Dr. Sukhmander Singh:
- In I979, Dr. Sukmander Singh received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, California.
- In I986, he started teaching at Santa Clara University and has been a Professor and Chairman of the Department of Civil Engineering since 1992.
- Dr. Sukmander Singh started farming in the Central Valley with more than 100 acres of grapes and learned the problems farmer's face.
- Before becoming teacher, Dr. Singh was a project engineer and manager for the Alyeska Pipeline Company where he handled the seismic stability and liquefaction studies for the entire 800-mile Trans Alaska pipeline. Later, he was the principal investigator to analyze the failure of the San Pablo Clearwell Dam, and handled the seismic stability and re-design of the dam.
- In 1979, he became the first President of Sikh Council of North America and he helped to construct the first Gurdwara in Houston, TX
- In 1983, Dr. Sukmander Singh published the first ever Punjabi-English newspaper in California and closed in 1985 due to some problems to run the news paper.
- In 2002, he ran for office as Congressman for 18th Congressional District, Modesto, California and made strong visibility of the Sikh turban in California as well in US.
- He was also the first president of ‘North America Akali Dal.
Dr. Sukhmander Singh lost the election but look what he said about his turban to the non-Sikhs because Sikhs have been targeted with violence and hate crimes due to their turban and beard since September 11. In the United States, almost all of the people you see wearing turbans are members of the Sikh religion. He said:
- Sikhism is the fifth largest religion in the world with over 22 million people worldwide, 1 million in North America. Turbans are a distinctive part of the Sikh identity.
- Sikhs commonly wear a peaked turban that serves partly to cover their long hair, which is never cut out of respect for God's creation.
- The turbans worn by Sikhs represent the high moral code of conduct of the Sikh religion: equality, justice and freedom for all. Sikhs are honor-bound to stand against injustice and protect all those who need their help
Betrayal of Guru Granth Sahib by Sikhs
Dr Sukhmander Singh
Vol XIII, Issue 4
Oct-Dec 2011 / 543 NS
Sikhs claim that Guru Granth Sahib is the unique scripture of world capable of providing peace and harmony to the entire humanity. There is no doubt about it. But Sikhs who are the custodians of Guru Granth Sahib have no peace or harmony among themselves. Why? This paper tries to examine the causes. In spite of ever more recitations (thought aries of Akhand Paths) of Guru Granth Sahib, many more Kirtan Darbars and flood of Kathakars, Sikhs have not been able to demonstrate to the rest of the world what they claim. The paper presents how Sikhs have focussed more on worshipping Guru Granth Sahib than following it. The paper further points out how Sikhs are fundamentally flawed, in certain aspects, in understanding the Sikh philosophy/doctrine as enshrined in Guru Granth Sahib and thus have betrayed their own Guru.
These aspects have been examined. One is the existence of middleman, so called the priest class, an institution which was neither created by the Gurus nor is appreciated in the teachings of Guru Granth Sahib. The paper explains how this has kept an ordinary Sikh from a direct contact with Guru and has allowed all kinds of meaningless rituals to creep in Sikh worship. Secondly, the paper shows how the ever increasing practice of ritualistic routines and ever bigger celebrations have led the Sikhs to believe that the understanding of Gurbani is not that necessary. All one has to do is to participate in these routines for a few days to be known as a good and respectable Sikh. The paper, however, will try to prove that it is Guru’s Hukam (command) to a Sikh to understand Gurbani and without an understanding of Gurbani one cannot even begin to become a Sikh. Finally, a deeper look has been given into the meaning of a Guru as opposed to a teacher or a preacher, and that is where lies the fundamental flaw in the way Sikhs have failed to recognize the importance of Guru Granth Sahib. The paper will elaborate more on it and the dire need to understand Gurbani.
There has always been a gap between what is practised and what is the doctrinal message of a religion. Mostly every religion has some form of rituals as part of its practice. Often too much of ritualistic practices and mask overshadow the real message. As a Sikh, I have been observing that Sikhs, in recent times, have focused more on worshipping Guru Granth Sahib than following it. Perhaps this had been the cause of failure of Sikhs in the last 50 years or so. There can be other causes too. But herein emphasis will entirely focus be on the causes related to the relationships of Sikhs with their Guru, Guru Granth Sahib.
Over some time I have carefully examined our religious practices. I have also tried to understand the Sikh philosophy/Sikh doctrine as it is propoundedly the Guru Granth Sahib in a critical way. Let me humbly submit that I am an engineering academician by profession and can be entirely wrong in understanding the theological or philosophical complexities of a religion. But what encouraged me was the thought that the Guru ordained Guru Granth Sahib in the simplest language of the time and had explained any given doctrine/principle in many ways using different words with similar meanings and have repeatedly but beautifully and refreshingly explained it over and over again. Guru did not feel the need of a middleman and hence did not establish any priestly class. All this means that even an ordinary person with a sincere desire and patience should have no difficulty in understanding Gurbani. Except that one may put on hold or skip the understanding of difficult parts and move on to understand the easier parts first then can, with the help of a learned person (not necessarily a priest) understand the difficult parts. But emphasis must be on the comprehension of Gurbani and self reading. ਗੁਰਬਾਣੀ ਦੇ ਰਟਣ ਦੀ ਬਜਾਏ ਸਮਝਣ ਤੇ ਜ਼ੋਰ ਦਿਤਾ ਜਾਵੇ
Dr. Sukhmander Singh Speaks at the Kaur Foundation and Local Gurdwaras
Dr. Sukhmander Singh, who ran for Congress in the California Democratic primaries, was the guest speaker at the Kaur Foundation’s kick-off dinner event. In response to his positive campaign ideas, he has been asked by the California governor’s office to take an active role in a federal commission.
Dr. Singh spoke to a sold-out crowd at the Bretton Woods Country Club and inspired them to do a more organized and focused service for the Sikh community. His message was about how Sikhs can take a hold of their future in America. The four steps outlined were:
1. Get Recognition: September 11 was a wake up call for Sikhs. Even after being a part of American society for over a 100 years, our fellow Americans still do not know who we are. We must be active in our day-to-day lives in informing our friends and neighbors about who we are.
2. Take Part in Your Community: We must be involved in our mainstream community by taking part in festivals, parades, and other activities. Be active in our schools, the PTA, and join sports teams. Help out in hunger drives, local charities, and walk-a-thons. These are only a few examples.
3. Raise Our Political Consciousness: Register to vote and vote in every election. Learn about the political system. Find out who the candidates for office are. Donate to a campaign. Caste an informed vote. It is our civic duty.
4. Live Up to Your Potential: We cannot speak about who we are and what we stand for if don’t have a firm foundation. And to stand on a firm foundation, each of us must read the Guru Granth Sahib for ourselves and learn the meaning - even if it takes one line per week.
Lessons Learned for Dr. Sukhmander Singh and Sikhs
As we all know, the primaries are over and Dr. Sukhmander Singh did not replace Gary Condit as the Representative from California’s 18th district. But all is not lost. For Dr. Singh, this was a learning experience in many ways. For Sikhs, perhaps this was another step on the path to have a political voice in America. So what did we learn?
About the Sikh community...
Dr. Singh says that he made the decision to run for Congress after consulting with the local Sikh community. He knew that he needed their support to raise the resources necessary to reach the wider community in the district. The 18th congressional district was re-zoned and now included Stockton, the oldest and one of the largest Sikh communities in the U.S. The Sikhs in this district were also well integrated with the greater community and could help spread his message. Dr. Singh was assured by the Sikh community leaders that he would be able to raise the $500,000 needed to run a competitive campaign. But it did not turn out that way. What he thought was solid support turned out to be empty promises, not only in terms of money but also voter turnout and volunteering.
Dr. Singh indicates that the lack of support was mainly due to apathy of the Sikhs to get involved in the election process. He felt that the Sikh community still did not understand the importance of having a political voice in this country. “Who is going to speak for us,” he asked? “We have to do it ourselves and not rely on others.” The majority of the Sikhs in the district were not even registered. For example, out of 1042 families listed at the Sikh Gurdwara in Modesto, only about 165 people were registered.
Gurdwara politics also played a negative role. Jealousies and group alliances were a problem. With all the in-fighting and divisions in the Gurdwaras, Dr. Singh says that if he were to talk to members of one group, the opposite group would get upset and threaten to withdraw their support.
The funds that were promised did not materialize and neither did the volunteers. According to Dr. Singh, people would offer to volunteer to do certain tasks and then not show up. Reliable volunteers were hard to come by. The Singh campaign ran with the help of only a handful of people. Among them was a dedicated brother and sister team who came from New York to run his campaign office.
About how the campaign was financed...
Although Dr. Singh registered to run in November, he did not start campaigning till after the holiday season, in January. Most of the delay was because the congressional districts were not redrawn till October. Yet, within a couple of months, Dr. Singh was able to raise about $60,000 - $50,000 from donations and $10,000 from his own pocket. And he used it wisely.
The two leading candidates, Gary Condit, the incumbent, and Dennis Cardoza, the state assemblyman, spent as much for printing and mailing only two campaign fliers. The Singh campaign folks were more prudent, however. Not only did they also print and mail two highly professional fliers, totaling more than 100,000 pieces, they created and put out 2500 yard and roadside signs, 50 billboard signs, sent 6000 registration packages to absentee voters, and created a phone bank that reached more than 1,000 targeted voters. In addition, the Singh campaign built a database of volunteers, donors, registered voters and new registered voters; and created the website www.Singh2002.com.
But that was not enough. Dr. Singh was considerably out-financed by Condit and Cardoza who also had name recognition going for them. According to the Mar 7, USA Today article “Condit Looses to Protegeˊ in Primary,” even Condit was hampered by fund-raising problems. He had to lend his campaign $50,000 from his own pocket to pay for last minute fliers. Cardoza, however, outspent Condit and was the only candidate able to run numerous TV adds, which is the best yet the most expensive way to reach voters. According to Ed Vasquez, Dr. Singh’s campaign manager, Gary Condit’s campaign spent about $250,000 and Dennis Cardoza’s campaign spent about $500,000.
“Campaigning was very hard work,” says Dr. Singh. He had to walk the walk and talk the talk. He walked the streets and chatted with voters at sidewalk cafes and coffee shops. He talked to community members at various organizations, including the Stockton, Merced, African American, and Hispanic Chambers of Commerce. And he met many students at local colleges and universities. The voters he spoke to received him positively.
In addition to the one-on-one chats, Dr. Singh also presented his talking points and issues at numerous forums and debates with the other candidates. Among these were the League of Women Voters, the Democratic Council, the Radio Merced Forum and Debate, and a televised Town hall Meeting. Unfortunately, at the debates, most questions were addressed to either Gary Condit or Dennis Cardoza.
About the media coverage...
Again, both the local and national media focused disproportionately on Gary Condit and Dennis Cardoza, especially in the last two weeks before the election. Still, Dr. Singh managed to get favorable coverage in five local newspapers, the Los Angeles Times, and several local radio stations. The ABC, NBC, and CBS affiliates in Fresno and Sacramento also covered his story, including a one-hour talk show exclusively with Dr. Singh. And even the major Indian newspapers such as India Abroad published articles about his campaign. All the coverage was positive and favorable to Dr. Singh in terms of his ideas for the district and the dignified campaign he ran.
An excerpt from the Mar 4, New York Times article, “Challenging Gary Condit Without Using His Name,” says it all.
"He could let the other four Democratic challengers for Mr. Condit's seat in the 18th Congressional District use the incumbent's relationship with a missing 24-year-old Washington intern to propel their profiles in Tuesday's primary election. Dr. Singh, 62, had novelty, not to mention the academic's knack for asking provocative questions, on his side. "Do you know about some of the water problems we have in the district?" he asked Steve Groom, a Stockton certified public accountant watching the world go by.”
“Dr. Singh is hardly the front-runner in the race - a state assemblyman, Dennis Cardoza, once Mr. Condit's closest ally and chief of staff, is considered the candidate to beat. (The other candidates are Ralph L. White, a former Stockton city councilman; Joseph Martin, a gas station manager who lives in San Jose; and Elvis Pringle, a record producer who lives in a Los Angeles suburb.) But the gentleman whose beard and turban have made him the object of much curiosity has managed to charm a district once considered "Condit Country." Dr. Singh's campaign slogan is "Restoring Values to the Valley." As a symbolic candidate, he has not had to use the Condit card once.”
About the election results...
All the positive press and the endless campaigning was still not enough. The voter turnout in the district was dismal with only 43,000 votes cast, about 30% less than the previous election. Cardoza won the election with over 53% of the votes. Condit received just under 40% of the votes. The rest of the 7% was divided among the remaining four candidates. These statistics can be found at the web site of the Secretary of the State of California at www.ss.ca.gov.
The reason, Dr. Singh believes he lost in the primary, was money. He did not have the kind of funds needed to compete with the top two candidates.
Some voters who liked Dr. Singh’s ideas voted for Cardoza anyway because they wanted to vote out Gary Condit. If Dr. Singh had a great number of votes, it would have been at the expense of Dennis Cardoza. The vote would have split and Condit would have won. That is what some voters were saying at the exit polls. Still, the votes were just not there.
Another reason was that the Cardoza name had a great appeal to the large Latino population in the district. Reaching out to ethnic minorities as well as mainstream voters is extremely important. “We tried to do all this, but the shortage of funds and manpower stood in the way,” states Dr. Singh.
“Our strategy was to provide the voters with a reason to vote for me and to explain the difference between the candidates,” he says. A more aggressive strategy would have been to explain the poor record that Cardoza had on job creation, his anti-job votes, his votes against working families and the agricultural community, and the use of taxpayer money to pay for campaign materials. But that would not have been a positive campaign.
About the accomplishments for Sikhs...
"One bonus of this campaign," Dr. Singh said, "is that it is teaching people that those of us with turbans and beards are just as American as everyone else."
In his thank you letter to donors, he states, “I want to leave you with some positive feelings. We generated so much positive coverage for our community and our commitment to Sikhism that the media coverage in itself was worth more than a million dollars. We could not have bought that type of positive coverage for our community. Secondly, we showed Cardoza and Condit that we could wage a campaign on their turf and compete with the same tools that they use. Our brochures, signs, logos and website were as good as anything they produced. And finally, by raising the funds that we did raise, we once again have left an impression with the Democratic Party that Sikhs will be part of the American electoral process for years to come.”
About the future for Sikhs...
Dr. Singh says that he plans to continue talking to public officials to ensure that the concerns of Sikhs are addressed. He is also trying to lobby to appoint Sikhs to state and federal committees in the next few months. He is asking that if anyone is interested in serving on a state or federal committee or commission, to please let him know.
As for Dr. Singh, he is still working at a dizzying pace as a Professor of Civil Engineering at Santa Clara University. Recently he got a call from the Governor’s office. They were interested in his ideas for the district and were impressed by his campaign. The Governor’s office is offering him a position on a federal committee. Which one? “Pick one,” they said.
Dr. Singh is also planning to take his message to Sikh communities around the country. He will talk to Sikhs, especially young Sikhs, about the importance of becoming involved in the community and politics. Political office can only be achieved if it is methodically planned on a national level. Other minority communities such an the Jewish Americans, the Asian Americans, and the Latin Americans are well organized and have representation in government. Sikhs can do it too.
“Sikhs need a voice in this country. No one can truly speak for us but ourselves,” says Dr. Sukhmander Singh. This campaign was another step in opening the door for future generations who will one day be a part of American politics, and by default, world politics.
Dr. Sukhmander Singh is Running for Congress
Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa
Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh
I wish to thank you all for your kind emails and generous support generated by my candidacy for Congress. Some of you may have received the following letter from our friends and supporters or seen it posted in newsgroups. I apologize for the duplicity.
For those of you who have not seen it, here is the letter that went out yesterday. Please feel free to distribute this widely.
LETTER FROM YESTERDAY
I have made one of the biggest decisions in my life and I want you in the Sikh community to be part of it.
Many of you may have already read the buzz that my campaign for US Congress is causing. You can go to our
web site,www.singh2002.com, to read the newspaper article and see the latest on my campaign.
Because I believe we must take serious steps to improve the quality of education for our young people, and because I am committed to helping create jobs in an area that has an unemployment rate of more than twice the national average, I have decided to run for U.S.Congress and I need your help.
This is not a decision that I take lightly. I know that campaigns are grueling and require sacrifice and dedication. However, if you believe in upholding the dignity of Sikhs in America and in the future of Sikhs as public servants as I do, and you believe we must have a voice in Washington, then I would be honored to have your help getting there.
Already I have sat down with a team of highly qualified, well-respected campaign consultants and advisors, and mapped out a strategy - but that's not enough. In the next 45 days I must continue to get our name and message before voters, requiring the purchase of additional yard signs, literature and five district-wide mailings. We already have 1000 signs and a high quality brochure, along with more than 40 campaign appearances scheduled.
It appears that that this campaign will cost in excess of $300,000. I need to raise another $200,000. As you know, I am a college professor, not a man of great personal wealth and so I am turning to my community and humbly inviting you to get involved in our campaign and help make a difference.
Your willingness to step forward with a contribution of $25, $50, $100, $250, $500 or $1,000 will mean the world to our cause. Your contribution is the first step on the road to winning the Congressional seat now held by Gary Condit and you'll have my deep appreciation for everything you are able to do for our cause and for the long overdue recognition of Sikhs in
Election Day is March 5th. Time is of the essence as we are developing our voter outreach efforts. We must continue developing our literature now so that it is ready to be mailed to voters beginning in February, so please don't set this letter aside and forget about it.
This campaign is winnable. Less than 60,000 voters will be deciding this election, meaning that with three candidates, 20,000 votes will provide victory. There are an estimated 10,000 Sikhs eligible to vote in this Congressional District.
Thank you for your time and we look forward to hearing from you. Please make checks payable to Friends of Singh for Congress.
Warmest personal regards and Gur Fateh
Dr. Sukhmander Singh
You can contribute online at www.singh2002.com or
mail you contribution to:
Friends of Singh for Congress
3230 Mitchell Road, Suite D
Ceres, CA 95307