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Seminar – The Concept of Sri Akal Takht Sahib

A seminar on the Concept of Sri Akal Takht Sahib was conducted by the Institute of Sikh Studies (IOSS), Chandigarh, on 11-12th November, 2006, in the auditorium of Shivalik Public School, Phase 6, Mohali.

The seminar was inaugurated by Singh Sahib Giani Gurbachan Singh, Head Granth, Sri Harimandir Sahib, who also released a book “Sri Gur Panth Parkash by Rattan Singh Bhangoo” (English translation by Prof Kulwant Singh). The book was published by the IOSS.

The keynote address was given by Dr Kharak Singh. Some of the prominent scholars from various walks of life, who presented their papers, were :
Dr Kirpal Singh, Dr Sukhdial Singh, Dr Gurbakhsh Singh, Giani Kewal Singh, S Gurcharan Singh Mehta, Dr Surinder Singh, Brig Hardit Singh, S Santokh Singh (IRS), Dr Balkar Singh, S Harsimran Singh, S Raghbir Singh, Er Gurcharan Singh Sethi, Dr Suba Singh, Dr H S Dilgir, Principal Swaranjit Singh, Dr Gurnam Kaur, S Gajinder Singh, Dr Birendra Kaur, Lt Gen Kartar Singh, Dr Gurmit Singh, S Pritam Singh Kohli.

The seminar was set in motion by the keynote address by Dr Kharak Singh. It was felt that while the need for an effective and powerful Akal Takht, the central authority of the Sikhs, was never greater, with the Panth now spread all over the globe, the prevailing state of affairs is extremely disturbing. The Akal Takht is ill-equipped to cope with mounting complex problems like apostasy, challenges to Sikh identity, enquiries relating to gurmat, problems of Sikh diaspora, etc. As a result, some vital issues facing the Panth are often neglected, while decisions on others are implemented more in their breach than in compliance. There have been frequent demonstrations at the Akal Takht, a thing unheard of in the past. It has become difficult for the Akal Takht to keep the Panth together, much less to provide the guidance and lead expected from it.

The Akal Takht, being the seat of spiritual as well as temporal authority for the Panth or the global Sikh community the situation demands radical reforms. The response to the call from scholars and well-wishers of the Panth has been very encouraging. A number of useful suggestions have come from the scholars, some of which are enumerated below:-

1. To exercise its authority, constitution of a board of 11 or more eminent members, well versed in gurmat and committed to Sikh ideals, and above party politics drawn from global Sikh community to advise the Jathedar.
2. The position of Jathedar (or whatever designation may be given to him) is indispensable. He should be the spokesman of the Akal Takht, look after its day-to-day functions, and ensure implemention of the decisions.
3. All decisions should be made by the Board according to procedures laid down in a transparent manner and implemented scrupulously.
4. Need to define the relationship between the Akal Takht (created by the Guru) and other four Takhts created subsequently.
5. The institution of Panj Piaras, its role and constitution be clarified.
6. The Akal Takht should be equipped with a separate secretariat and advisory councils to provide the required technical support in the areas of religion, education, economic, international and legal affairs and public relations. The recently formed International Sikh Confederation, with its advisory councils in all major disciplines, is capable of rendering the required assistance to the Akal Takht.
7. All political parties and other Sikh organizations should owe allegiance to the Akal Takht, offer full cooperation and assure compliance of all decisions.
8. As now the Sikhs are spread all over the world, a case may be taken up with the government of India to grant the Akal Takht a special status.
9. The findings, decisions of all advisory committees must be treated as sacred and sacrosanct, and should not be criticised by members individually or in private. All decisions of these committees should be pronounced by the presiding officer of the Akal Takht as gurmatas from the holy Akal Takht in open forum.
10. The title of Jathedar needs to be changed to a suitable title after due deliberation.
11. All missionary work should be organized under the auspices of Sri Akal Takht.
12. The Institute of Sikh Studies, with its well proven credibility, should set up a multi-disciplinary committee to make an indepth study and suggest an effective institutional setup for Sri Akal Takht Sahib either within the purview of a central legislation, or totally independent of it, so that it can deal with issues concerning the Panth both in India and the diaspora.
13. The Institute of Sikh Studies endeavour to create an effective pressure group for generating consensus on the Sikh religious institutions and reforms and selection of the Akal Takht Jathedar.

– A report by Col Amrik Singh

~~~

Seminar – School Education in Punjab

October 1-2, Chandigarh. A two-day seminar on State of Education was held in the Institute of Sikh Studies, Chandigarh on October 1 & 2, 2006. Prominent educationists, managements, scholars from Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, and Chandigarh participated and resolved to take effective steps to improve the standard of public instruction, especially at the school level and in rural areas.

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Ludhiana Chapter, ISC

On November 19, 2006, Dr Kharak Singh, Lt Gen Kartar Singh, Sardar Gurdev Singh, Bhai Ashok Singh, Bibi Baljit Kaur, Sardar Gurpreet Singh, Sardar Bajwa, Sardar Mohinder Singh attended a highly representative meeting of prominent organizations and individuals of Ludhiana in Gurdwara Sarabha Nagar, Ludhiana. They also had deliberations with the office bearers/representatives of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Study Circle in the latter’s office in Model Town Ludhiana. In the Sarabha Nagar meeting, Ludhiana Chapter of the International Sikh Confederation was established.

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Justice Mota Singh, QC, visits ISC & IOSS

December 4, 2006. Glittering galaxy of scholars and eminent persons from Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Chandigarh met at the office of International Sikh Confederation, to interact with HH Justice Mota Singh, QC of the UK. Problems related to the Sikhs across the globe and their plausible solutions were discussed.

December 8, 2006. Members of the IOSS and a few more scholars held deliberations with Justice Mota Singh at the IOSS office and resolved that concrete programmes should be pursued to ameliorate the lot of the common man, especially in the field of school education.

~~~

Annual Election of IOSS

In a meeting of the Institute of Sikh Studies, held on 28th December, 2006, to elect its President for 2007, members paid rich tribute to Sardar Gurdev Singh, IAS (retd) who had held this position for the last five years. Services rendered by him were eulogised, particularly his contribution towards organising the ISC and holding of special seminars on ‘Education in Rural Punjab’ and ‘Sri Akal Takht Sahib’. It was noted that under his guidance, the IOSS made notable headway. Members desired, therefore, that he should continue in office for another year. He, however, regretted that he could not continue, due to his several other engagements.

Under the circumstances, Bhai Ashok Singh Bagrian, the present Secretary of the IOSS and a senior member, well known for his role in Panthic affairs, was unanimously elected as President for the Year 2007.
In deference to the earnest desire of the members, Sardar Gurdev Singh agreed to become Patron of the Institute of Sikh Studies.

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ISC writes a letter to Chief Minister, Punjab, on Rural Education

To

Hon’ble Chief Minister, Punjab
Capt Amarinder Singh
Raj Bhawan, Chandigarh

Sir,

The Institute of Sikh Studies and the International Sikh Confederation organized a Seminar on the above subject on 1st and 2nd Oct, 06. A number of Educationists and scholars from all walks of life contributed papers and a number of other intellectuals took active part in the two-day Seminar.

NGOs such as the Quality Education Foundation, Chandigarh, Nishkam Sikh Welfare Society, New Delhi and Akal Academy, Baru Sahib took part in the Seminar. These NGOs have carried out adequate research and some of them have set up schools in rural areas which are producing good results. The Tughalwal Model of School Education in Gurdaspur district, which is a unique model of education for the rural masses, featured prominently in the discussions.
A copy of the Resolutions passed at the culmination of the Seminar is attached at Appendix ‘A’ for your kind information. The Seminar constituted a panel consisting of Dr Kharak Singh, Dr Sardara Singh Johl, Lt Gen Kartar Singh Gill, PVSM (Retd), Principal G S Shergill, S.Pritam Singh Bhopal and Prof Kulwant Singh to draft a comprehensive report and various memoranda to be submitted to the concerned authorities. The Report is enclosed at Appendix ‘B’.

Keeping in view the critical situation as highlighted in the Seminar, we would request your personal attention in putting into effect the recommendations as contained in our memorandum attached.

(Lt Gen Kartar Singh)
Chief Executive Officer

~~~

Appendix ‘A’

Resolution

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 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 on 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 funds (SEF), at Plot No 1, Kendri Singh Sabha, Sector 28-A, Madhya Marg, Chandigarh

~~~

Appendix ‘B’

Memorandum to Punjab Government

In a two-day Seminar on the “State of School Education in Rural Punjab” held on October 1-2, 06, at the Institute of Sikh Studies, Chandigarh, eminent Sikh scholars put forth their views. Many valuable suggestions along with concrete recommendations were made. The International Sikh Confederation has been mandated in the Conference to take cognizance of these issues and work out an action plan to bring about a distinct improvement in the state of School Education in rural Punjab. We have, therefore, prepared a Memorandum for action by the State Government in this regard.

Education is a State subject and it is the duty of the State to take serious cognizance of the state of Government Schools in rural areas. Only a small percentage of the rural population can afford to send their children to Public/Private Schools. A large percentage of children depend on Government Schools for their basic education, which really lays the foundation for further career prospects. Thus it is vital that our State Government takes serious note of the precarious situation of our primary and secondary education setup in rural areas. We need to act now and catch up with other states as we are today lagging far behind.

Present Scenario in rural Areas of Punjab
The general consensus of the various speakers who presented their papers during our Seminar, was that the state of education available to our children in the villages, is alarming. There are very few higher secondary schools in the rural areas that have science subjects. Those that have them, have very poor teaching infrastructure. Teachers do not stay in these schools and absenteeism is rampant. Headmasters / Principals lack the will and power to enforce discipline and accountability; hence teachers are just not accountable. As a consequence, students do not opt for science or commerce subjects. Thus, they lack the acumen to compete for professional higher education. Our Agriculture University has almost all students from urban non-farming families. If this is the situation in the subjects of the Agriculture stream, one can well imagine the situation in respect of engineering, medical and other professional subjects.

The data on School results submitted by PHRO report in 2006, mentioned that the results of 79 senior secondary schools for 10th and 10+2 classes was 0%, of 219 similar schools was less than 10%, and of 40 schools 10% for the last 10 years. These results have emerged despite the mass scale copying in these examinations in majority of centers in rural Punjab schools.

The findings of two studies conducted in Patiala Block III by the Nishkam Sikh Welfare Council were also shocking. A carefully selected sample of 384 students in Class VI from rural and urban secondary schools revealed that only 2% boys and 4% girls passed in Mathematics and only 12% boys and 14% girls qualified in Punjabi.

In May 2001, the Punjab Elementary Education Board Project Committee, Patiala, working under the aegis of the Nishkam Sikh Welfare Council (Regd.), New Delhi, held a District Scholarship Test for all such children who secured 70% or more marks in the SCERT in Class V Annual examination, 2001. They had to select 20 students on merit basis for award of scholarships of the value of Rs.150/- per month for three years covering Classes VI to VIII. The results were dismal, as students who had secured 70% or more marks in their annual examinations through government schools managed to secure on an average a mere 4.7% in Punjabi, 2.3% in Hindi, 5% in Mathematics, 8% in Social Science and as low as 2-3% in General Knowledge.

The IOSS and the ISC have been sounding the alarm bell earlier also. During the Seminar on ‘School Education in Rural Punjab’ held on 1st and 2nd Oct, 2006, eminent educationists and public agencies engaged in education were invited. We do hope that their deliberations and practical suggestions for improvement will be taken serious note of by the Government.

Recommendations
A number of suggestions and proposals were put forth during the Seminar. These were debated by a Committee of selected members with Dr S S Johl in the Chair. This Committee’s recommendations are listed below.

Infrastructure
A majority of our Schools in rural areas lack the following basic necessities:-
(a) Proper accommodation and furniture
(b) Toilet facilities for both boys and girls.
(c) Well equipped Libraries.
(d) Laboratories for science subjects.
(e) Computer classrooms.
(f) Rudimentary playing grounds and games equipment for even common activities such as football, hockey, basketball, volleyball, cricket, etc.

Budget
Our present budget allotment of 2% is lower than the national average. Government should target it at 6%.
As a short-term measure there is an urgent need to allot Rs.2 lakhs to each rural primary school and Rs.5 lakhs to each rural high/higher secondary school to meet their basic infrastructure needs. Long term planning and required budget should be allotted in addition to the above, in a differentiated manner with emphasis on developing infrastructure in rural Govt. Schools.

Structural Changes
(a) Powers / functions of DPIs, DEO’s and BPEO’s should be well defined for better enforcement of accountability.
(b) Principals, Headmasters and Head Teachers should have full authority and be totally accountable for results.
(c) Duration of postings should be adequate. We recommend a minimum period of 3 years.
(d) Inspection teams and their procedures should be achievable and well defined. This will enable them to enforce higher standards of teaching, discipline and management. They should also be fully accountable for results.
(e) Panchayats / Local bodies should be involved with defined role only to provide an independent feedback on attendance, dedication of teachers, adequacy of facilities and performance of schools.
(f) PSEB should arrange regular training of teachers to upgrade and modernize their teaching ability. Regional centers should run refresher courses at regular intervals. These centers should lay stress on quality teaching and motivational abilities of teachers.

Removing the deficiency of teachers in rural schools should receive top priority of the Govt. All vacancies should be filled before the next session starting in 2007.

Qualification requirements for each subject should be strictly adhered to by the selection board. Particular care be taken to select quality teachers to teach English and Science subjects.

Tenure should be fixed and strictly adhered to. This is only possible if the powers to transfer are in technical hands and political interference is avoided.

Teachers who have produced results and volunteer to stay on beyond their tenure should be given special consideration by merit.

Voluntary retirement schemes should be formulated to get rid of weak elements.

Curriculum and Examinations
Once again the whole system needs to be re-examined with regard to :-
(a) Including science and commerce subjects in rural schools.
(b) Moral education be made a compulsory subject.
(c) Study of existing models of school education and selection of one or more models to cater to different strata of rural population.
(d) Imparting of Technical and Vocational Education to enable youth to avail of employment opportunities at par with urban youth.
(e) Enhance communication skills, improve teaching of English, science and mathematics among students in rural areas.
(f) Achievements/results of schools/teachers should be measured in terms of their students getting admission in high/secondary school, college and university education, specially professional education / administration / defence services and self employment.

Conclusion
It is encouraging to note that the Punjab Government has decided to set up an Education Commission to deal with the problem. All VCs in State Universities have been nominated as its members. Besides, recently the State Education Minister has announced plans to recruit 11,500 teachers, 1600 computer teachers and 700 physical training instructors, on an emergency basis to make up the deficiency of teachers in schools. We do hope that quality of the selected teachers will not be diluted and the selection process will place merit and character qualities foremost during selection. The Education Commission’s scope could be enhanced by including some members with experience of School Education. We want to believe that this is not just a pre-election platitude, and that the recommendations of the Commission will be implemented.

NGOs such as the Akal Academy, Nishkam Sikh Welfare Council, Tughalwal Model of School Education at Riarki (Distt Gurdaspur) and various NRIs have done excellent work to improve education facilities in rural areas of Punjab. Our Government needs to dovetail their efforts into a coordinated rural education plan.

~~~

Directory of Eminent Sikhs and Organisations

It is proposed to prepare a directory of Sikh organisations as well as eminent Sikh luminaries anywhere in the world. Readers are, therefore, requested to give us the names they know, with following particulars:

Individual

Name Address Telephone
Email Position held Fax
Any other particular

Organisations

Name Aims & Objectives Annual budget
Year of inception Area of operation Membership
Present office bearers Address Telephone
Email Anyother particular Fax

~~~

Letters to Editor

Dear Editor

I read both interesting articles Creating the Image of Prophet Mohammed by Verpal Singh and Global Terrorism by Harish Puri; AOSS-April-June 2006, they appear scholarly but one-sided and biased. I have also heard from visiting Indian leaders similar language. To me that represents ignorance. What I have seen in NY for over 38 years is quite different. I do keep in touch with India all the time because whatever I am today, it is because of Mother India. I am most happy that India has the most honest PM, most competent chief of army staff and highly competent economist as Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission.

It is true that America is the most powerful country since cold war. I felt most secure being between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, but my hopes were shattered the day I saw second WTC tower crumbling, the first I missed as I was rounding in the hospital. I trembled at the atrocity and remembered February 1947 when a Muslim shoemaker butchered my uncle with a Rambi. Soon we learned that 2978 innocent people died on 9/11/2001. Only one, I knew personally, a young Sikh lady, child of my acquaintance. One survivor, 79 year old, who had worked for 59 years for the state of NY and is still under my care.

Whatever President Bush did for the prevention and protection against terrorism of Americans is justified. Professor Puri should have given number of killed civilians in war in 1991. America knew in 2001 that the terrorists were trained and coached in Pakistan/Afghanistan; that is why Musharraf now says that he was told that Pakistan would go to stone age if any more terrorist came to USA. UNO had advised Iraqi dictator many times to allow verification of his WMD that he had been bragging of sending body bags of Americans. When he kept on repeating his threats, and information available at that time, USA attacked Iraq, killed his sons and captured Saddam Hussein. Yes in this war more than three thousand young American soldiers attained martyrdom and more than 30,000 are injured. If a few thousand future Jihadis have been killed, is that a big deal? How I know all this? My son is a captain in the US forces.

Please do remember that if India is making economic progress, USA has a lot to do with it. More than a billion dollar per year America pays for outsourcing. How many dollars are paid to Pakistan for similar work? America likes India because India is the largest democracy since Empire left. Yes we all were hurt when innocent citizens were killed in 1984. But now there is peace and prosperity and let us keep friendship with well-wishers and not with those who attack borders of India and USA.

Respectfully
Jodh Singh, NY
<xjsa@aol.com>

~~~

Translation of Guru Granth Sahib in English

Dear Editor,

I take liberty to express my concern on the article of Professor Sarjit Singh published in AOSS (Vol VIII, Issue 3) July-Sept 2006 wherein he has raised a few points on Sri Guru Granth Sahib, which needs urgent attention of Sikh scholars.

For example, misquoting the non-controversial pronunciation of symbol 1> (Ekoankar) as 1U (Ikoh) is a result of his lack of knowledge of gurbani. The first symbol on first page of SGGS is 1> (Ekoankar) and every one in Sikh households, without any interference from any one would say Ekoankar (J/eUnzeko[), The symbol 1> in SGGS is not a calligraphy of 1U. The symbol 1> on the first page of SGGS is repeated about 560 times. The word J/ezeko[ | J/ezeko | J/e| fJe’and Unzeko is used about 10/1, 135, 24, 2 times, respectively, in SGGS upto page 520 and bindi on kanna (ezB/ s/ fpzdh) is used about 424 times upto page 520. In gurbani grammar, with or without bindi denote different meanings.

The writer of SGGS, Bhai Gurdas has explained the first word or symbol 1> in Vaar 3; Pauri 15 (w{b wzsq dk r[ZMk G/d):

J/ek J/ezeko[ fbfy d/ykfbnk .
T{Vk Unzeko[ gkf; pjkfbnk .

In English there are number of words which are not spoken as per their spelling for instance : Lieutenant, know, wrong, psalm, listen, Xanthic but are pronounced : Leftinant, no, rong, sam, lisen, zanthic, respectively. In English language, all words are not phonetics.

To measure the merit of gurbani’s teachings, it is essential to have all knowledge of nuances of gurbani grammar and the intricate teachings of modulating the voice accordingly. This writer, I observe, is compounding the established / accepted recital of gurbani.

Professor Sahib Singh in his book r[opkDh ftnkeoD has discussed all these intricate points and is followed up by Principal Harbhajan Singh in the book itkp T[b itkp - r[opkDh fbyD ftXh, ftnkeoD ns/ F[ZX T[ukoD.

Col Avtar Singh and Dr Gurbakhsh Singh USA, in their letters to the Editor, AOSS, have also touched all such points under the title Dismemberment of Sri Guru Granth Sahib and Translation of Guru Granth Sahib in English published in AOSS (vol VII, issue 4) Oct-Dec 2005 and (vol VIII, Issue 4) Oct-Dec 2006 and have aptly observed it as an act of sacrilege and distortion of meaning of gurbani. Any change being suggested in the garb of study is non-controversial.

Each one has one’s own level of wisdom and expression. As Guru Gobind Singh says :

nkg[ nkgBh p[fX j? i/sh .. posB fGzB fGzB s[fj s/sh ..

It is now known that International Sikh Confederation has already decided to undertake the task of the standard English Translation by a team of eminent literary true Sikh scholars which will form the basis for future translations into other languages. I am sure the writer Prof Sarjit Singh should feel scure on this score.

I fail to understand as to how this conflicting and confusing article has been published in a reputed magazine AOSS. Greater editorial effort is needed for selection in future.

Yours sincerely
Inderjit Singh
Assistant Engineer (retd)
# 600, Phase 2, Mohali

~~~

Sikh Body Sows Seeds of Survival : Education*

Excellent effort and we should all chip in and the target is not out of reach to achieve. We need to scrutinize its bye laws thoroughly that regulate its functioning properly and efficiently. I have great confidence and respect for people like Dr Kharak Singh whom I had a chance to meet some dozen years ago. I sincerely hope that this body remains independent and autonomous for its smooth functioning. I pledge equivalent of Rs 1,00,000 initially and promise to add more as time progresses. I am sure there are many more like me who are willing to contribute towards this noble project.

Respectfully
Sajjan Singh Bhangoo

(* Letter forwarded by S Ishwinder Singh from learning-zone@yahoogroups.com)

¤


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