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Sarbat Khalsa

Following on from the previous posts highlighting the status of the Guru Khalsa Panth and the authority (or lack thereof) of the Akaal Takht, this post expands further on the concept of the “Sarbat Khalsa”.

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Origins

The Sarbat Khalsa is a meeting amongst Khalsa Sikh to pass resolutions or “Gurmatte” on matters affecting the Khalsa and to determine appropriate strategies for the future. The first instance of this can be attributed to when Guru Gobind Singh summoned the Sangat in the late 17th century to formally bring about the inception of the Guru Khalsa Panth.
Since then, the Guru Khalsa Panth would hold further assemblies of this sort as an expression of their collective Guru status after the departure of the human Gurus in order to reach decisions affecting the whole Panth. Notable examples include the decision related to the Nawabi of Sardar Kapoor Singh and the subsequent resolutions to reformat the Khalsa into Misls in later Sarbat Khalsa gatherings. When the Misl system arose, the Sarbat Khalsa became an opportunity for Misldhars to coordinate activity strategically and deal with shared external threats such as those associated with the Mughals and Afghans.

However, when the Khalsa centralised under Maharaja Ranjit Singh, this practice fell off as decision making was similarly centralised under one-political will determined in the Darbars of M.Ranjit Singh (and under the supervision of Akaali Phoola Singh). The Misls themselves lost much of their autonomy and formed part of the imperial army instead.
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As with all instances of putting your eggs in one basket, this experiment in centralisation inevitably failed despite its vast successes while it lasted, thereafter the Khalsa Panth plunged into chaos and near extinction.
In time, the survivors would return, but to a new landscape of Sikhi. With this paradigm shift came the distortion and watering-down of much of the original Sikh and Khalsa traditions and understandings. In particular, the concept of the Sarbat Khalsa...

How do they work now?


They pretty much don’t.
Post-British colonialism, the Sarbat Khalsa has become a complete and utter mockery. Instead of being a meeting between Khalsa Misls to coordinate and strategise amongst themselves, it has become a circus show where those who do not practice or even appear like the Khalsa dictate mandates for the whole Sikh population as if Sikhs are a standardised community and they are our prime-ministers or “popes” (see the previous post ).

Demagogue noun
A political leader who seeks support by appealing to the desires and prejudices of ordinary people rather than by using rational argument.

Now these things have become displays of subjugation. By virtue of the format of them, they can be manipulated by demagogues who appeal to the masses through pulling on heartstrings and exploiting emotions to gain power and legitimacy.
Usually Babai and organisations originating from offshoot traditions from the Khalsa or sects and cults with dubious allegiances lead them and produce a list of resolutions. The wider public are invited to attend and if they can get enough people to shout loud enough Jaikare then this apparently determines their legitimacy.
How is this even measured, is there some guy recording how high the decibels were hit? Does it have to be above a certain level to count? What if you disagree, do you just not say anything or do a quieter Jaikara?? Obviously this will be drowned out so how is the no vote counted? How do we know attendees are all informed enough to have a vote? How do we know everyone present are even at least Sikh???
This is one the worst ways of achieving a consensus, and is arguably even worse than the broken ballot-box system or direct democracy in general which was called out by Socrates over 2000 years ago! Azadism has critiqued democracy as a concept extensively and if you would like to know more about this, read Section V of the Azadist Manifesto.
So no wonder why these are so ineffective. It is a direct insult to the Gurgaddi of the Khalsa, and such poor display of our Panths ability to act professionally. The Misls operated at such a higher level strategically, even despite being a few hundreds years old, they were still ahead of where we are now. How embarrassing and unsophisticated for a people who claim to be Akaal Purakh Ki Fauj.

Reform the Sarbat Khalsa


As the Guru Khalsa Panth, we have every right to reformat our political institutions to make them effective and adaptive to the everchanging situations we are in. This recent distortion of the Sarbat Khalsa practice is clearly severely lacking, and so here is an alternative.
Firstly we must move away from this idea that a Sarbat Khalsa is meant to be a sort of “general election” where everyone gets a vote via shouting Jaikare. It is not meant to be a democratic public vote, and the concept of direct democracy itself is ridiculous.
A more effective undertaking would be to treat them once again as strategy meetings to coordinate activity between Sikh institutions and organisations that are actually working on things. It would serve as an opportunity to bring Panthic organisations together in order to review the last six months, set targets for the next six months and resolve any issues or develop shared plans.
Similar to how the Misls operated them in the past, and how various agencies within modern bureaucracies meet today (such as how the FBI, CIA etc meet regularly to share intel and ensure they are not stepping on each others feet).
It does NOT need be some public meeting, although it could have some public outputs. But it for sure needs a private element for there to be any serious progress. The attendees need only be those that are actually working on something and therefore an actual need to coordinate effectively.

Sarbat Khalsa, not Sarbat Sikh...


... and most definitely not Sarbat anyone who turns up and shouts the loudest!
It is a Nishaani of how sheepish this Panth has become to legitimise the current method of Sarbat Khalsa or any of the resolutions passed by them. I may agree or disagree with each decision on their own merit, but not on the sole basis that they originate from this farce of a technique that has been misappropriated as a “Sarbat Khalsa”.
This current method is NOT a Sarbat Khalsa and hence holds zero legitimacy in my mind. Which is further highlighted by their lack of enforceability and results anyway.
The only types of Sarbat Khalsa I recognise as legitimate are the kinds where orgs like Basics of Sikhi, Saving Punjab, Khalsa Aid etc come together every 6 months to discuss what they did in last 6 months, what they all planning to do in the next 6 and if there’s any areas they could help each other with or any disagreements to iron out.
Actual 👏 proper 👏 strategic 👏 meetings 👏 with 👏 outcomes 👏 and 👏 actions.
Governments and businesses do this all the time, why are we so behind?

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So to reiterate: the Sarbat Khalsa isn't meant to be some democratic election like the west does every few years to decide which clown gets put in charge of the nukes.
It's a strategy meeting between different Khalsa Misls, in a similar way how modern agencies coordinate for missions in nations. They don't broadcast their intentions and get the whole public involved to do this weird clapping contest where you make some noise if you agree. And neither should we.
Forget this idea of congregating like cattle in a big field and giving platforms to shepherds who treat us like sheep. If the Akaal Takht were to be utilized once again as a practical institution, then it should abandon being some Sikh version of a Disney Land attraction and become an actual secure meeting place for the Khalsa organised as a modernised Misl system (something detailed further in the on how to tweak and improve it compared to the last time we tried it).
As for decision making within Khalsa organisations, institutions or (hopefully one day again) Misls, these can and should be done independently and can receive the input of anyone as per the unique constitution of each one. Whenever interests align and multiple Khalsa entities come together to coordinate, then this is a better representation of Sarbat Khalsa than what is often pushed as one these days. Instead this format of Panthic reconciliation respects the autonomy and independent authority of each entity over their own jurisdictions — as per the Guru Khalsa way.
One can't impose a centralised will over another, and each is given a final say in their own matters regardless of the consensus. Thus requiring compromise and patience if you want anything done together, whilst maintaining and respecting each others independence and autonomy. Something that is severely lacking in the broken Panthic systems of today. This is not a top down autocratic relationship, it is a partnership for mutual benefit. If an agreement can not be reached, then fine. Each try it their way and let the results/consequences speak for themselves.
The beauty of this way is that it requires no overarching centralised authority to administer and mandate this way of doing them. It can happen right now!
If you want to be a part of our entity, then consider applying to Bunga Azaadi and give your input! All Sikhs are welcome to apply, Khalsa or not. The Bunga is more of a support mechanism for the Khalsa who operate behind the scenes by providing advanced vichaars and outputs. So when it comes time negotiate and host Sarbat Khalsa in this style, then it will indeed be a productive activity, with accountability and measurability.
We require no mandate from anyone else to do the work we wish to do. If I waited around for everyone to unanimously unite and hold a Sarbat Khalsa to decide how a Sikh State would work, then I would still be waiting till we are all dead and long gone. Instead, Azadism and the Azadist Manifesto was established as an attempt to produce at least something as a starting point and iterate from there with individuals receptive to the effort. With Bunga Azaadi, this is now evolving.
It's about time we abandon an Ekta first mentality, and adopt a results first mentality…

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Bunga Azaadi — Institute for Azadist Studies

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