image caption: Gurmukh Singh OBE and Sikh Council UK members with Tharesa May PM UK

The Sikh Council UK: Role & Accountability

    Few would argue against some sort of a meeting facility for UK gurdwaras and Sikh organisations. National level Sikh approach to issues and concerns is only possible when both, the gurdwaras and Panthic jathebandis sit around one table to consult together. That continues to be the main reason for the Sikh Council UK. As such, the Council is not competing with any organisation but adding a collective dimension to Sikh community cohesion and activism.

The Sikh Council UK should be the national level medium between the Institution of Sri Akal Takht Sahib and UK Sikhs. Otherwise, Sikh issues and disputes will continue to be taken to non-Sikh authorities like the courts and tribunals for resolution. That often means that Sikh ideology and tradition is interpreted by non-Sikhs! []]Freeing the Institution of Sri Akal Takht Sahib is a related issue and the subject of global Sikh discussion and activism.]

An effective Council can save community resources. According to the Sikh Reht Maryada, the Code of Sikh Conduct and Conventions, a Sikh is required to fulfil his Panthic obligations as a member of the corporate entity, the Panth. Sikh organisations should aim for optimum good by minimal endeavour. Generous donations by Sangats should not be wasted by inter-organisation rivalries and duplication of effort.

From past experience, there is always a risk that an umbrella facility can start behaving like another organisation. At administrative level, it can lapse into a paper organisation instead of a team of dedicated sevadars very much in touch with grassroots Sikhs through gurdwaras and organisations meeting periodically as the General Assembly. The administrative team or the secretariat should be capable of second-guessing the wishes of the British Sikhs (represented by the General Assembly) and be able to act on the most vital issues in a timely manner. Preference should be for organisations with relevant experience to lead with the Council backing.

This is possible with 20th century networking facilities which allow front-line team consultation and action within minutes and hours instead of sitting back for weeks. These days, community affairs demand immediate response and there is no time to call General Assembly or Executive Committee meetings to agree every action. That is not the way the government or businesses work. Assemblies agree general policy which is interpreted into broad guidelines by executive committees. Response to day-to-day challenges faced by the community is by a small frontline team, on the basis of agreed policy and guidelines.

Sikh activism goes on outside gurdwaras through organisations in different fields. One outstanding example is charity work. Others excel in contacts with the government and authorities, respond to consultations and advise on Sikh issues. Organised Sikh political activism to improve Sikh representation in the Parliament, is a comparatively new development centred around the UK Sikh Manifesto.

The point is that at national level, even a Gurdwaras Council will need to sit with Sikh organisations working in the field on Sikh issues. That is the role of the Sikh Council UK as a national forum. It is meant to be a representative assembly of UK Gurdwaras and Sikh jathebandis. Let us make it work!


Gurmukh Singh OBE