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ISC Launches Sikh Education Fund
– A Report –

Kartar Singh*

Sikh Education Fund
In a historic meeting of Interim Executive Committee held on 4th Dec, 2006, Dr Sardara Singh Johl, Chairman, Advisory Council for education put forth a Resolution for the official launch of a ‘Sikh Education Fund’. This was actually a follow-up of a very well attended Seminar on ‘Rural Education in Punjab’ organized by the Institute of Sikh Studies, Chandigarh. A panel of eminent scholars had then produced a hard hitting memorandum addressed to the Government of Punjab and various other concerned agencies identifying the alarming situation, and suggested remedies.

The ISC organizers had invited about 40 eminent members to attend the above meeting held on 4th Dec, 2006, at its HQ. The press was kind enough to be present in full strength and TV coverage too was adequate. The Resolution put forth by Dr S S Johl was debated by our members and, once convinced about its urgent necessity, was passed unanimously.

Resolution - 1

“After deliberating and discussing the problem of virtual collapse of the education system, especially at the school level, in the state of Punjab, at a two-day seminar on October 1 & 2, 2006, at the Institute of Sikh Studies, Chandigarh and the overall recommendations of the eminent scholars and educationists who participated in the seminar, the Interim Executive Committee of the International Sikh Confederation (ISC) has unanimously resolved to establish a Sikh Education Fund (SEF) on the lines of Jewish Education Fund (JEF) to the tune of one billion US dollars to empower the Sikh youth with the latest and the best tools of quality education in the form of scholarships, freeships and other incentives after making a thorough screening and objective assessment of the needy, deserving and meritorious students at the various levels of school and higher education. The committee appeals to the Sikh religious organizations, affluent Sikh corporate houses, family trusts and individuals to contribute liberally to this fund and help the ISC to launch this most urgently needed project for empowering the Sikh youth in order to enable them to cope up with the highest challenges of the fast-changing modern globalised world, to be stake holders in the major areas of global economy, civil society and international affairs.The contributions, in the form of cheques, drafts and other available financial instruments may be sent to ISC Sikh Education Fund (SEF), at Plot No 1, Kendri Singh Sabha, Sector 28-A, Madhya Marg, Chandigarh.”

Response was spontaneous and within a short time a nucleus corpus of about ten lakhs was created there and then through instant voluntary contributions by the members present in the meeting. The gathering unanimously nominated His Honour Justice Mota Singh, QC, to be the Chairman of the Trust responsible for managing. He was tasked with the responsibility of choosing a panel of five more members and proceed in establishing the Trust. Lt Gen Kartar Singh suggested that the Trust should consist of eleven members whose composition be approved in the next General Body Meeting of ISC. Till then, the ISC was to receive the donations and transfer the amount received to the Trust on it’s registration and opening of a separate account. This was unanimously approved.

ISC TV Channel
On behalf of the Advisory Council for Media, Publicity and IT, Dr Kharak Singh then proposed that the ISC launch it’s own TV Channel at the earliest. This project has already been thoroughly discussed in various meetings of the Interim Executive Committee and is considered totally feasible. The total outlay was estimated at Rupees two crores and well within our reach. The benefits to the Sikh Panth would be tremendous in that the ISC and all major Sikh Institutions / Organizations will have an effective media facility to communicate directly with global Sikhs. Sikh youth and Sikh masses will be educated and motivated with the teachings of our Gurus through effective use of audio-visual media. The sacrifices made by our ancestors can be depicted in such a manner as to leave indelible imprint on the impressionable minds of our youth who are thirsting to be educated and familiarised with their rich and proud Sikh heritage.

Resolution - 2

“The Interim Executive Committee and eminent members present at its meeting held on 4th Dec, 2006, hereby resolves that the ISC work towards establishment of an independent TV Channel in the very near future. This will enable the ISC to communicate directly the Sikh ethos, Sikh way of life and literature, history and the sacred contents of Guru Granth Sahib globally. This will also enable us to inculcate in Sikh youth the importance of maintaining our distinct identity and acquaint them with the history of the sacrifices made by our Gurus and predecessors to uphold the tenets of Sikh faith. The ISC may seek the help of sponsors to finance this project provided ownership rights of this channel remain with the ISC.”

It was generally felt by the members that the Sikh Panth has a number of eminent Sikhs who would volunteer to set up this TV Channel. The ISC could identify such potential sponsors and obtain their support in quickly mustering financial support and expertise.

The Resolution was passed unanimously.

The fourth of December will go down in the history of the Sikh Panth as an auspicious day. Two momentous decisions were taken by the ISC, which if successfully implemented, would enable it to take a big leap forward in the spread of Sikhism and the teachings of the Gurus worldwide. One could easily attribute this to the increasing strength and enthusiasm of the ISC organizers, encouraged by the presence of a noble and devout Sikh personality – H H Justice Mota Singh, QC. All credit to him for flying in from London to attend this meeting.

Advisory Council for Diaspora and Legal Affairs
On 5th Dec, 2006, H H Justice Mota Singh, QC, chaired a meeting of his Advisory Council attended by its members at ISC Headquarters. After a very productive session it was decided that we prepare ourselves to tackle the following issues:-

(a) Defence of Sikh Legal Rights
(b) Defence of Sikh Identity
(c) Recognition of Anand Karaj Ceremony under the Indian Marriage Act.
(d) Sikh Representation on world Bodies
(e) Sikh Personal Law
(f) All India Gurudwaras Act

It would be appropriate to briefly outline the substance of each of these issues.

Defence of Sikh Legal Rights
The ISC will identity and empanel Sikh lawyers in India and in various countries abroad where we have a substantive population. The ISC will take active part in legally defending such rights wherever this AC considers it appropriate. The ISC is ready to defray expenses wherever voluntary effort is lacking and employ capable lawyers to defend our rights.

Defence of Sikh Identity
The ISC must make concerted efforts to encourage Sikh youth to preserve their identity. We should defend the normative position of Sikhs rather than the actual position. In fact, an apostate Sikh is an aberration rather than a norm.

Anand Karaj Ceremony
Members felt that the Anand Karaj Ceremony must be officially recognized by the Government for visas and all other purposes. At present, we have to obtain a certificate under the Hindu Marriage Act, despite the fact that Anand Marriage has been recognised in the Indian Counstitution.

Sikh Representation in World Bodies
It was strongly advocated by all members that Sikhs must be officially represented in major world bodies such as the United Nations. Some members quoted precedents wherein an Organization of Unrepresented Nations was formed as an unofficially recognized body. Others quoted the cases of countries such as Estonia and Latvia which were part of Russia at one time but are now recognized as independent members. This really does not support our case. It was decided that the ISC will give further consideration to this.

Sikh Personal Law
All members supported the enactment of a Sikh Personal Law by our Government. The IOSS has already moved in this direction and we will pursue this with some vigour.

All India Gurudwaras Act
Members were informed that an amended act as suggested by Justice Harbans Singh and his Committee rests with the SGPC. We need to pursue this case with the SGPC as we feel that an amended act will be an asset to the Sikhs.

H H Justice Mota Singh, QC, closed the meeting with the promise that his Advisory Council will vigorously pursue these projects to a successful conclusion.


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