LONDON, UK—A number of the members of the Board of Jathedars and Executive Committee of the Sikh Council UK met with Giani Gurbachan Singh the [appointed] Jathedar of the Akaal Takht earlier today at Ramgharia Sabha, Southall.
Giani Gurbux Singh Gulshan started proceedings by making some introductions. Those who attended the meeting included:
Members of the Board of Jathedars (in alphabetical order): Bhai Amrik Singh, Bhai Arvinder Singh, Giani Gurbux Singh Gulshan, Principal Gurmukh Singh, Bhai Joga Singh, Bhai Kuldip Singh Chaheru, Bhai Sewa Singh Lalli and Bhai Valjinder Singh Virdi.
Executive Committee Members (in alphabetical order): Bhai Dabinderjit Singh, Bhai Jagjit Singh and Bhai Surinder Singh Jandu.
Principal Gurmukh Singh then made some introductory remarks about the Sikh Council UK and how it brought together leading Gurdwaras and Sikh organisations around one table to discuss issues of common concern that could be raised with relevant authorities i.e. UK Government, European Union, other governments or the Jathedar of the Akaal Takht. He stressed the need for the Jathedar of the Akaal Takht Sahib to maintain an on-going working dialogue with the Sikh Council UK, as well as listen and respond to a variety of concerns raised by the Board of Jathedars.
The Jathedar said he was very supportive of the Sikh Council UK concept and all Gurdwaras and Sikh organisations should join the initiative. He also agreed that a working level relationship between the Council and Akal Takht Sahib would be mutually beneficial and should be taken forward at routine level.
A very wide range of issues were discussed in the one hour long meeting that proved extremely positive. The issues included the need for the Jathedar of the Akaal Takht to keep in close contact and consult with the Sikh Council UK regarding Sikh identity issues across Europe and maintain an on-going working dialogue as well as listen and respond to a variety of concerns raised by the Board of Jathedars.
Bhai Dabinderjit Singh was asked to lead the first part of the discussions on behalf of the Executive Committee on three specific issues the Sikh Council UK wished to raise. He started the meeting by referring to the European-wide Summit held in Paris in November 2011 that brought Sikhs from across Europe together and an agreement that Sikhs should themselves take the lead in dealing with Sikh identity matters (assisted by the Sikh Council UK) rather than rely on Indian consulates to be given the initiative who often created further complications.
Reference was made to the 23 December 2011 letter from the Jathedar of the Akaal Takht regarding the searching of dastaars at airports requested by Sikhs from Italy for the Italian authorities. The Sikh Council UK helped write the final letter to ensure it was consistent with what was agreed with the UK Government and was being implemented as well as what was being negotiated with the European Commission. This sort of partnership approach between the Sikh Council UK and the Jathedar of the Akaal Takht was seen as an encouraging development. In a very welcome move Jaswinder Pal Singh , the Personal Secretary to the Jathedar of the Akaal Takht who was accompanying the Jathedar confirmed ‘no letter would be issued in relation to Sikh identity issues in Europe without first consulting the Sikh Council UK’.
The next issue raised was concerning same sex marriage that became law in the UK in July 2013. Whilst the law has provided important safeguards for Gurdwaras – no Gurdwara can be compelled and no discrimination claims can be brought, it was explained a chance remains that someone may legally challenge this position. Therefore, there may be a need for the Jathedar of the Akaal Takht to further clarify the Sikh position. He stated the position was already very clear, but was given further details on some of the arguments a tiny minority of Sikhs are putting forward in support of same sex marriage.
The most complicated issue was concerning the Sandesh about mixed marriages that was proving controversial to properly implement in UK Gurdwaras. There also appeared to be a greater desire to apply the Sandesh in the UK than many other countries where the problem may in fact be greater. It was pointed out the Sikh Council UK had widely consulted and had put forward some detailed suggestions to the Jathedar of the Akaal Takht that were shared in person in March 2013. The Jathedar said these practical suggestions from the Sikh Council UK that were designed to assist management committees better implement the Sandesh were most welcome and would be considered by a Panel he had already convened.
The second half of the meeting allowed the Board of Jathedars (in particular Bhai Joga Singh, Bhai Amrik Singh and Bhai Kuldip Singh) to raise a number of concerns and get feedback from the Jathedar of the Akaal Takht. These included the need to take action:
i) in support of relatives of 18-year old Jaspal Singh who was killed by police bullets during a peaceful protest in March 2012 and were now being falsely arrested and harassed to drop charges against police officers responsible for his killing. The Jathedar explained he had already set this in motion and had covered it in a recent press conference, but the media had chosen to ignore his statement regarding this matter.
ii) in the case of Punjab police officer, Surjit who admitted the killing of 83 fake encounters and exposed wrong doing by police officers. The Personal Secretary to the Jathedar of the Akaal Takht explained Surjit had disappeared and the situation may be complicated because of his motives for his public confession of extrajudicial killings.
iii) against Sumedh Saini, the Director General of Punjab Police, who many know has been responsible for gross human rights violations and fail to understand why he of all people has been chosen by the Punjab Government to uphold the law in Punjab.
iv) in the Dudley Gurdwara Party Hall case, where those responsible were trying to get around the Sandesh from the Akaal Takht.
v) on Article 25 and associated legislation that fails to recognise the Sikh faith. The Jathedar of the Akaal Takht said the need to tackle article 25 was already in hand.
vi) on the SGPC resolution passed on 9 March 1946 for the establishment of a Sikh state and subsequent Anandpur Sahib Resolution as Ardaas had been conducted at the Akaal Takht.
The meeting also touched upon the importance of the Shaheedi Yaadgar for June 1984 and the need for sensible media reporting of the facts and actions being taken by the Jathedar of the Akaal Takht.