image caption: Gurmukh Singh OBE

Sikh Community Builders: Late Dr Swaran Singh Khera of Adelaide, South Australia (1936-2023)

The history of local community builders (ਸਿੱਖ ਕੌਮ ਦੇ ਉਸਰਈਏ) in the diaspora over last 150 years makes an interesting study regarding their desire to promote Sikh qaumi image. While they all believed in and were inspired by the simple Sikhi living principles, by their own admission, not all community builders were very religious people in the traditional sense. One such was a neurosurgeon, Dr Swaran Singh Khera (1936-2023) of Adelaide, South Australia, who passed away a few days ago.

Wherever one goes, there are usually similar stories of dedicated local community builders, the visionaries and true unsung heroes of the Sikh Qaum.

I always looked forward to meeting Dr Swaran Singh when visiting the family in Adelaide. In Apri 2011, I wrote about Gurdwara 21st Century Adelaide (Sikhnet**), located in a heritage building and complete with modern facilities. Dya Singh of Australia referred to the Adelaide Gurdwara in his tribute to Dr Swara Singh on Facebook recently: Dr Swaran Singh was pivotal in the acquisition of the main Gurdwara Sahib in Adelaide. I have had the honour of knowing this wonderful man for over 40 years. He was the backbone of the coming together of the Sikh community of Adelaide reluctantly, I must add, in the beginning, but once involved in this sewa he stood a giant amongst the Sikh community here.

Having read about Dr Swaran Singh and my earlier article, Prof/Col Nirmal Singh, a prominent Sikh intellectual, best summed up the great contribution of such local community builders: It takes a person like Dr Swaran Singh Khera to nurture an evolving Sikh community in the Diaspora. A well founded and functional Gurdwara acts as a bond to keep the community together, become the launchpad to engage constructively with the mainstream, enhance peace and amity and give the upcoming generation of Sikh youth to grow in life while in appreciation of their faith and cultural heritage. May his soul rest in peace.

The point to note from the community lives of those like Dr Swaran Singh Khera is that while they may not be very religious, they are inspired by some sort of inner Sikh qaumi spirit. Sometimes, they do not admit this but in their own way, they are Panthic and work tirelessly towards Panth di Chardhi Kalaa in a spirit of Sarbat da Bhalaa. Despite appearances, this Sikh qaumi spirit is seen in many different forms. It is the same motivation which led the Panjab and Indian farmers protests against unjust farm laws.

In the UK, those who opposed the Sikh ethnic tick box in the Census did not fully realize that Sikhi is not just a religion in the traditional sense but a new paradigm for a whole way of life. Sikhs are a qaum and the nearest modern definition of that is a nation or ethnic community as defined legally by the House of Lords Mandla judgement following much historical research and briefing.

Dr Swaran Singh Khera was a true qaumi Sikh and we appreciate his significant contribution in raising the Sikh profile in South Australia.


Gurmukh Singh OBE

Principal Civil Servant retd.

From right facing the photo: Dr Swaran Singh Khera, Ajmer Singh Randhava JP (educationist), Gurmukh Singh OBE (UK), & Balwant Singh, Gurwara President (2018).