Politics is both a science and an art, wedded together in the affairs of humans. Sikhs, living outside Punjab are forced to learn politics. They turn to methods of sophisticated communication, which shows the impact of American national and international politics, as well as the give-and-take of local Sikh communities. But, there is a great gulf between what professional Sikh politics ought to be, and what it is, which is particularly evident in the time since the assault on the Golden Temple. Everyone seems to be involved in some way, but their involvement seems of no avail.
Sikhs in America have several layers of achievers in their community: there are the professionals, including medical doctors, engineers, scientists as well as businessmen, agriculturalists, and many others. All intend to feel themselves seriously involved in one way or another, which creates a complex set of circumstances. Some harbor delusions of self-importance, of playing a vital role, and gaining the ultimate satisfaction of recognition and respect that come with public service. When expectations and political aims converge in proximity other complexities arise. This complexity keeps hovering over the scene and pushes Sikhs into further confusion. How can they manage such a situation?
The efforts to create and activate the WSO (World Sikh Organization) are steps of advancement in Sikh politics. However, many hurdles in this effort must be hurriedly overcome and effectively controlled if the WSO is to become a first-rate organization. Secretary General’s tours all over the country have given him a crash-course in meeting and knowing the Sikhs, while at the same time _ intensifying his encounters with the ups and downs of community politics, financial consolidation (a chronic source of troubles), the organizational set-up of WSO (a complex job in itself), and diplomatic work. In these efforts he has had almost no professional Sikhs to assist him.
What is each Sikh’s role in building toward their goals? What can American Sikhs and their institutions do in achieving Sikh aspirations? American Sikhs, always 14,000 miles from Punjab, trained and professionally skilled, can contribute immensely to the benefit of their people on a personal basis. Doctors can help create clinics, advice and publish quantities of literature on health, sanitation, etc. Scientists can set up projects in Punjab, and other professionals can do similar things in their own fields. Everyone must look into his or her situation to find the appropriate projects (a sign of professional maturity). But the major task in front of Sikhs still remains Sikh politics. Rajiv Gandhi is now very strongly established on the scene. Sikhs had better brace themselves. How are they going to handle this flood of Congress (I) power which is bent upon destroying the fiber of Sikh solidarity? If Sikhs in America persist in the regular push and pull and arm-twisting of politics, they will not generate any force that is capable of making a difference. World public opinion as well as that of Washington would ignore the Sikhs. How could’ they do otherwise? World politics is a sophisticated game. WSO based on its constitutional authority, would create a powerful group of international Sikhs, and that would make the difference. How does the WSO constitution create such a group?
In order to achieve this general objective, along with other more specific ones, there must be created other more specialized mechanisms. That is where the organizational structure (Article LLL, section 1) comes into being. It shall have a general assembly that creates a governing board, committees, and a secretariat to run the WSO. The most crucial body of worldwide Sikhs is thus the general assembly, with its 51 delegates. They are the masters of Sikh political destiny and the guardians of all the Sikh affairs outside of Punjab. (Of course they would have many important links inside Punjab.) All Sikhs have a right to expect a first-rate performance from this body. Either they must deliver the goods, or be led to the gallows. Such great responsibility must fall upon solid and seasoned individuals. Contrary to the widely held belief that politics is a dirty game, it
Would be worthwhile for good people to get involved and clean it up. Building the public trust and serving the Sikh community could be the most satisfying work any good person could do. But where are these good people, and how can they begin to participate in this effort? In a nutshell, how can we get worthy and qualified delegates to the WSO general assembly? In article II, section 1, in the discussion of the election of delegates to the general assembly, we find “an intermediate body, called the electoral college which must filter out local politics, so that the general assembly would be protected from contamination of local politics. From the Electoral College, ten delegates to the general assembly
will be sent to represent the U.S. Sikhs. The Electoral College shall be composed of one member (or more) from each gurdwara, local WSO chapter, and other Sikh societies. The constitution states.
“countries which do not have national bodies may be assisted by the WSO secretariat, which may delegate one of the local chapters or organizations or Gurdwaras or societies to call a meeting of the representatives subscribing to the electoral college to elect delegates to the general assembly of. The WSO. This body of representatives of local chapters, organizations, societies, or gurdwaras constitutes the electoral college of the country.
(Article II, sect.1, D—WSO constitution)
Since Canada has its own national body of all the Sikh societies, Sikhs there can elect or select ten members from this body. This would represent Canada in the general assembly of the WSO. In the case of the US, however, Sikhs do not have a national body to elect/select members: they may have to create one. This appears to be the most tedious task of all. There are almost fifty gurdwaras (if they actively participate), and five or six legitimate Sikh societies in existence in the U.S. It therefore appears that the Electoral College shall be composed of 55 to 56 members, out of which ten members can be selected/elected as delegates to the WSO general assembly. However, it is possible to create countrywide local chapters of WSO for the purpose of sending representatives to the Electoral College.
The major problem facing Sikhs in the US is how to filter out the complex politics of local gurdwaras, to form a truly representative electoral college so that the local problems must remain on the local level. Contamination of local politics to the national level must be avoided at all costs. Are American Sikhs capable of doing that? If it can be done successfully, then they have advanced already on the road to professional politics. They must create and maintain any system to eliminate the worst and end up with the best. Such a mechanism, if applied correctly, could prove extremely beneficial. It would unite Sikhs for the crucial political work which lies ahead immediately, which shows signs of faltering already. Emotional attachments to positions or titles, evident self-importance, and behind-the-scenes maneuvers and suspicions should be avoided at all costs. It would be wonderful to see California Sikhs and gurdwaras rise to the occasion and play a vital role in this whole process. Active youth groups, with their eyes open to the workings of the elders, can play a very effective role also. They must understand the mechanism for filtering harmful and complex politics out for the good of all Sikhs. With the pressures and complexities of their studies and other involvements, they are not ready for the full-scale professional politics, and yet, they are learning very fast. We must encourage them to assume their appropriate role, and even learn from them when necessary.
It is said that Rome was not built in a day, but Sikhs say that Rome cannot be destroyed in a day; building is going on each day. Sikhs will not survive and thrive only with a master or a sant or straight Akali politics; they have all been proven failures. Relying on them in the past has caused Sikhs now to be thrusted into international politics without warning or preparation, and in fact brought them to a revolutionary threshold where they stand today. They have been pushed over the brink, and there is no going back.
Moderate Sikhs do not understand Sikh politics. Worse yet, they are caught in a contradiction. A Sikh is born free, a free lion by heritage how can he live under Hindu government domination as a second class citizen? If he does that, then his traditional characteristics begin to erode and his psyche is permanently damaged under such a subordinate environment. He will not nurture freedom for himself or for his people. However, economic growth under favorable subordination circumstances can be possible, but only at the expense of political freedom. Sikhs who cherish economic goals without independence will not be the true leaders of the future Sikhs. Sikhs must know, and face squarely once and for all that their goals cannot be realized within the predominantly corrupt ‘‘democracy.” How can one beat this number game? Surely Sikhs cannot afford to play this game, as they can never win.
U.S. Sikhs, through the WSO, jointly with worldwide Sikhs, can assemble to find solutions. Basing themselves in New York or Washington, they can generate positive approaches of persuasion, international diplomacy, and lobbying activities towards useful ends. Since they are not an independent nation, they will have to operate from a point of disadvantaged, in contrast to India government’s barrage of propaganda from an established position. Sikhs cannot afford not to master the art of politics as quickly as possible because they have already, lost time, lives, and resources. They must take the helm and steer the ship.
Politics is generally a predictable field. It is an art of negotiations to promote and protect your national interests. A shrewd politician can easily calculate how moves on the opposing side could be made, and his own defenses against them developed. This gives him the opportunity to plan the correct maneuvers beforehand. Lack of this skill of knowledge has damaged Sikhs at several crucial junctures in their recent history.
Sikh political institutions should have their own vitality and avoid hovering around personalities and resourceful individuals. Individuals are always limited in scope and in function in national and international affairs. Institutions and organizations are perpetual and vast, both in scope and function. Sikhs must understand this distinction, and take their work more seriously, in order to vitalize the working of the WSO. Only from this plane, coupled with the modern technological help, can they present themselves to the world and adversary as a worthy nation.
Article extracted from this publication >> January 11 1985