image caption: Gurmukh Singh UK

Parliamentary Reception to Honour Jathedar Akal Takht Sahib

It is right that the sovereign Miri-Piri Institution of Sr Akal Takht Sahib should be acknowledged by the British establishment. Receiving the Takht Jathedar, Singh Sahib Gyani Harpreet Singh, at the Speakers House at the Palace of Westminster on 13 September, is a befitting tribute to the Institution. MP Preet Kaur Gill, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for British Sikhs and her APPG colleagues including the first identity Sikh MP, Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, are to be congratulated for this initiative.

It is also right that Jathedar Sahib should visit Sikh Sangats in diaspora countries to personally assess the challenges faced by the Sikh nation. These challenges should then be addressed through a united global approach instead of self-proclaimed global or world Sikh organisations claiming Sikh representation.

Recently, a list of Contemporary Sikh Concerns and Priorities was published under the patronage of Sri Akal Takht Sahib. Altogether, 21 headings have been prioritised. While this is not the first time that the challenges faced by the global Sikh community have been highlighted, the list should be welcomed as the basis for consultation and development of clear strategies in diverse fields.

The Message from Jathedar Sahib states that the focus of Sri Akal Takht Sahib is to resolve these concerns. The need for world Gurdwaras and institutions to keep in touch with Akal Takht Sahib at all times is stressed. Such two-way communication system would also require an efficient professional level secretariat at Sri Akal Takht Sahib capable of responding to queries and requests for advice. (This is a point I have also raised when meeting two previous Jathedars.)

Akal Takht Jathedar should be supported by a ministerial level, well- informed, administrative office in touch with global level Gursikh experts and scholars. He should be well-briefed when he sets out to meet Sangats abroad. He should chair meetings to discuss the issues raised and remain above local vested interests.

Panthic objectives should be clearly set out and any obstacles to achieving these should be investigated. One such vital objective in the UK continues to be the Sikh Qaomi (ethnic) Tick Box for separate count and statistical monitoring of Sikhs for their rights and needs as a distinct community. This was frustrated in Census 2021 despite overwhelming British Sikh support. The reasons for the failure should be investigated as a matter of high priority.

The Jathedar has suggested a modern approach to achieve the goals set out in the paper. That makes eminent sense in the 21st Century with all the modern means of instant communication available. Also, tried and tested modern management tools for analysis, approach and achieving objectives are available.

Today, Sikhs worldwide expect, both, direction and discipline, from the supreme Sikh Institution of Sri Akal Takht Sahib. Direction should be on the basis of a blueprint the preparation of which should involve the global Sikh community. Persuasion through Gurmat based guidance should be the main tool for ensuring discipline and unity of Panthic action. However, as a last resort, there is always need for action when anti-Panthic influences are at work. This is the role of Sri Akal Takht Sahib. Discipline should be certain and based on traditional Gurmat maryada so that the Maan Maryada of Sri Akal Takht Sahib is upheld.

Gurmukh Singh UK