Sikhs claim miscommunication partly to blame for angry neighbor

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) - Members of Gurdwara Guru Dashmesh Darbar Inc. deny their neighbor's accusations that they've been dumping raw sewage on the ground.

Balmeet Singh said Friday that they would never do that, because it's against their religious beliefs.

"For Sikhs, environmental conservation is actually a spiritual obligation to uphold," said Balmeet Singh. "These are the values we wanted to pass down to our children, and through that, one of the things that came out was the creation of this park."

The grounds include storage buildings, classrooms and a vegetable garden - a garden that gurdwara spokesperson Ranjit Singh said is fertilized, but not with sewage.

"We did have a vegetable garden, and it did have manure, and it does have that natural odor," Ranjit Singh said.

Ranjit Singh said the claims do not reflect a majority of the neighborhood.

"There's only one man that approached, and he never approaches us from the front door, only in the evenings, when he's not sober, from behind the walls," Ranjit Singh said.

Another neighbor claimed he was confronted with swords when he approached the front door, but Balmeet Singh offered an explanation for that.

Sikhs carry ceremonial swords as part of their religious practice.

"This is an example of a kirpan. As you can see, it's covered in a sheath. If this is considered confrontational, I think there may have been some miscommunication," Balmeet Singh said.

Ranjit Singh said they've been transparent with city officials.

"He has made, many times, calls to the irrigation department, and they came out and gave us a green light, that there hasn't been a drop of water from our property to the canal," Ranjit Singh said.

Investigations are ongoing with the Environmental Health Department and Kern County Code Compliance. They tell us the gurdwara and its members are working to resolve any violations.

For members of the gurdwara, the negotiations don't stop there.

"We can have an open dialogue about how to be better neighbors with each other," said Balmeet Singh, "and how to avoid these sort of communication breakdowns in the future."

The gurdwara is inviting members of the public to attend a free dinner and open forum in order to discuss community concerns at 2 p.m. Sunday. The event will be held at 7000 Wible Road.