Shambles: Leamington & Warwick Gurdwara Vote
August 6, 2011
Author/Source: Khalsa Press
Leamington Spa, UK - On Sunday 26th June, the new Gurdwara Committee of Leamington & Warwick Gurdwara held a General Meeting (Ajlaas) to push forward their plans to maintain and refurbish the old Gurdwara Sahib dilapidated buildings (Hall 1) to make into a wedding party hall.
Twice before the Sangat showed overwhelming support of demolish the old Gurdwara building. In the first Ajlaas that took place in the old Gurdwara, the Sangat voted to have the old Gurdwara demolished and made into a Guru Ka Bagh (Garden) and in the second Ajlaas at the new Gurdwara, as a consequence of pressure from the wedding hall group the Guru Ka Bagh idea was dropped and instead plans for an Astro-Turf were passed.
The recent vote was boycotted by a large number of Sangat as they consider the new Gurdwara Committee to be corrupt and bullies. In the vote the party seeking to make the old Gurdwara into a wedding hall got the majority vote with approximately 500 votes, whilst the side opposing the plans got approximately 130 votes.
Despite the apparent “victory” of the apostate led Gurdwara Committee, there are number of issues that remain unaddressed by the Committee:
Is there planning & building regulations consent for the proposed work on the old Gurdwara building?
What are the costs involved in bringing Hall 1 into temporary use?
Why are details of cost and revenues being deliberately hidden?
What additional incremental income if any will this generate for the Gurdwara?
Why has there been no further detailed consultation with Sangat on future plans, as was previously agreed?
Who are the mystery donors and should this money not be used for the more urgent priority of debt reduction of the Gurdwara rather than making a wedding hall?
Why is the new “Gurdwara Committee” not focussing upon debt reduction?
Why divide the Sangat further on what has become a divisive issue?
Will the Committee allow DJs and dancing in the new wedding hall and would they put into writing that meat, alcohol, dancing, tobacco or any other anti-Sikh activity will not take place in any of the
Gurdwara buildings or properties?
Finally would it not be better to start planning for a completely new build facility rather than waste time & money on a temporary solution?
The General Ajlaas and vote wad described as “shambles” and “disgusting” by the various members of Sangat that contacted Panthic Weekly. According to several reports, the new Gurdwara Committee asked all members of the Sangat to provide Photo ID to enter the main Guru’s Darbaar where Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji was present. Members of the Sangat, local or from outside, who had come to pay respects to Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, were refused entry and turned away using intimidation and in some cases force.
The Gurdwara Committee members threatened the Sangat with calling the police if they did not leave the Darbar Sahib hall by 12 noon. Reports accuse the Assistant General Secretary, Joga Hothi, of threatening elderly ladies who refused to leave the Guru’s Darbar. One Western Amritdhari lady who had come to the Gurdwara to do a ladies class, was initially refused to do Matha Tekh in the Darbar Sahib hall. The local Sangat claim that Amritdharis are treated and viewed with suspicion and made to feel unwelcome in the Gurdwara. Eventually the Amritdhari lady was allowed to do Matha Tekh but on the condition that she immediately left the Gurdwara. On lookers described the conduct of the Committee as “anti-Sikh” and “disgusting”. One mother of two said,
“Anyone is welcome to come and have Darshan of Guru Maharaj, whether they are Hindu, Muslim, Christian or Sikh. It is said that Sikhs are stopped and restricted from going to have Darshan of their Guru. If they wanted to hold a meeting they should have held it in a separate hall or venue.”
In attempts to influence the outcome of the vote, no information was given prior to the meeting that registration for voting would be closed at a given time. Although ID was requested, not everyone's ID was viewed. One elderly Amritdhari lady went to register her vote using her passport but she was not approved to be eligible to vote, although she was a local elderly citizen. When the mistake was realised, she was told it was too late now for her register and vote. In attempts to influence the results, voting started before any speeches had finished.
Some local youth who are active in the Gurmat activities that take place in the Gurdwara were sitting in the Darbar Sahib as observers of the meeting and had no plans to vote. The two youngsters were allegedly threatened by the Joga Hothi that if they did not leave he would call the Police. The two boys, who are minors, were then physically manhandled and by Joga Hothi and elderly committee member, Gurbhag Singh. Seeing the physical bullying tactics of the Police, concerned women in the Sangat got up and protested at the physical abuse of the boys. A policeman arrived soon later but left very quickly after he saw that the boys were causing no harm or disturbance at all and that there were many other young children under the age of 18 sitting in the Darbar Sahib. What impression are the Gurdwara Committee given of the Sikh community and Gurdwara Sahib to the Police and wider public?
It is claimed that Committee members were "helping" some Sangat members who did not understand how to vote by filling the slips in themselves or telling the elderly ladies to put a cross in the "Yes" box. This was witnessed by several Sangat members. One Committee member is reported to have witnessed this happen on ten occasions, but no action taken despite being reported.
We received one report that members of the Committee were heard to say that Gurdwara funds would be used to fund the refurbishment of the old Gurdwara building despite the public face and line being used by the new Committee is that no funds would be taken from the Gurdwara to fund the wedding hall.
To add further shame to the antics of these corrupt Masands, the Committee is planning to stop Keertan and Panjabi classes or begin charging children money. Already there are reports that the regular youth Gurmat programmes taking place at the Gurdwara have been asked to pay gas, electricity, and room booking charges. Is this way forward for Gurdwaras to inspire and encourage the new generation to come to the Gurdwara and learn about their faith? What a sorry state of the Panth this is! Where there are some Gurmat orientated Gurdwaras investing money and time in attracting the youth and wider public, there is a also a worrying number of Gurdwaras pushing the youth away from Sikhi and would rather promote dancing, binge drinking and parties than Amrit Parchaar and Gurmat activities.
Bollywood dancing classes being taught on Gurdwara owned property
As a further insult, whilst Gurmat classes may be stopped, the Sikh community centre attached to the Leamington & Warwick Gurdwara, is running “Bollywood dancing” lessons. Is this promoting Sikh culture and religion? Whilst the wider Sikh community are complaining of how Bollywood is influencing their youth in becoming Patits, it seems this Gurdwara Committee are more than happy with Sikh children learning to dance to Bollywood songs.