Vishav Sikh Ikatarta and the Future of Sikh Organizing
In June of this year, the Panth Sewak Collective facilitated a gathering of Sikh bodies from around the world in a groundbreaking step that aims to reinstill the values of collective decision-making in panthic spaces. Although this event appears to be a relatively minor milestone, the long-term impacts of the exercise carried out in Sri Anandpur Sahib will reverberate in panthic history for years to come. Particularly given the volatile geopolitical climate of the region right now, and the simmering Sikh conflict with India today, reestablishing credible, legitimate, and effective leadership structures is a crucial prerequisite to advance our panthic agenda today.
While some may choose to engage in limited forms for the purpose of transformative change, the starting point of uprooting imperial control over Sri Akaal Takhat Sahib must be rooted in our own sidhant and sovereign power structures as demonstrated by the gathering. Although there may have been many shortcomings and room for improvement, the gathering offers a blueprint to panthic naujawan on how we can organize and prepare for the next phase of the sangarsh. It is from this powerhouse of independent, sovereign Sikh institutions that the Guru Khalsa Panth can effectively mobilize in pursuit of gareeb di rakhiya, jarvanay di bhakhiya (protection of the weak, destruction of the tyrants) and ultimately advance towards establishing halemi raj, Khalistan.
In addition to all of the key Sikh organizations and institutions in Punjab, a number of diaspora organizations also participated–including many naujawan born and raised in Western countries. In a series of articles, several of these participants shared their experiences at the gathering. We are reproducing condensed versions of some of these reflections below:
Triman Singh of the Windsor Sikh Panthic Jatha:
The Vishav Sikh Ikatarta sets a significant precedent by reviving the collective decision-making process through panch pardhani leadership. Unlike previous panthic gatherings, where decisions were already predetermined unilaterally by the organizers themselves, this gathering served as a platform for genuine discussion as representatives presented their suggestions and ideas. Another unique aspect of Sikh traditions that was revived was that historically during a Sarbat Khalsa only one pressing issue was discussed for a Gurmata. Focus shouldn’t be diverted by discussing a multitude of issues, and the Gurmata should always address that specific issue head on by making a concrete policy decision on steps forward. If there were multiple Gurmatas it would be counterproductive to the process of reviving tradition. We have seen how previous gatherings have had multiple resolutions but lacked planned execution to actually be carried out and have only caused disappointment within the Panth. With the grace of the Sangat, Panj Pyare and Guru Sahib, a Gurmata was adopted according to puratan maryada after 100 years, a significant triumph for the Guru Khalsa Panth. Moving forward, through the collective leadership of the panth sewaks, the panth should maintain ongoing discussions with participating jathas to organize similar gatherings and implement the next steps required for the successful liberation of the Akal Takhat by a Nishkam Akali Jatha.
In conclusion, the Vishav Sikh Ikatarta represents a significant milestone in reviving collective decision-making and panch pardhani leadership within the Khalsa Panth. By emphasizing the importance of selfless, decentralized collective leadership and the liberation of the Akal Takhat, this gathering has laid the foundation for future efforts aimed at reestablishing sovereignty of the Khalsa Panth through the Akal Takhat based on the principles of Sri Guru Granth Sahib.
Members of the Shaheed Bibi Bimal Kaur Collective eloquently articulated the radical potential of the ikatarta and its pivotal role in our ongoing liberation struggle:
In a moment dominated by reactionary discussions, primarily fueled by ego, division, and individualistic forms of leadership, the gurmatta provided a glimpse of genuine Sikh modes of governance, decision-making, and consensus-building. The opportunity to witness and participate in the ekatarta from the diaspora was unique because Gurmat and Maharaj were central to the process. The movement to free the Akal Takht and the gurmatta demarcates an essential step to revive the panth and build a collective, grassroots movement toward Sikh sovereignty and Khalistan. Its success reveals that panthic revival is not only possible but underway.
By re-establishing the seva sambhal of the Akal Takht in the hands of nishkaam sevadaars and gursikhs, the Akal Takht can once again return to being the sovereign and unquestioned leader of the Sikh sangharsh for azaadi. Those less familiar with panthic politics and organizing often ask about the “practicality” of Khalistan, nation-statehood, and how to build a parallel governance structure. The gurmatta shows us that Sikhs do not have to search far to understand our mode of governance or borrow from the West; rather Akaal Purakh has bestowed us with Akaal Takht to assert our sovereignty and build collectively as sangat to center Maharaj.
The power lies with the aam (gursikh) sangat who gather together, reach a consensus, and immerse with more sangat, and build toward our Patshahi Dava. Building the fertile grounds for Sikhi to flourish is the more difficult challenge for Sikhs, especially as Sikhi and Sikhs are under attack at various scales. Focusing on the gurmatta and our own Sikh modes of governance, Sikh being, and patshahi shifts us away from sensationalized reactions to ongoing state-violence and challenges us to build a sustainable movement for Khalistan that moves beyond individual forms of leadership and will outlast our lives. As a disenfranchised, displaced panth, our psyches and minds have been conditioned to compromise gur-sidhant and rely on the same systems that created our conditions of gulaami in our pursuit to achieve our azaadi and Khalistan. Yet, to break free from this binary way of thinking, we must re-embrace the modes of governance and being established by Gursikhs in the past who followed and applied gur-sidhant to achieve Raj in their own times.