Monday, 29 June, 2009

Road to Harmandir Sahib made encroachment-free


Road to Harmandir Sahib made encroachment-free


Encroachments being removed by the Municipal Corporation near the Golden Temple in Amritsar.
Amritsar, Punjab: The civic authorities removed the encroachments on both sides of the road leading to the Golden Temple from Fountain Chowk to Shani Temple here yesterday. The corporation authorities were accompanied by a large posse of policemen to avoid any resistance from the encroachers who had made small shops and kiosks on footpaths. The authorities also brought down the temporary and permanent sheds erected by shopkeepers.
As soon as the civic authorities’ brigade, accompanied by the police, arrived on the scene to remove the encroachments, the rehriwalas and kiosk owners tried to resist the move of the corporation. However, they had to relent in view of the presence of a large number of policemen.
D.P.S. Kharbanda, Commissioner, Municipal Corporation, said the step was taken to widen the roads leading to the holy shrine, visited by thousands of devotees and tourists from all over the world. He said the tourists were finding it difficult to walk on the pavements due to encroachments by vendors.
He said their main aim was to make the walled city as zero encroachment area under the beautification plan. He said coloured tiles would be laid on both sides of the pavements up to the Golden Temple.
Meanwhile, Dilmegh Singh, secretary, Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), while lauding the step taken by the civic authorities, said the encroachments were causing great hardships to the devotees in particular and public in general. He said the administration should have done it long before while adding that still the removal of encroachments was a welcome step. He said the shopkeepers should not encroach upon the footpaths, thus inviting the wrath of the officials.
Although, social activists who have been crying hoarse for removing encroachments in various parts of the holy city that lead to frequent traffic chaos, especially in and near the walled city, appreciated the move of the corporation, but they were critical about the pick and choose method followed by the administration. They said the authorities should come up with a proper plan to remove encroachments not only on the pavements, but also on roads and government lands as per the directions of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
Meanwhile, the Congress condemned the demolition of shops and kiosks outside the Golden Temple saying that the owners should have been given enough time to remove their valuables. The Congress MLA, O.P. Soni, along with other party leaders visited the site and said the government should compensate them for loss of their valuables and rehabilitate them at the suitable site as the government had no right to displace them without giving them proper opportunity to set up their shops elsewhere.
Kahan Singh Pannu, Deputy Commissioner, said the encroachments were removed as per the orders of the High Court and added that the shopkeepers at Chowk Ghanta Ghar Market had also been warned to remove their items till June 30. He appealed to the people to extend their cooperation to clean the city and make it free from encroachments.

Sunday, 28 June, 2009

Pathetic Picture of an Akali regime


Pathetic Picture of an Akali regime

MLA abuses minister, Akali hoodlums beat, strip official, BJP boycotts Cabinet meet, Badal trudges with ‘sorry’ MLA to seek reconciliation, Punjab a picture of lawlessness.Gian Inder Singh
LUDHIANA/CHANDIGARH:IN a rather pathetic picture of how a party that used to proclaim itself as the panthic party is running its government, an MLA of the ruling Akali
Dal landed up at the residence of a senior BJP minister and abused him right, left and center, all because the minister had delayed clearance of a couple of files which would have resulted in direct monetary benefit of lakhs of rupees to the Akali MLA.
This happened in the same week in which an Akali Dal councilor Kamaljeet Singh Karwal alongwith some 30 hoodlums of the Akali Dal beat up, stripped, kicked, dragged and humiliated a senior revenue official, a tehsildar, right inside his office in full public view.
Another Akali councilor Simarjeet Singh Bains also reached there and obstructed the police from saving the official, Major Gurinder Singh Benipal, largely known for being an honest upright official specially deputed in Ludhiana to stem malpractices in the system. His fault was merely to refuse to do illegal works of the Akali councilors.

The dramaMajor Gurinder Singh Benipal, a whistle- blower in the fake stamp paper scam and the main complainant, was resisting some illegal registries that Akali councilors Karwal and Simrajit Bains often pushed for. It is common knowledge that ruling party councilors are invariably involved in shady land deals. The official reason given by Karwal and his men for the fracas was that Beniwal did not give them preferential treatment! The Akali hoodlums beat up Beniwal who sustained a fracture in his right leg and was badly bruised. He was admitted to Dayanand Medical College and Hospital. He was beaten with sticks and rods, stripped naked, and was even fired at.
The two incidents brought unprecedented shame for the Akali Dal government. But perhaps neither the Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal nor his Akali Dal president son Sukhbir Singh Badal realize the amount of illwill such incidents create towards the very concept of being an Akali. Across India and the world, a large number of common people are little aware of the broad and subtle distinctions between various Akali groups and factions and end up lumping together such incidents as typical of the Akalis.
Shame was writ large as the media carried shocking pictures of the tehsildar, stripped to his underwear and bleeding, and reports of the two councilors virtually daring the police to arrest them. Councilor Bains is widely known to be very close to Sukhbir Singh Badal and has been known to be riding roughshod over even the traditional Akali leaders.
Many of Sukhbir acolytes share this trait, and it is time the so called taksali leadership of the Akali Dal paid attention to where such deviations and aberrations will land the party a few years from now.
The shame saga was unstoppable ever since the fracas on Friday with revenue officials striking work and a crescendo of protests raging in the state. Meanwhile, the BJP ministers boycotted a Cabinet meeting, made public their stance, exposed Akali Dal MLA Sarabjit Singh Makkar in public for being corrupt and seeking personal favours from minister, and narrated a tale of continuous sidelining of the BJP.
Strange sense of family
When Prakash Singh Badal had to suffer the humiliation of carrying Makkar by his arm into the residence of Manoranjan Kalia and seeking forgiveness from the BJP, the official shame-faced explanation and description from the Akali Dal camp took the cake. "It was a family matter between the Akali Dal and the BJP and the two have resolved it like a family," said an apologist of the Badal family to the reporters, probably thinking that he has hit upon a great piece of spin doctoring.
Shame is a virtue that Akal Purakh blesses perhaps only on the chosen ones. Neither this spin doctor nor any of the worthies present could care to explain how a fracas at a minister's home, public accusations by five ministers of being humiliated, a boycott of the Cabinet meeting and umpteen protests in the streets including burning of effigies was a "family matter" of the Akali Dal or the BJP. Unless of course the two parties admit that Punjab is under family rule.

They took their woes to the BJP high command and later forced Prakash Singh Badal on Tuesday to trudge to the official residence of BJP Minister Manoranjan Kalia in Chandigarh, Makkar in toe, to say sorry. A shamefaced Makkar apologised to Kalia in the presence of Punjab BJP president Rajinder Bhandari, senior BJP leaders Balramji Das Tandon and Madan Mohan Mittal. Badal had taken along Ranjit Singh Brahampura and Balwinder Singh Bhoonder to send signals that he indeed was aware of the gravity of the crime.
In simple shorn-of-all-frills interpretation of the turn of events, the Punjab BJP leadership was able to flex enough muscles to make the Akali Dal and its supreme leader bend and beg for reconciliation, a picture that sent out a message that the saffron knew finally how to handle the incorrigible senior Akali alliance partners.
Damage control was on in the other matter too. After days of dilly dallying and having much egg on the face, Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal expelled Karwal from the Akali Dal while Simrajeet Singh Bains, who had cocked a snook at law for many years now, had to be arrested by the police on Tuesday.
But what the incident brought out were a few facts so shameful that they will last for a long time even after the common people forget the incident.
* The Akali MLA abused the BJP minister at his home. So who is safe in the state?
* The Akali MLA did all this because he wanted to directly milk the government.
* The Minister later admitted that he indeed cleared the file that would accrue benefits of Rs 50 lakh plus to the Akali MLA. So much for resisting pressure!
* The MLA shamelessly admitted that he indeed had abused the minister, and yes, it was all because his own personal work was being delayed.
* The MLA actually told the Ajit newspaper that he indeed spewed out abuses in the name of mother, sister. "Punjabi hundiyan thorri bahut Maa Di, Bhen Di ta ho hee jaandi hai (Being a Punjabi, a little bit of mother, sister related abuses are normal)," Makkar was quoted in the Ajit.
The state meanwhile witnessed many other similar incidents including beating up of a few Congressmen in Nawan Shahr by Akali Dal workers, beating up of Punjab State Electricity Board officials by Akali activists in more than two places.

Saturday, 27 June, 2009

Sikh Literature Panel accuses Centre of conspiracy


Sikh Literature Panel accuses Centre of conspiracy

A member of a fact-finding committee addresses the media in Amritsar.
Amritsar, Punjab: The destruction of rare books and manuscripts of the Sikh reference library during Operation Bluestar was part of a conspiracy of the Union government to destroy Sikh heritage. This was stated by five-member committee that was constituted by Sikh organisations to go into the destruction of the books of the Sikh reference library in the Golden Temple complex.
The committee, comprising human rights activists DS Gill, former IAS officer Gurtegh Singh, Lieut-Gen Kartar Singh Gill (retd), Gurpreet Singh and advocate Amar Singh Chahal, yesterday observed that on June 7, after the culmination of Operation Bluestar, the Army fired a rocket towards the library destroying the Sikh literature. It said the committee had been able to establish this fact after a preliminary probe to establish the conspiracy angle in the incident.
The committee alleged that before setting the library on fire, the Army took away rare books and other items associated with Sikh religion and history.
The committee felt that there were several contradictions in the statements made by the government, which never clarified the exact position of the manuscripts that had been lost for ever.
Advocate Gill said the committee would submit its complete report to the SGPC within a month.

Thursday, 25 June, 2009

MP Tim Uppal visits refugee camps in Pakistan



Tim Uppal ,a conservative MP visited the Mardan Camp in Pakistan.
Canada: At the end of May, Tim Uppal, MP for Edmonton-Sherwood Park, took a trip. But not just any trip. At his own expense, time and with no government association, Uppal flew to Pakistan to witness firsthand the refugee camps in Marzan that are bursting at the seams.
Uppal raised the issue in the House of Commons on May 14, and asked the Pakistani government to ensure the security and safety of all its citizens, including religious minorities. According to the United Nations, almost two million people have been forced from their homes in the northern Pakistan region due to conflict.
The displaced citizens are mostly from the Swat Valley region of the country, where the Pakistani government is currently waging a war with the Taliban. Uppal went to the camps because he and many constitutents across Canada expressed concerns about the treatment of religious minorities — Christians, Sikhs and Hindus to name a few— by the Taliban and the mass displacement due to the armed conflict.
Uppal said as he looked into the issue more he found out that homes were being destroyed, taxes were being demanded by the Taliban for any non-Muslim and that terror was being spread throughout the region. He wished to speak to the Pakistani government regarding these issues.
Uppal had two meetings with the Pakistani Minister of Minority Affairs, and received assurance from him the government would protect religious minorities and those who had been internally displaced by the Taliban. Not only would this protection be in place while they stayed in the camp but would also extend to when they were able to safely return to what is left of their homes. Uppal was also told that the basic needs of the people would remain a top priority.
While Uppal wasn’t expecting a pretty picture, he was still shocked by the living conditions in the refugee camps.
Anywhere between 13,000 to 15,000 people live in the camps in Marzan, in small tents as far as the eye can see. While Uppal saw first hand that their basic needs were being met, there were some things he was concerned about.
Tim Uppal visited the Mardan Camp in Pakistan
The Swat Valley region, located along the northwest border of Pakistan and Afghanistan, is an area generally much cooler than Marzan. As a result, the refugees clothing is not meant for the heat of the region, and their bodies are having a hard time adjusting to the ever climbing temperatures. It is hard to keep a handle on the sickness and disease that comes as a result.
Both the Red Cross and World Food Program are in the area, along with other non-governmental organizations, but people in the camps said that food distribution had been very slow. When Uppal asked the Red Cross about that, they explained that it was a logistical issue — there are just too many people coming in, and coming in fast. The Red Cross and other organizations said that is something they are working on, and hope to have it remedied in the near future.
“I got an overwhelming feeling of being grateful of coming from and living in a place like Canada,” Uppal said about the scene in the camps. “Citizens here would not be left to those types of poor conditions.”

Tuesday, 23 June, 2009

California Police Chiefs Reaffirm Acceptance of Sikh Identity


California Police Chiefs Reaffirm Acceptance of Sikh Identity
(Washington, DC) – Late last week, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) received confirmation that observant Sikhs are still welcome to join the Yuba City Police Department in Yuba City, California. On January 23, 2007, former Yuba City Police Chief Richard Doscher corresponded with SALDEF in the context of an employment matter and wrote: "We have no policy which precludes an employee of the Sikh faith from wearing a turban or beard (or possession of a kirpan) during their employment with us."
According to current Yuba City Police Chief Robert D. Landon, "[o]ur policy has not changed and we continue to respect the customs of the Sikh faith[.]"SALDEF is grateful to Chief Landon and the Yuba City Police Department for their leadership in the cause of promoting equal employment opportunities for observant Sikh Americans who aspire to serve as law enforcement officers. Richmond, CA Police Department also welcomes Sikh American Police Officers. SALDEF is hopeful that Other Police departments will follow suit. Following the announcement that observant Sikh Americans are welcome to join the Yuba City Police Department with their articles of faith intact, Richmond (CA) Police Chief Chris Magnus issued written confirmation yesterday that observant Sikh Americans are also welcome to join the Richmond Police Department in Richmond, California.Located in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Richmond Police Department serves a community of more than 102,000 residents of diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds.Responding to an email dated June 16, 2009 from local Sikh American community leader Dr. J.P. Singh -- an email which contained SALDEF's recent Press Release regarding the Yuba City Police Department's acceptance of the Sikh identity -- Chief Chris Magnus confirmed that observant Sikh Americans are welcome to apply for jobs at his agency. "The Richmond Police Department welcomes applications from members of the Sikh community for the position of police officer as well as other jobs within the Police Department. We recognize and take pride in serving a diverse community which we are aware includes a significant number of Sikhs. Our department continually looks for applicants who represent the diversity of the community and we appreciate the value they bring to our agency. Any employee who is of the Sikh faith would not be prohibited from wearing a turban or having a beard. We encourage anyone who would like information about employment opportunities with the Richmond Police Department to contact us."Chief Chris MagnusRichmond (CA) Police DepartmentSALDEF is grateful to Dr. J.P. Singh for proactively reaching out to the Richmond Police Department and to Chief Magnus and the entire Richmond Police Department for their leadership in the cause of promoting equal employment opportunities for observant Sikh Americans who aspire to serve as law enforcement officers. As always, SALDEF will continue to work with police departments nationwide to strengthen relations between law enforcement agencies and the Sikh American community under the auspices of SALDEF's Law Enforcement Partnership Program.

Monday, 22 June, 2009

UK Ravidas Sect Attempts to Create Hate Crimes Amongst Sikhs


Placards demanding a ban on the Kirpan, an article of the Sikh faith
LONDON, UK (KP)—Traditionally people belonging to the "Guru Ravidas Community" were originally firm followers and members of the Sikh Panth. Eventually anti- Sikh elements outside and within Sikh Gurdwaras try to single these people from the Sikh panth through the Hindu driven caste system. Their intentions were to take these people farther from the Sikh fold or closer to Hinduvata. According to such mischievous characters a casteless Sikhi was a threat to Hindu nationalism. Eventually they encouraged people of a certain "caste" to start creating caste based Gurdwaras. Even after creating caste based Gurdwars the people still cherished ideals and practiced Sikh concepts staying firm in their respect for Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. Hence, anti- Sikh elements try to create a further gap from practicing Sikh principles by interesting concepts like Idol worship, believing in caste, putting Tilak on Sri Guru Granth Sahib Jis Ang,etc. Most recently anti-Sikh elements have created a greater distance between these people from the Sikh fold by orchestrating a murder of the community's leader in which they have used Sikhs as a scapegoat for this heinous crime. This has further created animosity for the Sikh faith and its principles thus putting them closer and closer to the Hindu fold in which they are now known to be part of the Dalit ( scheduled caste) instead of belonging to the caste less race of princely Lions and Princess's.Recently the community held a protest in which signs were displayed to prevent the wearing of Kirpans within the U.K.. The holy Kirpan which is an article of faith plays a great role in Sikh Traditions and principles. By asking the UK to ban this sacred sword the Ravidas community has further distanced itself from the Sikh fold and has further fell deeper in the trap of mischievous anti-Sikh elements (Hindu Nationalist). During the protest the group demonstrated their further desire to break away from the Sikh fold and merge into the Hindu fold by calling for a "separate granth" during the speech.Last week on 14th June a protest was held in Central London by the followers of the Dera Sach Khand organization. Though the protest was rumored to be based on the killing of their leader, the protest was actually planned to create negative stereotypes of the Sikh community amongst the British population. Approximately 2,500 people from across the UK and France formed to create animosity for the Sikh community. During the protest a group of eight Singhs decided to inform the group that Sikhs were not responsible for the killing and peaceful dialogue and communication was needed to address this issue. Despite the peace attempts by these Sikhs, a mob of protesters violently manhandled the young peaceful Sikhs. Even though these young Sikhs were met with an outnumbered force they still attempted to peacefully pass out leaflets despite being victims to intimidating aggression. Due to the erroneous information propagated by the Dera Sach Khand Organization the policed sided with the violent group and dragged the Singhs from the protest and warned them not to solicit any educational information.During the protest, protesters belonging to more than 20 Guru Ravidas Sabha Gurdwaras in UK submitted a memorandum to the Indian High Commission asking justice, equality and abolition of caste-based system. In addition to the memorandum the group raised up contradictory and illegal signs as a plan to stir up racial hate directed towards the Sikh community. Some signs read " Hang the Murderers" and "Terrorists Should be Hanged". These depictions were inciting religious hatred because Sikhs are regarded as a race within the UK . After seeing such signs the general public are going to be under the impression that Sikhs are a race of terrorist who innocently kill people. By displaying signs of racial hatred the Ravidas Community has committed acts against British Law. They should be held accountable in a court of British law.One sign read "A great Sant Ramanand killed by control Freak Sikhs". There has been no substantial evidence which indicate Sikhs have committed the murder, there has only been anti Sikh elements who have propagated the culprits as Sikhs. Furthermore, the Sikh community has condemned these acts. There was another sign that read "We Condemn Extremism/Terrorism." Yet it was followers of this group who acted violently in parts of Punjab and Haryana when they found out their leader was murdered. During these riots Sikhs were attacked by terrorist and hateful signs were displayed similar to the ones in London.Another sign read "We Demand Freedom of Speech". Yet when a group of young peaceful Sikhs were exercising this British right they were manhandled by violent hateful protesters How can a group ask for the right and yet deny another group from practicing this right? Other signs read "We Want Equality" and "No to Casteism". However it is the group who has constructed caste based Gurdwaras which have further propagated the caste system within a democratic U.K.. In addition it has been the groups submission to Hindu Ideology that has further made them as "lesser" human beings amongst their Hindu comrades.The most controversial sign was one that read "We Demand Total Ban on these Weapons", the sign had a picture of a Sri Sahib. Members of the Ravidas are already informed that the Sikhs in the UK are facing a gigantic case about the wearing of Sri Sahib. This protest amongst other things has been an attempt to portray the Sri Sahib in a negative light. The Hindu influenced cult is trying to say Sikh plus Kirpan equals terrorism/violence. If Sikhs are as violent as the Ravidas group proclaim then why didn't the young Sikhs confront the angry mob with their Kirpans? Kirpan has always been a weapon of merciful defense. To help the poor and vulnerable. From the beginning of Anglo - Sikh relations the British have always recognized this sacred article of faith.Is is ashamed the posterity of people who once adorned the Sri Sahib are now creating negative stereotypes about the weapon which allowed their ancestors to walk proudly knowing that they are the equal sons and daughters of Guru Gobind Singh Ji Maharaj. If Sikhs did not bear weapons to defend the right of religion and practices from Islamic fundamentalism would Bhagat Ravidas Jis Bani which Ravidas community adore exist today? Yet these people are quick to condemn the article which has preserved the bani of a true Bhagat/Saint. This is a true killing of a saint to twist his philosophy and life to please Hindu nationalist..

Sunday, 21 June, 2009

STOP OF GOLDEN TEMPLE REPLICA


Akal Takht directs SGPC to stop construction of Golden Temple replica in Punjab village
JAGMOHAN SINGH
AMRITSAR: Jathedar Akal Takht (highest Sikh temporal seat) Gyani Gurbachan Singh here Saturday issued an edict directing directed Shriomani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) to stop the ongoing construction of replica of Golden Temple (Harmandhar Sahib) at Mastuana in Sangrur district of Punjab by Gurdwara Sachkhand Angitha Sahib.
While issuing directions to SGPC Jathedar said, “For Sikh community Harmandhar Sahib is the supreme religious place and construction of another structure of same Gurdwara would never be tolerated at any cost”.
“Hence in the light of present circumstances and keeping in view the sentiments of Sikh community and suggestions of numerous Sikh religious and political organizations, directions have been issued to amend the present structure of Gurdwara Sachkhand Angitha Sahib in Sangrur district at the earliest possible and SGPC would compliance the religious edict”, directed Jathedar to SGPC through edict.
However, Jathedar also told SGPC to top up water pond with mud around replica of Golden Temple in Sangrur which was made on the pattern of original Golden Temple of Amritsar.
Jatehdar further said that in future construction work of Angitha Sahib would be carried out under the strict surveillance of SGPC and in this regard time to time report to be submitted before Akal Takht to make it sure that no copying of holiest Sikh shrine of Golden Temple being made at anywhere.
It may be mentioned here that few days ago, on June 11 the MCGSA (management committee of Gurdwara Sachkhand Angitha Sahib) vehemently denied in a letter submitted to Akal Takht (highest Sikh temporal seat) that any attempt being made to create structure of replica of Golden Temple .
Head of the MCGSA, Sadhu Singh said that it was cheap and petty thoughts of some political people including Shriomani Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) Amritsar that there was an attempt to create structure like replica of Golden Temple in Sangrur.
Commenting on the ongoing construction work at Sangrur, Sadhu Singh had claimed that it was merely aimed for facelift and kind of renovation of dilapidate structure of the Gurdwara Sachkhand Angitha Sahib. The facelift was initiated on the persistence demand of devotes and local residents besides committee members of the Gurdwara, said Sadhu Singh.
However, Sadhu Singh again denying the allegation to create replica of Golden Temple Amritsar at Sangrur says that he has utmost respect for the holist Golden Temple and he could not suppose to attempt to such a blasphemous act while copying structure of Golden Temple which is next to impossible for any human being.
Earlier on June 9, It SGPC executive member Rajinder Singh Mehta, SGPC General Secretary Sukhdev Singh Bhaur and other SGPC officials had visited and inspected the ongoing construction work of Gurdwara Angitha Sahib and submitted report before the Akal Takht whereupon it was alleged that a deliberate attempt was being made to construct the Gurdwara on the ditto patron of Golden Temple Amritsar.

Saturday, 20 June, 2009

Punjab and Haryana HC accepts SGPC definition of 'Sikh'



Punjab and Haryana HC accepts SGPC definition of 'Sikh'

Punjab and Haryana High Court accepted the definition of Sikh as mooted byShiromani Gurdawara Parbhandak Committee(SGPC) and ruled that persons withshorn hair can't be described Sikh.
Observing that keeping hair unshorn is an essential component of the Sikhfaith, the Punjab and Haryana High Court Saturday upheld denial of admission tosome students to a medical college on grounds of having plucked eyebrows or trimmedbeard.
"Having dealt with the historical background of the Sikh religion, thelegislative enactments and views expressed by scholars, we are satisfied allthis leads to one unambiguous answer that maintaining hair unshorn is anessential component of the Sikh religion," the Court said.
Making these observations, a Division Bench dismissed a writ petition filed by Gurleen Kaur and other students who were denied admission to a medical college on grounds of having plucked eyebrows or trimmed beard. The bench observed that Gurleen Kaur who plucked her eye brows cant calim a seat in SGPC run college under seats reserved for Sikh students. In SGPC managed colleges 50 percent seats are reserved for Sikh students. The Bench comprising Justice J S Khehar, Justice Jasbir Singh and Justice Ajay Kumar Mittal ruled the Sikh minority quota could be restricted to candidates maintaining "Sikhi Swarup" or keeping their hair unshorn. It said "the Sikh rehat-maryada (religious sanctity) requires Sikhs to keep their hair unshorn and even an act of dishonouring hair is taken as a taboo. An act of dyeing one's hair is treated as an act of dishonouring hair." Maintaining that "hair unshorn is a part of the religious consciousness of the Sikh faith", the Court said if the religious community wishes to enforce the aforesaid norm as a pre-condition for admission, there is nothing wrong in this. The High Court observed that importance of hair in Sikh religious is clear in Rehat Maryada. The court said that there is no stream like 'Sehajdhari Sikhs' in the Sikh religion. The court also recorded that certain Sikh organisation have written letters that courts have no right to examine the religious affairs. The HC ruled that court have every right to examine the definition of a religion.

Friday, 19 June, 2009

Ravi Dasis & Today’s Punjab


Ravi Dasis & Today’s PunjabWSN Bureau
In a well worked out and analytical article, Surinder S Jodhka of Jawaharlal Nehru University has argued that the interpretation of the recent violence in Punjab as "yet another instance of caste conflict within Sikhism" (between dalit Sikhs and upper caste Sikhs) was incorrect and "could lead to a communal divide between dalits and mainstream Sikhism."
Jodhka, in his paper published in the Economic and Political Weekly, a left leaning journal in India, has tried to provide a historical perspective and has made clear how, though the Ravidasias rever Guru Granth Sahib and their temples are also often called Gurdwaras, a large majority of them do not identify with the Sikh religion and are rather now an autonomous caste-religious community.
They have evolved their own symbols and practices of worship, which distinguish them from the Sikhs of Punjab. "They do not see their faith as being in an antagonistic relationship with contemporary Sikhism," Jodhka argues. He traces back the phenomenon to the rise of the Ad Dharm movement that took off with the arrival of Mangoo Ram, the son of an enterprising Chamar of village Mangowal of the Hoshiarpur district of Doaba subregion of Punjab, on the scene.
Jodhka explained how initially the Ad Dharm movement saw itself as a religious movement and its proponents advocated that the “untouchables” were a separate qaum, a distinct religious community similar to the Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs, and should be treated as such by the rulers. They argued that Ad Dharm has always been the religion of the dalits and that the qaum had existed from time immemorial.
"In the very first conference of the organisation, they declared: We are not Hindus. We strongly request the government not to list us as such in the census. Our faith is not Hindu but Ad Dharm. We are not a part of Hinduism, and Hindus are not a part of us."
The emphasis on Ad Dharm being a separate religion, a qaum, was to undermine the identity of caste. As a separate qaum, Ad Dharmis were equal to other qaums recognised by the colonial state, the Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs. Mangoo Ram also expected to bring other untouchable communities into the fold of Ad Dharm and emerge as a viable community at the regional level. But the movement could not maintain its momentum for very long and began to dissipate soon after its grand success in 1931.
To quote Jodhka: According to the popular understanding, the causes of the decline of Ad Dharm movement lay in its success. Its leaders joined mainstream politics. Mangoo Ram himself, along with some of his close comrades, became members of the Punjab Legislative Assembly. The caste issue was gradually taken over by the emerging pan-Indian movement of the dalits and it finally merged with it. The Ad Dharm Mandal began to see itself as a social and religious organisation and in 1946 decided to change its name to Ravi Das Mandal, “entrusting the political work to All India Scheduled Castes Federation in conformity with rest of India”
It was during the Ad Dharm movement that the Ravi Dasi identity had begun to take shape. Leaders of the movement also saw Ravi Dasi identity as their own resource. Long after dissolving the Ad Dharm Mandal and being in retirement for many years, Mangoo Ram summed up the achievement of the Ad Dharm movement in an interview with Mark Juergensmeyer in 1971 where his focus was more on having given the local dalits a new community and religious identity than their political empowerment: We helped give them a better life and made them into a qaum. We gave them gurus to believe in and something to hope for.

About Bhagat Ravidas
Ravi Das was born sometime in 1450 AD in the north Indian town of Banaras in an “untouchable” caste, the Chamars and died in 1520. Like many of his contemporaries, he travelled extensively and had religious dialogues with saint poets in different parts of the north India. Over time he acquired the status of a saint. However, his claims to religious authority were frequently challenged by the local brahmins who complained against his “sacrilegious behaviour” to the local rulers.
His followers believe that every time the king summoned Ravi Das, he managed to convince the political authorities about his genuine “spiritual powers” through various miraculous acts. He is believed to have also visited Punjab and met with Guru Nanak, founder of the Sikh faith, at least thrice. He also gave most of his writings to Guru Nanak, which eventually became part of the Sikh holy book, Guru Granth.
Though historians of Indian religions tend to club Ravi Das with the Bhakti movement, a pan Indian devotional cult, his ideas appear to be quite radical. He built his own utopia, a vision of an alternative society, articulated in his hymn “Begumpura”, a city without sorrows, “where there will be no distress, no tax, no restriction from going and coming, no fear”.
After having changed its name to Ravi Das Mandal in 1946, the movement activists shifted their focus to social and religious matters. They had realised long ago that in order to consolidate themselves as a separate qaum, they needed a religious system of their own, which was different from the Hindus and Sikhs. However, in order to do that they chose a caste-based religious identity: Chamar = Ad Dharmi = Ravi Dasi.
Choice of Ravi Das appeared to be an obvious one for the Ad Dharmis as a religious symbol for the community. The fact that his writings were included in the Sikh holy book, Adi Granth, which had been compiled in Punjab and was written in the local language, made Ravi Das even more effective and acceptable.
Thus the Ad Dharm movement played a very important role in developing an autonomous political identity and consciousness among the Chamar dalits of Punjab and its renaming itself as a religious body, Ravi Das Mandal in 1946, was an important turning point in the history of dalit movements of Punjab. However, it is important to mention here that the Ravi Dasi religious identity had already begun to take shape, independently of the Ad Dharm movement in the region.
In fact, some of the Ravi Dasi deras had, in fact, played an active role in the late 1920 when Mangoo Ram was campaigning for separate religious status for Ad Dharmis. Mangoo Ram often visited the Ravi Dasi deras during his campaign.
Interestingly, even when the community reconciled itself to the idea of being clubbed with Hindu SCs for census enumerations, the identity of being Ad Dharmis continued to be important for them. As many as 14.9% (5,32,129) of the 70,28,723 SCs of Punjab were listed as Ad Dharmis in the 2001 Census, substantially more than those who registered themselves as belonging to the Ad Dharmi qaum in 1931. In religious terms, as many as 59.9% of the Punjab SCs enumerated themselves as Sikhs and 39.6% Hindus. Only 0.5% declared their religion as Buddhism.
However, notwithstanding this official classification of all SCs into the mainstream religions of the region, everyday religious life of the Punjab dalits is marked by enormous diversity and plurality. Apart from the popular syncretic religious traditions that have been in existence for a long time in the region, the dalits of Punjab, and elsewhere in India, have also developed an urge for autonomous faith identities, particularly for getting out of Hinduism.
They view Hinduism as the source of their humiliating social position in the caste system. This urge became much stronger with the emergence of a nascent educated middle class among them during the later phase of British colonial rule. The Ad Dharm movement of 1920s (discussed above) was a clear example of this.
Historically, dalits have chosen two different paths to this move away from Hinduism. The first of these was conversion to other religions such as Christianity, Islam or Sikhism, which do not theologically support caste-based inequalities and divisions. The second path has been to look for indigenous egalitarian faith traditions that emerged in opposition to the system of caste hierarchy. The Ravi Dasi movement can be seen as an example of this path

Thursday, 18 June, 2009

Punjab CM to seek higher recruitment of Sikhs, Rajputs in Army


Punjab CM to seek higher recruitment of Sikhs, Rajputs in Army

JAGJIT SINGH JAGGI
KURALI: Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal Wednesday announced that he would soon take up the issue with the Ministry of Defence, GoI for giving higher representation to the Sikhs and Rajputs both martial communities in the Indian armed forces as had been given earlier prior to the criteria of population as the basis of recruitment.
Addressing a mammoth gathering of Rajput Community from all over the state on the 470th Birth Anniversary of Maharana Partap at a state level function organized here, Badal also announced that a suitable memorial would be soon erected in the memory of great warrior and freedom lover, the great son of the motherland Maharana Partap.
Paying rich tributes to Maharana Partap, Badal said that Maharana Partap was one of the great patriots, which the country had ever produced. He said his unprecedented selfless sacrifice would not only keep him alive this great legendary hero but his rich legacy of patriotism would ever inspire our future generations for times to come. Maharana Partap had not only sacrificed his life but every thing for the freedom of our motherland. The valour of this great king was not only admired by his friends but his foes also.
Former Governor of Goa Maharaja Bhanu Parkash Singh, who presided over the function lauded the efforts of Badal for maintaining peace, amity and communal harmony in the state. He also called upon the leaders of the country to follow the footprints of Maharana Partap for imbibing the spirit of patriotism and selfless sacrifice for our motherland.
Prominent amongst others who spoke on the occasion included Maharaja Raghbir Singh Sirohi, Kunwar Vikram Singh, MLA Morinda Ujagar Singh Wadali, Ex-Minister Madan Mohan Mittal, Dr.RS Parmar and Rana Gajinder. Advisor to Chief Minister Dr.DS Cheema, MLA Chamkaur Sahib Charanjit Singh, Seelam Sohi and former Minister Satwant Kaur Sandhu were also present on the occasion.

Wednesday, 17 June, 2009

OPERATION BLUE STAR'S UNHEALED WOUNDS


Operation Blue Star’s unhealed wounds
Momin IftikharThe storming of Golden Temple in Amritsar, the holiest of the sacred Sikh Shrines, on 6 Jun 1984, stands out as the bloodiest benchmark in gauging the state sponsored trend for victimization of minorities in India. Even the passage of a quarter century has not wiped out the pain of the Sikh nation and the lingering embers of a smoldering insurgency continue to haunt India with the consequences of the Operation that so thoroughly alienated the dynamic community. The fateful day triggered a sequence of events that inexorably led to killing of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh body guards on Nov 1, 1984. The communal violence that followed the assassination, left over three thousand Sikhs dead in its wake, mostly in Delhi. The Congress leaders who led the berserk Hindu mobs were identified. It is a pity though that they still have to be dispensed the wages of their sins by the judiciary. The Sikh backlash that manifested itself in form of a full fledged insurgency was ruthlessly crushed by targeting the Sikh nation as a monolithic body; no discrimination having being exercised in identifying innocent from the guilty. The fateful day is observed by the Sikh community in remembering the excesses committed by the Indian state in demolishing to dust the most revered icon of the Sikh religion.Even as the Indian State dealt with it through overkill application of brute force, the problem that lay at the bottom of the operation Blue Star was essentially political and not military. The Sikhs, in the 70’s were getting restive on grounds that they as a community were being sidelined by the Hindu majority. The Anandpur Sahib Resolution adopted in 1973 by a widely attended Sikh conclave articulated the Community’s grievances distinctively. The demands included Punjab’s control of Chandigarh, which it shared with Haryana, demands for political autonomy, fair distribution of river waters, recognition of Sikhism as a distinct religion and bestowment of a holy city status for Amritsar, housing the Akal That in the Golden Temple. Sikhs have always been acknowledged as an enterprising nation and the community could, in eighties, lay claim to a galaxy of its members holding the highest posts within Indian Army and the civilian bureaucracy, yet the sense of being discriminated against was mounting. The aspirations took the shape of a political struggle led by Akali Dal; nothing out of the ordinary in a democratic dispensation. However, Indira Gandhi’s response to this peaceful struggle was typical of her megalomaniac character. In order to create divisions in the Sikh movement she began to patronize the messianic figure of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale to act as counterweight to the Akali Dal. But here her political instincts went deadly wrong; the Sant proved a steel willed radical who resisted diktat and began to chart a course of his own to take over the Sikh movement. Adopting the slogan of Khalistan, he raised the flag of mutiny defying the state authority with impunity and pushing the moderates to the sidelines. Sikh radicals, in large numbers gravitated in his direction like iron filings to a lodestone. As Indian Punjab resonated with the shouts of Khalistan he took morcha in the Golden Temple, becoming nerve center of a throbbing secessionist movement. Ever true to her instincts Indira Gandhi resolved to fight fire with fire by shunning the option of political discourse and resolved to rub the Sikh pride into dust - ignoring the well known backlash that was ominously taking shape around Akal Takht. Operation Blue Star was thus conceived whereby she reposed her trust in Lt Gen Sunderji, bypassing the Army Chief Gen AS Vaidya and ordered the elimination of Bhindranwale through force notwithstanding the assured destruction of Akal Takht and perpetual scarring of the Sikh psyche through such a brazen act of sacrilege. The assault on the Golden Temple was a heavy handed affair involving six infantry battalions, supported by heavy infantry weapons, tanks and artillery. The damage to the venerated Temple was so extensive that it had to be later pulled down and re-constructed. The initial official line on fatalities, as reported by The New York Times on June 7, was 308 dead, including 48 soldiers. By June 26, the official death toll had nearly doubled to 600. Unofficial military sources and journalists placed the number at between 1,000 and 1,200. The Times published reports from The Associated Press stating that the toll ‘could be as high as 2,000.For 400 years Golden Temple had remained an icon of Sikh faith, pride and veneration and it was inconceivable that it could be desecrated by the Armed Forces of secular India. Its destruction engendered a wave of communal hatred and an urge for retribution that has haunted India ever since. Indira Gandhi paid for the transgression with her life when two of her most trusted Sikh bodyguards – Satwant Singh and Beant Singh - riddled her with bullets on 31 Oct 1984. The anti Sikh violence that followed her assassination led to the killing of at least 3000 Sikhs by frantic Hindu mobs. According to BBC, Congress Party officials were openly urging Hindu rioters to kill Sikhs. This further exacerbated the Sikh hurt who sought retribution for the grave state sponsored injustices. Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale got etched in the folklore as a ‘shaheed’ and a hero and elevated in veneration to the status of a ‘Sant’. To honor him, June 6 is observed every year as the martyrdom day of Bhindranwale at the Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of the Sikh Faith. Anti Sikh violence gave a boost to the demand for Khalistan and a full-fledged insurgency picked up inside Punjab extending to attacks on Indian assets in foreign lands. Air India’s plane was blown up on June 23, 1985 which killed all its crew and 329 passengers. Sant Harchand Singh Longowal, who signed the Rajiv-Longowal Accord on 29 July 1985, was killed just three weeks later while praying inside a gurdwara. Gen A.S.Vaidya, who was Indian Army’s Chief of Staff when Operation Blue Star was launched, was gunned down in Pune in August 1985. Chief Minister Beant Singh was blown up along with twelve others by a suicide bomber on July 31 1995 at Chandigarh for letting down the Sikh Cause. An enduring and deep rooted alienation of the Sikh nation has emerged as the lasting legacy of Operation Blue Star. The lingering hurt from that Operation and its aftermath have left the Sikh psyche deeply scarred. The rise of Hindu fundamentalism in India, as a politically accepted phenomenon, has only deepened the chasm separating Sikhs – Hindus communities. Unless the Indian state learns to respect the rights of its minorities, the chasm of this communal hatred is only likely to deepen.

Tuesday, 16 June, 2009

SIKHS CHALLENGE U.S ARMY BAN ON TURBANS


Sikhs Challenge U.S. Army Ban On Turbans, Beards

Military service is in Capt. Kamaljit Singh Kalsi's blood.His father and grandfather were part of India's Air Force. His great-grandfather served in the British Royal Army. So when U.S. Army recruiters talked to him during his first year of medical school, he readily signed up.But his plans to go on active duty in July are now on hold. An Army policy from the 1980s that regulates the wearing of religious items would mean he would need to shave his beard and remove the turban he wears in accordance with his religious precepts.Kalsi and another Sikh man with the same concerns, Second Lt. Tejdeep Singh Rattan, are the centerpieces of an advocacy campaign launched by the Sikh Coalition as it tries to persuade the Army to let them serve without sacrificing their articles of faith."I'm an American, there's no reason why I can't serve," Kalsi, 32, said.The Army has a long-standing interest in how its members carry themselves, with policies that ban exotic hair colors, long fingernails or certain colors of lipstick. Army officials declined to comment on the reasoning behind its policy that would force the Sikh men to give up their religious displays. Sikhs who were active-duty military when the policy was adopted were allowed to continue serving without shaving their beards or removing their turbans.The Pentagon and other military institutions wouldn't comment. The Military Religious Freedom Foundation, an advocacy group, was unfamiliar with the policy's origins.As the Sikh diaspora has spread across the world, the issue of turbans and beards on Sikhs in uniform has come up in a number of places. In New York City, for example, Sikh traffic officers took successful legal action to force the city to allow them to wear turbans and beards.The Sikh community is hopeful it will win the policy appeal; in an April 29 letter to the Sikh Coalition, the director of the Army's Human Resources Policy Directorate said senior leadership was aware of the issue and was gathering information to make a decision. Toni Delancey, a spokeswoman for Army personnel, said the appeals are under review.Sikh Coalition executive director Amardeep Singh said he hopes that not only are Kalsi and Rattan allowed to serve, but that the rule will be changed for all turbaned and bearded Sikhs who would want to enlist."Our country's military needs to reflect what America is right now," he said. "It's a diverse country, it's a country that puts forth for the rest of the world the values of liberty, particularly religious liberty."Allowing Sikhs to serve with beard and turban "will send a very strong message to the rest of the world that we are who we say we are."The Sikh faith requires adherents to follow certain rules, among them that hair is not to be cut and for men, the wearing of a turban. Both Kalsi, an emergency room doctor, and Rattan, a dental surgeon, say they were following those rules when they were recruited and never had any problems or were told they wouldn't be able to serve with their beards or turbans.Both said they raised the issue over the years and were reassured, and that it wasn't until the end of last year when they were told they would not be allowed to serve as they were.The idea that he would have to choose between his country and his faith is hard for Rattan. "I'm offering my life, but I'm not willing to sacrifice my religious beliefs," he said.Singh said it would be in the military's best interest to lets Sikhs serve. The community has a long tradition of military service, both in India, where most of the faith's adherents are, as well as in the countries where Sikhs have made their homes, like Canada and the United Kingdom."As part of our religious heritage, we're taught that we have an obligation to actively serve and protect the communities in which we live," he said.In Canada, regulations for the armed forces allow Sikhs to keep their turbans and beards, and even determine what colors the different military branches can wear. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police allows turbans as well.The British Army allows Sikhs to generally keep their articles of faith. For Sikhs who serve as civilian police officers, The British Police Sikh Association is pushing for development of bulletproof turbans. That would allow Sikhs to be part of firearms units, since safety helmets don't fit over them.Sikhs have a long history with the U.S. military, serving in World Wars I and II, the Korean and Vietnam wars, and in the Persian Gulf.One of them is Army Col. Gopal Khalsa, who is retiring in November after more than three decades in uniform, all of those with a turban and beard.His distinctive appearance has required some conversation and explanation at times, but it's never been a problem for him, or gotten in the way of carrying out his duties or wearing his military equipment."Of course there's a lot of looks, but once people get to know you and you're doing the job, that falls by the wayside," Khalsa said.He thought a rule change would be a good idea, saying the presence of Sikh soldiers would be an asset in places where the United States is currently carrying out military operations, like Afghanistan."The Army would be gaining successful, useful soldiers," he said.Kalsi hopes he can be one of those soldiers, and serve his country as generations of his family have done."That's what we connect with, that's part of our heritage," he said. "It links us to our past and our present and hopefully the future."The Military Religious Freedom Foundation was founded in 2006.

Monday, 15 June, 2009

Harmandir Sahib Replica Comes Up in Malwa Region


AMRITSAR SAHIB (KP)—The Harmandir Sahib look alike that has been under construction in the Malwa region has once again become the center of controversy. In the past, Sikhs had filed complaints against the project at Sri Akal Takht Sahib. Now as the building has almost finished construction work, the matter has been raised again and it has finally received the due attention of SGPC leadership, despite the fact that in 1996 a HukamNama from Sri Takht Sahib was issued in relation to this controversy.

This past week, a three member fact finding committee of the SGPC which included Sukhdev Singh Bhaur, Roop Singh and Rajinder Singh Mehta submitted that the newly erected building in Malwa was in fact designed as a replica of Sri Harmandir Sahib. They also alleged in their report that the kar seva work had been performed at this place against the wishes of the local Sikh sangat.

A meeting has been organized on June 20 by SGPC President Avtar Makkar to discuss the next course of action against the “Harmandir Sahib of Malwa.” While announcing that the SGPC will take strict action to stop any beadbi of Sri Harmandir Sahib, Makkar said that the construction should be stopped.

Singh Sahib Giani Gurbachan Singh, Jathedar Sri Akal Takht Sahib, warned that the committee behind the construction of this replica will be summoned if the construction is not halted. He also asked Government officials to provide assistance in getting the construction work to stop. According to the Jathedar, the construction of the Harmandir Sahib replica was against the mandates of Akal Takht Sahib.

According to Sikh history, this is not the first time efforts have been established to create a replica of Sri Harmandir Sahib. The first time in history, the blasphemous act was undertaken by Prithi Chand who out of jealously wanted to divert the Sikhs away from Sri Harmandir Sahib. The Durgiana Mandir, a Snatan temple located close to Sri Harmandir Sahib was a failed attempt by the Hindutva radicals. This is now the third attempt to create a replica.

Sikh leaders of various organizations have shared strong opinions about the Malwa replica. Giani Raam Singh, Jathedar Damdami Taksal, alleged that the structure had come into existence on behest of a deep rooted controversy. He alleged that Baba Attar Singh of Mastuana Sahib would have never dreamed about such sacrilege as he was a devout Sikh.

Background

The management of the site, also known as 'Sachkhand Angeetha Sahib', is purported to be the 'samadh' of Baba Attar Singh of Mastuana. It needs to be noted that the Sikh Rahit Maryada strictly prohibits the worship of tombs, crypts, or graves, or erecting Gurdwaras in their place.

Nevertheless, Mastuana management with cooperation from Shiromani Akali Dal, oversaw the development and construction of the Angeetha into the current Gurdwara. In fact, Sant Harchand Longowal, then president of the Akali Dal, participated in the groundbreaking ceremony and laid the foundation stone of the complex. Local Member of Parliament, Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, who hails from the same Sangrur district is a member of the Sant Attar Singh Mastuana Trust. For various reason no alarms were raised about the construction until 1994 when Takht Damdama Sahib Jathedar Giani Kewal Singh questioned the similarity of the construction to the Sri Darbar Sahib complex. According to various accounts, in 1994 the management had agreed to modify the design to alleviate the concerns of the Takht.

Sadh Balwant Sehorra

The Harmandir Sahib replica is reported have been constructed under the leadership of various so-called god-men, including the involvement of Baba Balwant Sehora. This controvercial pseudo-sant who has a sizable following and built a personality cult around him has in the past been sat parallel to Guru Granth Sahib Ji and allowed the congregation to bow in front of him.


Sadh Balwant Sehorra travels with in personal army of gunmen and Punjab Police bodyguards
A personal servant does chaur 'sewa' on him while he holds a parallel diwan in the presence of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji

Also see : UNHOLY NEXUS : Sadhs and Politicians of Punjab (Videos and Photos)

Sehora Saadh cleverly misuses the name of Sant Attar Singh Mastuane Wale to propagate his anti-Gurmat activities. At his dera, a picture of Baba Attar Singh is worshiped and given a high status. The saadh claims to be a true prophet of miri-piri and wears two Sri Sahibs mimicking Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji, when he enters a diwan, his followers play a 'Narsingha' horn similar to the ones played when Guru Granth Sahib Ji's palki is taken from Sri Akal Takht Sahib to Sri Darbar Sahib.

1996 HukamNama from Sri Akal Takht Sahib

In 1996, a hukamnama was passed against the same pseudo-sant asking him to not indulge in such blasphemous acts. Although the construction was halted at that time, as the Panth dealt in other issues, the construction was started again and now it has almost finalized.

Thirteen years later, it is obvious that the design changes never occurred, and current site is now starting to resemble the famous Sri Darbar Sahib complex in many ways.


1996 HukamNama warning about the Malwa replica and manmat by Saadh Bawant Sehorra
(Click image to view)

Saturday, 13 June, 2009

SIKH NATION CLINGS TO IDENTITY CONSCIOUSNESS


Sikh Nation clings to Identity Consciousness


25 years in the history of a nation have been observed in the homeland Punjab and worldwide in the Sikh Diaspora. The pain, anguish and bewilderment of the Sikh people has been relived by them, still benumbed as to how this unimaginable catastrophe struck them in June 1984 and throughout that year and the decades that followed them.
At the invitation of the World Sikh Organisation, which has been ensuring that memories do not fade and remain alive in the hearts and minds of the Sikhs, I joined anthropologist Dr. Cynthia K. Mahmood and activist-writer Ajmer Singh at the West Block of the Canadian Parliament for the Annual Parliamentary Dinner to participate in deliberations on “Past in Perspective –Future in Focus” on Saka Akal Takht.
With Sikh activists pouring in from all parts of Canada and with Canadian Parliamentarians extolling the dexterity and entrepreneurship qualities of Sikhs and their contribution to Canadian society, the Sikhs reiterated their belonging –their roots. Each speaker underlined how the events of 1984 deeply etched the spirit of Sikhness of Sikhs into their consciousness.
Interestingly, the programme started with the Canadian and Sikh national anthem, sung by a group of young Sikh-Canadians.
Members of Parliament Bill Siksay, Ed Fast, Mauril Belanger and Peter Braid spoke on the role of Sikh Canadians and their contribution to Canadian society at large admiring their hard work and dedication.
Initiating the presentation, Jasbeer Singh outlined the formation of World Sikh Organisation after the events of June 1984 –the circumstances which forced the Sikhs to organize themselves into a world body. He elaborated as to how the organization, through ups and downs, has been able to uphold the banner of Sikh identity afloat through public, legal and political activism.
Delivering the keynote address, Cynthia Keppley Mahmood, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Senior Fellow, Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame questioned the silencing of the Sikh community by the Canadian society in recent times.
In her characteristic forthrightness, she asked, “The world has still not really “heard” about the travails of the Sikhs, and I want to explore why. After all, India is a democracy, “the world’s largest democracy,” and it has laws to protect against abuses of rights and to protect minorities. It has an independent judiciary and a relatively free press, and relatively calm and fair transitions of power. The fact is, however – and I have learned this in the post-9/11 United States as well as in my research in India – that being a “democracy” by law alone is not enough to ensure the vibrancy and flourishing of human voices that alone guarantees human rights.”
She asked the Sikhs to aware that “an active and vigilant citizenry, making use of those laws, who are actually the bulwark against abuses like torture, concentration camps, illegal wiretapping. Picture the detainee in the jail cell, weak, probably naked, on a cold floor, living on scraps of food, emaciated, awaiting he knows not what future. It is not he who can draw on the laws that protect our rights and freedoms. He relies on others, his fellow citizens, to use those laws to get him out of that detention, to make public the abuses, to end the state’s use of exceptions to get round its commitments to basic human rights.”
Sadly she said, “In the case of the Sikhs in Punjab, the problem was that there was nobody to come to their aid. With a few rare exceptions, most of India’s civil rights and humanitarian organizations turned their backs on the Sikhs. People with turbans quickly became a pariah population: “socially dead,” to use Orlando Patterson’s fortuitous phrase. To put it bluntly, no one in India really cared if they lived or died. Why? Because the image was cleverly and quickly created of the-Sikh-as-terrorist, and therefore the Sikh as unworthy victim. The same Indians who otherwise gathered for protests or organized aid when Christians were attacked, somehow stood aside when the victims were Sikhs.”
As a true friend of the community, Cynthia Mahmood offered suggestions to the Sikhs, particularly urging them to grow outwards, conduct workshops on the question of how the Sikh religion intersects with Punjabi culture, develop simultaneous translations systems from the Punjabi language in Gurdwaras, hire reputed international law firms and lobbyists and involve the youth through a set of internships in advanced technologies, set up international level holocaust museum and engage in serious academic work.
In an emotionally surcharged note, she asked the gathering of Sikh Canadians to stand up for their rights and also asked Canadian members of Parliament to ensure that “the faint whispers of every frightened minority still gets heard in the halls of Parliament.”
Activist-writer Ajmer Singh embarked on a journey into the past, extensively dwelling on the religious, social and historical references necessary to understand “why the Indian government did this unto us?” At the outset he told the august assembly that unless we clearly understand the past; our venture into the future will be a walk in the wild. In recalling memories of such events, he pointed out that noted psychologist Sudhir Kakar had remarked, 1984 was the Chosen Trauma of the Sikhs having made indelible impact on their collective cohesiveness and consciousness.
“1984 transformed the individual lives of the Sikhs in a major and revolutionary way, changing the build-up and dynamics of the collective consciousness of the Sikh people. An American journalist while describing 9/11, characterized it as “the event that defined this century; it was as though the plate-tectonics of history were shifting”. Without drawing any parallel or analogy with the event of 9/11, I would like to say that June 1984 marked a tectonic change in Sikh thinking, Sikh understanding and all aspects of Indo-Sikh dialogue,” he said.
Ajmer Singh stressed the nuances of Sikh-Hindu relationship and Indo-Sikh dialogue and emphasized that 1984 brought about a major change in Sikh consciousness. He said, “1984 arrested the progress of assimilation, forced the Sikhs to unlearn their old methods and perspectives of thinking and rekindled the spirit of distinctiveness. Sikhs revived the Sikh vision of God and the Sikh understanding of human existential situation, social justice with full focus on social transformation.”
Not known to mince words or befuddle facts, the author of two books in Punjabi on the politics of the Sikhs in the twentieth century, Ajmer Singh remarked that the Sikh response even after 25 years is not considered and strategic. He deplored that “to continue with the same kind of nomenclature, vocabulary, thought processes and street-campaign approach renders our debate incomplete, wayward and non-credible.”
With my earlier interaction with Canadian members of parliament and my work in the area of human rights activism, I chose to discuss the role of Canada in the field of human rights and what needs to be done by Sikh-Canadians in this regard as a follow up to the happenings of 1984. I suggested “mechanisms and methodologies that the Sikh people and the international community needed to take up so that the history of injustice gives way to respect for human dignity, restoration of the status of the Sikhs in the annals of history with their full historical potential intact and a respectable place in the comity of nations.”
With a little bit of history from 1849 onwards, I wanted to see ahead. I told the audience that I somehow see a pattern in the violent attacks on the Sikhs in the last century. After every round of violence there is systematic non-violent attack to tease and overawe the Sikhs. The move by the government of India to snatch the minority status of Sikhs when we have a Sikh prime minister is the latest move, coming in a year when the Sikhs are again going through the pain of 1984.
I said that, “The judgement on unshorn hair would mean little relief if the Government of India succeeds in passing a law whose draft has already been cleared by the Council of Ministers. The 103rd Constitution Amendment Bill that seeks to define a "Minority" on the basis of state-level demographic data will effectively snatch away the status of a minority from the Sikhs.” I exhorted the Sikhs living overseas to use their full lobbying and diplomatic pressure to put a stop to “this insidious logic of the Indian state,” particularly the Sikh-Canadians who have enriched themselves through the multiculturalism culture of Canada.
So what should the individual Sikh do? What should Sikhs as a nation do? Obviously there are no easy answers, however, let us all engage in a determined struggle for peace, justice and Sarbat da Bhala.
Jagmohan Singh may be contacted at jsbigideas@gmail.com

Friday, 12 June, 2009

Who is reponsible for making replica of Golden Temple?



Who is reponsible for making replica of Golden Temple?


Ajmer Singh Randhawa

Sir,Sadhu Reference News item in PunjabNewsline, Sadhu Singh defending construction of replica of Golden Temple, I wish to say that Sadhu Singh has said, Gurdwara Angitha Sahib has high esteem in the minds and hearts of thousands of devotes across the world and management would not bear any harm to the present structure of the Gurdwara by nay of the authority.

Sir, by looking above one can see the threatening challenge to highest temporal seat of Akal Takhat by Sadhu Singh that the management would not bear any harm to the present structure.
Could you kindly tell your readers who sanctioned the plan of building, who is the architect etc? How coud they get success in obtaining NOC from the govt. agencies? Is there no high govt. officials involved in maligning the Panth with the consent of Badal himself? How could Badal be unaware of such ongoings in the state ? Where is his intelligence? It raises many questioned to be answered.
We should caution all the people of Punjab to be aware of the anti social and anti-panthic activities in state.

PROBES COMPLAINT


Lokayukta probes complaint on misuse of office against minorities panel member

New Delhi The Delhi Lokayukta’s office is investigating a case against a part-time member of the Delhi Minorities Commission, Pushpinder Singh, for misuse of office and influencing the Delhi government’s Information and Publicity department to give a major share of advertisements to a Punjabi newspaper run by him.
The Vigilance department of the Delhi government received an anonymous complaint against Pushpinder Singh, which alleged that out of the three Punjabi newspapers listed with the Delhi Information and Publicity department (DIP), Singh’s newspaper Panthak Samachar has received a bulk of the government ads placed in newspapers of that category.
The DIP has three Punjabi newspapers listed with them — The Educator, Jathedar and Panthak Samachar. The complainant further stated that Pushpinder Singh indirectly runs Jathedar as well. The complainant added that Panthak Samachar does not have a printing press of its own and does not even have enough circulation for placement of government ads. Delhi L-G Tejender Khanna forwarded the complaint to Lokayukta Justice Manmohan Sarin for investigation.
Justice Sarin had initially sent a notice to DIP to collect information on the total number of government advertisements published in Panthak Samachar and the total value of the advertisements.
His office has now also demanded information from the DIP on the paper’s circulation figures, and information on government advertisements placed in other newspapers in the same category with comparable circulation.
According to the initial information provided by DIP for 2007-08, while The Educator got merely 80 advertisements, Panthak Samachar got 202 advertisements.
The Lokayukta has given the department time till July 15 to respond. No notice, however, has been issued to Pushpinder Singh yet.
Meanwhile, Pushpinder Singh, denied the allegations made by the complainant. “The Delhi government has not favoured me any way. All the newspapers have got advertisements on a rotational basis,” Singh told Newsline. He further denied that the other newspaper listed with the DIP, Jathedar, is also run by him indirectly. “I have never even seen the office of that newspaper. How I can run that newspaper?” he asked.

Thursday, 11 June, 2009

Let’s carry each other’s heads


Let’s carry each other’s headsCynthia Keppley Mahmood
Today I read in the newspapers about a bill brought before Parliament about the possibility of Canadian victims of terror being able to bring suit against perpetrators of violence and the countries harboring them, i.e. the notion of “alien torts.” How admirable! How very civilized! Far better, certainly, than the response we got in the United States toward Osama bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks, which was a growled, “I’ll git’m alive or dead” from President Bush. Down the road from that cowboy threat, we and our allies find ourselves mired in two wars, and hated as never before across the Muslim war. Surely some sort of recourse to international law, to international courts, or in the end to domestic courts, would have been preferable to even this greatest and most heinous of crimes.
When Canada suffered its heaviest terrorist blow, the downing of the Air India jetliner in 1985, it turned to its intelligence and judicial agencies for what became the lengthiest and costliest investigation in Canadian history. That resulted, as we all know, in the Vancouver trial of Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri, the two remaining accused, in 2006, in which both were acquitted.
But on this day when we are commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Indian Army’s storming of the Golden Temple of the Sikhs at Amritsar and concomitant massacre of several thousand innocent worshippers - going essentially unnoticed in the Canadian media amidst the hubbub over Tiananmen Square – we must fairly take note of the fact that despite the world’s respect for the Canadian justice system, this verdict exonerating these Sikhs of the Air India bombing has simply not been taken to heart by the wider Canadian society. They simply don’t believe it’s true. This disbelief is not helped by the inflammatory journalism of two BC reporters, one openly in contact with Indian intelligence agents in Canada, and the other who actually subtitles her book, “How the Air Bombers Got Away with Murder.”
The result of all this is a widespread silencing of the Canadian Sikh community, normally, as everybody knows, a particularly boisterous, outspoken, and unquietable segment of Canada’s multicultural mosaic. This is coming for two reasons, I suspect: first, Sikhs sense that non-Sikh Canadians don’t view them, anymore, as quite “Canadian,” the taint of the terrorist mythos lingers; and second, within the Sikh community deadly divisions have been sewn in which every person suspects the other of being either a CSIS or a RAW (Indian intelligence) agent. Now, every time I approach a podium in Canada, some Sikh or the other rushes up to me and whispers, “Don’t say anything about Khalistan. Don’t say anything about Air India. And so on, a litany of self-censorship, amongst the very refugee community who fled to Canada precisely for its freedom to speak without fear.
In Punjab itself one finds the same strange silence, eerie now as economic growth and the natural hustle-and-bustle of Punjabi life covers over the history of suffering that is so recent that so-called “normal” life is in fact pathologized: farmer suicides are one of the facts of life that no longer seem odd; alcoholism, once unthinkable among Sikhs, is now common; drug use has become the teen “problem” it is in other countries. This is the new normal. But underneath the surface, tensions remain, the same old grievances have never been resolved and the guilty have never been held accountable. Look at last week after the sad Vienna episode! Immediately, spontaneous violence breaks out across India, wherever there are Sikhs. Yes, they are back to “normal,” but any spark can set them off.
All is not well in Sikhdom right now, and we all know that. It’s a threshold moment, a time of transition. The armed insurgency has come and gone. What, at this moment, needs to be done by a world Sikh movement aiming to support Sikh interests in Punjab and everywhere?

In my studies as an anthropologist with Sikh-Canadian families in the B.C. area, I and my students find that many parents are not even passing along the stories of what happened to the Sikhs of Punjab during 1984 and the decades thereafter; the fact that they themselves had been jailed and tortured or perhaps raped; that their house had been burned; that two uncles had disappeared in the night, never to return; or yes, that another uncle had taken up arms to fight for Khalistan and had been shot down in an encounter with police. Why are some parents declining to pass along this key part of this history, this very reason why many immigrated to Canada in the first place? Because they are scared. Even here in Canada, they are now afraid that something could happen
In one of the great films of all time, “Le Scaphandre et le Papillon” (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly), directed by Jean-Dominique Bauby, the true story is told of a man who, in an accident, is paralyzed from head to toe. He can move only his left eyelid. At first, he desires nothing but death. But after a while, he comes to realize with the help of a patient nurse that he could construct a sort of code by blinking that left eyelid in stuttered sequences and thereby communicate. With greatest difficulty, he eventually manages in this manner to dictate an entire book, the story of his life and his insights about life and freedom. A sad film, a tragic film? Yes, of course. Very hard to watch. But at the end this is a story of liberation and of human dignity, because the protagonist realizes that despite all, he still has his voice and thereby his humanity. He can still “speak.”
So important is the power of speech in being human that governments attempting to crush resistance movements start and end with quashing their ability to get their message out – as Foucault realized, to “speak truth to power.” In northern Uganda, where the Acholi people and the Lord’s Resistance Army are fighting a bloody war with the central Government, one could open any newspaper daily to find a picture of a face mutilated by having the entire mouth and lip area gouged out. The symbolism is obvious. Yes, the person was killed. But importantly, the person was not able to speak.

The killers of Sikhs, some of them on a large scale, were never held up for public shame. The Sikhs, who had sacrificed so much for the nation of India, by the 1980’s, were like the offending weeds that no longer belong in the national garden. Good men did nothing as one by one, Sikh men, women and children died in the fields of Punjab. The same Indians who otherwise gathered for protests or organized aid when Christians were attacked, somehow stood aside when the victims were Sikhs.
In Mozambique, where one of the world’s bloodiest civil conflicts took place, my colleague reported that you could find in the marketplace the classic three monkeys showing the “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” postures. But, she noted, in the “speak no evil” pose, the fingers covering the lips were parted oh-so-slightly – the carver’s wink to his/her unknown future customer that yes, somehow, we will get this message out. Somehow, we will bear witness. Somehow, the world will hear about this.
The world has still not really “heard” about the travails of the Sikhs, and I want to explore why. After all, India is a democracy, “the world’s largest democracy,” and it has laws to protect against abuses of rights and to protect minorities. It has an independent judiciary and a relatively free press, and relatively calm and fair transitions of power.
The fact is, however – and I have learned this in the post-9/11 United States as well as in my research in India – that being a “democracy” by law alone is not enough to ensure the vibrancy and flourishing of human voices that alone guarantees human rights.
Let me present you with a seemingly paradoxical picture. Along with the Sikhs, I have also begun to study the Kashmir conflict, and I have visited both sides of Kashmir many times. Once during the Zia years in Pakistan – that is, during the years of military dictatorship – I was traveling along the Line of Control that marks the informal border of India and Pakistan. Streaming out of the mountains were hundred upon hundreds, probably thousands, of refugees (these are the Himalayas, mind you, no easy trek), most of them suffering various levels of frostbite and starvation, many bleeding from wounds now starting to scar or freeze over. The point of note is that these refugees were flowing from India to Pakistan. From the democracy to the dictatorship, that is. And on the Pakistan side one could see vast miles of tent camps, as far as the eye could see, where Islamic aid groups were handing out blankets and tea and medical help (the beginning of another story).
Why would somebody leave a democracy and, at great cost, flee to a dictatorship? This picture points to what the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben calls “the razor-thin line” between democracy and dictatorship despite the fact that in our political theory we treat them as polar opposites. The fact is that the macro-structure of Indian democracy doesn’t mean much for the texture of daily life in one of the regions where a “state of exception” rules; that is to say, where the government has decided that for security reasons certain rights may have to be temporarily abrogated and certain special laws called into place. In the United States, we know about the exceptional laws, the exceptional limitations of rights, brought into play during the crisis after 9/11: Guantanamo Bay, civilian wire tapping, new categories like “enemy detainee,” foreign renditions, waterboarding.
It is through the concept of “the state of exception” that we can understand how it can be that India, though a democracy on the macro-scale, can show a highly dictatorial face to any given region deemed “exceptional” because of a security crisis. Now Punjab, later Kashmir; now the northeast, then Gujarat, later Chattisgarh – kind of like popcorn. Let us not forget, as we celebrate “the world’s largest democracy” that only exceptionally abrogates its commitments to human rights, that Hitler too came to power electorally, and that most of the holocaust occurred under “exceptional” laws passed for a time of crisis in what was otherwise a highly civilized nation. I just could not believe it when, in our small town in the United States, in a town meeting after the 9/11 attacks, my fellow townspeople readily agreed with the chief of police that torture may be necessary if we should – and here’s the climate of paranoia for you – find terrorists attempting to take over the local mall. I wanted to raise my hand to point out, amidst the unanimous slippage into a proto-fascist mode of operation, that torture was completely illegal both domestically and internationally – didn’t my educated fellow citizens in South Bend know that, for gosh sakes? But with a Muslim last name, I decided that prudence was perhaps the better part of valour for that moment, and I remained the quiet observer.
It happens easily. Democratic laws, Charters of Rights and Freedoms, do not in themselves protect our rights. It is an active and vigilant citizenry, making use of those laws, who are actually the bulwark against abuses like torture, concentration camps, illegal wiretapping. Picture the detainee in the jail cell, weak, probably naked, on a cold floor, living on scraps of food, emaciated, awaiting he knows not what future. It is not he who can draw on the laws that protect our rights and freedoms. He relies on others, his fellow citizens, to use those laws to get him out of that detention, to make public the abuses, to end the state’s use of exceptions to get round its commitments to basic human rights.
In the case of the Sikhs in Punjab, the problem was that there was nobody to come to their aid. With a few rare exceptions, most of India’s civil rights and humanitarian organizations turned their backs on the Sikhs. People with turbans quickly became a pariah population: “socially dead,” to use Orlando Patterson’s fortuitous phrase. To put it bluntly, no one in India really cared if they lived or died. Why? Because the image was cleverly and quickly created of the-Sikh-as-terrorist, and therefore the Sikh as unworthy victim. The same Indians who otherwise gathered for protests or organized aid when Christians were attacked, somehow stood aside when the victims were Sikhs. And the killers of Sikhs, some of them on a large scale, were never held up for public shame, let alone legally prosecuted; as Zygmunt Baumann said of perpetrators of the holocaust, designers of genocide are usually actually proud of their accomplishments, applauded by their audiences, who view the offending population as weeds that no longer belong in the national garden. The Sikhs, who had sacrificed so much for the nation of India, by the 1980’s fit this description perfectly. Good men did nothing as one by one, Sikh men, women and children died in the fields of Punjab.
I for one find it horribly frightening to note that the silencing of Sikh voices in India has now crossed the ocean to extend its tentacles to Canada as well. Will history forget the thousands of grandmothers and grandfathers, aunts and uncles, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, who did in pain and indignity, whose ashes were blown away into Punjab’s blue skies or simply flushed unceremoniously down some canal to a foreign land? I understand the fears, the wish to protect. But I also believe very strongly in the power of the human voice, the need of the human voice to at least set history straight, to make sure that history is written not only by the powerful, to make sure that those deceased and disappeared are never forgotten. It is not “democracy” or “academic freedom” that will take care of that task. It is you and I.
In Sikhism the metaphor of living with one’s head in one’s hands is powerfully set into the very basis of the tradition; it means living humbly, without ego, living to serve. Recognizing the fragility of the planet on which we live and the brief moments we share upon it, I like also to imagine that we also carry each other’s heads in our hands, you and I. What precious cargo!
I have lived among the Sikhs these past many years, in any case, in this fashion, knowing that my love and respect is reciprocated by a community too often stereotyped and too little listened to. I have learned about chardhi kala from the Sikhs I’ve known, and I think I’ve become more generous and yes, more courageous from the model of the Singh and the Kaur around me.
But not all is well in Sikhdom right now, and we all know that. It’s a threshold moment, a time of transition. The armed insurgency has come and gone, the movement for Khalistan has risen high and . . .? and what? Some still believe a separate state is the only avenue for justice, while others barely talk about it anymore. In the diaspora, a first generation’s emotional response has yielded to a second generation’s more educated and measured leadership, and we can expect a third generation yet more capable in areas of law and organization and civil discourse – less ready to turn to fisticuffs over old feuds and arguments. But what, at this moment, needs to be done by a world Sikh movement aiming to support Sikh interests in Punjab and everywhere?
As a sympathetic and educated observer I may offer a few humble suggestions.
Thus far, the energies of the movement have been almost wholly inwardly focused. Newspapers, radio and television broadcasts, camps, and so on, and so on, have all aimed at the internal Sikh community, attempting to rally it round, sort out its differences, educate its youth. These remain important tasks.
But what the world Sikh movement has not done is to turn its energies toward the outside – to seek out, educate, and make partners of the wider non-Sikh society. This has been critical in every successful case in which a Diaspora community has mobilized in support of a homeland base. Here, the taint of “terrorism” and the continuing feeling that the Sikhs are not worthy of sympathy make such outreach all the more important. This community has a lot of catching up to do. The Tamils, the Kashmiris – two other Diaspora communities with which I am familiar – are way, way ahead. Sikhs have, by contrast, made a ghetto of themselves.
Let me give you a simple example. In the guide to Toronto provided by the hotel where I’m staying, there’s a list of places of worship. One can find churches, synagogues, mandirs, mosques, Buddhist temples – but no gurdwaras. Why not? Simply, no Sikh group has taken it upon itself to be sure that every city guide in Canada lists a gurdwara in its visitors’ catalogue. A simple thing, but a telling example. The Sikhs, though a key part of the Canadian multicultural mosaic, are also simply out of the mainstream.
If the Sikh community could really pull together, could transition from the shouting to the working phase, it could do several things that I think are first steps toward real effectiveness as a global movement
First, it would be necessary to conduct a series of well-thought-out workshops on the question of how the Sikh religion intersects with Punjabi culture. Sikhism is a universal faith, of course, yet we all know plainly that most gurdwara services are conducted in Punjabi, that Punjabi cultural values permeate everything Sikh. There are so many valuable things about this heritage. But, on the language issue especially, the continued use of Punjabi mono-lingually at events such as this one, at which one is trying to approach non-Sikhs who clearly do not understand the language, cannot be of help to a movement that is serious about its aims. In this age of technology, simultaneous translation running on a screen behind the speaker is easily possible; I’ve seen it among Kashmiris, who are way ahead of the Sikhs in terms of professionalization of a movement.
Second, I think it is time that the community hire on a permanent basis a small team of top flight international lawyers, who can be at the ready for opportunities like alien torts (through which, for example, an Indian human rights abuser could be sued in a Canadian court), who could approach UNESCO on the World Heritage Status of the Golden Temple Complex, who could be called upon on issues regarding the international humanitarian laws of war. This team could proactively work to ensure recognition of Sikh rights in every country where Sikhs live, instead of waiting for individual cases to react to. It could work on what the notion of self-determination actually means, in this 21st century, and explore other options for representation of sub-state collectivities.
Third, the community should hire real lobbyists, professional lobbying firms, in Washington, Ottawa, and London. Not just a few Sikhs with the passion for a cause, but a professional firm trained to advertize and push through an agenda. This is exactly what the government of India has done, and it is what you must do, as well. The sense of mistrust for non-Sikhs is antiquarian, and must be gotten over. Simply expect to hire and pay for the best. They will come to know well the environments of the capitals, know which bills should be supported and how to support them, and be able to think through how the assertion of Sikh rights, or a potential Sikh state, could benefit others.
Fourth, there should be a rotating youth initiative, perhaps set up as internships, to keep track of how the community is being perceived on the internet and to push the Sikh agenda electronically. Likewise, this group of young people, being unattached, could spring into action when opportunities presented themselves such as organizing aid to flood victims in New Orleans. Or, for example, I just found out tonight that the Council of Bishops in the Catholic Church have a firm principle that places of worship are inviolable. Young people, find out such a fact and having grown up here, more familiar with other faiths, could approach the Bishops and find out how to perhaps use this principle to protect the Golden Temple, perhaps to mobilize Catholics around the Sikh cause.
I for one find it horribly frightening to note that the silencing of Sikh voices in India has now crossed the ocean to extend its tentacles to Canada as well. Will history forget the thousands of grandmothers and grandfathers, aunts and uncles, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, who did in pain and indignity, whose ashes were blown away into Punjab’s blue skies or simply flushed unceremoniously down some canal to a foreign land?

Fifth, the Sikh diasporan community must set up its own academic foundation. This foundation would fund scholarly research and writing projects on the Punjab conflict, human rights, and Sikhism in order to make sure that the tragic episode of the past two decades cannot be ignored in the historical record. It could also conduct workshops to help Punjabi scholars learn the standards of international academic publishing, and perhaps help link Western scholars to Punjabi scholars for entrée into Punjab. Most important, its financial support would enable the subaltern or nonstandard Sikh Studies, which views matters from the ground up rather than from New Delhi down, to continue to function and flourish.
Finally, the community must define and support the development of an archive and museum along the lines of the holocaust museums of the Jews. For this type of enterprise, one must be serious; one must hire a professional archivist and expect to spend money on restoration and preservation of artifacts. But doing this centrally will in the end cost less than every gurdwara having its own little library, as is now the case. Such a central archive and museum can also be accessible electronically worldwide, if the decision is made to locate the original outside of India.
The military side of the Khalistan movement was never quite serious enough for its activists to really train as soldiers the way, say, special-ops forces do, or to learn about guerilla tactics and theory by reading about other insurgencies comparatively. It relied instead on the deep passion and commitment of the “saint-soldiers” and their willingness to martyr themselves in their cause. This is a common first phase of a movement like this one. It evokes much popular admiration and establishes legendary, even mythic, reputations, but it rarely wins battles.
The same is true on the political side. Loud demonstrations have their place, certainly, and so do vehement essays and provocative speeches that boil the blood of those whose souls have been wounded. But in a more mature second phase, the hard work of actually making something happen has to be brought into place. It takes discipline, time, and a long-term vision – probably a generational vision. The Irish had that vision and held onto it. Can the Sikhs?

Loud demonstrations have their place, certainly, and so do vehement essays and provocative speeches that boil the blood of those whose souls have been wounded. But in a more mature second phase, the hard work of actually making something happen has to be brought into place. It takes discipline, time, and a long-term vision.
It is true that my list of desiderata will cost a great deal of money. But then, the stakes are very high – the preservation and protection of a religion, the defense of human rights, the self-determination of a nation. It is up to every Sikh to decide whether it is worth it. In my view spending money in a disciplined, accountable manner of proven effectiveness is far preferable than the current wastage in which cash slips through the cracks of gurdwara elections, individual court cases, this or that local action, one upmanship between factions. Get with it! Make your funding and your hard work count.
As for the silencing with which I began my remarks, I beg you . . . to hell with it! In my community we have a saying that the nail which sticks up will get hammered down. That may be true, but still I’ve always gone ahead and been that nail. A book I’ve been reading called “A Person of Interest,” by Julia Choi, provides another metaphor: a field of poppies, in which the tall ones are likely to get plucked. With Sikhs wearing those lovely saffron turbans, that is perhaps the better analogy. Please, for God’s sake, for the sake of Sikhi, don’t be those poppies that bow their heads down, trying to hide somehow in the crowd. Be the tall, proud poppies that stand out in your Canadian field, where every law protects your right to do so.
The author is Associate Professor of Anthropology, Senior Fellow, Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame. This article is based on a speech she delivered at the World Sikh Organisation’s Annual Parliamentary Dinner Meeting at West Block, House of Commons, Ottawa, on 4 June 2009 in the matrix of the theme Past in Perspective –Future in Focus; Commemoration of 25 years of Saka Akal Takht.