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Sikh Temple Vote A Battle Of Two Generations


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
SURREY, B.C. — From Saturday's Globe and Mail Published on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2009 12:00AM EST Last updated on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2009 3:19AM EST

A hotly contested election tomorrow at Surrey's Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara, one of Canada's largest Sikh temples, has reinvigorated bitter debates in the community over a religious tradition that led to violence 12 years ago.

With aggressive campaign tactics borrowed from mainstream politics, a youth slate is challenging a group that has managed the temple since members attacked each other in 1997 over whether they were required to sit on the floor for a meal to show their commitment to equality. The temple provides tables and chairs in the dining hall; traditionalists want mats on the floor.

About 33,000 members are eligible to vote for candidates to serve on the temple's 18-member management committee.

Harjinder Singh Cheema, a wealthy businessman with extensive investments in real estate, construction, trucking and an insurance company, agreed a few weeks ago to lead the slate of moderates, which currently controls temple affairs. "I talked to others about it for a few days, then for 24 hours, I thought about it," he said in a recent interview. "It's a lot of work," he added, as if he was caught by surprise.

Mr. Cheema, 59, has given money and moral support to the moderate faction at the temple for more than a decade. He has also been active in organizing Kabaddi tournaments in Surrey. He has not been involved in the confrontations over rituals that have torn the immigrant community apart. He said the moderate slate would maintain tables and chairs in the dining hall. He also promises expansion of an adjoining Punjabi language school, developing more programs for temple youth and a new building for wedding receptions.

The competing group of conservative Sikhs, called the Sikh Youth Slate, is headed by Bikramjit Singh Sandhar, an insurance and mutual fund broker. He agreed to lead the challenge to the moderates after some temple members persuaded him and his parents that his candidacy would bring out many supporters for their cause.

Those advocating a return to Sikh tradition are about 20 years younger than those in control. Mr. Sandhar, 43, said young people want the temple to step up efforts to educate the community about the history and rituals of Sikhism. They would expand youth-oriented activities and make rituals more accessible to young people who prefer English over Punjabi.

Mr. Sandhar resigned from the executive of the Gurdwara Sahib Sukh Sagar in New Westminster to lead the youth slate in Surrey. His priority, he said, would be unity. "One issue has separated Sikh families for the last 12 years," he said, referring to the tables-and-chairs controversy. He said the youth slate would achieve unity by clearing away most of the tables and chairs but leave some for seniors and others who want to use them.

Mr. Sandhar has also been involved in mainstream politics outside the Sikh community. Friends asked him to join a political party or show up at a meeting to support a nomination for a political party, and he did, he told The Globe and Mail in an interview during the 2006 federal election campaign. He has bought memberships in more than one party, and voted for the party that drove him to the polls.

The impact of mainstream politics is clear. Campaign headquarters for both slates resemble a candidate's makeshift office during a federal or provincial election.

Mimicking a common political approach, the youth campaign is shaped to appeal to specific voting blocks. The slate promotes itself as the voice of change. It has a website, http://www.newfuture.ca, and a bouncy, enthusiastic video on YouTube urging young people to vote for change.
Mr. Cheema's campaign uses Facebook to spread its message. A team of Mr. Cheema's enthusiastic supporters hit the streets earlier this week to knock on 10,000 doors. They have also stuffed glossy campaign flyers under countless Both sides are involved in vigorous whisper campaigns, suggesting their opponents have hidden agendas. The moderates say traditionalists might prohibit clean-shaven men and women in jeans and sleeveless tops from participating fully in the temple, a charge the traditionalists deny. Meanwhile, traditionalists minimize achievements of the moderates, alleging mismanagement of temple finances and programs.
Likewise, their allegations are denied.

Forwarded by forum member Tejwant Singh ji Malik. ;)
Source at this link http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,1939274,00.html

Jan 6, 2005
Metro-Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Surrey North Delta Leader

Youth slate wins Surrey temple election

Boaz Joseph / Surrey Leader

By Black Press - Surrey North Delta Leader

Published: November 16, 2009 1:00 AM
Updated: November 16, 2009 1:39 AM

Preliminary results show members of the Guru Nanak Sikh temple in Surrey appear to have opted for change, voting in the Sikh Youth slate led by Bikramjit Singh Sandhar and voting out the group led by Harjinder Singh (“Thana”) Cheema that has controlled the second-largest gurdwara in North America (after the Ross Street Temple in Vancouver) for over a decade.

Unofficial results of the Sunday vote were posted online early Monday morning showing 13,000 ballots were cast for Sikh Youth, and 7,000 for the Cheema slate.

It was the second victory for the youth slate.
Last year, they defeated the incumbents when rivals Balwant Singh Gill, the then-president, and board member Sadhu Singh Samra ran separate campaigns and split the vote.

As a result, the upstart Sikh Youth slate won with 5,900 votes, beating the group led by Gill, which came in second with 4,747 votes, while the slate led by Samra was third with 3,947 votes.

Of the roughly 21,000 temple members who were eligible to vote, 14,594 participated.
The newly elected board of directors appeared ready to revisit a bitter controversy over the use of chairs and tables in the communal dining area of the temple.

The incoming president, Amardeep Singh, said the temple would obey the religion's highest authorities who believe community meals should be consumed sitting on the floor to show humility and keep everyone on the same level.

However, "accommodations" – seats and tables – would be allowed for people too old or ill to sit on the floor.

It was that issue that led to a violent clash at the Guru Nanak temple in 1997 and the departure of many followers who founded a rival temple, the Gurdwara Sahib Dasmesh Darbar.

It also resulted in the excommunication of Gill and five others by religious authorities in India.

The debate was not revived, however, because of a legal challenge launched by the losers of the 2008 vote, who accused the winning slate of using improperly filled-out nomination forms.

Given a choice between holding another election at the Guru Nanak Sikh Temple, or a drawn-out and expensive court fight over the November 2008 results, the rival groups reached an agreement to hold a second vote at the Scott Road gurdwara on Nov. 15.



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Surrey Leader - Youth slate wins Surrey temple election

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