Despite all the controversies, the World Sikh Conference Australia 2016 concluded on 13th March 2016 in Melbourne. Scholars and global leaders of the Sikh community from all over the world congregated in Melbourne for a three-day World Sikh Conference beginning on March 10.
During the discussions before the start of this conference, there was a long list of around 40-45 Sikh Scholars presented to Sikh Sangat in Australia, however during the conference, only about 15 Sikh speakers were finally able to make up at the conference.
The three day conference was spread over the following themes:
- Day 1 – Sikh Sovereignty (Long term 5+ years)
- Day 2 – Akal Takht Sahib & World Sikh Parliament ( 3-5 years)
- Day 3 – Sarbat Khalsa & Jathedars ( 0-1 years)
The conference was attended by Bhai Harinder Singh (Ex-Sikhri), MPP Jagmeet Singh, Moninder Singh (Youth Activist Canada), S Jarnail Singh (AAP Delhi MLA), S Hardial Singh (Global Sikh Affairs), Jathedar Sukhdev Singh Bhaur, Giani Kewal Singh (Ex-Jathedar), S Resham Singh USA (Akal Dal Mann), Giani Isher Singh (Research Scholar, USA), Yadwinder Singh (USA), Prof Gurdarshan Singh Dhillon, S Gurtej Singh IAS, Adv Rajwinder Singh Bains, S Sarabjit Singh Verka (Human Rights Investigator), Radio Voice of Khalsa Team and others. The three day conference was splitted into open discussions, workshops & question answer sessions.
Here are some positive & negative aspects of the conference:
- There were a lot of shortcomings in the logistics and planning of the conference.
- The speakers were not fully aware of the topics to be presented, so many a times, it looked like that they were contradicting each other and going away from their topics.
- Local Media was not invited formally to take part in the conference.
- The workshops were only planned overnight, there was not much info delivered to the facilitators about the topics beforehand. So it was a challenge for facilitators to get the desired consensus build up through the workshop questions.
- Initially there were daily programs designed at Gurdwaras in the evening to keep sangat involved, however this was cancelled without the knowledge of all members of organising committee even.
- A lot of speakers were themselves contradicting the topics to be discussed and one of them even walked out on the second day of the conference.
- There were a lot of personal attacks by the speakers amongst themselves, which showed their own level of arrogance and discipline.
- Ques Answer sessions were not properly planned.
- Despite broadly dissimilar views, it was an achievement to have contradicting views discussed on the table.
- It was a great networking opportunity to meet speakers/scholars/Activists from various fields and locations so as to get to know some ground level realities and works going in those fields.
- There was a minimum consensus reached by the end of the conference which included views of the Sangat as well as different speakers.
- The Audio/Video streaming of the conference was well organized to reach a wide audience.
Considering a big budget & resources were spent on this conference, There are some big lessons to be learnt prior to organizing such conferences in future:
- First and foremost, such conferences should not be held under the influence of one jathebandi/organization and instead should be independently organised by Gurdwara/Sikh body which is not politically or religiously affiliated to any particular jathebandi or political party.
- Speakers shd be asked to send their excerpts beforehand on the topics laid down by the Conference organisers.
- A proper planning and layout should be designed well-ahead of the conference and local level meetings should be done to include various organisations & activists.
- An un-anonymous and written feedback sheet should be prepared at the end of the day to collate conference feedback from audience and speakers as well.
- A video conferencing facility should be arranged for any overseas or inter-state speakers, who are unable to physically participate in the conference.
Overall the conference concluded peacefully with the support of Sikh Sangat who actively participated in the conference. A key hand in making this conference successful was played by Bhai Harinder Singh ji (Ex- Sikhri), who very well handled the stage and patiently tried to keep everyone on the track. So big kudos to him!!!
No doubt we should keep scratching our heads to share the message of Sikhi and discuss the ongoing problems in Punjab as well as diaspora Sikhs. With proper planning, such conferences can definitely bring more success among Sikhs.