Reporting from Maryland - Major gurdwaras, from Virginia to New York, passed an 11-point resolution (mathay) on Oct. 18 to address the state-sponsored tyranny and violence against Punjab’s citizens, particularly the Sikhs.
A week later, on Oct. 25, the resolution was presented to Sikh sangats from the metropolitan Washington D.C. area to garner support from additional gurdwaras in the Mid-Atlantic region.
More than 40 gurdwaras and organizations have signed onto the resolution, including Gurdwara Sikh Cultural Society of Richmond Hill, New York; Gurdwara Philadelphia Sikh Society of Pennsylvaia; Gurdwara Singh Sabha of Fairfax, Virginia; the California-based American Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and the New York-based Sikhs For Justice.
These signatories held the Punjab and Indian governments responsible for the multiple desecrations of the Guru Granth, the Sikh scripture, which resulted in mass protests and brutal responses from the Punjab Police.
“It is important that they (officials and officers) are held accountable by the Khalsa Panth for these atrocities,” the resolution document says.
The resolution specifically blamed Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Badal and his Akali Dal Party for the current widespread unrest in Punjab, and called for a boycott of the Badal Akali Dal, and all its associates and supporters.
The management committees of American gurdwaras listed in the resolution will no longer allow members of the Badal Akali Dal, or those of the Bharatiya Janata Party or Congress Party of India, or any other “anti-Sikh persons” to speak from their stages, the resolution says. “They are to be totally boycotted.”
The resolution also called for a boycott of the takhat jathedars, including Akal Takhat Jathedaar Gurbachan Singh.
The Panth was outraged by the jathedaars’ pardon of cult leader Gurmeet Ram Rahim of Dera Sacha Sauda of Sirsa, Haryana, on Sept. 24. The dera chief did not follow the protocol of personally appearing at the Akal Takhat to ask for forgiveness. Nor did he make any apologies in his letter to the Akal Takhat for his blasphemous act of dressing as Guru Gobind Singh and imitating his giving Amrit Sanchaar at a public event in 2007. Gurmeet Ram Rahim is also accused of murder, rape and forced castration, among other crimes.
With growing worldwide contempt of the amnesty declaration, the jathedaars reversed their decision in an Oct. 16 statement issued by the Akal Takhat’s secretariat. But the damage was irreversible. The Panth is not pardoning the jathedaars.
A Punj Pyaaray was formed in Amritsar on Oct. 23. They summoned the jathedaars to the Akal Takhat to explain why they pardoned the Sacha Sauda cult leader. But within hours of the summons, Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee Chief Avtar Makkar suspended the Punj Pyaaray along with two committee secretaries and four other employees for allegedly violating the maryaadaa of the Akal Takht, the Times of India reported.
The suspension marked the first time in Sikh history that the Punj Pyaaray, an institution created by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699, was dismissed.
Any Sikh of eminent repute can be included in the Punj. The authority of the Punj Pyaaray called by the Panth surpasses that of all jathedars, including that of the Akal Takhat and the SGPC, which is a gurdwara management organization.
Several members of the SGPC and Sikh members of the Punjab government have resigned in protest of their leaderships’ mishandling of Sikh affairs.
“Those brothers who resigned their positions in the Alkali Dal – Badal and the shiromani committee, due to awakened conscience, are welcomed to return back into the Panthic fold,” the resolution says.
The American resolution also called for representation of Sikhs living outside India in the election and selection process of the jathedaars of the Akaal Takhat and the SGPC.
Sikhs have for decades accused Punjab’s political rulers of installing candidates with connections to their political party as jathedaars and SGPC members. The jathedaars’ forgiveness of the Sirsa cult leader was allegedly ordained in exchange for votes from his large following in the upcoming 2017 Punjab elections. Makkar’s dismissal of the Punj Pyaaray is also seen as a politically motivated power play.
The resolution declared null and void all hukamnamas issued by jathedaars that appear to make decisions to satisfy their political benefactors.
“The Khalsa Panth is neither bound nor will be bound to obey the orders,” the resolution says.
The signatories also agreed to help those who have been injured, and aid the families of those martyred, in the current struggles. They also extended full support for the Sarbat Khalsa scheduled for Nov. 10 at the Darbar Sahib or Gurdwara Manjee Sahib. A gathering of gurdwaras, organizations and the Sikh sangat is planned for Vaisakhi 2016, in Washington.