The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) has received recognition from the US government, even as it strives back home for national status.
No Indian government has yet accepted it demand for an "all-India gurdwara Act" that will give it this status. The religious body, which manages Sikh shrines in Punjab and neighbouring states, now is registered officially in America as "SGPC USA Incorporated".
The recognition came after the SGPC's request to the US government for permission to built International Sikh Centre at Yuba City in California state for promoting Sikhism in America, Canada and the other countries in that region. This centre is proposed on 13.5 acres donated by US Sikh entrepreneur Didar Singh Bains.
"For getting the land registered and building the centre, the SGPC had to get itself registered under the US laws. This is a historic moment, as this is the first official recognition that the SGPC has got in the western world," SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar told the media here on Friday.
SGPC delegation in US
A four-member SGPC delegation in the US helped complete the formalities for the registration of the new body. The delegation comprises SGPC senior vice-president Raghujit Singh Virk, general secretary Sukhdev Singh Bhaur, executive member Rajinder Singh Mehta and additional secretary Paramjit Singh Saroa.
Cases of hate crime against Sikhs prompted the SGPC to fast track the International Sikh Centre proposal. The centre's foundation stone will be laid in February 2014. In November, the SGPC proposes to organise Nagar Kirtan' (religious procession) in Yuba City on Guru Nanak Dev's birth anniversary.
Besides preaching Sikhism, International Sikh Centre in Yuba City will explain the religion and its separate and distinct identity and articles of faith to the Americans. There have been cases of racial assault where Sikhs were mistaken as terrorists because of their turban. This global centre will coordinate with the US and other governments and, through literature in many languages, promote Sikh history, culture and Gurbani.