Thursday, November 29, 2007

US Sikhs reject offer of cooption by SGPC

An article by
Dharmendra Rataul in The Indian Express

Amritsar, November 28 The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee’s ambitious plan of incorporating 10 NRI Sikhs in its general house seems to have run into rough weather with the American diaspora rejecting it.

US NRIs are of the view that they cannot let themselves be subservient to the SGPC, but would bow their heads before the Akal Takht, so the religious body should take the proposal back.

Surprised at the move, American Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (ASGPC) chief Dr Pritpal Singh told The Indian Express, “I appeal to the SGPC to take the proposal back as there are no takers for it. We will not be part of the SGPC. We have our own committee similar to the SGPC and we will not like any interference,” he said.

The SGPC— which had been pursuing the matter of co-option with the Union government that was in the process of issuing a notification — had passed a resolution in this regard at its general house meeting on November 23.

SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar had raised the issue at the meetings with Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and Union Home Minister Shiv Raj Patil, and they had promised to do the needful.

The SGPC, which was seeking a suitable amendment in the Sikh Gurdwara Act, 1925, to pave way for co-option, said they would have members from the foreign countries on the basis of their population percentage and special focus would be on the USA, Canada, the UK and other European countries, where Sikhs are in a large numbers.

“The move is aimed at giving adequate representations to the Sikh diaspora,” said SGPC secretary Dalmegh Singh.

Dr Pritpal, however, said, “The SGPC controls gurdwaras in north India and is running under an Act of the Indian government. How can that Act be applicable to American or Canadian citizens? We will oppose the move tooth and nail.”

He said they seek guidance from the Akal Takht and not the SGPC, which should work to better its administration of gurdwaras in India. If the SGPC’s proposal is accepted by the Centre, the number of the SGPC members will rise to 200 from the present 185, apart from the five high priests.

“The move is to widen the scope of the religious body, which is the only democratically elected body, controlling the largest number of gurdwaras. Dr Pritpal should stop commenting on the issue and do his own work while we are doing our,” said another SGPC official.

He added that only ‘sabat surat’ Sikhs (who do not shorn their hair) would be entitled to become the member.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Why did Rajiv Gandhi escape censure for 1984 anti Sikh massacre

The question as to why people of the secular brigade hate Modi but do not have the same feelings for Rajiv Gandhi and Narasimha Rao has been asked many times.
In this article in Hindustan Times, Rajdeep Sardesai tries to offer his explanation.
Dr Modi and Mr Hyde
by Rajdeep Sardesai

On the very day that Lalu Yadav marched to the Prime Minister’s residence demanding Narendra Modi’s arrest in the wake of the Tehelka sting exposé, a small group of Sikh widows were protesting at the capital’s Jantar Mantar on the 23rd anniversary of the anti-Sikh riots. One eye on the TV cameras, the other firmly on the Muslim vote, Lalu was making the headlines. The widows were yesterday’s story. While the 2002 Gujarat riots have become a cause celebre for the secular establishment, 1984 has never quite acquired the same profile.

On the face of it, the anti-Sikh riots were far more horrific than the post-Godhra violence. More than 2,700 people were killed in 1984, as per the official death toll; in Gujarat, it was a little over a thousand. The 1984 riots have seen just 13 convictions; in Gujarat, the fast-track courts have already convicted more than 15 persons in different cases. The 1984 riots occurred in several high security areas in the heart of the national capital; the 2002 violence spread more thinly to parts of rural Gujarat as well. As a powerful recent book, When a Tree Shook Delhi, confirms, senior Congress politicians, including Union ministers, were actually present on the streets, allegedly leading the mobs in 1984; in Gujarat, the direct evidence against Modi’s cabinet members is still based principally on police phone records. While then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee did make some token attempt to distance himself from the Gujarat rioters, it took a Sikh Congress PM in 2005 to finally accept that 1984 was a “national shame”, and that the truth had never come out. Rajiv Gandhi’s statement that “when a big tree falls, the earth shakes” is recorded history; Narendra Modi’s “action-reaction” comment was officially denied.

Why then is Modi such a hate figure today for the secularists while Rajiv Gandhi, then Home Minister Narasimha Rao and the entire top Congress leadership have escaped public censure? The answer might unlock not just the Modi enigma, but also the content of Indian secularism, and perhaps indicate just how much India has changed in the last two decades.

Firstly, in 1984, the Indian judiciary was perhaps a little less adversarial towards the politician than it is today, and certainly less proactive in driving the political agenda. There was no Supreme Court as willing to directly indict the political leadership as it is today — Modi was likened to Nero by former Chief Justice V.N. Khare; in 1984, the Supreme Court would have probably seen such a remark as a transgression of judicial authority.

Secondly, human rights activists were perhaps far less organised in 1984 than they are today. The ability to create a sustained moral and legal pressure on the system, to network with other NGOs and to cultivate the media is perhaps far greater now than it was in 1984, although many groups like the PUCL and PUDR as well as the Nagrik Ekta Manch did embark on processions and fact-finding missions. A Teesta Setalvad can actually become a rallying point for those seeking justice in a manner that was perhaps not possible 23 years ago.

Thirdly, and most crucially, the 2002 riots were the first in the age of round-the-clock ‘live’ television. Gujarat was India’s first television riot. There was remarkable journalism done in the 1980s (as also after Ayodhya), but somehow, the power and sanctity of the written word cannot match the impact and immediacy of the television image. Whether it was the visuals of street carnage five years ago or the voices of Sangh parivar footsoldiers bragging about their ‘achievements’ with chilling candour, the audio-visual image has the ability to confirm, even magnify, the gravity of the crime in a way that, at times, even the finest prose cannot. The television camera reduced the mental and geographical distance between the Gujarat riots and a national viewership in a manner that the newspaper in 1984 could not. It also, especially in the context of a paralysed political class, became the ‘real’ opposition, questioning and challenging the Gujarat government’s claims to be a non-partisan upholder of the Constitution.

Ironically, what the dramatic television images also did was transform Modi into a larger-than-life figure. From a relatively anonymous pracharak who had never fought an election, he was now either the hero or villain of hate politics, depending on one’s ideological leanings. Modi, in fact, brilliantly used the media exposure to create the spectre of a confrontation between himself and the so-called ‘anti-Hindu’ English language media. The sharp rhetoric in public speeches, the intimidatory tone towards journalists and even the recent walk-out from an interview were designed to position himself as a macho hero who was being targeted by an ideological media. Indeed, by pigeonholing the non-Gujarati media in particular as ‘enemy number one’, Modi was able to cultivate a sense of ‘us’ versus ‘them’ within his core constituency. As a result, far from being apologetic about the post-Godhra violence, he was almost dismissive of the criticism. This seeming lack of remorse at the violence has only added to the polarisation: the critics demonised him, and his supporters valourised him as a Hindu hriday samrat.

In a sense, Modi has become symbolic of the Hindu-Muslim faultlines that exist in our society, a symbol of the darkness within. Those faultlines run far deeper and are far more central to identity politics than the Hindu-Sikh divide of the 1980s could ever have been. The divide of the 1980s was a temporary eruption, occasioned more by political mismanagement than any fundamental shift in attitudes between members of the two communities. The scars of 1984 could be healed with time, because the origins of the Hindu-Sikh tension were not based on historic resentments and popular prejudices.

By contrast, and rather uncomfortably, 2002 seems part of a more sustained campaign of hate, prejudice and violence between Hindus and Muslims, one which tapped into a wider constituency in Gujarat and beyond. Which is why there isn’t a greater sense of collective outrage at the behaviour of those caught on camera detailing the worst possible crimes against humanity. Which is also why a substantial section of the rank and file of the BJP, a party whose rise in national politics was spurred by the growing communal divide, seems to have endorsed Modi’s brand of politics.

Interestingly, the original patent to this type of militant Hindutva politics belonged to Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray. Like Modi in 2002, Thackeray too was unapologetic about his actions during the 1992-93 Mumbai riots. In fact, he went a step further than Modi when he openly said “he was proud of his boys”. Both Modi and Thackeray revelled in their image as authoritarian political bosses who would tolerate no internal dissent. Like Modi, Thackeray too has attempted to create an ‘enemy-like situation’ with the the English language media, one designed purely to reinforce his stature as the ‘supremo’ among his supporters.

The difference is that while Thackeray had little to offer beyond the demagoguery. Modi, as Chief Minister, has chosen a ‘Hindutva-plus’ model, one in which a fierce commitment to ideology is matched by an equally aggressive commitment to economic growth. While Thackeray has often been dismissed as an eccentric rabble-rouser, Modi enjoys the stature of being a focused, workaholic CM.

So, while sociologist Ashis Nandy may have come out of a meeting with Modi 10 years ago and warned a colleague that he had met the country’s first “textbook fascist”, industrialists who shared a dais with him at the Vibrant Gujarat celebrations last year admiringly described him as a “growth-oriented, highly motivated chief minister”. Perhaps, it’s this dualism — Dr Modi and Mr Hyde — that lies at the heart of the Modi phenomenon. Not only does he appeal to the desire for greater material progress, but his existence is perhaps a symbol of a hidden alter ego, a doppleganger that undoubtedly still exists in many Hindu hearts. Modi says in public what many may say in private. A centuries-old, unsaid prejudice that still has not been properly confronted and cauterised is Modi’s secret weapon. It makes him more electable. And also more feared.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Sikh girl denied right to wear kara in school

The hindustan times has in a news article stated that a girl in UK has been sent back home because she was wearing a kara.'s+EMkada%2fEM

Sarika Watkins-Singh, the Sikh teenager who has been excluded from her school in south Wales for refusing to remove the kada, a symbol of Sikhism, has been backed by the local race equality council. Sarika, who decided to become a practising Sikh after a visit to Amritsar in 2005, has decided to mount a legal challenge against the school's decision that, she believes, amounted to infringing her human rights.

Sarika was sent home on Monday by the Aberdare Girls School, south Wales. According to the school, wearing the kada is against regulations because it is a piece of jewellery. The school is known for strictly enforcing rules. After the case hit the headlines, Sarika has found support from the Valleys Race Equality Council. Its director, Ron Davies, told the media, "We are supporting Sarika, and believe the school is acting unlawfully by refusing to let her wear the bangle..... READ ENTIRE ARTICLE HERE...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Outlook editor regrets hurt

Following the depiction of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale in the Indian English newsweekly, "Outlook" where he was shown carrying arms in his beard, Outlook has stated that "We regret any hurt caused unintentionally." This comes as an editor's note following a protest letter written by Kanwarpal Singh, of Khalsa action committee.
The protest letter and regret are as follows:

"We protest the offensive caricature of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale in Outlook. It is regrettable that Sikhs continue to be a subject of ridicule in the media. To portray a Sikh, even if he is Sant Bhindranwale, carrying arms in his beard, is shameful and disgusting. Every Indian and more so the staff of a journal of your stature and repute should know the importance Sikhs attach to their hair and beard. For all practising Sikhs, they are two of the five sacred symbols of their religion as mandated by Guru Gobind Singh. While we totally disagree with your portrayal of Sant Bhindrawale as a villain, we respect your right to have your opinion" :Kanwarpal Singh, Spokesperson, Khalsa Action Committee

Editor’s note: We regret any hurt caused unintentionally.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Green party supports Sikh turban in Ireland

Here is press statement by
Green Party Equality spokesperson Ciarán Cuffe TD

Green Party Equality spokesperson Ciarán Cuffe TD today called on An Garda Síochána to reverse its recent ruling which prohibits a Sikh recruit to the Garda Reserve from wearing a turban as part of his uniform.

Deputy Cuffe said: "I am calling on the Garda authorities to review this ruling, and have written today to Commissioner Noel Conroy requesting him to do so. I informed him that in my opinion it does not meet with international best practice. This decision is in complete contrast to the positions of other reserve forces, such as the London Metropolitan Police and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who allow Sikh members to wear their turbans. Police forces in the UK , USA, Singapore , Malaysia, Pakistan and India have no problem in allowing the wearing of turbans.

"The turban is a vital part of the rules of the Sikh religion. Sikh men are prohibited from cutting their hair or appearing in public without the turban. In my opinion, the wearing of a turban would in no way impinge upon the operational effectiveness of a member of the force."

The London-based Metropolitan Police Sikh Association has accused the Garda Síochána of 'racial discrimination' in their decision, saying it "did not support community cohesion, diversity and tolerance of other faiths."

Monday, August 20, 2007

Muslim hooligans take over Sikh shrine

The Malaysia sun reports that Muslim hooligans have taken over a Sikh shrine.

Muslim hooligans take over Sikh's Lahore's Bhai Taro Singh Jee temple in Lahore
Malaysia Sun
Monday 20th August, 2007

Lahore, Aug 20 : The ownership of Bhai Taro Singh Jee temple in Lahore's Naulakha Bazaar has become the centre of a confrontation between the Sikhs and a Muslim hooligan group, which has allegedly taken over the temple's ownership.

The Sikh community has alleged that local Muslim hooligans, who are getting support of Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), have taken control over the temple and have debarred them from entering inside it.

Representatives of the Sikh community said that the hooligans had stopped them from entering the premises for the past two months.

Muslims first prayed for saint, Pir Shah Kaku, and then started offering Asr and Maghrib prayers and started holding Quranic mehfils at the temple, the Sikh groups said.

According to Daily Times, Sikhs' religious symbols has been removed from the temple and Islamic slogans of 'Ya Allah' and 'Ya Rehmatul Alimeen' had replaced them. A plaque giving details of the pir's identity had also been put up on one of the walls.

The daily also spoke to the leader of the occupants of the temple, Sohail Butt, who said that they have taken the step (to occupy the temple) in their personal capacity "for the welfare of the Muslims community."

He admitted that the former guard of the temple had seen a dream where Pir Shah Kaku "had urged him to keep the Sikhs away from the temple".

He added that they are trying to ascertain the pir's date of death, and "once done we will hold a yearly urs in celebration."

Meanwhile, Sikh groups said that they were protesting against hooligans' activities and have urged the ETPB, but to no avail.

"After the temple's dome was painted green, the committee wrote to the then ETPB additional secretary Izharul Hassan against the violation of the temple's sanctity, said Dr. Mampal Singh.

He alleged that hooligans had claimed the shrine for themselves and that the ETPB had told the committee it would resolve the issue within a month.

"They haven't done anything yet and the hooligans are tightening their grip on our worship place,' he added.

However, EPTB refutes allegations levelled by Sikh groups.

ETPB chairman Lt Gen (r) Zulfiqar Ali Khan told the daily that the trustee is in charge of the temple and Muslims go there to pray for the saint, while Sikhs go there for their worship.

"There is no plaque of the saint or other plaques inscribed with Islamic slogans inside the temple. Vested quarters are trying to put a negative touch to the issue, but ETPB won't allow them to do so," he said, adding that they are trying to maintain a status quo.

The locals in the area have disputed the claims of the hooligans stating it is not authentic.

"They want to make money from the devotees and in this process have violated the sanctity of Sikhs worship place," a local said.

4 year old Sikh to convert to Roman Catholic for school admission

The Daily Mail is writing about Sikh parents willing to convert their four year old girl into Roman Catholic.

Sikh girl will convert for a place at Catholic school
By PAUL SIMS - More by this author » Last updated at 23:18pm on 19th August 2007

Comments Comments (15)
The parents of a Sikh girl want to convert her to Roman Catholicism to win a place at the school of their choice.

Baljit and Bal Singh say they will change their four-year-old daughter's religion if it means she can attend their favoured school next month.