Why is it that during elections in our bigger Gurdwaré, the prabandhaks need to hire security, or are forced to have a postal election, to prevent outbreaks of violence ?
Many Panjabi Sikhs claim that elections are anti-Sikh or anti-Panjabi. There is of course much more to democracy than annual, bi-annual or tri-annual elections, but I do not think there is anything wrong with elections in the light of Gurmat.
Here and in the Netherlands there has been a gradual development from the early Middle Ages till now towards a greater involvement of the citizens in the affairs of state, counties and boroughs. There are examples of early forms of democracy on the sub-continent too, but mostly the experience has been of autocratic rule under the Lodhis and the Mughals, Maharaja Ranjit Singh & sons and the British ‘Raj’.
There was a modicum of democracy during the time of the Misl (most of the 18th Century, after Guru Gobind Singh and before Maharaja Ranjit Singh), but even then the emphasis was on the Misl leaders and not on the ordinary Singhs, let alone the Kaurs.
Democracy has to be learned. Even in the UK democracy is far from perfect. We have a political system of dictatorship by a political party that has not even got the majority of the vote, with elections every four/five years. In-between elections the Government mainly listens to the opinions of those filthy rags called the Sun, the Star and the Daily (racist) Mail.
Back to the Gurdwaré in the UK. In the Guru Nanak Gurdwara in Smethwick the prabandhak committee is put together by some kind of lottery, but that did not stop physical fighting breaking out. In Southall the two Singh Sabha Gurdwaré and the Sikh school-to-be are ruled by Himmat Singh Sohi, who was in post when I arrived here in February 2000 and still rules supreme.
The good thing about Himmat Singh is that he runs an effective administration. You cannot run a Gurdwara on spirituality alone, you also need to be businesslike and use the sangat’s money in an effective way.
The problem we face in the UK is that whatever the differences in the degree of efficiency with which the ‘Doors to the Guru’ are run, most Gurdwaré are not centres of spiritual excellence.
You are more likely to find Sadh Sangat in the multi-faith groups I am part of, or amongst Jagdeesh Singh’s (Slough) Quaker’s than in these Panjabi clubs. Ending on a positive note, the food in the Gurdwaré is good (although a bit too salty and too oily) and available to all.