The Sikh Institutions have been playing a vital role in the development of Sikhism. Some of the fundamental Sikh institutions created by Sikh Gurus like the gurdwara (Dharamsala), Guru Granth Sahib, the sacred scripture, Langar and Pangat are working in a very sound manner. Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th Guru, gave the Sikhs a unique twin ideals of Guru-Panth and Guru Granth Sahib.
After the death of Guru Gobind Singh, Khalsa created some institutions like Sarbat Khalsa, Gurmata and Akal Takht. This brought unity and solidarity in Sikh struggle against heavy odds during 18th century. In the 20th century, some more institutions were added like organisation of Singh Sabhas. The Singh Sabha Movement during the later half of 19th Century had the following objectives :
- to revive the glory and elan of Sikhism
- publish historical, religious books and tracts on Sikhism
- to mentally prepare and strengthen wavering Sikhs towards the Sikh way of life like their forefathers
- to propagate Punjabi language and to propagate scientific knowledge.
Singh Sabha Movement brought a lot of awakening among the Sikhs and sharpened their aspirations for separate identity. As a result of this awakening, Gurdwara Reform Movement started in which Sikhs made great sacrifices to bring the Gurdwaras under Sikh control. There were the following landmarks in the Gurdwara Reform Movement, Nankana Sahib Tragedy which brought Gurdwara Nankana Shaib and its huge estates under the management of the representative body of Sikhs. Keys affairs brought complete control of Golden Temple Toshakhana under Sikhs control. Guru Ka Bagh Morcha brought Sikhs control of historic Gurdwaras and their lands. The last was Jaito Morcha which brought Gurdwara Act of 1925. Shiromni Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee was formed to manage the Gurdwaras. During this struggle, Shiromani Akali Dal was created to provide volunteers for Gurdwara Reform Movement. SGPC and SAD were two great institutions created during the 20th century. SGPC revived the significance of, Akal Takht which was previously under the control of the British. To combat the activities of church missionaries, Arya Samaj and Ahmediya Movement, Sikhs started their own schools and colleges, Khalsa College, Amritsar in 1892, and Guru Nanak Khalsa College, Gujranwala in 1889. A number of Khalsa schools were established throughout Punjab. These denominational institutions were responsible for the spread of education and stem the tide of apostasy among the Sikhs.
The writers of the papers included in this volume have given their opinion on different aspects of the working of the Sikh institutions.
The key note address of the seminar by Dr Gurdarshan Singh emphasises the importance of Sikh Institutions in general. These have been the life line of the Sikh community. Sikh religion owes its distinct character to these citadels which have nursed and sustained the Sikhs through centuries. In the 18th century, the Sikhs were passing through a terrible phase, prices were fixed on their heads. The British, after annexation of Punjab, adopted very strict and rigid policy detrimental to the growth of Sikhism. It was left to the Singh Sabha leadership to usher in an era of socio religious awakening among the Sikhs. Some of the important papers presented in the seminar are as follows :
In Part I — Dr Kharak Singh in his well written paper has analysed the existing institutions and their current problems. he has suggested the dire need of an apex body to guide and help the Panth.
Sardar Gurdev Singh, IAS (retd.) in his article has asserted that the Sikh institutions have not failed. The men at helm of affairs of these institutions have failed.
Dr Kirpal Singh has brought out historical significance of Akal Takht, he has discussed how it was a symbol of Sikh solidarity and unity.
Maj Gen (Dr) Jaswant Singh has highlighted the failure in religious, educational, social, cultural fields and suggested remedial measures succinctly.
Principal G S Shergill in his paper has given balanced review of the working of Sikh Institutions.
Sardar Sadhu Singh has brought out the need for a Directorate of Education to be established by SGPC, Amritsar.
Dwindling Status of Akal Takht : At Akal Takht Guru Hargobind wore two swords — Miri-Piri. It was here that during the 18th century Sikhs had been taking religious and political decisions. Notably during the Misls and Maharaja Ranjit Singh's period at Amritsar, coins were minted in the name of Akal Takht.
Principal Jagdish Singh has brought out the failure of Sikh Educational Institutions. He has compared the working of earlier Khalsa Schools and Colleges with their recent state.
Prof. Prithipal Singh Kapur has given background of establishment in 20th century of Chief Khalsa Diwan, Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and Akali Dal. He has discussed their working.
Dr Man Singh Nirankari in his paper has discussed how the appointment of Granthis, Pujaris Ragis, Ardasias were made. He has concluded that the office of Jathedar of Akal Takht was recently established by SGPC, Amritsar.
Brig Hardit Singh has discussed in general the decline of Sikh institutions and Sikhism.
Dr Gurmit Singh, advocate has emphasised the legal aspect of the Sikh Institutions and World Sikh Council. He opines that Sikhs themselves are responsible for the decline of these institutions.
Prof. Gurnam Kaur has dealt with in detail the failure in the educational and social fields. She has emphasised the three great principles of Sikhism : Kirt Karna, Naam Japna, Vand Chhakna.
Dr Kuldip Singh has brought out the failure of Sikh intellectuals on different occasions.
Sardar Nanak Singh Nishtar of Hyderabad has brought out the institutional failure with respect to Sikhism in other states of India.
In Part II — Sikh Missing Prisoners. There is only one paper by Sardar Inderjit Singh Jaijee. It is well documented. During Operation Blue Star large number of Sikhs were killed and after that great number were taken as prisoners. The number and fate of the latter is not known. It makes a very sad revelation. Govt has been giving different statements on various occasions at times quite contradictory.
In Punjabi Section — Principal Dr Jagjit Singh, Mohali has written a commendable paper in which he has stated how the Sikh institutions have declined. Sardar Kartar Singh from U.P. has given an account of decline of Sikh mission in his state. Dr Gurbakhsh Singh (USA) emphasized the necessity to follow the Sikh code of conduct strictly. Dr. Harnam Singh Shan suggested an other reform movement to rekindle the Sikh spirit. Sardar Kartar Singh Goshti has suggested a committee to halt the downward trend.
The seminar which was well attended by Sikh intellectuals and devout enlightened participants, has once again highlighted the decay and decline of the institutions and suggested pragmatic remedial measures. It is an irony that during a long spell of Akali Government in Punjab, the missing prisoners after Blue Star operation have been allowed to languish in jails or dissipate away un-knelled, un-coffined and unknown. Let their souls rest in eternal peace and let us have Khalsa courage to rescue the living to live a life of dignity.
Shubh karman te kabhoon na tarron.