Days after 14 gurdwaras in Canada's Ontario province banned the entry of Indian government representatives, 96 more gurdwara management committees in Canada and the US have followed suit, barring Indian officials and members of Hindu outfits Rashriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) and the Shiv Sena from entering gurudwaras under their control.
An announcement in this regard was made on Sunday at New York's Gurudwara Sikh Cultural Society right after a religious congregation organised to observe the death anniversary of Satwant Singh and Kehar Singh, who were given death penalty for killing former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
The decision was taken in a meeting organised by Sikh Coordination Committee East Coast (SCCEC) and American Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (APGC).
Sikh Coordinator East Cost and American Gurdwara Parbhandak Committee representative Himmat Singh said, ''A total 116 gurdwara management committees had participated in teleconference on Saturday night and 96 of these gurdwaras had confirmed agreement to proposal to bar entry of Indian officials in gurdwaras, along with representatives of RSS and Shiv Sena.''
He claimed that some gurdwaras couldn't confirm this decision due to technical glitches in teleconferencing. ''We have been getting emails from many gurdwaras and numbers will increase further,'' claimed Himmat Singh.
Surjit Singh, US president of Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), headed by Simranjit Singh Mann, also supported the resolution to ban entry of Indian officials.
Himmat Singh added, ''Following Ontario gurdwara committees, we have been making it official that Indian officials will not be allowed any intervention in the management of gurdwaras in US. There will be no ban if someone visits gurdwaras in a personal capacity as devotee.''
During Operation Bluestar in June 1984, then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had directed the Indian military to storm the Golden Temple in Amritsar to drive out the Sikh extremist religious leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his armed followers, resulting in some damage to the holiest of Sikh shrines.
After the killing of Indira Gandhi, there was a pogrom against Sikhs, particularly in Delhi and its surroundings.
While Sikhs in India have long since been reconciled with the government, resentment continues to simmer among expatriates in Canada and the US.
Sixteen gurdwaras in British Columbia and Alberta provinces of Canada had passed a similar resolution on 4 January.
A statement released by these gurdwaras read, ''This initiative was moved forward in western Canada by Gurdwara Sahib Dasmesh Darbar (Surrey, BC) and Gurdwara Dasmesh Culture Centre (Calgary, AB) and a total of 16 Gurdwaras in BC & Alberta agree and support that sewadars of Gurdwara Sahibs reserve the right to bar access to the stage and entry to officials of the Indian government. This would include, but not be limited to, Indian elected officials, Indian Consular officials, and members of organizations like RSS and Shiv Sena.''
It said, ''To be clear, no individual is being banned from Gurdwara Sahibs, but Indian representatives in official capacity will not be permitted to address the sangat.''
The statement added, ''Although this policy of restriction exists informally, it is due time for a formal declaration. This step is being taken not to restrict access to the Guru, but rather to ensure that the Gurdwara Sahib remains independent from the interference of corrupt officials who represent a government that for the last four decades has committed genocide against the Sikh community and has never had positive intentions in dealing with Sikhs as a separate nation of people.''