Two well known [Sikh] enemies now becoming allies

Sorry for my long absence. Expect an explanation post very soon.

Although there is more current news, there are two past due topics that need to be discussed in The Langarbalwantsinghgill.jpg Hall. I begin with the first.

Now while Mack-10’s lyrics in the title of this post may not be completely appropriate, I use them to highlight a possible historic event in the Sikh community in Canada and beyond.

For those of us that grew up in the states, the Dasmesh Darbar of Surrey and the Guru Nanak Sikh Temple of Surrey entered our popular imagination in 1998 when Sikhdom was shaken by the inane tables and chairs controversy. A local Surrey conflict soon ballooned throughout the world and even saw violence at a number of different Gurdwaras in North America and Europe. A conflict, which most did not understand, divided local communities and caused rifts that still fester within the Sikh community today.

The worst-affected area was where the controversy initially began Surrey, Canada. A new vocabulary entered into the language of Sikh-British Columbians: fundies verses moderates. A generation of Canadian youth saw rishtas broken and dinner conversations centered around uthay ja thalay (up or down).

It was this past June that saw a new beginning in the Sikh community. For the first time in a decade, the poster-boy of the moderates Balwant Singh Gill, often accused of being a GOI agent, and many other vile slurs, not only attended but brought a number of busloads of people to attend a vigil hosted by members of the Dashmesh Darbar the BC Sikh Community (thank you P.Singh and Singh) to commemorate the valiant bravery of those Singhs and Kaurs that defended Darbar Sahib (Amritsar) against the onslaught of the Indian Army in 1984.

It was a public act display of a newly forging unity in one of the most divisive Sikh communities in the world. Although I hardly believe members of the Dashmesh Darbar and the Guru Nanak Sikh Temple will come together on all issues, that both sides could come together and commemorate the communitys martyrs and a governments tyranny bodes well and should inspire all Sikhs.

While one article gives much credit to the San Antonio-based Harinder Singh, most praise must be given to those Surrey locals that put their egos and individual differences aside to begin this historic process. The Dashmesh Darbars move to remember those innocents killed on Air India 192 this year should be praised in the same light.

New possibilities are opening for the Canadian Sikh community. Much damage was done by the infighting of the late 1990s, but healing those rifts bodes well for the future of the community. I hope a lesson here can be learned about taking the time to talk with others. Engage with them, without heaping abuse and distrusting one another as agents. This is how a community self-destructs. Only those that are uninterested in the best interests of the Panth (Kim Bolan?) will criticize the actions of the Gurdwara committees. Let us read our history critically and see that we require unity, not uniformity. Let us unite where we can and agree to disagree on issues where we cannot forge consensus.

I end this post with Gills own words:

If anybody comes to me for help, I will help him, even if he is my enemy. Guru Nanak Devji said so. You should help the needy no matter what kind of person they are.” [Emphasis Added] [link]


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12 Responses to “Two well known [Sikh] enemies now becoming allies”

  1. P.Singh says:

    Hello Jodha,

    Quick correction – the Candlelight Vigil was not hosted by Dasmesh Darbar, but rather the BC Sikh Community in general.

    There was a handful of organizers who worked day and night putting everything together, including the coordination that went behind securing speakers like Harinder Singh, Mr. Phoolka from India (lawyer and human rights activist), Jasmine Kaur Marwaha of Ensaaf, and Cynthia Mahmood (author of Fighting for Faith and Nation); these sevadars remained largely in the background, and were happy to remain anonymous.

    That said, I was very happy to see Dasmesh Darbar, Guru Nanak Sikh Temple, Singh Sabha, Sukh Sagar Gurdwara and numerous others participate wholeheartedly in the Vigil. Note: It would be incorrect to say that any one of these gurdwaras hosted the event.

    Having been around for the table-chairs 'war', and not being a fan of Balwant Gill when the 'war' was on, he deserves credit for more than just this appearance at the Vigil. In fact, he has stepped up to the plate on more than one occassion over the last 3-4 years, especially with regards to turban-hardhat issues. I had an opportunity to attend several meetings with a number of committee members representing many different gurdwaras, and Balwant Gill's support on such issues was unflinching.

    For those who were not able to attend the Vigil, it was a great event. For the first time in many years, there was this feeling of energy, unity – dare I say it – a spirit of chardi kala in the air. It has been a long time since I felt that kind of buzz and energy in the BC community – it was a beautiful thing. Perhaps even more important than the event itself, that positive energy has resulted in groups of Sikhs working together, that normally would be at each other's throats.

    It's been a month since the Vigil, and that energy has not dissipated – if there is an ebb and flow to such things, then we are definitely in flow mode right now.

  2. Singh says:

    Agreed with P. Singh, the vigil was organized by the Sikh community as a whole, especially a few dedicated Sikh youth, not by any individual Gurdwara, although each Gurdwara contributed by arranging transportation.

    Balwant Gill, with merits and demerits, is like any other individual. He is a human being. He has made mistakes and needs to appear before the court of the Sikh community in order to clear his record. However, he is not nearly the most dangerous person in our community and in fact he could help the Sikh community in many ways.

    Tables vs. the floor is not an issue that will touch the pillars of the faith. The most dangerous people are those who are in even larger positions of power and are distorting our history, distorting the principals of our faith through propaganda and oppression. Especially dangerous are those people who are, in the name of the Sikh community, bowing down to the very people who are out to destroy the Sikh community. Examples: Badal & Son, Sarna, corrupt so-called Babas, etc. Balwant Gill is a menace, but not a nemesis.

  3. P.Singh says:

    Hello Jodha,

    Quick correction – the Candlelight Vigil was not hosted by Dasmesh Darbar, but rather the BC Sikh Community in general.

    There was a handful of organizers who worked day and night putting everything together, including the coordination that went behind securing speakers like Harinder Singh, Mr. Phoolka from India (lawyer and human rights activist), Jasmine Kaur Marwaha of Ensaaf, and Cynthia Mahmood (author of Fighting for Faith and Nation); these sevadars remained largely in the background, and were happy to remain anonymous.

    That said, I was very happy to see Dasmesh Darbar, Guru Nanak Sikh Temple, Singh Sabha, Sukh Sagar Gurdwara and numerous others participate wholeheartedly in the Vigil. Note: It would be incorrect to say that any one of these gurdwaras hosted the event.

    Having been around for the table-chairs ‘war’, and not being a fan of Balwant Gill when the ‘war’ was on, he deserves credit for more than just this appearance at the Vigil. In fact, he has stepped up to the plate on more than one occassion over the last 3-4 years, especially with regards to turban-hardhat issues. I had an opportunity to attend several meetings with a number of committee members representing many different gurdwaras, and Balwant Gill’s support on such issues was unflinching.

    For those who were not able to attend the Vigil, it was a great event. For the first time in many years, there was this feeling of energy, unity – dare I say it – a spirit of chardi kala in the air. It has been a long time since I felt that kind of buzz and energy in the BC community – it was a beautiful thing. Perhaps even more important than the event itself, that positive energy has resulted in groups of Sikhs working together, that normally would be at each other’s throats.

    It’s been a month since the Vigil, and that energy has not dissipated – if there is an ebb and flow to such things, then we are definitely in flow mode right now.

  4. Singh says:

    Agreed with P. Singh, the vigil was organized by the Sikh community as a whole, especially a few dedicated Sikh youth, not by any individual Gurdwara, although each Gurdwara contributed by arranging transportation.

    Balwant Gill, with merits and demerits, is like any other individual. He is a human being. He has made mistakes and needs to appear before the court of the Sikh community in order to clear his record. However, he is not nearly the most dangerous person in our community and in fact he could help the Sikh community in many ways.

    Tables vs. the floor is not an issue that will touch the pillars of the faith. The most dangerous people are those who are in even larger positions of power and are distorting our history, distorting the principals of our faith through propaganda and oppression. Especially dangerous are those people who are, in the name of the Sikh community, bowing down to the very people who are out to destroy the Sikh community. Examples: Badal & Son, Sarna, corrupt so-called Babas, etc. Balwant Gill is a menace, but not a nemesis.

  5. Jodha says:

    Thank you fellas. Correction was noted and fixed. Also thanks for providing a broader context, especially with regards to Gill, than this one event.

  6. Jodha says:

    Thank you fellas. Correction was noted and fixed. Also thanks for providing a broader context, especially with regards to Gill, than this one event.

  7. Jag says:

    He has made mistakes and needs to appear before the court of the Sikh community in order to clear his record.

    I'm not sure I like the idea of anyone suggesting that anybody who differs from your view should be accountable to a mythical community court (supposedly with judge jury and executioner)

    Sikhs in general need to be more tolerant of dissent and criticism. I've seen too many people persecuted with a lynch mob mentality to ever be comfortable with this way of thinking.

    Especially dangerous are those people who are, in the name of the Sikh community, bowing down to the very people who are out to destroy the Sikh community

    'Destroy the Sikh community'? How are they going to do that? Even if someone practises in ways you dislike, it displays an incredible degree of paranoia and fear to suggest that the Sikh community is on the verge of being destroyed by anyone or anything.

    Unless you have an idea that the Sikh community is a single pristine and pure entity. In which case the modern world itself is 'out to destroy the Sikh community'.

  8. Jag says:

    He has made mistakes and needs to appear before the court of the Sikh community in order to clear his record.

    I’m not sure I like the idea of anyone suggesting that anybody who differs from your view should be accountable to a mythical community court (supposedly with judge jury and executioner)

    Sikhs in general need to be more tolerant of dissent and criticism. I’ve seen too many people persecuted with a lynch mob mentality to ever be comfortable with this way of thinking.

    Especially dangerous are those people who are, in the name of the Sikh community, bowing down to the very people who are out to destroy the Sikh community

    ‘Destroy the Sikh community’? How are they going to do that? Even if someone practises in ways you dislike, it displays an incredible degree of paranoia and fear to suggest that the Sikh community is on the verge of being destroyed by anyone or anything.

    Unless you have an idea that the Sikh community is a single pristine and pure entity. In which case the modern world itself is ‘out to destroy the Sikh community’.

  9. Singh says:

    Jag,

    I’m not sure I like the idea of anyone suggesting that anybody who differs from your view should be accountable to a mythical community court (supposedly with judge jury and executioner)

    This is not what I said. First of all, he did not simply differ in his view. While being the president of a Gurdwara, he was convicted twice for drunk-driving. Leaving that aside, when the langar issue came up, he flatly denied the authority of the Akal Takht Sahib, even though it was established by Guru Hargobind Sahib ji. He has every right to disagree – heck I sit on the floor for langar, but I don't agree with this whole mess – BUT, when asked to appear at the Akal Takht Sahib, he should have made the trip and clarified his position. Instead, he acted as if the Akal Takht Sahib doesn't exist.

    ‘Destroy the Sikh community’? How are they going to do that? Even if someone practises in ways you dislike

    Perhaps you again misread what I wrote. I was not referring to Balwant Gill. In fact I clearly said that he is not dangerous, nor are the people who have different views or differing practices. Those people out to destroy (NOTE: being "out to destroy" doesn't mean that you "will destroy") are groups like the RSS, the fanatic Brahmin organization that classifies Sikhs as Hindus and is working aggressively in India to keep Sikhs legally as second-class. Or people like the leader of the SachaSauda cult. These people are not simply of "different views" like Balwant Gill. They are rapists, molestors, human rights abusers, dirty politicians, and people willing to go to great lengths to keep power and take power away from Sikhs.

  10. Singh says:

    Jag,

    Im not sure I like the idea of anyone suggesting that anybody who differs from your view should be accountable to a mythical community court (supposedly with judge jury and executioner)

    This is not what I said. First of all, he did not simply differ in his view. While being the president of a Gurdwara, he was convicted twice for drunk-driving. Leaving that aside, when the langar issue came up, he flatly denied the authority of the Akal Takht Sahib, even though it was established by Guru Hargobind Sahib ji. He has every right to disagree – heck I sit on the floor for langar, but I don’t agree with this whole mess – BUT, when asked to appear at the Akal Takht Sahib, he should have made the trip and clarified his position. Instead, he acted as if the Akal Takht Sahib doesn’t exist.

    Destroy the Sikh community? How are they going to do that? Even if someone practises in ways you dislike

    Perhaps you again misread what I wrote. I was not referring to Balwant Gill. In fact I clearly said that he is not dangerous, nor are the people who have different views or differing practices. Those people out to destroy (NOTE: being “out to destroy” doesn’t mean that you “will destroy”) are groups like the RSS, the fanatic Brahmin organization that classifies Sikhs as Hindus and is working aggressively in India to keep Sikhs legally as second-class. Or people like the leader of the SachaSauda cult. These people are not simply of “different views” like Balwant Gill. They are rapists, molestors, human rights abusers, dirty politicians, and people willing to go to great lengths to keep power and take power away from Sikhs.

  11. I love the term "moderate" used for apostates, it sounds so nice.

    Guru Nanak was both moderate and a fundamentalist. He was moderate in that he was not rigid, he lived in the spirit of unity and fluidity that is God/the infinite/the ONE. He was a fundamentalist in that even he fundamentally believed in Gurbani and sang and recorded it just as God gave it to him.

    I think the so-called "moderates" of today would consider Guru Gobind Singh a fanatic or fundamentalist. In fact I have met and read opinions of people who call themselves Sikh and question if Guru Gobind Singh had meant for Sikhs to continue with the form in "modern times." As if our form isn't timeless? As if Akal Moorat the very image of the undying was not our code of conduct. These are the words of Guru Nanak, our form is the form of the creator who made us. But then again these fundamentals are not important to "moderates."

  12. I love the term “moderate” used for apostates, it sounds so nice.
    Guru Nanak was both moderate and a fundamentalist. He was moderate in that he was not rigid, he lived in the spirit of unity and fluidity that is God/the infinite/the ONE. He was a fundamentalist in that even he fundamentally believed in Gurbani and sang and recorded it just as God gave it to him.
    I think the so-called “moderates” of today would consider Guru Gobind Singh a fanatic or fundamentalist. In fact I have met and read opinions of people who call themselves Sikh and question if Guru Gobind Singh had meant for Sikhs to continue with the form in “modern times.” As if our form isn’t timeless? As if Akal Moorat the very image of the undying was not our code of conduct. These are the words of Guru Nanak, our form is the form of the creator who made us. But then again these fundamentals are not important to “moderates.”