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Moderates Win Hotly Contested Election for Control of North America's Largest Gurdwara
By KIM BOLAN
The Vancouver Sun, Dec. 9, 2002
"The new president of Canada's largest Sikh temple says his first priority is to address the Indo-Canadian youth violence that is plaguing the community. Jarnail Singh Bhandal, who won a hotly contested weekend election for control of Vancouver's Ross Street temple, said Sunday he intends to organize a series of workshops and seminars on the youth violence believed linked to drugs and gangs. As Saturday's temple vote was being held at polling stations across the Lower Mainland, five young Indo-Canadians were shot in a conflict with a rival gang outside a Surrey pub. One of the five remains in critical condition in hospital and may not survive."
"Bhandal's moderate group swept all positions for the executive of the Khalsa Diwan Society that runs the temple. With more than 80,000 voting members, the temple is the largest and oldest in North America. Unlike other recent election campaigns, Saturday's went smoothly without any threat of violence or protest. Police in Abbotsford, Surrey and Vancouver were on hand to maintain order outside polling stations. More than 18,000 people voted, with Bhandal's group taking 10,500 votes to about 7,500 for the opponents."
"The opposing slate was made up of a splinter moderate group, backed by fundamentalists against the use of table and chairs in the temple's dining hall, including former members of the separatist International Sikh Youth Federation, the World Sikh Organization and the Babbar Khalsa. But the table and chairs issue, which led to violence at the temples four years ago, was not a major issue during the election campaign, even though Bhandal and fellow candidate Kashmir Singh Dhaliwal were on a list of six moderate Sikhs excommunicated by a controversial Indian high priest in 1998. The high priest, Ranjit Singh, who was later sacked, ordered Sikhs around the world to remove tables and chairs or face the consequences. He singled out moderate Sikhs in B.C., including the murdered publisher Tara Singh Hayer, for excommunication."
"Bikar Singh Dhillon, who ran for the losing slate, said Sunday that he accepted the result and thanked everyone who got out to vote. Dhillon said the result shows that the temple membership does not accept the edict to remove the tables and chairs, nor the excommunication. 'This vote means there is no problem for the people who've been excommunicated,' Dhillon said. 'The edict doesn't carry any weight.' Dhillon said he will work with the new executive on the issue of youth and gang violence. Since he was shot in a still-unsolved 1991 attack, the violence perpetrated by some elements in the community has grown, Dhillon said. 'I want to cooperate with the new executive committee in addressing these problems.' "
"The election came after months of both sides wrangling over procedures in B.C. Supreme Court, something that cost the charitable society tens of thousands in legal fees. Balwant Singh Gill, a Surrey temple president who supported the winning slate, said it is a shame money donated to the temple had to be spent on lawyers instead of community projects. 'They kept going to court to challenge everything,' Gill said. 'We could have used that money for other more important things.' "