O When Will We Learn Navigating Sikh Gurdwara Politics

sjgurdwara.jpgEvery other city we go.

The story repeats itself.

There are 2 Sikhs. They decide to build a Gurdwara. First comes love, then they disparage, next comes litigation and community image damage.

The most recent editions Bakersfield and San Jose.

So in Bakersfield, from reading a recent newspaper article, the story goes something like this. There is a growing community and the community decides to pool its resources together to create a Gurdwara. So far so good.

According to longtime Bakersfield resident and Sikh Gurcharam Dhillon, two years ago, two of Bakersfield’s Sikh temples, Guru N?nak Mission and Sikh Center on Planz Road, got the idea to combine their limited resources and merge into one group.

“Thought was what (can we) do together for the benefit of this community. Maybe we can combine these two corporations, ” explained Dhillon. “We know each other, we trust each other, we can pray together.”[link]

What a great story the community came together, but oh the story does not end there.

When you merge corporations, some egos have to be checked at the door. That did not happen. Disagreements broke out and now.fights??

For the most part, the disagreement has been peaceful, but that changed about a month ago when both sides started fighting with each other. According to Dhillon, the violence has been getting worse each week. It not known how bad the violence will get, but both sides agree it needs to stop.[link]

From Bakersfield, we drive up I-5 and head to the Bay Area, where the beautiful and billed largest Sikh temple is being constructed. Hopefully something better to report here in San Jose. Unfortunately.not muchbut at least no violence.

For those that have visited the San Jose Gurdwara, it truly is beautiful. Onion-domes, water fountains, and an active sangat, it is representative of a confident community in the Bay Area. The Gurdwara continues to expand with a 17,000-square-foot hall, 12 classrooms, living quarters for Granthis and among the largest vegetarian kitchens in California. But all is not happy in the Evergreen hills.

But as the new temple is being built, Bhupinder [Bob] Dhillon and his camp are fending off claims of sloppy workmanship, financial secrecy, political back-stabbing, assault and suppression of speech. One temple elder accused a Dhillon ally of yanking his beard a taboo in Sikh culture where hair is considered sacred when he made an inquiry about temple donations. The battle at Sikh Gurdwara-San Jose has grown beyond typical church infighting it’s now a full-fledged battle over power and money.[link]

Bhupinder Dhillon has been serving the community and has worked tirelessly on the communitys behalf. However, does that mean there should be no accountability?

“He’s a hardworking person,” Grewal said. “And very honest. This temple is happening due to Bob.”

But critics say they don’t trust Dhillon’s leadership on the new temple. And they point to what happened when he helped guide the first phase of construction on the Murillo Avenue temple, which opened in 2004. That project was supposed to cost $6 million, and ended up costing more than $10 million.

Hoping to prevent similar problems, six temple members hired Fremont attorney Mark Cohen to try to persuade Dhillon to turn over checks so the congregation can see exactly what subcontractors are being paid. Millions of dollars still need to be raised from the congregation to pay off the new construction.

Dhillon stands by his accountability: He said he’s posted annual financial statements on the temple Web site and opposes calls for an independent audit because he argues that would cost extra money. He claims to have brought the temple’s original price tag down from $40 million because of his connections.

Others report of sloppy workmanship on the expanding Gurdwara.

The workmanship on the temple so far is sloppy. As two examples, metal studs were installed upside down and joists holding concrete floor slabs have been placed askew. Last month, crews were forced to yank out plumbing because they had laid the pipes down where a wall was supposed to go something that wouldn’t have happened with “highly trained journeymen,” said San Jose building inspector supervisor Greg Rindfleisch. “They are not getting the type of work you’d get at Valley Fair or Santana Row. They’re paying a primo price but getting pretty shoddy workmanship.”

Dhillon fired Rael, 48, and his son, Chris Rael Jr., 25, on June 16 just hours after the Raels spoke to the Mercury News about what they allege is Dhillon’s mismanagement of the project and his unwillingness to hire skilled workers. It’s also the day a portion of the site failed a city inspection. Dhillon said he didn’t know the Raels had spoken with the Mercury News and fired them for “poor performance.”

The following day, Dhillon appointed a 25-year-old San Jose State University construction management student as the new volunteer project manager. He called the student a “sharp guy,” although he has no experience.

“All I need,” Dhillon said, “is for someone to listen to me and do what I say.” [link]

Aah, dont we all Bob [the Builder], dont we all.


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