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Gurmukh Singh: Sikh Violence Wanes In Punjab, Grows In Canada (Opinion)


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Gurmukh Singh: Sikh violence wanes in Punjab, grows in Canada

Read more: Gurmukh Singh: Sikh violence wanes in Punjab, grows in Canada - Full Comment

Recent violent incidents at two Brampton, Ont. Sikh temples (or gurdwaras, as they’re called), and threats against former health minister Ujjal Dosanjh, have given rise to fears of a revival of Sikh radicalism in Canada— perhaps on the scale witnessed in the 1980s and 90s, when Sikh separatism flared up in the Punjab and terrorists in Canada destroyed Air India Flight 182.

The difference today is that the Sikh separatist movement is dead in Punjab. Yet this fact has not quieted the rumblings that persist in a small section of the Canadian Sikh community. They still talk about doing justice for victims of India’s 1984 anti-Sikh riots, which followed the assassination of Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi after she ordered the storming of the Sikhs’ holiest shrine — the Golden Temple in Amritsar — to flush out the militants.

Yet even in Canada, there is no denying that a vast majority of Sikhs want no truck with violence.

A close-knit immigrant community that has been transplanted from rural Punjab to Canadian urban centres in Ontario and British Columbia, Canadian Sikhs, like other immigrant groups, have brought their politico-religious baggage and grievances from their native land. Any incident in Punjab today will inevitably cast its shadow here the next morning.

As the Sikh community has grown here, a large number of Sikh shrines have been built across Canada. Thanks to abundant daily offerings of cash, these shrines have become very rich. This has led to fights for control: Once you control the management of a shrine, you control its flock and its money vaults. Not surprisingly, Canadian politicians of all hues have fallen over one another to court leaders of these shrines — since the leaders can direct hundreds, or even thousands, of their followers to vote as a bloc.

The confrontation at Brampton’s Guru Nanak Sikh Temple, in which axes, rods and machetes were used by rival factions, may have outraged Canadians. But such episodes actually are quite common in Punjab, for much the same reasons.
Much more ominous was the kirpan incident at another Brampton shrine — the Sikh Lehar Center — where a prominent lawyer was stabbed for inviting an ostracized cleric to speak.

That cleric, Prof. Prof Darshan Singh Ji Khalsa, who once headed the Sikh spiritual seat of the Akal Takht in Punjab, has been excommunicated by the India-based Sikh clergy for disputing a scripture. The cleric says the scripture — called the Dasam Granth — contains offensive portions, and so couldn’t be the work of the last, and 10th, Sikh guru, Guru Gobind Singh, to whom it is ascribed. But orthodox Sikhs call the professor a heretic.

The kirpan incident may deepen doctrinal divisions in the Canadian Sikh community, leading to a rise in radicalism. The fight may reverberate back to Punjab, just as the idea of an independent Sikh state called Khalistan originally travelled from North America to India, after Jagjit Singh Chauhan kicked off the movement by placing an advertisement in The New York Times in 1971.

Since power in Punjab typically flows from rural areas, Canadian Sikhs wield a huge influence on politics in the state because of their ongoing connections with Punjabi rural clans. Canadian Sikhs often go back to India to campaign for their politician friends. They send money to their favoured leaders. And quite often, wily Punjab leaders have encouraged divisions among Canadian Sikhs to further their ends.

They also have encouraged their Canadian supporters to gain control of as many shrines as possible here to serve as a platform for raising support and money for them. During their visits here, top Punjab politicians may not even bother to meet their Canadian counterparts in Ottawa or provincial capitals. But they never miss the chance to visit gurdwaras. Their mission is to use the Canadian Sikh community to consolidate their power base in Punjab.

In fact, many in the Sikh community have attributed the Brampton incidents to the machinations of Punjab-based leaders who don’t want moderate voices to become strong enough to wrest control of the Sikh parliament, called the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee.

Meanwhile, many Canadian-born Sikh youth — people who have never set foot in India — have become radicalized, and have created online forums to recruit fellow Sikhs. Interestingly, just the opposite is happening in Punjab, where youth are drifting away from Sikh orthodoxy.

After more than a decade of militant violence that cost thousands of lives, the Sikhs in Punjab have moved on with their lives. There are no takers for radical ideology. Attempts by some Pakistan-backed groups to revive radicalism in recent years have failed. Ironically, it is here in Canada — a land of peace — where violence still holds any appeal.
National Post

Born in Punjab, India, Gurmukh Singh is the Canada correspondent for India’s Indo-Asian News Service. Previously, he was a correspondent with the Times of India in New Delhi.



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Apr 28, 2005

It is shame that we can draw ourselves so low where as Our Gurus provided us with message of oneness and non-Violence to have a ego-less society.

Let us avoid being compared with Taliban and terrorist like Indra Gandhi tried to make us as a terrorist around the world, Sikhs are non-violence people.

Guru Dawara is place for Sangat who desperately needs blessing of Shri Guru Granth Sahib ji at least once a week,must not be disturbed by ego ridden elements.. Guru Dwaras are for Darshan of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji not for politics other wise time will come when people will start have a gathering in their own houses.

People will quite vising the Guru Dawars for all week ends for Darshan of GURU GRANTH SAHIB JI than going to these Guru Dawars who are fighting for control by various groups.

I think sikhs from all over the world realize that all Sikh societies still have a high respect for us due to Guru Nanak Dev Ji's preaching and Sikhs defending India against Mugals with high sacrifices. We are Indian and our Gurus gave all their live for this land.

Just learn how to live in democratic societies where you do not have to give shaeedies but instead use your head when electing the leaders.

It is as shame that Punjab being majority of Sikhs can not make their own government to pass rules suitable for Punjabi according to their own constituent satisfactions




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