THE Sikh Sangat Seva Society of BC that plans to challenge the current executive of Vancouver’s Khalsa Diwan Society’s Ross Street Gurdwara at its public meeting at Vancouver’s South Hall last week on Friday declared itself to be the “united voice” of the young and old and said that it feels more needs to be done at the historic gurdwara which once had over 60,000 members.
Members said that there is a lack of religious programs and that more youth involvement is needed. Their version was: “There is an alienation of the youth. What enticement is there for young people to attend? There has to be programs that cater to the young. There has to be something special for them so that they get excited about coming to the gurdwara and become actively involved. Even the adult programs are ritualistically presented. Our community needs a positive progressive change”.
Past president Kundan Singh Sajjan said: “This once strong and prosperous society had always been busy with various events. There were many programs for kids and adults. Punjabi and Gurbani classes ran throughout the week. Guru Granth Sahib Gurbani classes were taught. The gurdwara is mostly empty except on Sundays because there is no vision and because new credible preachers, dhadis and kirtan jathas are not being brought in”.
Past general secretary Avtar Singh Sandhu said: “It’s our fault for taking a passive stand and letting things get this bad. We should have involved ourselves much earlier and demanded answers and we should have held them accountable, but we let them do what they wished. Perhaps this erosion could have been stopped. Nevertheless, there is still time to return the society to its golden days.”
The society members claimed that the golden days was the period before the current party came to power. In those days, there was always a rush at the gurdwara seven days a week. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, it used to be packed, but now, except on Sundays, it’s empty.
Bhavraj S. Ghtaura said: “If we fail today we will lose another generation. If we don’t do something, then who will? Someone had to stand up and offer another choice. A gurdwara is not just a meeting place, but it’s the centre of spirituality, guidance and counseling. We must address the problems of today and the only way to do it is to get rid of the petty politics of the previous generations. It’s time to move on and deal with today’s issues”.
Members criticized so-called “turncoats” – those who wore turbans at election time only.
Amar Singh Sandhu said: “We have tried to work things out to have a fair process in place that was acceptable to both parties but they refused. We have tried discussion and we have been writing letters to them for two years with no success. At every level they have refused. They refused to tell us the membership numbers, they refused to gives us the desired number of membership forms, there was no set time for membership submissions and they refused us the right to view the submissions. … The only thing that scares them is the legal challenge and that is why there is panic. We asked for financial records dating back to 2010 and they told us to talk to Revenue Canada.
“We asked them to implement the same process of the previous election so that we could avoid all the legal battles again but they refused. These are unnecessary costs. We are paying from our pockets while they will use the donation box (golak) and that is why they don’t mind taking the legal route and then blame the opposition for going to lawyers. We will implement a rule that any executive causing legal challenges with regards to election issues will pay for them from their own pockets. Until this is done, this abuse of power will never end. “
Joga Singh Sangha, who ran for president last time, also shared the difficulty he encountered while trying to do the weekly clean up on Friday nights after the program finished. He was questioned why he was performing this service with a group of kids because the society was paying someone else to do the same work. Why would they pay someone for this when the service was being performed for free? They then complained that this cleanup was taking too long.
Leaders from other gurdwaras also spoke and pledged their unconditional support. New Westminster President Harbhajan Singh Atwal told the audience to keep working hard as that would pay dividends. The New Westminster gurdwara was literally empty a few years ago but the way the community came together and helped to rebuild the gurdwara with so many programs was unimaginable back then. The same success could be achieved here, too.
The deadline for membership is September 7. Registration times are Monday-Thursday 4-8 p.m. and Friday-Sunday 11 a.m.-3 p.m.