OP/ED: Sikh Leadership and Sangat Confidence


When we look at our dynamic history of Panthic leadership through both the spiritual and political faculties, we see a superb history of the winning of hearts and minds.

No matter how you gloss and dress up leadership, it is defunct if those who you represent have low confidence and trust in the leadership.

When leadership struggle to feel the pulse of the critical mass at the grassroots then there is a serious disconnection which leads to stand-offs and stagnation.

It’s evident that as Panth, we are in a transition of leadership where the grassroots have gained the momentum to shake the hierarchies.

In our history, there perhaps has not been such a low point and this low point in leadership confidence resulted in the symbolic shake up and drive for reform we saw last week with 600,000 in body and millions in spirit supported the Sarbat Khalsa.

I have not been involved in Panthic circles as long as many of my respected friends and am willing to accept accusations of inexperience as a limitation to my interpretation.

Today we are privileged to be developed through leadership programmes in our working lives, many of us progressing in our careers. We are being respected as academics in reputable educational institutes. There is certainly no lack of talent and intellect in our community and perhaps we are even over qualified.

However, where intellect may seem the superior strategy, is it always the right thing to govern leadership? Sometimes understanding the emotive wave, standing in solidarity and remaining principled may be where the strength lies, as “unsophisticated” it may seem to many. This is something I have had the privilege of learning from working alongside elders in our community who may not have the education we deem acceptable but have the leadership skills that far outweigh those of any academics

Sikh leadership requires Guru-centric decision making which involves ensuring the leadership is not skewed by one group or one individual. In the UK, the Sikh community have suffered from personality driven structures being in positions of influence and monopolising much of the dialogue and decisions.

Gurdwara committees, Jathebandis and higher levels representation follow a pattern of personality and popularity politics rather than the Miri-Piri Sovereign approach. This has resulted in our frustrating stalemate position. Sangat do not have the full confidence in leadership and Panthic leadership looks disjointed from the Sangat

In the past, I have not perhaps fully bought into the Punj Pyaray leadership model. However, I am beginning to understand the strengths in this system and how it aligns to Guru-centric decision making mitigating risks of personalities and agenda driven outcomes.

The Punj (five) system, with ancient origins in the Panchyat system of Indo-Perisa, was endorsed by Guru Gobind Singh Ji Maharaj and the system supported the Panth through the most challenging times. The strength of a panel of 5 decision makers outweighs the over administration of a 21 or 51 man committee and at the same time safeguards against domineering individuals.

In the UK Sikh leadership, the Punj (five) can be endorsed by the Sangat based on their Gurmat values and as a panel can have the role of ratifying decisions put forward by the Sarbat or a committee.

Similar to Punjab, the UK leadership is in need of progressing a structure which has the buy-in of the masses and is run in such a way that the Sangat can proudly feel represented across both genders and all classes.

With all the goodwill, committees and subcommittee, unless there is a robust Gurmat based structure at the top then I cannot see how we escape the disjointed decision making.

By Mankamal Singh UK

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