Why Sikh gurdwaras abroad have banned Indian officials

Why Sikh gurdwaras abroad have banned Indian officials

Though the government’s interference in NRI Sikhs’ affairs isn't without reason, exasperation among the community has been simmering for long now.

By Jaspreet Oberoi

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In a sweeping move, Sikh gurdwara committees across Canada, the US and UK have passed unanimous resolutions to bar officials representing India from using the gurdwara premises to conduct any kind of activity in their official capacity.

Across the board, the complaint is that Indian consular officials interfere aplenty in the lives of Sikhs while propagating an agenda to undermine the autonomy of their institutions and organisations. Along with the ban on Indian officials, US gurdwaras have also forbidden members of the Shiv Sena and RSS from entering their premises.

It has been explicitly communicated that if any official wishes to pay a visit in his or her personal capacity, the gurdwaras as always will welcome them.

To many this might seem an impetuous move, but exasperation among the Sikh organisations has been simmering for long now. In Canada for instance, Indian officials have been allegedly used as tools by the Indian state to severely undermine the recognition of the Sikh genocide motion passed by the Ontario legislature.

The proponents of the genocide motion have been regularly intimidated using tools such as black-listing and this is generally done by gaining access to gurdwaras on the pretext of conducting ceremonies.

This doesn’t end here. As reported by me earlier, there were numerous reports of the Indian High Commission in Ottawa meddling with Canadian politican Jagmeet Singh’s affairs, where it tried to influence voters against him.

Singh claimed that many of his donors backed out at the last moment alleging pressure from the Indian government, and that some Hindu organisations in Canada (backed by the RSS) openly campaigned against him. It is widely believed by the Sikh diaspora that the RSS is consistently using the Indian missions to sabotage the religious and political prowess of Sikhs, especially in Canada and the US.

In the UK, an added factor played a part in this decision-making. The widely reported torture and confinement of Scottish citizen Jagtar Singh ‘Jaggi’ by the Punjab Police has irked the community like it hasn’t in the past many years. Even after months of police and judicial remands, Indian investigation agencies haven’t been able to charge him with anything, though reports of extreme affliction and forced coercions have been flowing consistently to the UK.

The Indian government’s interference in NRI Sikhs’ affairs isn’t without reason. After its forced death around 1992, the Khalistan movement has been kept alive by Sikh secessionists settled in Canada, US and Europe.

Certain gurdwaras in these countries proudly display images and hoardings indicating the desire to have an independent Punjab by the year 2020. It’s worth mentioning that western democracies do not demonise or prosecute such freedom of expression because in their law books this doesn’t amount to sedition.

India on the other hand has a staunch belief that such activities should be nipped in the bud and in its quest to do so, India has often ended up painting the entire NRI Sikh community with a single brush and, these days, tagging them collectively as Khalistani terrorists is a common discourse on Twitter and editorials.

Sikhs of independent India have had kaleidoscopic experiences. On the one hand they were celebrated as a progressive and marshal race with much fanfare, while on the other they were killed like rats by state-sponsored goons.

They were fortunate to enjoy the biggest farming gains during the green revolution but then were later killed in cold blood by the likes of KPS Gill in the very same fields. During this dark period, Sikhs in the number of lakhs left Punjab for safer pastures in North America and Europe and since then have made those foreign lands their homes.

These Sikhs have not forgotten that justice has escaped them and their brethren back home. When an Indian official, while ignoring their pain and agony, gives an insensitive speech in a gurdwara, which these Sikhs built and are managing for decades using their hard-earned money, it hurts them, and why shouldn’t it?