confirms Fremont Sikh Gurdwara election results
New leaders' rule as
the Supreme Council begins Sunday
HAYWARD, Jan 15, 2005
By Julie Kay, STAFF WRITER
After eight years of heated and sometimes violent
debate over who should rule Fremont's powerful Sikh
temple, a judge announced Thursday that leadership would
be handed to five men who were chosen in the painstakingly
organized election last Sunday.
About 20 members of the temple, or gurdwara, assembled
in a courtroom at the Hayward Hall of Justice to hear
the results. Afterward, several of the newly elected
leaders gathered outside, removing their shoes, clasping
their hands and thanking God for the outcome.
The new leaders' official rule in the leadership body,
called the Supreme Council, begins Sunday.
"We want first to develop a process, a beautiful
process, so that we should not be knocking on the courtroom
door (again)," said Gurmeet Singh, his cheeks glistening
with tears. "Everyone should feel a part of this
The announcement came more than eight years after the
gurdwara's last official election, when disputed results
spurred violence and nine arrests.
Discord boiled over again in 2002, when police in riot
gear supervised an impromptu election at a general assembly
ing. This time, the matter ended up in court. The gurdwara
is the second largest in the nation. Its leaders set
temple policy and oversee annual revenues of $1 million.
Sikhism, the roots of which are in the northern Indian
state of Punjab, originated more than 500 years ago.
The faith has 25 million observers worldwide, including
about 50,000 in the Bay Area.
At the heart of the dispute between two factions at
the Fremont gurdwara has been whether temple leaders
should be regularly elected or should serve for life.
Gurmeet Singh was one of five plaintiffs who argued
for regular elections.
In her 2002 ruling, Superior Court Judge Julia Spain
applied the California Corporations Code, which mandates
annual elections for religious nonprofit organizations,
in place of temple bylaws that did not specify term
lengths for leaders.
Last Sunday's election was, for many, a long-awaited
outcome of Spain's decision, as was the meticulous process
that preceded it to determine who could vote and to
More than 4,000 people cast ballots at the gurdwara
Sunday, some waiting hours to name their five picks
from the 11 candidates, who ran on two different platforms,
each loosely affiliated with one of the two factions.
About two-thirds voted for Gurmeet Singh's party.
After their prayer of gratitude, the winners reached
for their cell phones to share the news.
None of the members from the other party were present
at the hearing. Jesse Singh, a supporter of the incumbent
leaders, said they had not been informed of the announcement.
Gurbux Kaur Khalom was one of five candidates from
the losing Sadh Sangat party and the only woman to run
in the gurdwara's history.
"I think the congregation has spoken and we should
all respect that," she said. "Hopefully the
people who are elected will respect the wishes of the
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