Save The Gurdwara

SaveGurdwara.jpgIll admit…when I first saw emails and facebook posts titled Save The Gurdwara, I immediately dismissed it, thinking it was yet another mismanaged Gurdwara falling in to bankruptcy or one group trying to overthrow another. But after I read the website and confirmed some of the details with contacts in Austin, I was shocked by what had occurred.

By now most of you know that in 2007, the city of Austin, Texas approved the building of a permanent Gurdwara on land the Sikh community had purchased back in 2003 and where theyve since been having regular weekly services in a makeshift home. Shortly after construction began, a couple who recently moved nearby the Gurdwara (the Bolliers), filed an injunction to block construction on the grounds that it would be an eye-sore, increase traffic, and lower property value. In March 2009, a district court denied the couples injunction in favor of the Austin Sikh community and construction of the Gurdwara was allowed to proceed. Unfortunately, this victory would be short-lived. Sixteen months after the original victory and construction now complete, an appeals court has overturned the lower courts ruling and has ordered the entire structure to be torn down needless to say, the Austin Sikh community is devastated!

As many of us would, I immediately thought this was a blatant act of racism, but as I read the website several times, I noticed there is no accusation of this being racially-motivated. I applaud the Austin sangat for taking the high road and not pulling the race card until there is clear evidence of racism or bigotry, but I must say…it sure does smell like it! I mean, Lower their propertys value?…really?

Somewhere in all the disappointment and frustration of this situation, I amstill impressed with how Sikhs manage to come together in a time of need. Emails are circulating through all the networks, people are dedicating their facebook pictures and statuses to the Save the Gurdwara movement, and some of our talented MCs have written songs to help rally and inspire the community.

I appreciate how the Austin Sikh community has managed to re-group and pull themselves together after this upsetting news. Rather than being reactive, or publicly lashing out – they have instead decided to step back and collect funds. It is through these funds they can assemble a professional legal team that can best represent them in what is likely to be a long and ugly court battle. This is a very proactive and strategic approach, as Ive seen other communities in similar situations only appeal for funds once the community is bankrupt and already begun to compromise the quality of their legal effort.

In a time where ethnopphobia is running rampant through politics and political discourse, it very likely this case will gain media attention throughout the state of Texas, and possibly the national stage. So in this relative calm before the storm, I think we must pause and ask ourselves…what would Guru Sahib do? How would he guide us? What does Baani tell us? What examples from the Gurus life history can we reference?

One thing that always fascinated me about the sakhis of Guru Nanak was the way in which he influenced others. He did not use physical might, but chose words instead. But even more than his words, itwas the love in which he expressed them, it was his uncanny ability to relate and connect with people from all walks of life. He had a personality and a fragrance about him that made people want to follow.

We now have an opportunity to share the Gurus radiance.

We have an opportunity to show the world exactly who Sikhs are and how wonderful it would be to live near such a loving, compassionate, and socially active community.

I have faith that cooler heads will prevail. Lets not forget, it was the Texas Board of Education who recently voted to include information on Sikhs and Sikh practices in the state-mandated curriculum for public school students.

The Austin Sikh community must be assured that the 25 million Sikhs all over the world stand behind them in solidarity. That said, the financial responsibility for this case should not fall on their shoulders alone…this is our fight…and I encourage everyone reading this to make their donation at www.savegurdwara.com.

Im sure that if we not lose sight of what this is all for, and keep the Guru as our guide withHis grace the Sikhs of Austin will open the doors of its new Gurdwara to the public soon, and welcome the whole community with open arms to celebrate…even the Bolliers.


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24 Responses to “Save The Gurdwara”

  1. iSingh says:

    @RP Singh
    Let me know if I missed anything but I suggest doing some background research before posting an entry, which as you know many of us zealously follow and can be misled by.

    In case you haven't, here is the copy of the ruling http://www.savegurudwara.com/sitebuildercontent/s

    No where it is mentioned that "Bolliers argued against the construction of the Sikh Temple on the grounds that it would be an eye-sore and a traffic magnate, and would lower their property’s value."
    Now this may be the real reason behind the motivation, but a close read of the order says that the Gurudwara management – Austin Gurudwara Sahib (AGS) had violated the deed restriction in the area and they were fully aware that construction of Gurudwara was not allowed.

    This would not have been allowed even in Chandigarh / Mohali (umm… maybe) what to say of TX.

    Whether such a tearing down order has been given against a church or a synagogue is a different discussion but what it is to be noted that the management committee constructed the Gurudwara even while the case was in court – I think that is a dis-service to sangat who may have donated for the construction without knowing the case situation.

    The court has however, not barred conduct of religious services at the location:
    "The defendant (AGS) who pending the suit changes the existing condition, as by the erection of a building, does so at his own risk that the right may ultimately prove in the plaintiff. He cannot in such cases claim the advantage that the balance of injury might otherwise allow him, because he has acted with full notice of the other party’s claim."

    The court has no problem in using that place as a gurudwara like it was done before the structure was put in place (which was akin to a mobile home temple)
    "We note, however, that as the Bolliers (plaintiffs) challenge only the Structure Restriction, our opinion does not address the Use Restriction. Accordingly, our holding should not be construed to bar or in any other way affect the continued holding of services on the AGS lot in the existing Mobile Home Temple."

    P.S. Can the authors of this blog please bring more insight to the topics rather than just aggregating news. Thank you – much appreciated.

  2. iSingh says:

    @RP Singh
    Let me know if I missed anything but I suggest doing some background research before posting an entry, which as you know many of us zealously follow and can be misled by.

    In case you haven't, here is the copy of the ruling http://www.savegurudwara.com/sitebuildercontent/s

    No where it is mentioned that "Bolliers argued against the construction of the Sikh Temple on the grounds that it would be an eye-sore and a traffic magnate, and would lower their property’s value."
    Now this may be the real reason behind the motivation, but a close read of the order says that the Gurudwara management – Austin Gurudwara Sahib (AGS) had violated the deed restriction in the area and they were fully aware that construction of Gurudwara was not allowed.

    This would not have been allowed even in Chandigarh / Mohali (umm… maybe) what to say of TX.

    Whether such a tearing down order has been given against a church or a synagogue is a different discussion but what it is to be noted that the management committee constructed the Gurudwara even while the case was in court – I think that is a dis-service to sangat who may have donated for the construction without knowing the case situation.

    The court has however, not barred conduct of religious services at the location:
    "The defendant (AGS) who pending the suit changes the existing condition, as by the erection of a building, does so at his own risk that the right may ultimately prove in the plaintiff. He cannot in such cases claim the advantage that the balance of injury might otherwise allow him, because he has acted with full notice of the other party’s claim."

    The court has no problem in using that place as a gurudwara like it was done before the structure was put in place (which was akin to a mobile home temple)
    "We note, however, that as the Bolliers (plaintiffs) challenge only the Structure Restriction, our opinion does not address the Use Restriction. Accordingly, our holding should not be construed to bar or in any other way affect the continued holding of services on the AGS lot in the existing Mobile Home Temple."

    P.S. Can the authors of this blog please bring more insight to the topics rather than just aggregating news. Thank you – much appreciated.

  3. errantking says:

    As much as I object the fact that the newly constructed Gurdwara is now being ordered to be torn down after its construction was allowed, I think a careful reading of the appeals verdict shows that the new Gurdwara was built on a gamble (that no one would object) and on a weak legal foundation. According to the appeals court ruling on page 11:

    "As noted above, the Structure Restriction states, “No building shall be erected other than single family dwellings with garage.” The evidence at trial shows that the New Temple contains numerous features at odds with characterization as a single family dwelling, including a complete lack of planned bedroom space, separate men’s and women’s restrooms, separate hand and mop sinks, and a grease trap in the kitchen. While AGS argues that the New Temple looks like a residence from the outside and asserts that “internal structures could easily be provided to convert the New Temple to a residential use,” we do not read the Structure Restriction to permit the construction of any building that could conceivably be converted into a single-family dwelling."

  4. errantking says:

    As much as I object the fact that the newly constructed Gurdwara is now being ordered to be torn down after its construction was allowed, I think a careful reading of the appeals verdict shows that the new Gurdwara was built on a gamble (that no one would object) and on a weak legal foundation. According to the appeals court ruling on page 11:

    "As noted above, the Structure Restriction states, “No building shall be erected other than single family dwellings with garage.” The evidence at trial shows that the New Temple contains numerous features at odds with characterization as a single family dwelling, including a complete lack of planned bedroom space, separate men’s and women’s restrooms, separate hand and mop sinks, and a grease trap in the kitchen. While AGS argues that the New Temple looks like a residence from the outside and asserts that “internal structures could easily be provided to convert the New Temple to a residential use,” we do not read the Structure Restriction to permit the construction of any building that could conceivably be converted into a single-family dwelling."

  5. Tajinder says:

    There is one more thing to look at here. If the Gurudwara is built without official permission from the local authority or during a pending time frame, then most likely the Gurudwara management or people who were leading the project had no builders permits for such a building, most likely this work was done "under the table". I do not see how any legitimate building company would have accepted the project. We recently just built a Gurudwara which was in a similar environment as this one in CA. I know from experience this can not be the fault of the local government or surrounding neighbors personal views about someones religious identity, it is for a better lack of words "poor pindu workmanship", that caused this. We had a very similar situation here where the neighbors complained of a commercial building being built in a residential area.

  6. Tajinder says:

    There is one more thing to look at here. If the Gurudwara is built without official permission from the local authority or during a pending time frame, then most likely the Gurudwara management or people who were leading the project had no builders permits for such a building, most likely this work was done "under the table". I do not see how any legitimate building company would have accepted the project. We recently just built a Gurudwara which was in a similar environment as this one in CA. I know from experience this can not be the fault of the local government or surrounding neighbors personal views about someones religious identity, it is for a better lack of words "poor pindu workmanship", that caused this. We had a very similar situation here where the neighbors complained of a commercial building being built in a residential area.

  7. Roop Dhillon? says:

    Maybe get State Government involved? Or Obama?

  8. Roop Dhillon? says:

    Maybe get State Government involved? Or Obama?

  9. Authority Singh says:

    Don't tear down Austin gurdwara, just get rid of this fake White trash who exploits everyone there –
    http://awayfromourheritage.blogspot.com/2008/09/j

  10. Authority Singh says:

    Don’t tear down Austin gurdwara, just get rid of this fake White trash who exploits everyone there –
    http://awayfromourheritage.blogspot.com/2008/09/j