Flight of faith: SGPC’s first overseas gurdwara to come up in US
Known for its peaches, Yuba City in North California, US, is going to have the first overseas gurdwara managed by Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), which was looking to counter the radical hold on American Sikhs and their shrines.
Biggest American peach farmer Didar Singh Bains has donated 14 acres to the SGPC for this project and the handing-over process is on. He built one of the two present Yuba City gurdwaras, the largest in the US, while the general public raised the other. Bains’ son, Gurnam Singh Pamma, is president of his gurdwara. In nearby cities, Sacramento has one place and San Jose has two places where Sikhs go to worship.
Radical-influenced Punjabi diaspora booed Akali leaders when they visited North America last year, so the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the SGPC need own platform (gurdwaras) to launch their campaigns in the continent. “If we have a place of our own, we can convey ourselves better,” said an Akali leader. SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar said: “Many Sikhs are influenced by radicals but we don’t need to be afraid of them.”
“This gurdwara will boost dharam parchar (religious propagation) in North America. We are making the drawings and maps. We have registered as SGPC USA Inc and collected dollars worth Rs 2 crore in a US bank.” Makkar said.
Foreign donations big attraction
North America accounts for a lot of donation to the faith, so the lure of NRI money also brings the SGPC to Yuba City.
This money goes to the radicals’ kitty mostly but having own gurdwara will help the SGPC tap moderate Sikhs.
Ripudaman offer on hold
Makkar claims that Ripudaman Singh Malik, who was acquitted in the 1985 Kanishka bombing case in 2016, offered to build a gurdwara in the Canadian province of British Columbia, which has a huge Sikh population. “We have kept the offer on hold,” said Makkar.
Printing of holy book
The SGPC plans to start printing Guru Granth Sahib from the Yuba City gurdwara to cater to the Sikhs and Punjabis of North America. “Currently we send them the Sikh holy book from India, which requires a lot of care and caution,” Makkar said. “A facility in the continent will help non-resident Punjabis.”