News & Views
Dr Surjit Singh Gandhi Passes Away
Passing away of Principal (retd.) Dr Surjit Singh Gandhi, an eminent historian has saddened many, who were in contact with this noble soul. Members of Institute of Sikh Studies are deeply grieved at the sad demise of Dr Gandhi, a long-time associate of the Institute. He made valuable contribution to the History Project undertaken by the Institute of Sikh Studies, Chandigarh. Dr Gandhi was a known authority on the History of Sikhs. His outstanding works in addition to the present one, was History of the Sikh Gurus, Perspectives on Sikh Gurdwara Legislation and Punjab under the Great Mughals; the last one written at the behest of University Grants Commission, New Delhi. He was also honoured by the Chief Khalsa Diwan and Punjabi Society Texas, USA. In his death, the Sikh community has lost a historian par excellence, educationist and thinker. We join in sympathy with his family and the institutions which benefited from his scholarly expertise.
IOSS Contrubites An Article to UNESCO book
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has decided to produce a landmark outreach publication to develop the themes of the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures (2013-2022). Mr Ben Cornwell, Project Co-ordinator, contacted the Institute of Sikh Studies asking to contribute an article to the same, titled Agree to Differ - a fully illustrated 250-page book.
An article "The Universal Message of Sikhism to Mankind" jointly prepared by the members of the Institute has been sent to for Publication. The book will be launched in May 2015, and appear at key meetings in the following months/years of the Decade. The launch event is: 3rd World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue (18-19 May 2015, Baku, Azerbaijan).
Bhai Ashok Singh Chairs a Seminar in Punjabi University, Patiala
Patiala: Two days National Seminar by Professor Harbans Singh Department of Encyclopaedia of Sikhism, Punjabi University, Patiala was held on March 9-10, 2015 on the theme Socio-Spiritual Concerns of Religion. Aimed at discussing the need of interfaith understanding in the present day situation in order to turn towards social harmony is the main objective of this Seminar.
Bhai Ashok Singh, Vice-President, Institute of Sikh Studies presided the Second day Conference. He emphasised that religious values illuminate as to how peace and harmony could be enjoyed while having different religions, cultures and races. Inter-religious dialogue plays an important role in this direction. It spreads a genuine mutual understanding among the people. Sincere efforts are required for acquiring the true spirit of religion based on scriptures.
Now 'Bir' printing in Canada
Amritsar, March 3. The SGPC has finally decided to set up a printing facility at British Columbia in Canada for printing Guru Granth Sahib so as to cater to the increasing demand for the holy book among the Sikh diaspora. This would be the first such facility outside India.
The decision was reached at the SGPC executive meeting held at Gurdwara Sri Degsar Katana Sahib today. The printing facility would be set up at Satnam Education Trust, British Columbia, in Canada. SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar said the move would help them meet the demand for the holy book among the Sikhs settled abroad.
He said they had also constituted a subcommittee comprising SGPC's senior vice-president Raghujit Singh Virk, general secretary Sukhdev Singh Bhaur, executive member Rajinder Singh Mehta and secretary Roop Singh to chalk out the future course of action in that regard. He said the subcommittee would visit Canada in near future and sign an agreement with the NRI who had offered the land for setting up the facility. The effort would be to supply the holy book "as far as possible through the land route".
In the absence of such a printing facility abroad, the SGPC had been having a tough time till now transporting the holy book to other countries through aerial or sea route, as it was quite difficult to maintain "maryada" during the transit. The SGPC had in the past sent "Birs" of Guru Granth Sahib abroad on chartered flights. In April 2011, the SGPC sent 450 "Birs" of Guru Granth Sahib to Italy by ship.
The Akal Takht had issued a "hukumnama" (edict) on May 9, 1998, directing that the SGPC had the sole right to print "Birs" of Guru Granth Sahib in order to prevent "blasphemous" acts of private publishers. The edict issued by Akal Takht made it clear that only the SGPC, the DSGMC or a publisher with the permission of Akal Takht, could print the holy book.
Earlier, the SGPC had made an attempt to set up such a printing facility in North Carolina province of the USA, where Gurdwara Sahib Charlotte had offered 2.5 acres for the purpose. However, the proposal could not materialise. Apart from the SGPC, the DSGMC has also been working on a proposal to establish printing facility for Guru Granth Sahib abroad. DSGMC president Manjeet Singh GK took stock of a property being offered to them at Vancouver in Canada for the purpose last year. The DSGMC then sent the proposal to the Sikh high priests for getting clearance. (Courtesy: The Tribune, March 4, 2015).
1984 riots Turning Point for Diaspora
Patiala, January 20. The 1984 Sikh riots proved a turning point in changing the socio-political landscape of the Punjabi diaspora in various parts of the globe, especially in the US, the UK and Canada. It made the Sikhs conscious of their identity and the need of their assertive participation in political affairs.
This observation was made by Dr Pritam Singh, Professor of Economics in the Oxford Brooks University, UK, in his keynote address on the opening day of a three-day international conference on "Punjabi Diaspora: A Dialogue on their Host Culture" that started on the Punjabi University campus here today.
Rajya Sabha MP and noted journalist HK Dua said the enterprising and skilled Punjabi youth stood enormous chance of getting lucrative jobs in foreign countries where the ageing population was causing drain of their economy.
Sikh outfits release Nanakshahi calendar
Amritsar, March 16. A group of around 60 Sikh organisations from Punjab as well as countries such as the US and the UK today got together to release the "original" Nanakshahi calendar in Jalandhar.
Talking to The Tribune, Sikh Sewak Society (International) state president Parminderpal Singh Khalsa alleged the calendar released by the Sikh high priests in Amritsar on March 14 was Nanakshahi in name but Bikrami in character. He alleged they had played a fraud on the Sikh community.
He said there is only one Nanakshahi calendar that came into force in 2003 and whose architect was Pal Singh Purewal of Canada. He alleged those at the helm of the affairs were working under pressure of the RSS and deras that wanted the Sikh community to revert to the Bikrami calendar.
Dubbing it vote-bank politics, he blamed the Akali Dal for it and alleged the ruling party had abolished the Nanakshahi calendar for political gains.
The organisations also rejected the committee constituted by the Sikh clergy to resolve the calendar row.
SGPC Non-committal on Heritage Status for Golden Temple
Amritsar, March 8. Even as the Union Government has submitted a revised list of 46 monuments and sites, including the Golden Temple in Amritsar, for inclusion in the list of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites, the SGPC appears non-committal on the issue that created a furore in the community a decade ago.
SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar said they would discuss the issue in the executive committee and take a collective decision in that regard. He appeared cautious while talking over the issue, apparently to steer clear of any controversy.
SGPC member Kiranjot Kaur, who played a key role in preparing the dossier for the heritage status a decade ago, said she was skeptical whether the holy shrine could now get the status of the World Heritage Site as a lot of changes had been made in and around it.
"The Golden Temple and its vicinity have witnessed construction of modern structures over the past few years. This has changed the look as well as the architectural heritage of the shrine. Even its buffer zone has undergone a significant change due to the Golden Temple Entrance Plaza project," she said.
Had the shrine got the heritage status in 2005, its architectural heritage would have remained intact, she said. She recalled the process had reached the final stage and the dossier was ready to be placed before the World Heritage Committee. However, a month before the meeting, the Union Government withdrew the case at the behest of the SGPC.
When asked whether the SGPC should rethink over the issue, she said she was doubtful whether the plea would be acceptable now in the light of modern interventions made in and around the shrine during the last decade.
The SGPC had rejected a similar move during the tenure of Jagir Kaur in 2005, contending that seeking heritage site status for Sri Harmandar Sahib was a challenge to its spiritual power as well as to Sikh sentiments. The move divided the community the world over with a section feeling the status would lead to UNESCO's "interference" in the holy shrine's affairs.
Jagir Kaur had then stated that Sri Harmandar Sahib did not need any "stamp" from UNESCO. "Harmandar Sahib is a living monument and abode of the Almighty where sangat pays obeisance and hence it could not be treated as a tourist centre," she had stated after the SGPC executive meeting that rejected the move on April 21, 2005.
On Wednesday, Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Culture Dr Mahesh Sharma informed the Rajya Sabha that the list, which includes the Golden Temple, was sent to UNESCO in April last year.
Workplace Turban Law Amended
A new employment law that enables Sikhs to wear turbans in all workplaces has come into force across the UK.
It follows a decade-long campaign by Sikh groups to address a loophole in the law, which led to turban-wearers facing discrimination in the workplace.
Employment laws had exempted turban wearers from the requirement to wear a safety helmet on construction sites.
But the exemption did not apply to less hazardous environments, such as factories and warehouses.
The Sikh Council UK, which is the largest representative body of British Sikhs, said the 1989 Employment Act created an anomaly which allowed Sikhs to wear turbans, in place of safety helmets, in environments where there was a high risk of head injuries, but the exemption did not extend to relatively safer environments.
The Council said the rules led to a number of cases where Sikhs faced disciplinary hearings and were dismissed from longstanding employment for their refusal to remove their turban and wear a safety helmet.
An amendment to extend the exemption in the Employment Act was introduced to the Deregulation Bill last year, following lobbying by Sikh groups.
Secretary General of Sikh Council UK, Gurmel Singh said, "We are pleased that our long campaign has enabled a vital change in the law.
"It will make a real difference to Sikhs in the UK by increasing the number of workplaces that members of the community can work in whilst maintaining their religiously mandated identity."
There will still be limited exceptions where safety helmets will be required, such as for specific roles in the armed forces and emergency response situations. (Courtesy: www.bbc.com)
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