LEAMINGTON SPA, WARWICKSHIRE—The Management Committee of Leamington and Warwick Gurdwara, now infamous for its controversial and allegedly anti-Gurmat activities and decisions, has again inflamed sensitivities with its newly proposed constitutional changes.
Stating that the constitutional changes amount to the “systematic destruction of Sikh principles,” the Leamington Sikh Alliance (LSA) suggests that the changes indicate the implementation of a system of dictatorship, working to ensure that only a handful are able to maintain power. The new constitution proposes to give the control of the large Gurdwara, with its circa £700,000 annual income, to a select few members of the Committee – including General Secretary Shalbinder Malle and Chief Trustee Mr Jaswant Virdee, who allegedly made a planning application with the Community Centre committee for the opening of a bar on the Gurdwara site.
Allowing for proxy votes, the changes indicate that important decisions-making will gain input from a handful of individuals without the use of wider debate. Expressing similar concern over the new changes, the Federation of Sikh Organisations (FSO) suggests that the introduction of proxy powers without the limitation of time “changes the fundamentals of the decision making processes and undermines the Gurdwaras traditions of all meetings taking place in the open in the presence of Sri Guru Granth Sahib where everyone has the right to speak and for all views to be individually expressed and considered before decisions are taken. This is open to abuse.”
In addition, the constitutional changes allow members of the Committee to offer themselves for re-election, and some have suggested that this ability to maintain power and avoid opposition is further controlled by the banning of congregation members from the Gurdwara without the need to give reason.
Perhaps of greater concern to sangat, however, is the fact that references to the Gurdwara adhering to the principles of the Akal Takht and Shiromani Gurdwara Parbhandak Committee have been removed, despite both Mr Malle and Mr Virdee previously pledging allegiance to the Akal Takht on Sikh TV Channels. FSO suggest that changing the objective for the Gurdwara from its allegiance to the supreme religious authority of the Sikh faith is “a major departure and its significance cannot be underestimated.”
Further, alongside the religious objectives of the Gurdwara Committee is the addition of culture. The constitution now indicates that the Gurdwara takes responsibility for teaching about Punjab culture, norms and practices, rather than its primary purpose of the promotion of the Sikh faith and the development of spiritual practice. This aim is arguably reflected in another change; the constitution allows for alcohol only to be prohibited on the Gurdwara Sahib premises and not on the entire 3-acre Gurdwara Sahib owned complex, although sangat were previously assured that both meat and alcohol will not be used/consumed on the entire site.
The FSO call the motives behind the constitutional changes highly questionable in light of recent events relating to a community centre to serve as a party facility with a bar. The British Sikh community are now called upon to unite in their opposition to the proposed changes and to support the local Gursikhs in safeguarding Sikhi and Sikhi principles.
This an important matter of national concern and therefore Federation of Sikh Organisations urges the management of the Gurdwara Sahib to suspend the process immediately and to meet with appointed representatives of Sri Akal Takht Sahib so that a report can be completed and provided to Singh Sahib in a timely manner. – FSO