US based millionaire hotelier Baldev Singh rejects idea of Khalistan
Former deputy speaker of Punjab Vidhan Sabha Baldev Singh (78) wants Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) to focus on Punjab and make their foreign visits productive by replicating development ideas from US in the state.
Baldev Singh, a native of village Majat near Landran in SAS district, is also critical the way demand for Khalistan is raised by a section of people.
"Where do they want to build Khalistan? Can they build a separate country like Japan or any other European country," he questioned adding that there are no such resources in Punjab.
Baldev Singh owns two Hilton hotels in Chicago and Pennsylvania, a Marriot and a Double tree hotel in Washington.
Elected to the Punjab vidhan sabha in 1967 on SAD ticket from Kharar, Baldev also met Gurcharan Singh Tohra during jail in a morcha of Akali Dal demanding Punjabi speaking areas.
"I never supported Khalistan. During the days when we were managing Richmond Hill Gurdwara, we never let anyone raise the issue but now things have changed drastically," he said.
After getting elected as MLA, Baldev remained the deputy speaker of Punjab Assembly for over two years till 1969. During this time, he established links with the US embassy, got a Working Visa and landed in New York in October 1970.
Being a law graduate, he first worked in an insurance company as a manager and later started his own businesses of petrol pumps, truck stations and finally entered into the hotel business. He is also a silent partner in a hospitality company.
"Akali Dal needs to go beyond its 'panthic' agenda and focus on development in Punjab," he suggested.
Referring to the theory of sociologist Maslow, Baldev Singh said: "When Sikhs and Punjabis land in the US, they struggle for basic needs of shelter and food. Once it's met, they thrive for image building and recognition and once they achieve it, they subsequently seek command and hence lands into politics.
"As they cannot mingle with the other communities due to their limited knowledge and education, they find gurdwara and Sikh politics a fertile ground to fulfill their need," he added.
He is also critical of the way Sikhs fight with each other.
"People in other religion do have differences, but the way we violently fight with each other earns bad name for our entire community," Baldev Singh told HT, adding that Akalis are gradually turning fundamentalists which they never were in the past.
About Richmond Hill Gurdwara
One of the oldest gurdwaras of US, The Richmong Hill Gurdwara was was actually a Baptist church building which was purchased by the Sikh community in 1973 by paying 65,000 US dollars to the Christian community.
"They (Christians) were demanding 3.5 lakh dollars for the building but as the gurdwara could only arrange 65,000 US dollars, they sold the place at our offer," said Baldev Singh who remained vice president and general secretary of the gurdwara for many years.
"A major fire incident in 1992 destroyed the old building and the gurdwara was rebuilt by purchasing houses in the surrounding," revealed Baldev Singh.
Richmond Hill Gurdwara is the second oldest gurdwara in the US after the Sacramento gurdwara in California.