Sikh Institutions failure — Religious, Educational, Social Fields
Maj Gen (Dr) Jaswant Singh
The vibrant and versatile Sikh community, the feeding hand and the sword arm of the country is at crossroads as the Sikh institutions are on the decline. However, this paper is only confined to the religious, educational and social fields.
Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) was established in 1925 under Gurdwara Administration Act. There is no provision of Jathedar of a Takht but that of a High Priest is there. This committee came into being for unified and standardised code for administrative control and management of Gurdwaras. This Parliament of Sikhs has been functioning well because the members elected by Sikh voters have been men of steel not of straw. Of late, controversies as in all organisations, have crept in. Even today voters include kesadharis and sahejdharis. Under garb of Sahejdharis some undesirable elements also vote and are likely to hijack the sanctity of SGPC. It will be worthwhile to lay down guidelines for candidate's qualifications, religious knowledge, piety, economic status. They should not be dependent on SGPC perks and should be persons of high ideals. Its members should be forceful, upright, without consideration of Khatris, Jats, Scheduled Castes.
Five Takhts of Sikhs and Jathedar Sahiban
These Takhts have their zones responsibility for preaching Guru’s bani, Sikh Maryada, Sikh Way of Life. Akal Takht which was built by Guru Hargobind ji and Baba Budha, symbolised the concept of Miri-Piri, has been preoccupide with such trivial matters like langar. I do not know whether the ritual of tankhah to erring Sikhs was initiated by Gurus or was a later introduction. Tankhah to Sardar Surjit Singh Barnala by being tied to a tree infront of Akal Takht is not corrective but humiliating. The following suggestions are made :
a) The Takhts should be autonomous, not under the supreme control of SGPC. That will bestow on them the religious independence essential for growth and propagation of religion.
b) Jathedars of the Takhts should not be employees of SGPC and not draw pay therefrom.
c) These Jathedars should be nominated by an electoral college of 100 prominent persons - above board Sikh intellectuals, religious, upright, thinkers, philosophers, doctors, engineers.
d) The tenure should be fixed 3 or 5 years.
e) Their pay and perks should be sufficient for them to be independent of finicial worrries.
At present this is not true with the result that jathedars are at the beck and call of SGPC, do their biddings at times against the accepted Sikh norms. The prestige of this noble and mighty institution has been eroded resulting in frequent marching orders to jathedars especially of Akal Takht by political masters. For their mere survival, they genuflex before politicians. SGPC should cease to be their appointing / relieving authority. Jathedars should make regular tours in their jurisdiction especially the rural area to spread Gurus’ messages and reverse the cancer of apostasy among the rural youth, the young saplings of our future generations.
It was sarcastically remarked by a junior army officer that army had gone to dogs over the years. His senior quipped him by saying “In fact dogs have come to the army”.
Institutions like Khalsa Schools and Khalsa Colleges were the envy of other communities both for academic excellence and character building through religious preaching. Whereas DAV Schools - Colleges and Public Schools have gone ahead, our institutions because of poor academic performance are getting only those students who cannot manage addmission anywhere else. During our student days at Medical College, Amritsar in early fifties, quite a lot of students entered the Medical College from local Khalsa College, same was true about Engineering Colleges and other Technical Institutions. These colleges also produced excellent sportsmen and army officers who rose to be Generals including General Chhibber, Ex-Governor of Punjab. Where have we gone wrong ? Principals like Bhai Jodh Singh and teachers like Bhai Sahib Singh are still with us but for various petty reasons they are not forthcoming, or are not appointed, not allowed to blossom to their full glory. Since present teachers are not so meritorious and karamyogies, students are not likely to imbibe the Sikh spirit, the Sikhs culture and academic elan. Let us appoint the right type of teachers, give them free hand in education and pay them well. These people of committment will produce the desired results. The academic heads like Principals and Vice-Chancellors at least of the Punjabi and Guru Nanak Dev Universities should be persons of academic glory and religious fervour.
The robust Sikh community is feeling lost because of inadequate Sikh leadership and economic steep fall especially for Sikh farmers, they are deeply in debt because of state policies and over spending on the land, less remunerative crops. The Punjab farmer was a versatile, hard working result oriented proud person. Better performance by business community has brought down the prestige of rural people primarily the Sikhs. Correcting the state / central policies, more friendly towards farmers will reverse this trend.
It is emphasised that it is not the institutions which have failed the Sikhs but Sikhs have failed the mighty institutions by selecting / electing wrong material and ceasing to be the watch-dogs for the institutions. I have an appeal for the intelligentia and devoted Sikhs “Please do not abdicate your responsibility towards the Sikh Panth. You must discourage the wrong practices and the wrong people by raising your voice in public and with the help of Sikh media which deserve to be brought up by us all.