Managements of Canada gurdwaras push back against ‘ban’ on Indian officials
Several gurdwara managements in the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Alberta have joined the ban on Indian officials, and for the first time, among those prohibited from their premises are members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
But as the movement spreads in Canada, members of the management committees of multiple gurdwaras in Ontario, where the trend started, have said the decision had no validity since it was not approved by the relevant governing bodies.
Four members of the Ontario Khalsa Darbar, better known as the Dixie gurdwara, said that though the president of their gurdwara, Gurpreet Singh Bal, made the original announcement, they “were not aware about this decision, and this issue was never discussed in the committee meeting and no resolution was passed”.
They went on to add that the boycott decision “could be Gurpreet Singh Bal’s personal opinion”. The committee members who are opposing the ban are Gurinder Singh Bhullar, Navjeet Singh, Amrik Singh Deol and Paramjeet Singh Boleena.
Members of gurdwara managements at two places of worship in Brampton, a suburb of Toronto, too have come out against the ban.
Five directors of Gurdwara Sri Guru Nanak Sikh Center and Gurdwara Brampton Sikh Sangat jointly issued a statement saying they were “surprised” when the announcement included their gurdwaras.
“We want to make it clear,” they said, that the committees “never discussed this matter, pass(ed) this matter and no one has been allowed to add these two names (of the gurdwaras) in the list”. They maintained the gurdwaras were open to anyone and “there is no such restriction now”.
Among those who issued this statement were Sukhwant Singh Rai, Sarwan Singh Gill, Sarwan Singh Sandhu, Pushpinder Singh Atwal and Mahinder Singh Grewal.
Meanwhile, a statement issued by a spokesperson for the Western gurdwaras, Moninder Singh, said the “recent steps” take by gurdwaras in Ontario to impose the ban on Indian officials was “a strong declaration that Sikhs residing in Canada will not give in or bow down to the interference and pressure placed upon them by the Indian state and their representatives”.
That “initiative was moved forward in western Canada”, the statement said, by a total of 16 gurdwaras in these provinces spearheaded by the Gurdwara Sahib Dasmesh Darbar in Surrey, British Columbia, and Gurdwara Dasmesh Culture Centre in Calgary, Alberta. Earlier, gurdwaras in Ontario and three more in Quebec had signed on to the formal declaration of the ban.
Moninder Singh said these gurdwaras “reserve the right to bar access to the stage (up to and including entry) to officials of the Indian government” and will “include, but not be limited to, Indian elected officials, Indian consular officials, and members of organisations who seek to undermine the Sikh nation and Sikh institutions (RSS, Shiv Sena, etc.)”.
The statement added, “To be clear, no individual is being banned from Gurdwara Sahibs, but Indian representatives in official capacity will not be permitted to address the sangat in Guru Darbar and sewadars from each Gurdwara Sahib may individually choose to which degree they will allow Indian officials access.”
Among the reasons given, like in the Ontario instance, were alleged denial of Indian visas and interference in the affairs of gurdwaras.
While they are being targeted in this series of orchestrated bans, Indian diplomats in Canada offered no comment when contacted by Hindustan Times. In a statement, the external affairs ministry spokesperson said last week: “We take no cognisance of fringe elements which spread hate and communal disharmony.”
While members of gurdwara committees have disagreed with the policy in Ontario, pro-Khalistan activist Sukhminder Singh Hansra, who played a key role in the coordinated move, claimed, “The action of ban (has been) welcomed by almost 100% of managements of gurdwaras and Sikh organisations.”