Sikh doctor leads stir against Toronto gurdwara membership freeze

A Sikh doctor hailing from Windsor in Ontario has gone on a hunger strike along with his supporters to protest membership freeze by the executive committee of the Sikh Cultural Society of Windsor. Dr Sukhdev Singh Kooner, who previously headed the committee, alleged that the executive committee is freezing the membership of 400 persons, including him, to take control of the gurdwara. The charges have been rubbished by the committee members.

Accompanied by a large number of supporters, Kooner started his strike on Sunday at Gurdwara Khalsa Parkash, and is since surviving only on water. "Everyone has the right to be a member; we did not have any other choice left," he said.

The Windsor police are minutely watching the protest to save any untoward incident and to keep an eye upon the doctor's health. In a news release, supporters of Kooner said he and some of his followers are suffering the effects of not eating and he has "already lost eight pounds".

Meanwhile, the gurdwara's executive committee has termed the hunger strike by the doctor as a bid to escape previous fines. Harjinder Singh Kandola, president of the Sikh Cultural Society of Metropolitan Windsor, alleged that Kooner's group has been making attempts to destabilise society for the past three years. "After losing the legal battle, they are now adopting blackmail tactics," Kandola said, claiming that freezing membership was necessary to preserve the status quo following "the unlawful takeover of the gurdwara by Kooner and his supporters".

Mayor Eddie Francis told the newspaper Windsor Star that a formal letter has been issued to members of the gurdwara "reminding them of the role and responsibilities (of Windsor police), and when and where police can get involved."

Windsors Sikhs are upset over the ongoing dispute. On condition of anonymity, one said, "When you bring your internal strife out in the open, you expose yourself and your community to public criticism and sometimes even hateful remarks. Differences of opinion exist everywhere, but it's in the best interest of every organisation, especially minority community organisations, to always display unity and solidarity to the outside world."


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