Some Sikh Gurdwaras in Toronto have barred Indian officials on government business
By Barfi Culture Team
2nd January 2018

A group of Sikh Gurdwaras in the Greater Toronto Area have barred Indian officials from entering on government business, agreeing to a statement that condemned "interference" and the arrest of Jagtar Singh Johal.

The move comes after growing tensions between Canadian Sikh politicians and the Indian government. NDP leader Jagmeet Singh was denied a visa to visit India in 2014 and last year accused the Indian government of interfering in his campaign for leadership.

But there is some confusion over which Gurdwaras have signed the statement and what this 'ban' entails.

Last week, on 30th December 2017, the managements of 15 Gurdwaras in the Greater Toronto Area met at the Jot Parkash Sahib Gurdwara (Brampton, Ontario) to discuss a joint statement.

It stated: "Keeping in mind the interference of Indian Consular and Indian Government officials in the lives of Canadian Sikhs, Gurdwara Management Committees have jointly taken the decision to bar the entry of these officials and members from Gurdwaras across Canada."

"The presence of these officials makes members of the Sikh community uncomfortable due to their agenda of undermining the autonomy of Sikh institutions and organizations. It is our obligation to ensure the safety of the Sangat, and accordingly we have arrived at this decision," it added.

It cited recent examples of interference as "promoting RSS and Hindutva ideology" and attempts to undermine the recognition of the 1984 anti-Sikh pogroms as Genocide in Ontario.

The statement also mentioned British activist Jagtar Singh Johal, who was arrested in early November 2017 and still has not been charged for any offenses.

This was the key part of the full statement (PDF):

"Until these officials stop meddling in Sikh affairs, the Gurdwara Management Committee shall not allow entry into the Gurdwara Sahib of Indian Consular officials, officials of the Indian Government and / or members of organizations who undermine Sikh institutions."

Not everyone is on board

The Hindustan Times, which first reported the story, quoted Gurpreet Singh Bal from Ontario Khalsa Darbar (aka Dixie Gurdwara) as saying: "This decision was taken unanimously. The Indian government interferes too much in the community."

Dixie Gurdwara is one of the largest and most influential Sikh Gurdwaras in Canada. However, its General-Secretary Ranjit Singh Dulay told Barfi Culture today it was not a signatory to the statement.

"As an organisation, we did not pass any such resolution," he said. "The Ontario Khalsa Darbar is open to everyone. Everybody is welcome to attend."

He said he understood why many Sikhs were angry at the Indian government. "Of course people are upset and worried about what is going on [in India], I understand those sentiments," he added. The arrest of Jagtar Singh Johal was clearly worrying for Sikhs around the world, he added, but declined to go further.

The statement was signed by some Gurdwara representatives in Ontario, but not all. Clearly some Sikhs hope it goes further.

Twitter user Shinda Singh uploaded videos from the event and added: "Hope to see other gurdwara's [sic] around Canada, UK and America join in on the boycott."

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