Two Case Studies on the ‘Speaks for Sikhs’ Series

A few months ago, my fellow langa(w)riter asked, Who Speaks for Sikh-Americans? While we are still waiting for the exciting conclusion (or atleast a second part), recent news over the weekend, makes me also ponder this question.gobind.jpg

The news came from Pakistan and Malaysia.

In Pakistan, it seems a section of the Sikh community there has demanded

”The Sikhs’ problems could be solved if the community is given representation in the government or if a Sikh is appointed an adviser to the prime minister,” said Swaran Singh, candidate for the post of president of the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee.

He suggested that an adviser to the prime minister should be appointed to attract Sikhs from other countries to invest in Pakistan. Christians and Hindus have representations in the government, but Sikhs have yet to reach the national or provincial assemblies, he said. [link]

In Malaysia, the news rang out:

Malaysian ethnic Punjabi Karpal Singh and son Gobind Singh Deo have created history by becoming the first-ever father-son duo to be elected members of a Parliament in the world. [link]

While I must admit my lack of knowledge about Malaysian politics, the fact that a father-and-son duo should win shouldnt necessarily raise eyebrows, but coupled with Punjabi Sikh politics in general, where hereditary fiefdoms, epitomized by Parkash and his heir-apparent Sukhbir Badal (and recently joked about that Parkashs wife should be named Jathedar of the Akal Takht to seal his nepotistic kingdom) are becoming the rule and not the exception, I cant help but at least pay attention to it.

I dont know enough about the constituencies that he represents, but Gobind won the popular vote and I hope that his victory by over 12,000 votes over Lau Yeng Peng seems to indicate that this wasnt some ethnic South Asian constituency where you only run South Asians against one another as you see in England or Canada. If this indeed is the case, and hopefully one of our Sikh readers from Malaysia can shed light on this, then that is definitely a great thing.

Before I return to the case on Pakistan, it is also important to note that Gobind does NOT represent Sikhs, but has been voted there to represent his constituencies, although he definitely takes pride in his Sikh heritage.

Name an idol (dead or alive) whom you look up to and why.

That would be the 10th Sikh Guru Gobind Singh. I idolised him. He was a great warrior who fought fearlessly for his people. He was prepared to sacrifice everything to achieve what he believed in. I always derive a lot of strength from him when I look at his image. (Gobind has a picture of the Guru as his laptops wallpaper.) My father is probably the only other person I know who has similar qualities to the Guru. [link]

Returning back to the question of representation in Pakistan, I believe that it is definitely a positive sign for the Sikhs in Pakistan to make such a request. With the article stating that the Pakistani Sikh population numbers only 12,000 people, their concentration may not garner electoral success. However their thoughts and concerns should not be ignored because they cannot gain electoral success. But how do you appoint without electoral success? How can the Pakistani Sikh community in this case (but a question for the Sikh community in general) create representation without internal democratic processes (no I DO NOT believe that democracy = majoritarianism, despite the views of some of our commenters). Does Swaran Singh, because he is making this demand, get to gain the appointed position? Should the government decide? In these scenarios, who should speak for the Sikhs? How do you speak for the Sikhs?


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8 Responses to “Two Case Studies on the ‘Speaks for Sikhs’ Series”

  1. Suzy Kaur says:

    In these scenarios, who should speak for the Sikhs? How do you speak for the Sikhs?

    Why should anyone 'speak for the Sikhs'?

    In a country like Pakistan it might be needed. In western democracies I hate the introduction of communalist politics and feudal mentality men claiming they are 'community representatives'. I have seen it close up, and first hand, and it is nasty.

  2. Suzy Kaur says:

    In these scenarios, who should speak for the Sikhs? How do you speak for the Sikhs?

    Why should anyone ‘speak for the Sikhs’?

    In a country like Pakistan it might be needed. In western democracies I hate the introduction of communalist politics and feudal mentality men claiming they are ‘community representatives’. I have seen it close up, and first hand, and it is nasty.

  3. Mewa Singh says:

    Suzy,

    I also agree with your thoughts about no single voice should 'Speak for Sikhs' and I think that is the point that we should have a plethora of voices depending on the context. However, community voice and representation is important, so the post seems to suggest raising the internal democratic processes that we can create as a community to create some allowance of legitimacy beyond who yells the loudest.

    With regards to the 'introduction of communalist politics,' I think I understand your sentiment, but a longer historical survey will reveal that this is hardly new or something only recently 'introduced.' Strains of as you say 'communalist' politics can be seen in almost all Western countries, in America it is EXTREMELY visible. Also the phenomenon is as old as the country itself. While calling for change within the Sikh community can be laudable, without a broader understanding of currents in other communities makes comparative studies impossible and severely limits the ability to discourse.

  4. Mewa Singh says:

    Suzy,

    I also agree with your thoughts about no single voice should ‘Speak for Sikhs’ and I think that is the point that we should have a plethora of voices depending on the context. However, community voice and representation is important, so the post seems to suggest raising the internal democratic processes that we can create as a community to create some allowance of legitimacy beyond who yells the loudest.

    With regards to the ‘introduction of communalist politics,’ I think I understand your sentiment, but a longer historical survey will reveal that this is hardly new or something only recently ‘introduced.’ Strains of as you say ‘communalist’ politics can be seen in almost all Western countries, in America it is EXTREMELY visible. Also the phenomenon is as old as the country itself. While calling for change within the Sikh community can be laudable, without a broader understanding of currents in other communities makes comparative studies impossible and severely limits the ability to discourse.

  5. rano says:

    Well, who speaks for the sikhs?

    It is indeed important for us to have some good intelligent and thoughtful mind to speak on the behalf of common sikhs in and outside Punjab, and India. On the behalf of so many poor farmers, storekeepers,transporters. So that our community moves forward in a dignified manner.

    But let me ask you, how many sikhs living in USA and Canada believe in giving good education to their children first. I ahve been to USA(and planning to go back again), and my experience tells that sikh women particularly, are more obsessed with their fashion and heavy suits than those living in Punjab. We have NRI housewives whose husbands have booming buisness in stores, transport etc., and all these ladies do is watch soaps on t.v., talk to their neighbours and wear heavy suits and makeup even while going to gurdwara and then compare their suits with others'.

    If u want to make leaders , responsible and dignified leaders, first let us produce more doctors, lawyers, economists, scientists from this generation. First educate the ladies , that a woman is the one who makes or breaks a home, and they shud be told to go all out to give their children a good education first.

    Health, and education, are the two important pillars of every succesful community. Health is taken care of by the govts. of western countries. We need to take care of education. Not the literacy, but the education. Knowledge.

    I dont blame everything on communalism and racial discrimination.

    We sikhs end up making a fool of ourselves while trying to be more happening in USA, UK etc. Whats worse, we believe in show-off. And foolish comparisons. Comparisons of property, dresses, functions and everything, but education!!!!!!

    NRI punjabis have the habit of showing off at every function, how rich they are etc, etc. They tend to go over with the arrangements and gifts and fakely flaunt their assets. But count the top 1000 industries of the world, and u wont find one sikh name there.(I dont know abt Ranbaxy though, it might be there in the list).

    We had Narayan Murthy, coming from a very poor family of India who arranged his marraige in 800 Rs. only, coming to US and setting up Infosys, one of the largest software companies of the world. We have Laxmi Mittal, the steel tycoon, another person who came to UK from India and made it so big. The reasons being, except for Laxmi Mittal's daughter's lavish wedding, these people kept their feet firmly on the ground. Their egos did not bloat up after being merely a millionaire.

    If we want to carry our community forward, we need two things desparatly- technical education for our coming generations and honesty coupled with cool head.

    Once we set up a good honest intelligent sikh leader in the west who can bring more respect for our community with his good works and can speak clealry and honestly abt dishonest politics of Punjab in his interviews, the Punjabi people living in Punjab who have been fooled by the 'panth politics' might stand against the exisiting breed. Every home in Punjab has a NRI relative. They will listen to him. The cleansing act has to be started from west, since the law and order situation is already better there than in Punjab. So, things r easier.

  6. rano says:

    Well, who speaks for the sikhs?

    It is indeed important for us to have some good intelligent and thoughtful mind to speak on the behalf of common sikhs in and outside Punjab, and India. On the behalf of so many poor farmers, storekeepers,transporters. So that our community moves forward in a dignified manner.

    But let me ask you, how many sikhs living in USA and Canada believe in giving good education to their children first. I ahve been to USA(and planning to go back again), and my experience tells that sikh women particularly, are more obsessed with their fashion and heavy suits than those living in Punjab. We have NRI housewives whose husbands have booming buisness in stores, transport etc., and all these ladies do is watch soaps on t.v., talk to their neighbours and wear heavy suits and makeup even while going to gurdwara and then compare their suits with others’.

    If u want to make leaders , responsible and dignified leaders, first let us produce more doctors, lawyers, economists, scientists from this generation. First educate the ladies , that a woman is the one who makes or breaks a home, and they shud be told to go all out to give their children a good education first.

    Health, and education, are the two important pillars of every succesful community. Health is taken care of by the govts. of western countries. We need to take care of education. Not the literacy, but the education. Knowledge.

    I dont blame everything on communalism and racial discrimination.

    We sikhs end up making a fool of ourselves while trying to be more happening in USA, UK etc. Whats worse, we believe in show-off. And foolish comparisons. Comparisons of property, dresses, functions and everything, but education!!!!!!

    NRI punjabis have the habit of showing off at every function, how rich they are etc, etc. They tend to go over with the arrangements and gifts and fakely flaunt their assets. But count the top 1000 industries of the world, and u wont find one sikh name there.(I dont know abt Ranbaxy though, it might be there in the list).

    We had Narayan Murthy, coming from a very poor family of India who arranged his marraige in 800 Rs. only, coming to US and setting up Infosys, one of the largest software companies of the world. We have Laxmi Mittal, the steel tycoon, another person who came to UK from India and made it so big. The reasons being, except for Laxmi Mittal’s daughter’s lavish wedding, these people kept their feet firmly on the ground. Their egos did not bloat up after being merely a millionaire.

    If we want to carry our community forward, we need two things desparatly- technical education for our coming generations and honesty coupled with cool head.

    Once we set up a good honest intelligent sikh leader in the west who can bring more respect for our community with his good works and can speak clealry and honestly abt dishonest politics of Punjab in his interviews, the Punjabi people living in Punjab who have been fooled by the ‘panth politics’ might stand against the exisiting breed. Every home in Punjab has a NRI relative. They will listen to him. The cleansing act has to be started from west, since the law and order situation is already better there than in Punjab. So, things r easier.

  7. Jodha says:

    Rano,

    I think I follow the gist of your comments, but I think you may be way off base with your analysis.

    I do think that most 'poor farmers, storekeepers, and transporters' can speak for themselves and do not need others to speak for them.

    You ask an interesting question:

    But let me ask you, how many sikhs living in USA and Canada believe in giving good education to their children first.

    While I can't speak for Canada, in the United States I would answer with a resounding MOST!

    While some women may be obsessed with 'heavy suits' as you say, I don't think that is a function of a 'lack of education.'

    If u want to make leaders , responsible and dignified leaders, first let us produce more doctors, lawyers, economists, scientists from this generation. First educate the ladies , that a woman is the one who makes or breaks a home, and they shud be told to go all out to give their children a good education first.

    I think that in the United States we have MANY doctors, lawyers, economists, and scientists from this generation. In fact Sikhs are way over-represented in this field and that is why some of my fellow bloggers have suggested and encouraged Sikhs to explore their passions and go into other fields.

    With regards to educating women, go to any of the best major universities in America (especially those with sizable Sikh populations) and my guess would be that there are probably more Sikh women there than men. In fact this is a frequent lamentation in the US, just as in Punjab, that our women tend to be more ambitious and harder working than our men.

    Finally, with regards to setting up an honest intelligent leader, I hope that we don't have any one leader. I think I would have major reservations if all Sikhs in America started following one leader. (Who is that one leader in Punjab? Badal? Amrinder Singh?) I hope that we can unite, when situations arise where we need to unite, but for the rest of the time respect one another and engage in critical discussion on all issues without uniformity of belief.

  8. Jodha says:

    Rano,

    I think I follow the gist of your comments, but I think you may be way off base with your analysis.

    I do think that most ‘poor farmers, storekeepers, and transporters’ can speak for themselves and do not need others to speak for them.

    You ask an interesting question:

    But let me ask you, how many sikhs living in USA and Canada believe in giving good education to their children first.

    While I can’t speak for Canada, in the United States I would answer with a resounding MOST!

    While some women may be obsessed with ‘heavy suits’ as you say, I don’t think that is a function of a ‘lack of education.’

    If u want to make leaders , responsible and dignified leaders, first let us produce more doctors, lawyers, economists, scientists from this generation. First educate the ladies , that a woman is the one who makes or breaks a home, and they shud be told to go all out to give their children a good education first.

    I think that in the United States we have MANY doctors, lawyers, economists, and scientists from this generation. In fact Sikhs are way over-represented in this field and that is why some of my fellow bloggers have suggested and encouraged Sikhs to explore their passions and go into other fields.

    With regards to educating women, go to any of the best major universities in America (especially those with sizable Sikh populations) and my guess would be that there are probably more Sikh women there than men. In fact this is a frequent lamentation in the US, just as in Punjab, that our women tend to be more ambitious and harder working than our men.

    Finally, with regards to setting up an honest intelligent leader, I hope that we don’t have any one leader. I think I would have major reservations if all Sikhs in America started following one leader. (Who is that one leader in Punjab? Badal? Amrinder Singh?) I hope that we can unite, when situations arise where we need to unite, but for the rest of the time respect one another and engage in critical discussion on all issues without uniformity of belief.