are funded by famous diaspora Sikhs.Also the Gurudwaras in the diaspora are in control of Baba's and Mahant's if you look carefully – many of who have criminal records from robbery, murder and child molestation – maybe we could use some house cleaning too while making our own brochures.

  • Rubin Paul Singh

    Thanks for your comments! Gurdas and Izhaarbir, I agree with your points that due to the SGPC’s link with the Akali Dal & Badal Government, they will continue to be limited in what they can accomplish. Although I am a bit skeptical of these new initiatives from the SGPC, I must say that I was interested in their efforts to aquire land for a facility to print Guru Granth Sahib birs. The article states, “they would acquire 2.5 acres being offered by Gurdwara Sahib Charlotte at North Carolina in the US for setting up the printing facility for Guru Granth Sahib. It will be the first such facility outside India.” This to me seems like a very tangible project more in line with the SGPC’s skill set and adds immediate value to Sikh living in North America.Anonymous – for my own knowledge, can you expand on how the SGPC “has benefited us in many ways and continues.”, perhaps in the last 50 years or so? As for house cleaning in our own backyard…point well taken!

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