After Sarbat Khalsa 2015, I wrote about the dangers of an 18th Century style Sarbat Khalsa in 2015. Instead of an 18th Century style Sarbat Khalsa, we got something closer to a Contemporary Punjabi Politics style Sarbat Khalsa: decisions made in a secretive backroom, narrow agendas driving things forward, a lack of vision, big-thinking, foresight, political strategy, inclusion, magnanimity, and so on and so forth.
Gursikhs who did not participate in the Sarbat Khalsa such as Bhai Ranjit Singh Dhadhriawale have been vilified instead of being courted and persuaded. They have been accused of being on the side of the government when instead, their concerns should have been listened to and addressed. This is the problem. There is such a dearth of far-sighted and magnanimous political thinking in Punjab. What gain can there be in alienating Dhadhriawale? Don’t we want him on side? Guru Sahib was so magnanimous: being concerned with Datu’s foot, treating Dara Shikoh even when his grandfather had been responsible for the Shaheedi of Guru Arjan Dev Ji, asking his Sikhs to apologize to the Fake Guru Dhirmal after assaulting him, wanting to reason with Aurangzeb even after all of his atrocities. We need to learn even an ounce of Guru Sahib’s magnanimous nature if we have any hope of getting things on the right track in our Panth.
The many defects in the Sarbat Khalsa’s execution and aftermath laid the groundwork for what was to come: the arrest of the Sarbat Khalsa-endorsed Jathedars and the general feeling of hopelessness surrounding Panthik Gursikhs who want to take back their Panth. Hopelessness, however, is not a state of being that is befitting of the Khalsa. We don’t need hopelessness. We need a plan.
Humbly, what we need right now is the following:
1) Uniting the Panth around a singular mission: the freedom of Sri Akal Takht Sahib. Freedom from government law, government interference and corruption. And replacing this current mess with a system that is genuinely adhering to Sikh Principles as enshrined in Gurbani and as demonstrated in Sikh history.
2) Uniting the Panth around what a free Sri Akal Takht Sahib looks like. Many Gursikhs are already working on this. Yes, we need to repeal the Sikh Gurdwaras Act, a law of the Indian State. Yes, we need to ban state political parties from having a role in our Gurdwaras and especially in our Takhts. Yes, we need to have a system where a select few cannot corruptly suspend the rules as the current SGPC has done. Yes, we need safeguards to ensure that genuine Gursikhs are coming forward in positions of leadership. And yes, we need to do away with the corrosive influence of electoral politics in the form of the SGPC elections. No other religion’s leadership is influenced by an elections system, let alone one that is so subject to vote-buying and dirty tricks. We need to rally around a vision of what our institutions must look like. Sarbat Khalsa 2015 got this dialogue started and that was perhaps its greatest contribution. Many proposals will be coming forward over the next several months. Eventually, the Panth needs to rally around one.
3) Uniting the Panth around Sarbat Khalsa Vasakhi 2016. Every Jathebandi needs to be brought to the table. Every organization needs to have a voice. Khalistanis need to be there, non-Khalistanis need to be there. Even those who have been co-opted by the Badals need to be courted. Bhai Harnaam Singh Dhumma, how can we convince you to come? What are your conditions? We are asking nicely and respectfully. Please let us know. Bhai Ranjit Singh and Bhai Panthpreet Singh: what are your conditions for attending? Let’s meet them. Let’s not let the next Sarbat Khalsa be as lacking in inclusion as the last one. It may take too many years to recover as a Panth if that were to happen.
Future Panthik Decision making may be dictated by a different system such as a World Sikh Parliament but before any of that can happen, we need every organization that calls itself Panthik at the table. Each organization needs to rally around the singular mission: a proposal for a Free Sri Akal Takht Sahib. And then a realistic political strategy needs to be adopted on how to achieve this mission.