DC Sikhs Ask for Representation at Akal Takhat

By Anju Kaur | July 30, 2013

Reporting from Washington – The Washington sangat is seeking representation of the diaspora Panth at the Akal Takhat.

“We Sikhs living abroad don’t feel very well represented there,” said Harpreet Kaur Chadha, spokeswoman for the recently re-opened Sikh Gurdwara, DC. “We would want Sikhs from abroad, all over the world, to have representation in whatever (body) is leading the Panth.”

Harpreet Kaur spoke to SikhNN after Guru Hargobind’s Gurpurab celebrations on July 7. Gurdwara representatives used the new platform to voice their concerns of some contentious decisions made by the Akal Takhat, including the excommunication in February 2010 of its former jathedar, Professor Darshan Singh, and the conduct of gurdwaras under the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, including Harimandir Sahib, which does not allow female jathaas to sing Gurbani kirtan.

“This gurdwara is going to be a platform for truth, where we listen to our soul, where we are not sold off,” Harpreet Kaur told SikhNN, after the program. “Nobody can oppress us, make us believe things my heart does not believe.”

The Akal Takhat did not return numerous requests by phone and by email for a response. But SikhNN will continue to make attempts.

The gurdwara, located at the heart of Washingtion’s Embassy Row, was closed for more than two years because of financial problems. Among the Sikh and non-Sikh groups that offered to buy the property were the SGPC and the Jaswant Sawhney Irrevocable Charitable Trust, headed by Daljit Singh Sawhney of Elicott City, Maryland. The trust purchased the property, formerly known as Sikh Cultural Center of America, earlier this year from Shamsher Singh, head of the former board of trustees. The gurdwara re-opened in May as the Sikh Gurdwara, DC, and also serves as the international headquarters for Pingalwara, a charity for the physically and mentally ill that was established by Bhagat Puran Singh. 

“When we got this gurdwara, it came to us sahaj sabhao (spontaneously),” Daljit Singh told SikhNN. “I think it happened because it was Guru’s wish and maybe I was a conduit for Him to put his hand on my head and say go ahead and do this.”

The management invited Professor Darshan Singh as the special guest jathaa for the Gurpurab program. His kirtan and kathaa centered on the meaning of Akal Takhat. 

“The Akal Takhat just is a seat, where Guru Hargobind used to sit,” he said to the sangat of about 150 devotees, in Punjabi. “Instead of the Guru, we have started worshiping the seat. The seat is one thing, the Guru is another thing.”

The former jathedaar said that hukamnaamaas from the Akal Takhat should be guided by Gurbaanee, and should come from a person who qualified to be seated there. 

“Where are those individuals, the Gursikhs created by the Guru who sacrificed their lives, and whose lives were so pure and exhalted that we paid obeisance (dandaut) to them?” Harpreet Kaur asked the sangat, in Punjabi. “They did not have to command respect, we would give them respect. We would lay down our lives for them. This is the Khalsa Panth.

“Who is running the Guru Panth (now)? Is the Guru Panth run by people who have maintained the standards? …We don’t have that feeling that Gursikhs felt during the Gurus’ times.”

Harpreet Kaur added that it was not their intention to show any disrespect to the Sikh authorities. “Respectfully, we just want to have a voice,” she said. “…We stand fearlessly because we want to be represented and bring back the ideals of the Khalsa Panth.

“And we are not scared, believe me,” she said. “We have nothing to hide. Everything is transparent over there. And we are expecting the same transparency from Akal Takhat.” 

_________________________From Sikh News Network archives.