Canada: Ontario gurdwaras ban officials representing India

Updated on Jan 02, 2018 09:17 PM IST

The decision was taken by a group representing 15 gurdwaras who said officials were welcome into the place of worship only if they were there for personal reasons.

Members of the managements of various gurdwaras in the Canadian province of Ontario after a meeting at which they decided to ban representatives of India from gurdwaras.(HT Photo)
Members of the managements of various gurdwaras in the Canadian province of Ontario after a meeting at which they decided to ban representatives of India from gurdwaras.(HT Photo)
Hindustan Times, Toronto | By, Toronto

A group of office-bearers claiming to represent more than a dozen gurdwaras in the Canadian province of Ontario have collectively resolved to “bar” officials representing India, its diplomats and others from entering the premises of these places of worship.

This decision was made at a meeting held at the Jot Parkash Gurdwara in Brampton, a suburb of Toronto, on December 30.

A proforma statement on the ban was signed by those who attended the meeting. It noted: “Pursuant to the Trespass to Property Act (1990), the management of this Gurdwara Sahib reserves the right to bar entry to officials of the Indian Government including but not limited to Indian elected officials, Indian Consular officials, and members of organisations who seek to undermine the Sikh nation and Sikh institutions.”

The meeting was held under the auspices of the Ontario Gurdwaras Committee (OGC). Amarjit Mann, a spokesperson for OGC, told Hindustan Times that managements of 15 gurdwaras in the Greater Toronto Area had “jointly agreed” to this “decision”.

He said that approximately 30 members of the managements of these gurdwaras were present at the meeting on Saturday.

The statement added: “Keeping in mind the interference of Indian Consular and Indian Government officials in the lives of Canadian Sikhs, Gurdwara Management Committees have jointly taken the decision to bar the entry of these officials and members from Gurdwaras across Canada.

“The presence of these officials makes members of the Sikh community uncomfortable due to their agenda of undermining the autonomy of Sikh institutions and organisations. It is our obligation to ensure the safety of the Sangat, and accordingly we have arrived at this decision.”

Speaking to Hindustan Times, Gurpreet Singh Bal, president of the Ontario Khalsa Darbar in Mississauga, better known as the Dixie gurdwara, said, “This decision was taken unanimously. The Indian government interferes too much in the community.”

However, he clarified the ban will be on those visiting gurdwaras in their official capacity, not if they come with personal purpose. “Gurdwara is open for everyone, but when they are on official basis, that’s not allowed,” he said.

Pro-Khalistan activist Sukhminder Singh Hansra was among those present at the meeting and in an emailed statement, he said, “We applaud the decision of Gurdwara Managements to bar Indian High Commission and Indian Consulate as the officials of Indian High Commission (were) directly infiltrating the Sikh affair within Canada.”

He added that “consular powers” such an issuing visas for India were used to “influence” Sikhs against their own “interests.”

The hardline activist group, Sikhs for Justice, welcomed the announcement. In a statement, its legal advisor Gurpatwant Pannun said, “We appreciate the decision of Ontario Gurdwaras to ban entry of Indian diplomats in the gurdwaras. Consulate members represent India, which committed genocide of Sikhs and their presence in gurdwaras is not acceptable to the victims of genocide and to the Sikh community. We urge the management committees across Canada to ban and boycott members of Indian consulates.”

In recent times, Indian officials have visited gurdwaras in the province and elsewhere, a change from how these were once considered no-go zones for them.

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    Anirudh Bhattacharya is a Toronto-based commentator on North American issues, and an author. He has also worked as a journalist in New Delhi and New York spanning print, television and digital media. He tweets as @anirudhb.

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