Canadian Gurdwara ban sets dangerous precedent

Certain developments in the Indian and Sikh diaspora are an unfortunate setback to India as it continues to develop its soft influence overseas.


Days after 14 gurdwaras in Ontario Canada banned the entry of Indian government representatives, other Gurudwaras in Canada and US have followed suit. The Sikh Coordination Committee East Coast (SCCEC) and American Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (APGC) have claimed that 96 gurdwaras in the United States have resolved to ban the entry of Indian officials.

This ban has been extended to RSS and Shiv Sena members from entering gurudwaras under their control. The UK-based Sikh Federation has proposed a similar ban.

The gurudwaras that have passed the resolution have done so as they hold the Indian government responsible for the June 1984 events when the Army entered the Sri Harmandar Sahib or Golden Temple and 40 other gurdwaras, to flush out militants hiding there. They also have accused the Indian government of interfering in the internal affairs of gurudwara management.

Sikh.Indian Link
Picture for representational purpose only

These developments in the Indian and Sikh diaspora are an unfortunate setback to India as it continues to develop its soft influence overseas. What has also been surprising is the anti-India sentiment which seems to have surfaced amongst parts of the overseas Indian community. It seems that while Sikhs in India have long since been reconciled with the government, resentment continues to simmer among expatriates in Canada and the US.

There have been no similar bans made by the Sikh gurudawaras in Australia yet. In a recent incident, the Indian High Commissioner Ajay Gondane was accosted at a Melbourne gurudwara by a group of passionate attendees who wanted to vocalise their support for what they believed were unfair issues in Punjab. The community rallied behind the High Commissioner, taking to task the organisers behind the protest, appalled at the uncivilised manner in which it was undertaken rather than the content of their grievances.

Over the years, the Sikh community in Australia has been at the forefront of building tolerance and understanding between the mainstream Australian and Indian communities. From the time of the 9/11 World Tower attacks, when the Indian community here rallied together to explain that turban-wearing Sikhs are not terrorists, to the outcry through social media when a young Sikh boy in Melbourne was denied entry to an exclusive Melbourne school thanks to his headgear, to the pride that is felt when the Sikh regiments and their descendants march at Anzac Day parades, we as Indian-Australians of all backgrounds and regions have supported each other as we have built a better life for ourselves and our children in our new home in Australia.

The choice is ours: we can pass on to future generations an appreciation of our heritage which they can utilise to advance their modern lives as individuals and as communities, or we can be bogged down by politics of division and hate from over 30 years ago when even people in India have moved so far on.

Pawan Luthra
Pawan is the publisher of Indian Link and is one of Indian Link's founders. He writes the Editorial section.
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