UPDATE Oct. 2020: THE FAMILY OF THE VICTIM HAS SPOKEN AND GIVEN A FULL EXPLANATION AS TO THE EXTENT OF GURDARSHAN SINGH’S PREDATORY BEHAVIOR AS WELL AS HOW THE GGSF COMMITTEE AND RAJWANT SINGH SHIELDED HIM. THEIR FULL STATEMENT IS ALSO HERE: http://realsikhissues.co/2020/10/16/victims-of-gurdarshan-singh-maryland-speak-out/
As Sikhs, we are raised with the belief in speaking to power and standing up for what is right even when it is overwhelmingly hard to. Part of that responsibility is being able to have difficult conversations when it comes to ugly realities that infiltrate Sikh institutions and spaces, having conversations about them, and dealing with them head-on to purge them.
Gurdarshan Singh is the head Gyani of the Guru Gobind Singh Foundation (GGSF) Gurdwara located in Montgomery, Maryland. As a head gyani, he performs kirtan, does katha, oversees Gurdwara management, does public speaking events, and also holds children’s camps for the promotion of Sikhi. However, Gurdarshan Singh has an extremely problematic past that NEEDS to be addressed and dealt with – he is a convicted sexual abuser of a minor.
We understand that such allegations can be dangerous if not proven, but Gurdarshan Singh’s conviction is open-access knowledge: we will be quoting solely from the official government document that discusses the case, which is openly accessible online through the following link (which we encourage readers of this blog to read for themselves in full) https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/USCOURTS-ca4-06-01948/pdf/USCOURTS-ca4-06-01948-0.pdf
The report states that “Since entering the United States, Singh has resided in the Washington, D.C. area, where he has served as a spiritual leader for the Indian Sikh community. Singh also gave piano lessons to children in the Sikh community”, confirming that it is indeed the same Gurdarshan Singh who is still a Bhai Sahib in the Maryland community.
With regards to his specific crime, the report very clearly states that:
“In 1996, Singh was accused of improperly touching one of his piano students, whom he had taught from 1989 until 1991. The alleged victim was between eleven and thirteen years of age during the relevant time period. In January 1997, Singh pled guilty to one count of Sexual Offense in the Fourth Degree in violation of Article 27, § 464(C) of the Maryland Code.”
“After filing a motion for reconsideration in his state court criminal proceedings, in August 1997, Singh was resentenced to 360 days imprisonment, which was suspended, and his plea was amended to clarify that he was convicted of violating § 464(C)(a)(1) of the Maryland Code, which provided that: ‘A person is guilty of a sexual offense in the fourth degree if the person engages: (1) in sexual contact with another person against the will and without the consent of the other person . . .’ “
This is not just a rumor, nor are there “multiple sides to this story” – Gurdarshan Singh literally PLED GUILTY and served in jail time for his crime.
Many have justified this with “he served his jail time, it’s fine” – we would like to point out that what the State of Maryland designates as legal punishment for a crime is not the sole standard by which the Sikh panth and sangat should treat it. The Sikhi we believe in is one that stands for unapologetic justice and absolutely no space for sexual violence. That Gurdarshan Singh is still a core member of the GGSF board, runs camps for children, interacts with other members of the DMV Sikh community, and has effectively had no consequence beyond the jail time he served. Is this the type of people that the Guru Gobind Singh Foundation wants to be known for protecting? Are we going to let an individual who sexually molested a minor interact with children on a daily basis without the community knowing.
It has been 23 years, and that is 23 years too long – 2020 is the year that Gurdarshan Singh needs to be held accountable by the GGSF sangat, the DC-Maryland-Virginia sangat, and the worldwide Sikh sangat.
We hope that the GGSF sangat can start internal discussion on removing Gurdarshan from positions of authority in the Gurdwara – we also encourage Sikh Gurdwaras in the DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia) to place a complete boycott Gurdarshan as an individual, and for concerned Sikhs to also directly contact GGSF (can be found at https://www.facebook.com/ggsfusa/) to push for change. We wish to emphasize that many of the sangat members of GGSF are themselves completely unaware of this, and to not tar the entire community or those who unknowingly have interacted with him – but to directly shine light on systems of power that enable him to stay in the Gurdwara as a leading member and stop these immediately.