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Gur Panth Parkash

Gur Panth Parkash
by Rattan Singh Bhangoo
Translated by
Prof Kulwant Singh

 

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Revamping the System for Sikh Unity and Uniformity

Surinderjeet Singh

Guru Hargobind Sahib, the 6th Guru of the Sikhs, got constructed a platform facing Harimandar Sahib in Amritsar in the year 1606 and used it for his accession ceremonies and the issuance of his first Hukamnama to the Sikh sangat present there and also to those living in far flung Sikh centers in different places. Since then, this platform, later on taking the form of a building, popularly known as Akal Takhat, has been considered as the primary seat of Sikh religious authority and the place for conducting the secular affairs of the community. After the creation of the Khalsa in 1699, the practice of appointing a Chief (Jathedar) of Akal Takhat was started with the first appointment of Bhai Mani Singh to head and organize the affairs on behalf of the Khalsa Panth from this holy place. Among the various duties and powers of the Jathedar Sahib, issurance of Hukamnamas, edicts or writs, providing guidance or clarification on important Sikh issues, doctrines or practices and seeking explanation from those persons charged with violation of religious discipline for the purpose of putting them under penance, have been the most notable. A large number of Hukamnamas issued there from and the Tankhahs (religious punishments) imposed by the Jathedar are important events of Sikh history. For example, one of the Jathedars, namely Akali Phoola Singh summoned even Maharaja Ranjeet Singh, the ruler of Punjab, for violating the established norms of Sikh behaviour and also awarded him tankhah.

During later periods of Sikh history four other places were declared as Takhats (seats of authority), namely Takhat Sri Kesgarh Sahib, Anandpur; Takhat Sachkand Hazur Sahib, Takhat Sri Patna Sahib and Takhat Damdama Sahib, Talvandi Sabo, all four are connected with the life of Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708). All five Takhats are equally venerated, but the Akal Takhat at Amritsar enjoys a special status. It is mainly because of the fact that it is the oldest Takhat and is situated along with Harimandar Sahib, constituting the capital of Sikhism. A major part of Sikh history has also been associated with Akal Takhat Sahib where all important decisions were taken during the time of Guru Hargobind and later by misls in the 18th Century and thereafter. Harimandar Sahib and Akal Takhat Sahib always remained a source of inspiration and spiritual rejuvenation for the Sikhs. Even in the most troubled period following the martyrdom of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur in 1716, the Sikhs visited these shrines whenever they got an opportunity, particularly on Baisakhi and Diwali, all the Sikhs tried to assemble at Akal Takhat for Sarbat Khalsa assemblies and discussed matters of policy and strategy.

Despite the greatest importance and veneration for Akal Takhat Sahib by the Sikhs all over the world, it has been felt that during the last two-three decades, the Jathedars of Takhats, particularly that of Sri Akal Takhat Sahib have not been able to play that historic role and perform their duty as expected from them by the Sikhs who consider them as their guides and philosophers for all religious matters including the Maryada to be followed by the Sikhs. That is why a number of problems in Sikh religion like apostasy have touched alarming heights. Sikhs want clarification on many issues, but they are unable to get the same. The growing divisions among the Sikh people and lack of uniformity in following maryada are also the result of the declining authority of the Jathedar. Why there is a decline in the authority of the Jathedars, particularly that of the Jathedar of Akal Takhat Sahib, has been a subject of concern and discussion among the Sikh intellectuals. Recently, when a galaxy of Sikh intellectuals from Delhi and Punjab met at Bhai Veer Singh Sahitya Sadan, Gole Market, New Delhi at a Seminar organized by Kes Sambal Prachar Sanstha to ponder upon a very important issue of 'Unity and Uniformity among the Sikhs', they tried to analyze the reasons for such a lack of unity and uniformity among them. It was admitted by all of them that the most important reason for the increasing schism in Sikh religion is their failure to follow and imbibe the teachings of the Masters as enshrined in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, which is not only a treasure of spiritual wisdom, but a scripture of the entire mankind.

The Sikh intellectuals speaking in the Seminar, represented various spheres of life including services, education, politics and business. They were unanimous to hold the view that Sri Akal Takhat Sahib must be held in highest esteem and Rehat Maryada issued by the Panth must be followed uniformly by all the Sikhs all over the world. They also admitted that unity and uniformity could be possible only by imbibing gurbani in our life as the message of universal brotherhood given therein could bring such a state of unity not only among the Sikhs but among all the people of the world. They considered that the selfish and materialistic attitude of our leaders, the weak administration and management of our Gurudwaras and the proliferation of the Deras by the so called Sants and Babas in Punjab were other main reasons of disunity among the Sikh people. It was pointed out by them that our main organizations like SGPC were not playing the requisite role for propagation and promotion of Sikh religion. Akal Takhat Sahib which was the highest seat of authority for all the Sikhs was also not being permitted by the politicians to play that role which the Sikh people look forward to such high seats of honour (Takhats). That is why the people are unable to seek clarifications, dispel their doubts and know about the Maryada which need to be uniformly followed by all the Sikhs of the world.

It was, therefore, felt by the scholars and most of the people present there that Sri Akal Takhat Sahib must get the honour and the authority for which it was created by the Guru Sahib so that it may play its requisite role in the management and the administration of the Sikhs throughout the world. All the Takhats should be made more powerful, independent and free from any kind of interference in performing their duties. These Takhats must have the position to issue suitable directions, clarifications and guidelines to the people and their decisions must be followed by all the Sikhs without raising any ifs & buts. It was also desired by the scholars that there should be one Gurudwara Management system for the whole world. Further, we may have different political and social affiliations, but on all panthic issues, there must be unity and uniformity among us. A minimum program agenda is required to be prepared and all controversial matters like that relating to Dasam Granth and Sikh calendar be sorted out amicably, if need be, even by holding a Sarbat Khalsa which had been a popular method of deciding important issues of Sikh community in the past. Spiritual and religious education, raising the educational standard of the Sikh institutions and promotion of Punjabi language were also considered as highly important issues for bringing a sense of unity and uniformity among the Sikhs. The unanimous view was that a new Singh Sabha Movement was the need of the times.

A new movement can come with good leaders who are sincere, noble, clear in their concepts and have a definite programme to lead the community. The present system of managing the social, economic, educational and religious affairs of the community is not working satisfactorily. It is, therefore, necessary to revamp the whole system and replace it with an ideal practicable system which can bring the desired results. Revolutionary changes need to be made to make the community educated, prosperous, strong and worthy of being called 'Khalsa', the pure ones, who are supposed to do everything for the welfare of all. Kes Sambhal Parchar Sanstha, after an earlier seminar on this subject, had prepared a draft model of management for all the Sikh shrines, institutions and the people, a model which suggested, how each and every Sikh can have a say in managing the affairs of the community. This draft model was released by the Sanstha on the occasion of this seminar. Based upon the principle of participative management by all the people of the community, it has been visualized in this draft model that there will be five main units of the said system, viz, Takhat Jathedar Board (TJB), The Advisory Committee of TJB, SGPC and other Parbandhak Committees, Sikh Dharam Parcharak Service (SDPS) and consolidated fund of Sikhs (CFS). The two most important pillars of this system are TJB and SGPC. The TJB will consist of Jathedars of all the five Takhats and the Head Granthi of Sri Darbar Sahib, Amritsar with Jathedar Akal Takhat Sahib as its Chairman. The minimum qualification, other conditions of eligibility and the method of election of Jathedars have been discussed in detail. This Board will be the final authority to decide all Panthik issues, disputes, controversies and religious issues and queries raised by organizations and Individuals.

The Board will be assisted in taking decisions by a 11 member Advisory Committee, which will consist of the President SGPC, the Chief Secretaries of Sri Akal Takhat Sahib and SGPC and some prominent Sikhs from different spheres having high qualifications, status and position in their respective fields. This committee will be chaired by the President, SGPC, who along with other 4 members will be the permanent members of the committee. The remaining members will be changed after 2 years in rotation with a view to utilize the services of many more competent persons of the community. The headquarters of the TJB and the Advisory Committee will be Sri Akal Takhat Sahib. The SGPC will not be the only Parbandhak Committee; there will be many other committees like Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee, which will be constituted considering the population of Sikhs and the location of Sikh shrines and other Gurudwaras in a particular state or territory. The formation of these committees is necessary for better management of Gurudwaras in different parts of the country and abroad, for reaching Sikhs in distant places for solving their problems, for better coordination and also to give the de facto supreme position to the SGPC, which will continue to have the territorial Jurisdiction of control of Gurudwaras in Punjab. In addition, it will have many other duties and powers in regard to other committees functioning elsewhere. Further, there will be a number of sub-committees working with the SGPC and also with other committees as per the requirements of that particular state or territory. These sub-committees will look after various aspects of the life of the people of the community such as social, economic, educational and spiritual. Whereas Dharam Parchar Units will work for propagation of Sikh religion by organizing courses, lectures, seminars etc. and publishing literature for this purpose, the social tasks before the relevant committees will include helping to arrange matrimonial alliances, helping the poor people in getting their daughters married, settling marriage disputes and solving other family and related problems. Health will be another subject for which training camps may help the people in educating them about their health problems. These camps may also make the people aware of the deleterious effects of intoxicants. The maintenance of dispensaries, hospitals and other medical and health centers including de-addiction centers run by the committees will also be the responsibility of the concerned sub-units. The units meant for looking after the educational matters will take care of all the educational institutions run by the committees, and will take all possible steps to promote the standard of education, discipline and environmental conditions in all these institutions. They will also open training centers for preparing the young students going in for army and higher national services like IFS, IAS, IPS etc. The publication of newspapers and running of T.V. Channels for Sikh news and programmes is also an important area to be looked after by the committees through their relevant sub-units.

One interesting feature of this model management system relates to the creation of an All India Service of Sikh Dharam Parcharaks. The SGPC will be the cadre controlling authority of this service. A detailed description has been given regarding recruitment, training, posting, transfers, promotion and other service conditions of this service. As such, a complete record of all Dharam Parcharks working at different places under the control of the respective committees and the overall control of the SGPC, will be available. There is a provision for registration and regulating the services of Ragis, Kathavachaks, organizations working for religious and charitable purposes, Singh Sabha Gurudwaras built anywhere and Deras functioning for the propagation of Sikh religion. In this way, a strict control can be had on those private Gurudwaras built on the basis of caste or groups and also the Deras which are exploiting the Sikhs and drifting them away from the teachings enshrined in Sri Guru Granth Sahib. A detailed description has also been given in respect of the procedure to be adopted for granting Kar Sewa and other contracts, for issuing Hukamnamas, for hearing the cases of complaints filed for violation of Sikh conduct, for holding Sarbat Khalsa, for allotting works to Ragis, Kathavachaks and other preachers and fixing their remuneration and for clearing books, serials and films relating to Sikh religion after examining their material by competent authorities. There are also significant suggestions for bringing all those Guru Nanak Naam-leva persons and groups like Sindhies, Sikligars, Satnamias etc. for bringing them into the main stream.

The consolidated fund of the Sikhs, to be headed by a Chartered Accountant of high position, caliber and integrity with a team of similar competent persons, is the fifth, but a very important part of the system as it will not be only the fund collecting agency, but will also be the fund allocating authority to all other units and organizations, as per their needs and requirements. The whole budget making and implementation exercise for all the Sikh organizations and institutions will be under the control of CFS. The CFS will also be able to help the weaker sections and organizations of the community for their economic upliftment. An analysis of sources of Income of different organizations has also been given, to ensure a regular flow of funds to the CFS. Further, it has also been mentioned, what procedure should be used for allocation and utilization of funds, so that the same are utilized at the right place and for the right purpose and there is no misuse. The checks in the form of internal and regular audits of Accounts at different levels have also been emphasized. A list of prominent Sikh employers will be readily available for suitable directions to them to employ the suitable Sikhs in vacant posts and positions. In addition to these five units, the central and the state Governments will have their own machinery for conducting elections and deciding judicial matters by the competent courts as per the Indian laws and constitution of the country.

If a uniform administrative system of Gurdwaras with election and other administrative reforms is brought into operation, it will help in bringing all the Sikhs closer. It will also strengthen their position in getting their problems solved and controversies resolved at National and International platforms. The teachings of our eternal Guru, Sri Guru Granth Sahib are there to guide us not only in our mutual relations but also in maintaining cordial relations with all other people. The teachings also make us excellent persons to attract the attention of others, to have our voice heard and get a considerate attention at all places. We also have a maryada  It is accepted and approved by the persons appointed by the Panth for this purpose, it must be followed in letter and spirit to ensure uniformity of thought and action in all those matters which are covered therein. Let us pray to God to bless us with spiritual wisdom to understand and appreciate the problem of growing disunity among our people and then come together to find solutions and take decisions for strengthening our brotherhood. It is a fact that only when we are united and follow the spirit of taking collective decisions in conformity with the Gurmat principle of sitting together for deciding matters ( ਹੋਇ ਇਕਤ੍ਰ ਮਿਲਹੁ ਮੇਰੇ ਭਾਈ|| ਦੁਬਿਧਾ ਦੂਰ ਕਰਹੁ ਲਿਵ ਲਾਈ||), we will be able to spread the message of love and universal brotherhood as given by the Masters to the people of the world, and get universal recognition of our faith and Identity.

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