Washington: Representatives of over 30 gurdwaras and Sikh organizations across the East Coast of the United States gathered at the Singh Sabha Gurdwara in Fairfax to call for the boycott against Kuldeep Singh, the head of Sikh Sangat of Virginia, who altered the age old traditional ceremony of Amrit Sanchar (Sikh initiation ceremony).
On May 21, 2016, this meeting was hosted by the Singh Sabha Gurdwara in Fairfax, Virginia. On April 15, 2016, Kuldeep Singh had organized a ceremony in which he changed the recitations of the prescribed hymns. He deleted the Jaap Sahib, Swayyea, and Benti Chaupai and replaced them with other hymns. Gurdwaras of Washington and Baltimore came together on May 9th and denounced the move by Kuldeep Singh and his associates, namely Bhai Surinder Singh, Amarjit Singh Narula, Gurdeep Singh Ahluwalia, and Rajinder Singh Bakshi.
Bhai Surinder Singh, Granthi of the Sikh Gurdwara of Washington, DC since then has apologized in the congregation and is willing to submit to the institution of Panj Pyare to atone for his mistake. DC Gurdwara management acted immediately after the controversy broke and took action in confronting Surinder Singh, who then regretted his joining Kuldeep Singh.
Pavan Singh, Coordinator of the Washington Gurdwaras dealing with this issue, conducted the meeting of the gathered representatives. Deliberations were mainly on three issues: to boycott Kuldeep Singh and his associates until they either abandon their positions and submit to Panj pyare admitting their mistake, to organize a weekly demonstration near where the community members gather at Sikh Sangat of Virginia, a gurdwara headed by Kuldeep Singh, and to explore legal means of challenging Kuldeep Singh’s attempt to change the Sikh traditional observances. A team was selected to explore and plan action for the two latter resolutions. All gathered representatives expressed their consent for the first two resolutions. Kuldeep Singh should be boycotted organizationally and socially. Representatives also strongly condemned the Indian group headed by Paramjit Singh Khalsa of announcing $50,000 for punishing the violators of Amrit maryada. This they all termed as “cheap tactic to gain publicity and also a dangerous and a sinister move to tarnish the image of Sikhs in America and across the globe.”
Gurdev Singh Kang, President of the Sikh Cultural Society of New York, said, “We are outraged by the actions of these individuals. Nobody can alter or change the way the traditions are maintained in Sikhism.”
Rajinder Singh, a Sikh activist from New Jersey, narrated his meeting with Kuldeep Singh and said, “He is adamant and his not willing to change his position. He wants to engage in unnecessary debate. He did not even take his own congregation in confidence before changing the tradition.”
Dr. Rajwant Singh, Secretary of Guru Gobind Singh Foundation, said, “Kuldeep Singh has acted irresponsibly and we as a community must reduce his chances of creating confusion. The Sikh Rehat Maryada was formed after years of deliberations and has kept the community together from last 8 decades. There is unity on the Amrit Ceremony among Sikhs and we as a community must stand together in the face of people trying to muddle waters thoughtlessly. They are acting without keeping the long term consequences in mind.”
Sajjan Singh of Sant Sagar Gurdwara proposed that Panj Pyare be selected in order to have Surinder Singh submit according to Sikh tradition and carry out any sewa (service). He said, “It is pertinent that the community from all across the nation act in unity and educate all community members so they are not misled again.”
Pavan Singh thanked the gathered Sikhs and also announced that Singh Sabha Gurdwara will take the responsibility of logistical support of langar when the protests will be carried out. Some of the prominent Gurdwaras which took part were Sikh Gurdwara of Carteret, Singh Sabha Carteret New Jersey, Sant Sagar Gurdwara, New York, Sikh Center of Flushings New York, Nanak Naam Jahaj Hai Gurdwara, Philadelphia Sikh Society, Sikh Society of Baltimore, Sikh Center of Manassas, and Sikh Foundation of Virginia.
Pavan Singh said, “We are grateful to all the representatives for their participation and also for showing their maturity in handling this very sensitive issue. We are also acting together since this issue arose in Washington. We wanted to solve this at the local level and take this matter to its logical conclusion according to Sikh tradition. Once again, we appeal to Kuldeep Singh and his associates to return to their senses and join the mainstream of the Panth.” Himmat Singh, a Sikh activist in New York, had also organized a gathering of Gurdwaras in NY leading up to the meeting in Washington. Himmat Singh, Rajinder Singh, Pavan Singh and Rajwant Singh appeared on Jus Punjabi, Global Punjab and TV 84 TV channels to discuss this issue last week.