There have been a few noteworthy stories in The Punjab over the last few months. One of the main news items has been about the removal of a Gurdwara in Waraich village near the Beas river, close to the headquarters of the Radha Swami sect.
A few vocal Panthic fronts brought major attention to the situation blocking the national highway and in the process causing a lot of hindrance to the general public. Their view point remains today that the Gurdwara land has been forcibly taken over by the Beas Dera of the Radha Swamis and they have since been calling for direct confrontation with the Radha Swamis. The Beas dera however, issued a statement confirming that they had taken over the land in Waraich village, but with the consent of villagers, and the village council where the Gurdwara is concerned.
The issue was taken to Sri Akal Takht Sahib and as per the directions of that institution, the SGPC was asked to set up a committee to ascertain the facts and submit a report. As the villagers themselves had reported, Waraich is a small place and had two Gurdware, but with time, the population residing around one Gurdwara diminished and people willingly sold their land to the Radha Swami headquarters. The very same further willingly gave consent for the Gurdwara land to be appropriated too as they were unable to maintain any proper decorum and maryada. Even the electric power of the Gurdwara had been cut for almost three years because nobody was looking after it.
The SGPC committee submitted a report which stated that no wrong had been done and everything had occurred with the consent of local people. They concluded that there was no issue to answer, a report echoed in a statement by the Jathedar of Sri Akal Takht Sahib in the last fortnight. It is in my opinion, a matter of great concern for Sikhs as to whether we are living in a hollow sphere, led by people who without understanding an issue, raise objections and create a confrontation around us which we are all-too-ready to embrace.
Too many Gurdware have been in the dilemma of being founded without means for sustenance as happened last year in Washington D.C., USA, when the Gurdwara was unable to pay its bills and was ready to be taken over by the Bank. The SGPC stepped in to pay out a substantial amount in the millions of dollars, but nothing has been reported since about the status of that Gurdwara. Sri Akal Takht Sahib has issued a belated directive that no new Gurdwara should be built without consent from it, but so many have come up in different parts of the World, wherever Sikhs are that don’t have any plans assuring the building can be sustained that it is too late in the day to announce directives. This is the scenario with the Waraich issue and as has been found, if not properly looked into before going public, uncalled-for trouble and confrontation once again become by-words for the Sikhs through the media.
The Gurdwara is a seat of utmost importance to Sikhs, so any issue concerning it demands deeper consideration. We have so much to fight for – our identity, pride and dignity – that we must seriously consider all facts before we embark on action. The raising of religious issues in a confrontational manner does not help the Sikh cause and so greater care has to be made by the self-appointed guardians of the Sikh Panth as well as those who are legally enthroned to lead us.