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Crisis of Sikh Leadership – by Iqbal Singh Lalpura

Punjab is the only State where Sikhs are in the majority. Their population is 1,60,000,00 which is almost 57.69% of the total population of Punjab.

For religious purposes, the Sikhs are guided by Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. After Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji left for his heavenly abode in 1708, the institution of Sri Akal Takht Sahib was used as a meeting place by Sikh Misls to decide future action plans and various religious issues.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh used to obey the religious orders of Sri Akal Takht Sahib but never consulted them for any political decision except once when Yashwant Rao Holkar approached him for support in 1805- 1806. The order of the clergy was against giving help to him and Maharaja Ranjit Singh arranged his compromise with Britishers instead of fighting against them jointly.

However, during the last more than 175 years, the British authorities effectively put into practice their strategy for making use of this most sacred institution of the Sikh religion for their aggrandizement.

As part of this, an image-building exercise was undertaken at the center of which was the depiction of the British as believers in the tenets of Sikhism so much so that General Dyer was bestowed with ‘Siropa’ after the Jallianwala massacre. Thus, the holiest of the Sikh institutions was embroiled in the controversy.

In the aftermath of freedom, the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee/Shiromani Akali Dal also made this religious institution an epicenter of activities of a political nature.

The religious edicts passed from the institution generally give an impression of being one-sided sparing the high and mighty in Sikh politics even after being held liable for flouting the same.

Thus, there is no ambiguity that the edicts i.e. Hukamnama passed by Sri Akal Takht Sahib are not being implemented by the Sikh leadership of Punjab, who control the SGPC themselves, in so far as the religious domain goes.

However, some of these edicts used to help one segment of the Sikh politicians, totally ignore the impact on Sikhs, living outside Punjab, in other States of the country.

The preaching and propagation of religion are thus left to Ragis, and Dhadi Baba’s who do it, to earn livelihood, without themselves adhering to the sacred principles enshrined in the Gurbani.* The result of this is very clear. The Sikh population in Punjab has gone down from 63% to 57.69%.

There is no established Sikh leadership for the other 50 lakh Sikhs living in various Indian States. Guru Sahiban had traveled in this country to propagate the concept of one God and service to humanity and the locals respected them and started following the Gurus’ way of life. Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji is known by various names in India and abroad.

The tragedy is that there is no Sikh leadership so far developed to work according to their local conditions on political or religious issues.

The Hukamnama from Amritsar on a political issue may be relevant in Punjab but may be irrelevant in other States, same may be the case on religious issues, which has created a sense of confusion/insecurity amongst the people, living in other States, in the past.

As far as Sikh leadership is concerned, there have been more than 111 MPs from Lok Sabha, and 80 from Rajya Sabha belonging to Punjab, who were elected to represent the Punjab people since 1952.

Another 10 Sikhs were nominated to the Rajya Sabha during this period. Some of them even became senior official functionaries like the President, Prime Minister, Home Minister, Defence Minister, External Affairs Ministers, Speaker and thus having proximity to the then Prime Minister.

There are allegations of omission and commission against most of them, other restricted themselves to enjoy the Pay and Perks as Members of Parliament. In the book “ Fighting for Sikh Causes in Indian Parliament “ by Hardev Singh Virk, he could only identify Four Sikh Member Parliament who have raised Sikh issues during the last 72 years since 1952. Although the issues were only raised without positive results.

We do not find or remember any effort to create a Punjab House in Delhi like an Islamic Centre, or YMCA, where Punjabis can meet their representatives, in case of problems and to sort out the Punjab and Sikh issues.

That is the reason why the problems being faced by the Sikhs remain unresolved. Thus, there is a vacuum of strong leadership in Delhi to present the case of Punjabis.

*In Delhi, the Sikh leadership is restricted only to the President of Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee and their associates as is the case with Haryana and other states. Doing immense harm to the Sikh Panth are the allegations and counter-allegations of usurping the Gurudwara funds which have now assumed the universal dimension.*

Thus, the good work done by the Sikh Community, as members of the Panth i.e. ‘Manas Ton Devte’ (from an ordinary human being to an angel), created by Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji is going waste.

The people living outside Punjab mainly have a different view on political issues in Punjab, as Haryana/Rajasthan want more water from SYL but Punjab is not able to give even a liter of water for irrigation. People sitting in Assam would be under the threat of any terrorist activity in Punjab. T

hat is the reason, we had to face the 1984 Sikh massacre and even after 40 years, we could not ensure justice to the Sikhs, those who were killed in Delhi and 9 other States. The same is the case with other States, where Sikhs are living in good numbers.

The number of Sikhs, representing the 50 lakh of the community who are living outside Punjab is almost negligible. There had been Members from Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, and Assembly from the Sikh Community in these States in the past, but now their number is not compatible with their population, outside Punjab.

About 30 lakh Sikhs are living abroad, mainly in the USA, Canada, UK, Europe, and Australia, Sub-Continents but from the information available, it is clear that 98% of them are peace-loving and want Punjab to be seen as the Number 1 State in the world, as far as development and peace is concerned, but only 2%, who are motivated by their gain or under the influence of anti-India Agencies are trying to spoil the image of other 98% peace-loving Sikhs. Sometimes, these innocent people have to face problems of identity crisis.

The need is to unite a group of Sikhs is visible, who may be away from the Gurudwara politics but are keen to promote Sikh religion, Sikh culture, Sikh youth, and Sikh political leadership, in States outside Punjab and abroad.

For this, visionary, dedicated, and experienced persons, who would like to pay back their community with knowledge, vision, and time to promote the Sikh religion, would be required.

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