Proactively Protecting Gurdwaras

Since the Oak Creek, WI tragedy where five Sikhs were brutally murdered by a White neo-Nazi terrorist, Sikhs at various Gurdwaras are still trying to figure out the proper way to protect themselves when most of the congregations gather on weekends at various Gurdwaras across the nation.

The current situation is as follows in varying degrees:

  • Close circuit cameras installed at the front door, lobby, inside the diwan hall, etc.
  • Sangat made more aware of strangers who maybe shady characters in their midst.
  • A few Gurdwaras have hired Police officers to stand guard during the diwan time.
  • Many Gurdwara committee members have reached out and got training from DHS personnel on security protocol to protect the Gurdwaras/sangat.

Sadly, the training given by Homeland Security (DHS) personnel is not very effective, as it focuses on relying on the sangat to “run for their lives”. It is a “feel good” exercise.  DHS feels good that they have provided some training and the committee members feel secure that they now have training videos. These don’t help stop attacks. Drills are to be performed regularly by trained personnel, with the object of learning to hide or running out of the Gurdwara and away from the shooter. How many times has a drill been performed at your Gurdwara? Additionally, the sangat is expected to be looking over its shoulder at all times and not focusing on the words of the Guru.

Police presence (not occasional patrol) is a better way but can be intimidating and expensive.

One Gurdwara has done what Sikhs should be doing not only because it make sense but it also fits with our faith about protecting ourselves and others by taking personal responsibility.

The committee and the sangat at the New England Sikh Sudy Circle Gurdwara , Westborough, MA has taken the right step after much deliberation and put their money where their mouth is; literally and should be applauded for it!

  1. With the permission and approval of the entire sangat four (4) Sikhs have concealed and licensed weapons and at a minimum, at any given time at least two out of the four are always present at any of the weekends or any diwans held at any time.
  2. Most of the time these four Sikhs also have their families present at the gurdwara.
  3. Any two out of the four of these Sikhs at random, station themselves at the main entrance of the Gurdwara.
  4. Only one main door opens both from inside and outside.
  5. All other doors can only be opened from inside.
  6. All the areas inside and outside are monitored with a close circuit cameras.
  7. All the cameras are live and connected with the police and monitored.
  8. The four armed Sikhs get regular training from the Police.
  9. All four armed Sikhs are registered with the Police voluntarily.
  10. There are additional volunteers (at least five in the case of Westborough Gurdwara, MA) with walkie-talkies who are constantly manning the outside parking lot, perimeter and always maintain contact with Sikhs inside.

Currently only 3-4 other Gurdwaras in the US have followed this protocol. This is called pro-active planning and implementation rather than being reactive, poor planning and being timid in many ways.

Becoming an ‘amritdhari’ Sikh carries much more responsibility that most Sikhs understand! First, understand the core responsibility of defending self and then all others. Second, the ‘kirpan’ is clearly a weapon of self-defense and not just a symbol to be hung. Third, therefore Sikhs automatically believe in the 2nd amendment, i.e., “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”  Fourth, part of becoming ‘amritdhari’ it is important that ‘all’ neophytes must learn how to use the ‘kirpan’ properly, otherwise it becomes a useless trinket with no teeth behind it. Fifth, Sikhs proclaim loudly to everyone that the ‘kirpan’ is meant to protect others in need, yet today’s Sikhs can barely protect themselves or use the ‘kirpan’ if needed. Sixth, the handgun is simply an extension and the next step in the self-protection protocol. Seventh, those Sikhs who depend completely on the goodwill of ‘others’ to protect to them and/or are scared to even hold a gun can possibly be in a very comprising position when push comes to shove. (A perfect example is the start of the ‘Sustained Sikh Genocide’ in 1984. Those Sikhs who were armed with kirpans and guns are mostly still alive while many others who were unarmed were gang raped and burnt alive.)

In short if you are ‘Amritdhari’ you are automatically ‘Shastardhari’ and many miss the point! We are blessed with some wonderful Gatka teachers in our Faith. Not just children, but all the ‘amritdhari-shastardhari’ adult Singhs and Singhnia need to practice seriously and get in shape proactively, as you never know when you will need to defend yourselves and others. Part of the step up is to learn how to shoot, which would entail going to a gun range regularly and practicing with various weapons. Our tenth preceptor Guru Gobind Singhji gave the clear clarion call to the Khalsa, “Thyar Per Thyar”! The real question is, ‘are we prepared’?

ASC strongly urge the members, trustees and the BOD of all gurdwaras to think about stepping up your game in this direction, instead of hiring one lonely police officer who has no skin in the game and if push comes to shove, there is no guarantee that he/she will stand their ground on our behalf.

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