The Carpetbaggers: T. SHER SINGH
The Roundtable Open Forum # 106
n. An outsider, especially a politician, who presumptuously seeks a position or success in a new locality.
There have been muted news reports recently that the SGPC is setting up shop in North America. Low key … but alarming, nevertheless.
Under normal circumstances, if things were tickety-boo in their operations in India, it would be welcome news and I would be jostling with a million other Sikhs in North America to be its front-line cheerleaders.
But sadly, it ain’t so.
The SGPC -- the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, headquartered in Amritsar -- is, today, a dysfunctional body with serious issues that need to be addressed and rectified before they can embark on adventures beyond their shores.
Their problems are many. Where should I begin?
I First and foremost, despite the fact that it claims to be Sikhdom’s apex body, it is controlled by Indian government bureaucrats. That is, the strings are pulled by non-Sikhs, many of whom have outright demonstrated antipathy to Sikhi.
Why is the Sikh community the only one in India that has to suffer governmental intervention? -- not that any other group should, either.
II Then, we have the issue of skills and qualifications.
The SGPC in India has not been diligent enough in ensuring that the persons chosen to serve in its executive and administrative positions are, a) educated in Sikhi as well as in a full range of other fields, the least (in this era of globalization) of them being proficiency in the English language, the lingua franca today.
There appears to be no requirement of impeccable personal integrity, or a past and present untainted by a criminal record and unSikh practices, or a current arms-length involvement with any political party.
III They actively discourage the participation of women at all important levels of their institution and sphere of activities. A no-no in Sikhi, a no-no in the brave new world we live in.
They need to open their doors by abolishing this unSikh practice and immediately ensure that 50% of all decision making roles are filled by women.
IV A full disclosure of who the current office-holders are, their complete bio and resume, the remuneration they receive, and the process leading up to their selection.
I could go on, but none of these concerns are either novel or unknown to you. I am sure you have your own questions in order to ensure full transparency.
* * * * *
The opening of a SGPC office in the diaspora -- nay, in every major sector of the diaspora -- is long overdue. But the way in which they are going about it is disturbing … and unacceptable.
They need to hold their horses, and first address the following concerns:
A We in the diaspora do not need an extension of the shameful political shenanigans currently going on in India -- yes, even within, and under the aegis of, the SGPC -- to be transplanted within our midst. No, we do not need an infusion of desi politics amidst us. Nor do we need the pathetic caste-based clannishness. Or the readiness to overlook and ignore all norms of ethical and professional behaviour.
B The news reports say that your first step has already been taken: opening a bank account in Yuba City, California, USA, in order to solicit and garner funds.
Why? Why do you need funds from us to do YOUR work? You are one of the richest religious bodies in a country bursting in wealth, and have access to what amounts to, even in western terms, unlimited funds. You have had no public accountability over what you handle -- or mishandle -- in India, but you want us to give you more?
The funds you receive here will be even further removed from accountability, because they will be corporately separated from your mother-ship.
If you are sincere about your mission, bring your own funds and put your money where your mouth is. The good Lord knows, you don’t lack funds.
C You’ve had the audacity to already name 7 jathedars for your operations in California.
First of all, why 7?
Anyone who sits on any board that does real work will tell you that, once past a certain threshold, for every person you add to your central decision-making process, your productivity drops by 50%. It is for good reason that our Elders have historically stuck to the figure of F-I-V-E. No less, no more. That’s enough, if you have the right people on board. Enough to give you a variety of perspectives and ideas, and small enough to prevent it from getting unwieldy.
You have punj pyarey in India? Why 7 here?
D Then, you’ve had the audacity to pre-emptively hand-pick the ’jathedars’.
With your recent history of politics-infested and caste-ridden activities in India, please, PLEASE do not bring your problems here; we already have enough on our plate.
If there’s no due process, there’s anarchy. As you already have in India.
E The ones you have already named here are entities unknown to the community at large. It’s not good enough that you know them, or that they are related to you, or that they come from your village or clan, or whatever. It’s not good enough that they are leaders in their own minds or in the small, local committees they currently hold sway.
They need to be representative of the community at large. Which means they need to be whetted and selected through an open and transparent, fair and equitable process.
Which means, we need to see published the full bio and resume of each candidate, right across the larger community, so that they can be properly scrutinized. And then voted upon.
F And, not meaning to flog a dead horse, why is there -- AGAIN -- a complete absence of women even in the group of seven that you have had the gumption to name unilaterally?
Have all the good women in our community died? Don’t you have mothers and daughters, wives and sisters, who meet the highest standards required for the job.
* * * * *
I am sorry, but with the pattern of behaviour you have shown to date, both here and back in India, all you have done is prove yourselves disqualified for the very job you have set out to do here in North America,
Please pack up your trunks and go back home. Please regroup in Amritsar. Please read what has been said here. Please listen to some voices, other than those you have surrounded yourselves with in your immediate coterie.
And, finally, if any of you dare to suggest otherwise, please let me make it perfectly clear: I have immense respect for the SGPC as it was originally formulated -- to serve the best interests of Sikhi and humanity! And for the Akal Takht. And for all those who wish to do seva.
And I would give all I have to see a fully functional institution take roots, not only in the US but in every part of the diaspora.
I appreciate and support that dream.
However, none of you good, carpet-bagging souls have given me any reason to believe that YOU do.
* * * * *
THE ROUNDTABLE OPEN FORUM # 106
It is important that all of us who live in the diaspora (joined by those who live in Punjab and India) give this some serious, sober thought and give voice to our views and opinions on the subject. Please post your comments hereunder.
October 8, 2013
Conversation about this article
1: Kabir Singh (Los Angeles, California, USA), October 18, 2013, 7:16 AM.
I agree 100%. Let's not put the cart before the horse. And, this cart is without wheels, the horse is dead. Criminally long over-due ... but please, not like this!
2: Baljit Singh Pelia (Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.), October 18, 2013, 8:10 AM.
SGPC - "Stupidest Group Of People Committee."
3: Baljit Singh Pelia (Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.), October 18, 2013, 8:49 AM.
Sarbat Khalsa is what we need as per our daily ardaas. We need to resuscitate the institutions that took us to the dizzying heights of Khalsa Raj, not the moronic SGPC that was created at the behest of the British so that they could control and limit the spread of Sikhism. Ever since the formation of this committee, we have seen a perpetual decline of our religion, erosion of our sovereignty and marginalizing of the the Takhts, including the Akal Takht. A Sarbat Khalsa of the Americas is what is called for, not an extension of the Indian government's reach through the SGPC, a defunct and useless institution that stood aside when the military attacked Harmandar Sahib and dozens of other gurdwaras, plundered punjab over the next several years and killed tens of thousands all over India in 1984. SGPC has failed miserably to advance the cause of Sikhism. All of the Sikh schools run by the SGPC are failures, allowing convent and other religious schools to flourish. Divisive controversies over the Sikh calendar and other publications emanate from the offices of SGPC. Not a single decent publication or authoritative research has been funded by this body. Our historical gurdwaras and Sikh nation's history in East Punjab is being decimated. The drug epidemic has now taken hold in Punjab and our future generations are at risk of total annihilation. Given these failures, what do we need this Committee for, anyways?
4: Manjit Kaur (Maryland, USA), October 18, 2013, 9:38 AM.
These are very important views to consider. At this rate the disease of the SGPC is going to spread across the globe and we have to contain this. It's bad enough to hear what happens in Punjab but we can't allow the same here; my fear is they are going to pollute the minds of the next generation, with whom we have worked very hard to keep on the right track. What can they do for us here in the west when they themselves are not pure on the principles of Sikhism?
5: R Singh (Canada), October 18, 2013, 11:28 AM.
Totally agree. The SGPC has not been able to navigate itself effectively in the mazes of the murky, insidious, desi political caverns, where only darkness resides. The best they can do is to stay where they are, until they can find a strategy to dislodge their stooges, and figure out that the powers that be want to either discredit it or use it to further their nefarious purposes of control and will use any way necessary to achieve their goals, even by changing the entire nature of Sikhi through dictats. Obviously they understand neither of those aspects, which are very detrimental to all Sikhs, if left unattended. Sikhs have no wish to be meddled with in their homes, by these touts and their greedy minions.
6: Rup Singh (Canada), October 18, 2013, 11:39 AM.
Is this the same SGPC that has done nothing to promote Sikhi and Sikh values? Demolished historical gurdwaras and heritage buildings in and around the Darbar Sahib and many other places in Punjab, through illiterate kar seva babeys, using money from the Guru's golak. Replaced the original gold on Darbar Sahib (a great symbol of the Sikh Empire of Maharaja Ranjit Singh) with a very yellowy gold that can't be kept clean. Because of this work to replace the gold the roof has started to leak (after how many centuries?) and has caused great damage on the artwork on the ceiling of the sanctum sanctorum. Maharaja Ranjit Singh also donated one ton of gold to the Kashi Vishwanath temple, that gold is fine and hasn't been replaced. SGPC gives countless funds from the golak to political parties during election time to buy alcohol and drugs to distribute to the voters. They also favour and visit the deras of cult leaders who use Guru Granth Sahib as a front to fill their own coffers and promote their own ideaology; they freely bestow the titles of Singh Sahib or Sahiba to cult leaders. They have done nothing to bring back precious treasures looted by the government agencies in 1984, done nothing to seek justice for the vicims of the government pogroms. They are hell bent on bringing back Sikh artifacts from the British Museum so that they can destroy them too. They even published books and gave them out free that had anti-Sikhi writings in them. Too many things to list. If they are coming to North America, they can't be up to any good. They'll only do further damage to Sikhi and Sikh values.
7: Ari Singh (Burgas, Bulgaria), October 18, 2013, 1:02 PM.
SGPC could be a trojan horse! Beware.
8: Jagpal Singh Tiwana (Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada), October 18, 2013, 1:55 PM.
Bold and constructive opinion. Thank you very much, S. T. Sher Singh ji. However, on one point, I'm not clear. How is the SGPC controlled by Indian government bureaucrats? SAD has a record of fighting against the central govt. since 1947 and every morcha was launched from the Akal Takht.
9: Gurnoor Kaur (New York, USA), October 18, 2013, 4:17 PM.
It appears that a few weeks ago, the Akal Takht apparently "appointed" a seven member committee to be its proxy here in North America. The seven names are, I'm told: Mohinder Singh Kalsi, Satpal Singh, Mohinder Singh Taneja, Inderpal Singh Dhall, Harbans Singh Dhillon, Gurnam Singh Pamma and Satpal Singh Khalsa. Nothing impressive about any of these characters. Some have silly caste names. Some are apparently members of some vacuous, lofty-sounding but useless committees. Some, I'm told, are iffy characters. But what concerns me most is that these guys (yes, ALL of them are guys! WHY?) are A-P-P-O-I-N-T-E-D. But, appointed by whom? Who gave the authority to the guys in India -- who are already accused of having disappointed and betrayed and let down the community in a myriad of ways -- to appoint people to look after OUR affairs? Who gave these seven authority to represent us? Houston, we have a problem. And this one needs to be nipped in the bud. Who in hell are these seven? I need their full life histories published in the Sikh media before they take another step in my and our name. Period.
10: Harnam Singh (Ohio, USA), October 18, 2013, 4:31 PM.
Does anyone know any of them? Who are these guys? What have they ever done for the community? What qualifications do they hold in order to justify being given this extraordinary and unprecedented honour and responsibility? How will they be accountable? To whom? Have they ever done anything worthwhile, other than be involved in petty politics in their local gurdwara committees? Can sikhchic.com please do the necessary follow up on these concerns?
11: Gurteg Singh (New York, USA), October 18, 2013, 5:04 PM.
It may well be an outpost of RAW to neutralize the diaspora Sikh organizations who are not sponsored or under the direct and indirect control of Indian agencies. Be very, very skeptical!
12: Gurinder Singh (Stockton, California, U.S.A.), October 18, 2013, 5:17 PM.
I think the main purpose of establishing this center in the USA is to print the Guru Granth Sahib here and distribute it. Didar Singh Bains has donated 13 and a half acres of land for this purpose.
13: Onkar Singh (Calgary, Alberta, Canada), October 18, 2013, 7:15 PM.
A good idea, Gurinder Singh ji, if it is indeed true. But then, why do we need an SGPC satellite office here, for that purpose? And why wouldn't they come out openly and say that is what they intend to do? Instead of the bizarre idea of a "Turban Institute", etc. And, pray, why do we need a printing press, even? You can get the saroops printed in South-East Asia, and have them brought to the US, from there they can be distributed worlwide. If that is what is being planned, one would go about the whole thing quite differently. There's something very fishy going on here, I'm afraid. Or something goofy.
14: R Singh (Canada), October 18, 2013, 7:25 PM.
Ref: printing Birs - They do not require acres and acres of land to do the printing, nor seven jathedars to oversee a graphic design/ print shop operation. [Do any of the seven have such training or skills, to be able to oversee such work? Or will they have different jathedars for that?] Looking at their operations in India, this cover will not cut it.
15: N Singh (Canada), October 18, 2013, 8:44 PM.
Please, please beware! This organization will try and supplant the current Sikh organizations that we have representing us ... United Sikhs, The Sikh Coalition, SikhRi ... and who are doing an excellent job. They will tell the western decision makers that they represent us and they don't and won't. Be very, very careful ... and be warned.
16: Sunny Grewal (Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada), October 18, 2013, 10:57 PM.
I'm not sure if I would go as far as to say that the SGPC is a stooge of the Indian government. The DSGMC on the other hand has shown its commitment to work for the Indian government as evidenced earlier this year when they traveled to the UK to spread the word of Bharat to the UK "Khalistanis". It's quite a shame really. The original intention of the SGPC was to create a Sikh body for the gurdwaras liberated from the Hindus. I wouldn't worry too much however, the SGPC is a complete joke, even with an infinite amount of wealth, it will all be siphoned off before their plan is initiated in the diaspora. Perhaps the one time we can look forward to corruption? Anyone find it interesting that they are doing this in America and not in Canada or the UK where the Sikh community is condensed in larger population pockets and commands more political power? Hmmm, maybe I answered my own question!
17: T. Sher Singh (Mount Forest, Ontario, Canada), October 19, 2013, 12:56 AM.
Jagpal Singh ji (#8): In answer to your question, I know from personal experience that the management committee of the Patna Takht Sahib has to be approved by a government appointed magistrate; all goings-on are subject to governmental monitoring and scrutiny. Similarly, I recall that it was no secret during the 2008 celebrations of the 300th anniversary of the Gur Gaddi Diwas at Takht Hazur Sahib, Nanded, that all goings-on were in the tight grip and control of a government-appointed bureaucrat who, as the sole administrator and arbiter, played havoc with Sikh sentiments during the year-long celebrations and the preparations leading up to them. I believe the very existence of the SGPC is tied to governmental fiat (sanction, decree) and therefore ongoing monitoring, supervision and interference ... directly, not through mere subterfuge. The real scandal is that Sikhs, especially our leaders, have allowed this ignominy to continue.
18: R Singh (Canada), October 19, 2013, 4:20 AM.
As Sikhs it hurts us all to have to come to terms with our august institutions being reduced to this state, but we cannot blindly believe these people are going to arrive here to do anything but act as pied-pipers to mislead and siphon money for anti-Sikh and unSikh causes. Before they even think of arriving, they can begin by cleaning up their act at home, where everything is in shambles.
19: Gurinder Singh (Stockton, California, U.S.A.), October 19, 2013, 4:47 AM.
Committees of Hazur Sahib and Patna Sahib do not fall under the SGPC. They have their independent existence. Congress party wanted to have control over SGPC since Indian independence by creating proxy set ups in elections. They never succeeded in their designs. It is correct that SGPC has fought against central Govt. by launching agitations. There may be some bad apples in it now but still, it is the premier religious organization of Sikhs.
20: Baljit Singh (Taran Taran, Punjab), October 19, 2013, 5:09 AM.
Re Gurvinder ji's comments: So, the SGPC is not in the pocket of the Congress. How is that good tidings, if it is in the pocket of the Punjab govenment, which is in the pocket of the BJP? ... the self-sworn enemies of Sikhi. And the SGPC having the mandate it does, what has it done to free the said Takhts free of the stranglehold of the government? Same goes with countless other gurdwaras around the country, lost to the community. Hardwar, for example. Nothing. Same with 1984. Same with every other problem here in Indian Sikhdom and Punjab ... fires that have been stoked by them through carelessness and negligence, when not by active betrayal. Whatever! ... but, first things first: let them clean up their act in India before they go for junkets abroad!
21: Gurjender Singh (Maryland, USA), October 19, 2013, 5:34 AM.
The need is only due to the Sikhs who have moved away from Punjab to across the diaspora. To be frank, a new umbrella body of Sikhs representing the Sikhs (specifically Sikhs born and raised in USA/UK/Canada, etc.), who understand the problems and issues must be formed with the advice of Sikh organizations such as the Sikh Coalition, SALFEF, United Sikhs, SCORE, SikhRI and others, who knows the problem outside Punjab.
22: Inni Kaur (Fairfield, Connecticut, USA), October 19, 2013, 7:08 AM.
The points/views raised in this article need to be addressed. The anger, frustration and pain of the sangat via the comments, come out loud and clear. They must be addressed. So, the question, "How do we start a dialogue with the SPGC on this matter?" Is there a mechanism in place? If not, should we create something? How do we do that? Sangat is widespread ... not all are computer literate! However, their views are equally important and must be considered. Any thoughts on how we should do this?
23: R Singh (Canada), October 19, 2013, 10:57 AM.
Let us accept the fact of governmental meddling and spineless office-bearers. There is no cure for any ailment if one hides one's head in the sand, taking no action to seek out a cure. Any institution is only as good as the ideals it upholds. Being subservient to political units, politicians, or any other such constraints, does not represent Sikh ideals. The current state of affairs cannot inspire any enthusiasm; on the contrary, everyone is apprehensive, rightfully so, and would be very foolish not to be so.
24: Aryeh Leib (Israel), October 20, 2013, 12:06 AM.
Having employed the American Civil War term, "Carpetbaggers", I think it appropriate to dust off another term from that period - "Scallywag". Its original meaning describes a white Southerner who collaborated with Northerners during the post-war reconstruction of the South. However, the Urban Dictionary supplies a meaning much more appropriate to the subject at hand, to wit: "A person who is known to be a treacherous lying son-of-a-bitch, and usually smells bad." As they say in the movie trailers, "Coming soon to a gurdwara near you!" Caveat emptor.
25: Gurinder Singh (Stockton, California, U.S.A.), October 20, 2013, 7:56 AM.
"The Carpetbaggers" was one of the best novels of the 1960s by Harold Robbins.It was a derogatory term used by Southerns for Northerns. I have lived in Georgia and have witnessed the hate Southerns still hold for the yankees.
26: Inder Singh (Pune, India), October 20, 2013, 10:15 AM.
Aren't these the same jokers who decided to have Sikh participation in the Hindu Kumbh Mela? If they are, they should be first greeted with a tar-and-feather ceremony, before you ship them right back ...
27: R.S. Minhas (Millburn, New Jersey, USA), October 20, 2013, 2:13 PM.
The problems are systemic but not totally unique. All over the world people are getting plain fed up with their representatives. No matter who is selected, however decent, in the end we get another politician! Why? Because power and its perks are addictive. Soon after getting elected, the top agenda seems to be solidifying positions, getting entrenched and re-elected. This is followed by building political dynasties. While a drug addict can cause damage to himself and those around, a power addict is a weapon of mass self-destruction. Just look around the world today for the horrific examples. One idea to save us from our representatives is term limits. For example, the US President has a two term limit. Are our representatives in the SGPC in India open to this? If after one or two terms the representative is still hovering around the punch bowl, then obviously something ain't right and needs to be taken away for the common good.
28: SSN (USA), October 20, 2013, 5:44 PM.
I read many articles here and I see many fruitful suggestions but do they see light of the day? Do they feed as inputs into Sikh intellectuals who can influence the community? All this hue and cry over the weekend, and then off we go to our jobs during the week. SGPC will come, get the foot in the door because of many relatives of the SGPC members from Punjab are here. They'll find a way into our gurdwaras through the raagis, and before we know it, our institutions will get sidelined. Politics is dirty business but our solution may be for our North American organizations to get involved at the grass roots level.
29: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), October 21, 2013, 6:11 AM.
As someone lucky enough to travel to Amritsar on a regular basis and who has no interest in any type of 'religious' politics, I actually meet some of these people. I can see that many of them are there for 'cushy' jobs and nothing else. They want money and want to travel abroad and could not care if they know anything about Sikhi. All of them partake in big weddings, parties, caste,and are confused and humbled if you mention the teachings of Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh to them. Western Governments should not allow any 'godmen' and 'godwomen' into their countries, exactly as they are waking up to being wary of mud- and muck-raking clergy of the extreme ilk from every religious system and area in the world.