364.The Man in Blue – Gurdwara Sikh Sangat, Bow, London, UK

It is not good news to hear that a Gurdwara has been set fire to, and that the fire was started from the sach khand, destroying birs of the Guru Granth Sahib and doing very serious damage to the building. 

Even so, a building, even a building that has been a Church, a Synagogue and then a Gurdwara, is at the end of the day only ‘bricks and mortar’. The burning of birs of the Guru Granth Sahib is very sad and very regrettable, but the arsonist has burnt paper, cardboard and bookbinding, not the Shabad, not the word of God, which is eternal and indestructible.


The Indian media have widely reported the fire as a racist attack. Apparently Sikhs in Hyderabad burnt the UK flag during a protest. In reality we do not know the motives of the arsonist. Some of the rumours doing the round suggest a worse possibility than a racist attack.


I heard from three different sources (who might all have heard it from one source) that there is a conflict between committee members and within the sangat over a possible sale of the present building. Some are very strongly in favour of selling and building a new Gurdwara elsewhere, others are very strongly against it.


Apparently a very acrimonious debate on this issue took place the day before the fire. I know that conflicts in Gurdwaré are often taken to extremes, and I know that in the past crimes have been committed as part of Gurdwara conflicts. You never know of course, but I would think or sincerely hope that Sikhs, however misguided, would not set fire to a Gurdwara, would not set fire to the sach khand.


It is of course possible that there is a racist or ‘religious’ motive behind the attack. But here too there are doubts : which non-Sikh group or individual would know the meaning of the sach khand and know where it is located ?


If the arsonist is an individual acting on his own, and if he does not start talking about it to family and friends, it is going to be difficult for the police to find the culprit. If he is part of a right-wing racist group or a Taliban or RSS type outfit, it should be easier for the police to track him down.


The police might know far more than even Harmander Singh, and surprise us all by arresting a criminal who does not fit any of the speculations that are doing the rounds.


Once we know why the arsonist set fire to the Gurdwara, we should not burn flags or hate all people of the same background as the criminal. Sikhs should at all times seriously try to practice the teachings of the Guru Granth Sahib, as per the hukam of Guru Gobind Singh.

Published in: on March 21, 2009 at 4:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
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