Youth Party Alleges Bias By UK Sikh TV Channels For Gurdwara Elections

Important Update for Southall and worldwide Sangat.
Please read and share – #RealTalk

Vaheguru ji Ka Khalsa, Vaheguru ji ki Fateh

Tera Panth Vasse is only fielding 4 candidates for the elections at Singh Sabha Southall, even though a committee of 21 members is required. There are two other parties, the Baaj (Falcon) Party, who are currently in charge of the Gurdwara and the Sher (Lion) Party who are the main opposition.

So why are we only fielding 4 rather than 21 candidates?

Many have asked this question and we are committed to being transparent.

When we started this movement, it was to bring about a change in both Southall Singh Sabha Gurdwara and inspire others across the world to do the same. From the beginning, it was a big undertaking especially given that we started only 4 months before the actual elections on the 28th Sep 2014.

We knew we had to:
• Work hard and fast to get a team of 21 members who were eligible to stand as committee members for TPV.
• Campaign hard to convince the sangat to vote for us.

We weren’t scared of hard work and immediately called open meetings to get these done. We achieved a lot in just the first few days and weeks. The immediate problems we faced:

• Most youth are simply turned off politics and so getting them to stand as members is a real mission!
• Only people who were already members from the elections last time (March 2011) are eligible to stand for. Although TPV has more than 30 sewadars, most of these just became members for the first time and so aren’t eligible to stand in these elections.
So we had to find other people who shared both our vision and our passion for change.

Division between the Youth

We expected (hoped) all the youth would unite under TPV as youth party but instead we realized that a number of the local politically active youth (who were members from before and eligible to be candidates) had already committed their support to the Sher Party, the main opposition. They were also very reluctant at this late stage to join with TPV as they were unsure of what level of support we could muster. This became a vicious circle with people not supporting TPV in succeeding and then saying that they would not join as they felt it would not succeed. This made it incredibly hard for us to find 21 members to join us in this election.

So why didn’t you join the Sher Party as well?

We met with the Sher Party as they wished for TPV to join with them as well. They promised that they would be fielding 6 youth candidates and many people mistook that to mean that they would give us (TPV) 6 seats. However, we had doubts about their commitment to that and as it turned out, we were right. Up until last week, they were still planning on 6 youth but at the last moment they withdrew their nominations and are only fielding 2 youth candidates.
Sher Party also were not prepared to commit to having punj piare in the Gurdwara and although they said they agreed with our 13 pledges, there is no solid commitment in their manifesto about some of our key pledges, ie to have a full time counselor and British youth granthee. Also TPV had an excellent ration of 40% women and we felt that if we merged with Sher, most of the female candidates would be shelved. As it turns out, Sher are only fielding 1 female candidate.
The final nail in the coffin of a merger with Sher was the kind of actions that they then took to suppress TPV. When the Canadian Youth Pardhaan, Bhai Gurinder Singh ji came to the UK, he explained that one of his issues in Calgary was actually the cultural difference between the elder Punjabs and the Youth raised in the West.

So why couldn’t you find another 17 people to stand in your committee?

This is where we spent a lot of time and effort. We had nearly succeeded as we had nearly 18 people in total and also some elders were going to join us. However we were not expecting what happened next… dirty politics!!

What dirty politics?

When the youth complain about committees, they always say, well we are elected by the sangat. If you don’t like us, then you can stand yourself for election. It should be the democratic right of the youth to form a party and contest the elections. But when it comes to it, the elders know the system inside out and play really dirty games to stop the youth even getting a party together.

(1) Emotional Pressure: The senior people from the two main parties harassed phoned the families of our prospective candidates to put pressure on them not to stand. They used family affiliations and even we had parents refusing to speak to their sons and daughters who were standing. Many of the youth simply didn’t want this level of stress in their family environments.

(2) Actual threats! This one really shocked us. Some of the parents of our unmarried female candidates actually were threated that anonymous letters would be written about the girls dishonouring them with fake allegations such that those girls would never even get married! Obviously those parents freaked out and forbade their daughters from getting into this dirty game.

Just imagine! Where the Khalsa of old would give their lives to save the honour of women from other faiths, now there are people with turbans and beards who call themselves ‘sevadaars’ who are prepared to dishonor our own girls for the sake of their committee seats. Is this how low we have fallen?

(3) Intimidation: We even had the car windows smashed of one of our sevadaars.

(4) Lies and rumours: We had huge amounts of fake allegations being spread about us and our sevadaars.

(5) Removing stage time for Basics of Sikhi: Although Bhai Jagraj Singh has helped and supported TPV as a spokesperson, the two are separate. However the two parties both joined in to stop English Katha and parchar at any events in Southall. The main example was the Prakash Samagam at the Guru Nanak School in Hayes. The published programme gave 45 mins to Bhai Jagraj Singh but then on the day of the samagam, he was informed by senior members of the Sikh Channel team and the Prakash organizational team that both the two main parties (Sher and Baaj) had used their influence to remove the katha time from him. Both the parties talk about how they want to encourage parchar for the youth, but when those youth exercise their democratic rights then they turn on them. In the end, the Basics of Sikhi team managed to get 10 mins on the stage but only on the condition that Bhai Baljit Singh did the katha and not Bhai Jagraj Singh. So it was clearly personal. The worst part of this was that Mr Malhi and Mr Sohi were then later sitting on the stage getting time to actually speak about their political aspirations when they had both worked cut katha about Gurbani by Bhai Jagraj Singh.

The Sikh TV Channels

• Although the OFCOM rules are clear that the channels must remain independent and no favour any committee, in effect both of the major channels, ie Sikh Channel and Sangat TV had already taken sides in the elections. We were a little surprised by how biased the management of both the stations were, primarily because most of the youth previously had been in the shadow of the elders with money and influence. When TPV tried to go it alone, we found out how ‘biased’ our media channels are, with Sangat Channel in favour of Sher and Sikh Channel management favouring Baaj. We had an unfortunate conversation with one personal affiliated to one of the channels where he then threatened Bhai Jagraj Singh that he would stop any further videos of Basics of Sikhi from playing on the channel unless TPV withdrew from the race. Later the heads of that channel apologized for that incident.
• Just yesterday we were supposed to be on a debate on Sangat TV with candidates from Sher, Baaj and TPV. We had been given a written invitation to attend. However just one hour before the show, we were informed that due to complains and pressure from the other two parties, the management had decided to remove the TPV members from the debate. Its clear bias and also that it’s the financial power of the two parties that actually acts as a real barrier to entry for a new group like TPV.

Why are you still in the race with just four nominations?

We had a difficult decision to make as to whether TPV should still contest this election with 4 candidates. Mainly we didn’t want to disappoint those people who registered their membership for the first time so they could vote for us.

Isn’t it Besti for the youth?

If we wanted to just win and get power, we could have merged with one of the other groups but we realised that TPV is more than just winning seats, it’s about bringing positive change to our Gurdwaras by shifting the agenda. If we look back at how much TPV has already done in the last 2 months and you only have to see the affect it has had on this year’s elections. The other two parties are having to be more forthcoming, proactive and interacting with the Sangat. For the first time, the parties have taken to social media to promote their party’s agenda, trying to be transparent, approachable and accountable. These are exactly the principles TPV was built on! We see this as a big achievement. Also because we have come with so many new ideas, the agenda of the election campaign is changing to what improvements the parties want to bring about and away from the mud swinging that has become the norm. So by being engaged in the political process, we have already changed the focus and we can continue to do this by standing.

Secondly, in any kind of battle the ideal is to fight and win, however it takes bravery to stand and fight in the first place. Sometimes you fight even when you face a likely defeat. There is actually a historical precedent for this. Once when the Harimander Sahib in Amritsar was going to be attacked, the Khalsa decided that they needed to vacate the Harimandar Sahib and come back to fight another day. At that time, Baba Gurbaksh Singh stood up and volunteered to stay and fight. He knew it was cetain death but the principle was, “We don’t just disappear“ On that day, many Singhs also joined him and they were blessed with shaheedi.

Maybe TPV shouldn’t have bothered to stand at all??

Although we joined the battle at a late time and faced many struggles, it was definitely better for TPV to be formed before the election. By taking part in the actual elections, we actually got to see the real characters of many people. Our community is full of people who give the ‘pump’ when it comes to the crunch, their actions are different. If we had started after the elections, then we would be totally naïve about how Punjabi dirty politics works. Also had we just merged with either of the parties, we would not have been included the negotiations that we got to be this time, so would be more in the dark. Also now TPV has access to the membership list and in three years time, TPV will be all the better prepared for the elections.
One thing is sure, seeing the amount of ‘dirty politics’ has once strengthened our resolve to get involved in this system and clean it away from committees.

Whats the problem with committees?

The essential problem is that they are only formed of people who can bring votes. So if you are a businessman who has loads of contacts or have a big family or are from the right caste/area in Punjab, then you have a certain amount of votes that you can bring.
So when a party is formed, they do not look at the character or gurmat values of the person, they only look at the amount of votes. Add up all the votes from the 21 people and you have an idea of if you will win or not! That was one thing that we avoided this time and hope to continue to do so.

Any solutions to this problem?

Yes, the main cause of this messed up system is the vast silent majority of 30,000 people. The silent majority of sangat who attend the Gurdwara regularly but never make a membership. They shoulder the blame for this system because they allow the ‘political’ people to come to the forefront. The political people are the only ones who can be bothered to go around convincing family members to make a membership. So only 10,000 people make a membership.
So actually the who election is not about who is the best party…. Its about who can convince people to be bothered enough to go and make a membership of the Gurdwara and vote. There have been committee poeple who have been driving people back and forth to the Gurdwara and paying them to make a membership. So now people who cant be bothered to take out £5 and go to the Gurdwara and make memberships actually end up with memberships and the people who do go to Gurdwara regularly and give bheta regularly are not members.

The truth that the sangat must wake up to is this… the committee don’t want everyone to make a membership. If they did, they would not make a crazy system like the current one. Membership is only open for a four week window every three years. Its only open for a certain numbers of hours each day, each day is different. Surely one should be able to make a membership during normal opening hours any day of the year.
But no… they make it difficult so that the Silent Majority have no voice.
They don’t try and make campaigns to engage the sangat and to reduce the disillusionment with Gurdwara politics.. no, they encourage it.
The solution is that the Silent Majority just do one thing, make a membership and use their voice..

Whats the plan then?

Well the top 21 people who get the most amount of votes will be in the Gurdwara committee. Regardless of what party they are in.

So if everyone reading this decided to vote for the 4 candidates of TV only, it would mean the 4 youth of TPV would be in the committee. This would be a big deal as it would make us that much stronger for next time.

What will your 4 members do if they are in the 21 member committee?

If we are part of the committee (even as an minority), we will push for our pledges to be implemented. TPV will not compromise on it’s principles and for what it stands for.

What can we do to help?

1) Please make sure you continue to support TPV and vote for our 4 candidates, you are not required to vote for 21.
2) Spread the message of TPV to your family and friends and encourage them to find out what TPV is about.

As we’ve previously announced, the elections will take place on 28th September from 8am to 8pm at Khalsa Primary School, Norwood Green. The 4 candidates of TPV are in the third column and are also below.

Randeep Singh Sidhu
Pritam Singh Sahota
Manveer Singh Tumber
Amandip Kaur Flora

From all the Sevadaars of Tera Panth Vasse

Vaheguru ji Ka Khalsa, Vaheguru ji ki Fateh
Via Tera Panth Vasses FB Page

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