image caption: Gurmukh Singh OBE

Selection & Succession Planning in Khalsa Panth

In year 2000, I wrote an autobiography of late Bhai Rama Singh ji in English with the title: In Search of the True Guru. This was based on an earlier book in Panjabi with the title: Roop Gobind Ka, Raj Khalsay Ka, Sikka Sonay Ka Edited by Sardar Harjinder Singh Mander of Panjab Times as recited by Bhai Sahib. Mine was an interpretation rather than a direct translation and, for that reason, I spent long hours with Bhai Sahib who was staying in the area. I was trying to understand his vision, especially that of Raj Khalsay ka.

He had given much thought to the future of the Khalsa Panth. His vision was clear and positive. In his own simple language he discussed even complex concepts like Panthic organisation, selection procedures and collective decision making. When I told him about my own interpretation of Sikhi tradition, he would smile, look at me and say something to the effect that he was not asking me to agree with him but that he had full trust in my sincerity in interpreting his own experience. He was most reluctant to talk about it till persuaded by many letters and especially by a dedicated Gursikh couple from Southall.

In short, we can agree to disagree and yet we can come to common Panthic decisions for Panth di chardhi kalaa (Raj Khalsay ka) above jathebandi politics. I was reminded of these discussions with Bhai Rama Singh ji, when on 27 April, I attended a General Assembly of the Sikh Council UK with a certain apprehension. Only a few hours before the meeting I had seen a disturbing letter of resignation from the Council, published by an e-journal, which had a list of names appended to it. There was no way to confirm the authenticity of the letter and whether formal written approval of the individuals named had been obtained or, if those representatives themselves had prior authority from their respective Gurdwaras or organisations. Sadly, on the face of it, the letter seemed to be a hurried way of putting pressure on the General Assembly through mass resignations. Demand for refund of subscriptions seemed to detract from seriousness of objections raised.

There will be reports of the General Assembly elsewhere. Suffice to say, that despite a well-attended Assembly in the Sarbat Khalsa tradition, there was a background sense of sadness about refusal by some to sit together to sort out differences. While regret was expressed, it was equally stressed that resignations (historical cross-reference to ਬੇਦਾਵਾ) were never heeded in Khalsa tradition. Decisions taken following solemn Ardas before the Guru were always carried out. There was prior notice of such tradition-based procedure in the call to the General Assembly.

Quite rightly, reconciliation was given high priority by all present, but not at the cost of coming to decisions for moving forward. No organisation can remain stagnant in suspended state for long, nor can any survive without timely succession planning.

Finally, the general impression gained by those present was that the main objectives were achieved above jathebandi politics: a strong desire to reconcile differences while moving forward with a new team.

Gurmukh Singh OBE