29 July 2021
Response to “Contemporary Sikh Concerns & Priorities” published by Secretariat, Sri Akal Takht Sahib, Sri Amritsar
ਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂ ਜੀ ਕਾ ਖ਼ਾਲਸਾ ਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂ ਜੀ ਕੀ ਫ਼ਤਿਹ
(Vahiguru ji ka Khalsa, Vahiguru ji ki Fatih)
The “Contemporary Sikh Concerns and Priorities'' (CSCP) document by Akal Takht Sahib is a welcomed step toward policy and institution development. Engaging in political-spiritual policy development and implementation based on the Guru’s teachings is essential to the practice of Miri-Piri. The intellectual prowess vested in the Khalsa, by the Guru’s grace, has another moment to offer suggestions. It is a welcomed initiative by Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) appointed acting Jathedar at the Akal Takht Sahib. The CSCP document is an important deliberation starter for the Khalsa and therefore is a huge milestone that may live as a legend in the hallowed halls of the Panth’s history.
That being said, the main Sikh concerns that need to be solved before policy and institution development, are not addressed. The document Akal Takht Sahib has published is equivalent to reaching for the fourth step in a stairwell when steps one through three are missing. The foundation is missing and if one tries to put their foot on it to climb, the stairwell will inevitably collapse. In recent history the Khalsa has never had an issue starting projects, organizations, or creating policies/directives to handle specific tasks when it is the need of the hour. Similar efforts have been initiated by Akal Takht Sahib since the 1990s, with good intentions, but they all ultimately failed because every effort incorrectly starts on project and policy directives (even if they are good) and never processes or governance. Without process there is a lack of accessibility, trust, and buy-in from the Khalsa collective. Additional side effects of no process are: compromising Gurmat (Sikh values), reduced thought development capability, no legitimacy on the world stage, no accountability, and inability to harness potential. The CSCP document is also not immune to any of the aforementioned side effects. Therefore, the central problem facing the Panth today is the lack of process and governance in developing and creating policies as well as institutions and projects that can uphold Sikh sovereignty in all spheres of life.
The policy stances of the Khalsa cannot be unilaterally created without approval of the Khalsa collective. The Khalsa must not be reduced to a few elected or selected individuals in privileged positions with an amplified voice to make decisions that affect the entire Sikh Nation. Akal Takht Sahib is the supreme authority of the Sikhs and the seat of Guru Panth but only if Guru Panth can exercise its ability to make decisions as a whole. This is not a unique problem for the Khalsa. All established peoples and nations in history have developed the process for deliberation, decision making, and governance through systems like: Naachid (Navajo Nation), Loya Jirga (Afghanistan, Pashtan people), Papal Conclave & Apostolic Constitution (Vatican, Catholicism), The Lögrétta of Alþingi (Iceland), Halakhic process (Israel, Judaism), Ijtihad (Islamic States, Sharia Law), “Rules and Tradition of Parliament” (United Kingdom), “Rules and Administration” Congress and Senate (United States of America), etc. The decision making process for the Khalsa is the unique institution of Sarbat Khalsa. Akal Takht Sahib’s action must be based on the Gurmata issued by Sarbat Khalsa. In the absence of Sarbat Khalsa it must be the number one priority for all, who through Hukam, have the power to support the re-establishment of our unique sovereign deliberation and decision making body for our governance in modern times.
Many notions need deliberations to fully conceive a governance system. Towards that, in current asks of the CSCP document, these are our suggested steps in order to reach the goal of policy and institution development:
1. Establish a system of process and team for giving Sikh’s a “Panthic Security Clearance”
a. Must be independent and developed by an independent team
b. Equivalent to security clearance processes of the nations of the world
c. Special attention to investigating conflicts of interest which must disqualify one from participation like the following:
i. Stakes/positions in governments; especially in the Panjab and in Indian governments.
ii. Undeclared financial instability and personal misconduct which could be used for blackmail
2. Establish a team of highly skilled Information Technology and Computer Programming Professionals who have Panthic Security Clearance with the following mandate:
a. Establish a secure internet based communication and data storage infrastructure that is free from all foreign government influence, especially the Indian Government and its states; the implementation of distributed ledger technology should be thoroughly investigated in the development of this infrastructure
b. Create trainings on how to use these infrastructures and deploy them to all Sikhs with a Panthic Security Clearance
c. Establish the Khalsa domain “*.khalsa” for the internet
d. Create and maintain web pages and their associated tools for virtual Sarbat Khalsa and all future Sikh Institutions to enact policy mandated by Gurmata from Sarbat Khalsa
3. Establish a team of Amritdhari Sikhs who have a Panthic Security Clearance with the mandate of writing Sarbat Khalsa procedures for modern times in consultation with the experts in the Information Technology and Computer Programming team. So this team is not starting from scratch below are some relevant starters:
a. Suggested starting point for Sarbat Khalsa process development can be found here Draft Sarbat Khalsa Procedures
b. Preliminary Research for debate and discussion on Sarbat Khalsa Process and Akal Takht Sahib Governance of the Sikhs can be found here Modeling Sarbat Khalsa Presentation
c. This document is a case study where Diaspora Sikh’s participated in Model Sarbat Khalsa events where proposals were considered using a Sarbat Khalsa inspired process:
4. The, Sikh Policy and Institution development for topics, the CSPC document, can be debated and finalized within Sarbat Khalsa to culminate in Gurmata.
5. It is pertinent that Gurmata from Sarbat Khalsa is implemented through a sovereign Akal Takht Sahib. This practically means Akal Takht Sahib must exercise its power to implement Gurmata outside the political and legal systems of all countries and political parties. So Akal Takht Sahib must establish offices or agencies based upon the direction of Sarbat Khalsa. A suggested starting point for deliberation of what this could look like can be found in this document Akal Takht Sahib Draft Framework.
Lastly, the Sikhs today are a stateless Nation, but still need to function. The current technology (self sovereign digital technology) offers us the ability to adapt to our current status. Akal Takht Sahib needs to function with or without statehood; the same goes for the Sarbat Khalsa.
May the ‘Rider of the Blue Steed’ help us!
Free Akal Takht team
15 September 2018
DEVELOPING A MECHANISM THAT SAFEGUARDS THE INDEPENDENCE OF THE AKAL TAKHT
A RESPONSE TO THE REQUEST FOR INFORMATION
ਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂ ਜੀ ਕਾ ਖ਼ਾਲਸਾ ਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂ ਜੀ ਕੀ ਫ਼ਤਿਹ | Vahiguru ji ka Khalsa, Vahiguru ji ki Fatih!
The response in this document has been drafted on receipt of an invitation for suggestions received from Bibi Kiranjot Kaur (senior SGPC member). This invitation read as follows:
Dear Well Wishers of Punjab, We all know the crisis within the quom right now. Some of the scholars I have spoken with see solution if Akal Takht institution functions in a way that any Jathedar cannot be manipulated by those in power. This is possible if a mechanism is created for reaching a Gurmatta. I invite your suggestions to what this mechanism (system) could be that safeguards independence of Miri-Piri da Takht. Brief, to the point suggestions please. Reference to past history( when needed) could help focus on solution. The consensus reached could be a basic draft for further action within sgpc. I look forward to your active input.
The Free Akal Takht (FAT) movement is delighted to provide a response, suggestions, and to help in any way required - be it from process drafting, to facilitation and consensus building. The FAT movement was established to help design a new governance mechanism for the global Sikh community from the ground up - in open consultation with the global Sangat and with allegiance only to Guru Granth-Panth - focusing on the systems/mechanisms that surround and comprise Akal Takht Sahib. Our consultations have been manyfold and extended to dialogue with over 300 Sikh organisations and thousands of individuals across the major countries of Sikh populace on the back of open invitations to participate.
Having diligently pursued some of the questions posed, we provide a summary of suggestions in this document.
In order to participate in dealing with the current crisis within the Quam, we put forward that all those involved and part of the process must accept the three items below as essential truths:
Gurus are Ik in Jot and Jugat
Guru is both Guru Granth Sahib and Guru Khalsa Panth
- Guru Khalsa Panth has 4 mechanisms: Akal Takht, Panj Piare, Jathedar, and Sarbat Khalsa
A brief of our research based on Gurbani and Sikh History on the 3 essential truths can be found on our website: www.freeakaltakht.org/research
To establish the connection between Sarbat Khalsa and Gurmatta Principal Teja Singh has written a detailed explanation of which we copy an extract below:
“The “Sarbat Khalsa” or the whole people, met once at the Akal Takht, Amritsar the highest seat of Panthic authority, on the occasion of Dewali or Baisakhi, and felt that they were one. All questions affecting the welfare of the nation were referred to the Sangats, which would decide them in the form of resolutions called Gurmattas. A Gurmatta duly passed was supposed to have received the sanction of the Guru, and any attempt made afterwards to contravene it was taken as a sacrilegious act.”
Roles, responsibilities, and relationships between the 4 Gurmat-oriented Panthic Mechanisms (Akal Takht, Panj Piare, Jathedar, and Sarbat Khalsa) need to be researched, and drafted for the 21st century. This would comprise the main body of the Gurmat-oriented Panthic Governance Model.
A Gurmat-oriented Panthic Governance Model needs to be developed which is based around the essential truths above. This is the all encompassing “mechanism/system” being sought.
Our preliminary draft for Akal Takht Sahib can be found here:
Our preliminary draft for Sarbat Khalsa in the 21st century can be found here:
A process for developing a Gurmat-oriented Panthic Governance Model must be made. The FAT team has drafted this for the Panth’s consideration and the two overriding guidelines are:
Principles must be extracted from Guru Granth Sahib after which systems are created based on those principles. If there is a problem with the system, the principles would need to be revisited. If there is a problem with the principles, counsel must then be sought with Guru Granth Sahib.
- Since new challenges arise as the conditions continue to change, Sikhs must collectively, continuously grow and make improvements to their institutions and processes, following the timeless teachings of Guru Granth Sahib while remaining connected to their glorious history.
Principles must be extracted to create the Gurmat-oriented Panthic Governance Model from Guru Granth Sahib (as explained in step 3). The FAT team has drafted 11 principles for the Panth’s consideration with Mul Mantar as the driving inspiration: Gurmat Inspired, Mul Mantar, Reclaim Long-Term, Open, Inclusive, Sovereign, Consensus Based / Sarbat Khalsa, Allegiance, Collaborative, and Transparent. Each of these principles have sub points that articulate them further. Furthermore there is a commentary by the principle drafter and editor that further explains thought process per principle.
Several events need to be facilitated in order to discuss and find consensus on all drafts with the entire Panth.
Facilitating to Develop Consensus
The FAT team has done substantial work in this regard and taken steps to research each mechanism, which we offer could be used as a starting point for discussion. The participating diaspora achieved substantial consensus on these proposals which were discussed between prominent sikh organisations, scholars, think tanks, gurdwaras, academics, business people, and any ordinary members of the Sangat which were all invited to participate on a proactively inclusive basis both in person and digitally.
The Jathedar and Sarbat Khalsa components of the model were extensively explored with discussion amongst the Sikh Diaspora in 4 Regional Model Sarbat Khalsas (USA, UK, Canada, and Malaysia) facilitated by the FAT Team with over 300 attendees representing over 200 organizations. The Model Sarbat Khalsa’s were facilitated using a draft Sarbat Khalsa process for consensus in the 21st century which we would like to share. The Model Sarbat Khalsa’s sought to discuss 14 proposals:
7 Proposals on Jathedar Criteria: http://www.freeakaltakht.org/proposal_jathedar_selection_criteria
- 7 Proposals on Sarbat Khalsa Process: http://www.freeakaltakht.org/proposal_sarbat_khalsa_process
The FAT team Published results from the Model Sarbat Khalsa’s in a one of kind (in Sikh history) report titled “Disapora Polling Brief” which can be found here: http://www.freeakaltakht.org/regional_sarbat_khalsa
The Sikh diaspora agrees on more than 85% of Jathedar Criteria and Sarbat Khalsa Process detailed in our report.
We would be delighted to contribute further suggestions, research capabilities, consensus building event facilitation and expand on the above or answer any questions arising.
About Free Akal Takht
The #FreeAkalTakht movement aims to achieve freedom of thought and spirit for 30 million Sikhs by designing a new governance framework from the ground up. Its cross-border team of social activists, professionals, and academics is facilitating this by connecting and engaging with global Sikh population to develop for the first time, a truly global point of view for the Sikh community. #FreeAkalTakht believes the future of decision-making in Sikhi will be representative, collective, and transparent--not as the exception, but as the rule, and as revitalisation of the community's old patterns of self-determination made new for the 21st century.
List of documents already produced and freely available
Research Brief on Mechanisms:
Jathedar Criteria Proposals:
Sarbat Khalsa Process Proposals:
Diaspora Polling Brief & Regional Sarbat Khalsa Process:
Research Brief on Mechanisms:
Global Sarbat Khalsa Procedures Draft:
Akal Takht Sahib Governance Structure Draft:
February 26, 2018
The Free Akal Takht movement was formed to help the global Sikh community build 21st century institutions for deliberation, governance and action.
Over the past few years, we have created a model framework governance structure, grounded in Gurbani research. We have identified who ought to be the major stakeholders in it, and how it would interplay with a Sarbat Khalsa gathering. This has been done with input from across the Sikh community worldwide.
We have contributed to the many panthic discussions that have taken place regarding the proposed reform of the governance of Akal Takht Sahib.
Following an internal review of its activities, we have decided to end our grassroots and campaigning activities for now.
Our website will remain online and all of the existing content will still remain accessible, but we will not be generating any new public content for the moment. Though we will still have a social media presence, this will be scaled back, and our public-facing operations will be limited to answering direct queries via [email protected] until further notice.
We are grateful to have been able to serve the sangat. We strive to serve the Panth in whatever capacity we can going forward.
Vahiguru Ji Ka Khalsa Vahiguru Ji Ki Fatih!
- Gurus are Ik in Jot and Jugat
Free Akal Takht