News & Views
Institute of Sikh Studies and sister organisations’ appeal to President of India regarding the Death Sentence to Prof Devinderpal Singh Bhullar
We the members of the Institute of Sikh Studies, International Sikh Confederation and Kendri Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Chandigarh appeal to your goodself to reconsider the confirmation of the Death Sentence to Prof Devinderpal Singh Bhullar.
Prof Bhullar was deported to India by Germany wherein award to death penalty is prohibited. Besides your Excellency is also aware that the verdict of the Supreme Court too was not unanimous and evidence against him not legally convincing.
The Sikhs of Punjab look up to you for justice. We, the residents of Punjab unanimously appeal to you to remit Bhullar’s “Death Sentence” to Life Imprisonment as per our genuine appeal on grounds of Human Rights and unconvincing evidence.
We, the members of three major organizations of intellectuals look up to you for justice with a human touch.
Sikh Scholar Dr Harnam Singh Shan Passes Away
Chandigarh, June 10. The entire literary fraternity of the region has plunged into gloomy despair after learning about the demise of the city-based scholar of international eminence, Dr Harnam Singh Shan (88), at his sector 16 residence here yesterday after a brief illness. He had returned after an eight-month tour of the US last month.
Born at Dhamal (Pakistan), Shan did his post graduation in English and Punjabi before studying at London for his Phd and was later awarded DLitt from PU, Chandigarh.
Shan had 88 books, mainly on Sufi and Sikh philosophy to his credit, besides seven more awaiting publications. “So Says Guru Granth Sahib- An Analytical and Comprehensive Dictionary of the Thought of the Sacred Sikh Scripture” running into 1,428 pages (For Punjabi University, Patiala) is the apex of his genius.
Universally adored with 11 national and international awards, having held 110 positions in literary organisations, participation in 200 conferences in India and abroad, Dr Shan elicited appreciation for his address at the Parliament of World religion in Melbourne (Australia) in December 2009. It was indeed a salutation to his spiritually enlightened vision and literary prominence.
Dr Shan presented his paper and deliberations on the “Universality of Sri Guru Granth Sahib” to the 8,000 religious scholars of the world, besides participating in the panel discussions on different religions.
Incidentally one is reminded of the illustrious Swami Vivekanand who created history at the September 1893 session of this parliament by glorifying the grandeur of the Indian cultural heritage and philosophy of the religion.
Dr Harnam Singh Shan leaves behind his son and three daughters. (Courtesy : The Tribune, June 11, 2011)
Article 25 of the Indian Constitute
As desired by the General Body of the Institute of Sikh Studies on April 7, 2011, the meeting of sub-committee on Article 25 of the Indian Constitution was held in the office of International Sikh Confederation on April 15, 2011. The views of the Sub-committee are detailed below:
Institute of Sikh Studies (IOSS) has made continuous efforts for the amendment of Article 25. S Gurdev Singh, IAS (retd.) the then President submitted a memorandum to the Constitution Review Committee headed by Justice Venkata Chaliah for amendment of Article 25. The Constitution Review Committee recommended deletion of explanation II to Article 25. It has been lying in Prime Minister Office (PMO) for about a decade.
Article 25 is not clear but contains lot of jugglery of wording. Sikh representatives in the Constituent assembly refused to sign the constitution and declared it anti-Sikh. Advocates had different opinion about Article 25. The politicians burnt Article 25 being anti-Sikh. IOSS sought opinion of prominent advocates. During his address to IOSS S Gurdarshan Singh Grewal an ex-Advocate General of Punjab expressed his view that Article 25 does not harm Sikhism. When his attention was drawn to SC observation of August 8, 2005, he could not give any satisfactory reply and stopped expressing his opinion on Article 25. It is important to note that eleven judges bench of Supreme Court made the matter clear on August 8, 2005 and gave the observation that Sikhs are a part of Hinduism. Supreme Court (SC) has rightly interpreted the Constitution, and as per Article 25, Sikhs are Hindus. SC has awakened Sikhs, who were being misled by clever politicians and advocates.
IOSS being an organisation of Sikh intellectuals, scholars and thinkers took the SC judgement seriously and promptly reacted. A meeting on the call of IOSS was held in the office of IOSS on September 10, 2005. Sikh organisations and Gurdwaras of Chandigarh participated. Meeting was chaired by Giani Gurdit Singh, President Kendri Sri Guru Singh Sabha. Lt General Kartar Singh, Sardar Gurdev Singh I.A.S., Dr Kharak Singh and Major Karnail Singh participated. A resolution based on logic and reasoning was passed. An extract from that resolution is reproduced below:
The Sikhs should act expeditiously and more effectively to secure justice against the efforts of the Central Government to assimilate them into Hindu fold and wipe out their identity. To say Sikhs are Hindus is as oxymoron as saying all Indians are Hindus. The Government of India (GOI) in its legislature, executive and judicial wings should not obdurately persist in not rectifying their asinine stand of describing Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains as Hindus. The earlier the necessary corrective measures are adopted the better it is in National interest.
Dr Kharak Singh wrote editorial, which is informative he questions “Who decides one’s Religion?” and strongly pleads for amendment of Article 25. S Santokh Singh wrote articles pleading for the amendment of the Article 25 which were published in Sikh Review and Abstracts of Sikh Studies.
IOSS continued efforts to get Article 25 amended. S Pritam Singh, IAS (retd), President, Institute of Sikh Studies appointed a sub-committee headed by S Santokh Singh to further pursue the matter. S Pritam Singh did a commendable research work. His source is “Third World Quarterly, Vol 26, No 6 (2005, pp. 909-926. S Pritam Singh comments that the Article 25 (2) (b), fundamentally undermines the secular character of the state in favour of Hindus. If one adopts a strict definition of secularism, namely the separation of state and religion, this is an unambiguous violation of secularism......... The Indian state has used state power to consolidate Hindu identity in more ways than one can fathom. Explanation II (Article 25) reflects a Hindu assimilationist perspective towards the Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists in India.
It is clear that Article 25 assimilates Sikhism into Hindu fold. Legally speaking according to the existing Article 25 Sikhism is a sect of Hinduism and has no independent religious identity.
The Sub-committee has suggested following measures to get Article 25 amended:
Our approach should be based on righteousness, logic and reason. IOSS is a non-political and purely a religious organisation. We are to simply enlighten the Sikhs that how Article 25 legally assimilates Sikhism into Hindu fold. We are also to request the Sikhs to adopt only democratic methods to get the wrong undone. Urgency of the problem demands that a seminar may be held with the theme, “How Sikhs are Hindus” Non Sikh scholars (not politicians) be encouraged to express their opinion. Let scholars examine how secularism is practised in India. Sikh organisations be persuaded to call a convention and Sikh delegates all over the globe to take part in that convention. Let convention decide that when Sikh Prophet categorically declares in Sikh scripture that Sikhs are not Hindus, what right the Indian politicians have got to assimilate Sikhism into Hindu fold. No representation to any authority, except quarterly reminder to Prime Minister’s Office for accepting the recommendation of Constitution Review Committee on Article 25.
(A Report by S Santokh Singh, Member, Institute of Sikh Studies)
Report on the Seminar on ‘How to Bring Unity And Uniformity among Sikhs’
Sikh Intellectuals discuss ‘Unity & Uniformity’ A galaxy of Sikh intellectuals from Delhi & Punjab met today at Bhai Veer Singh Sahit Sadan, Gole Market, New Delhi, at a seminar organized by Kes Sambhal Prachar Sanstha to ponder upon this important issue. These intellectuals from various spheres of life including services, education, politics and business were unanimous in holding that unity and uniformity among Sikhs was very essential to spread the teachings as enshrined in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, which is a treasure of spiritual wisdom of the country and a scripture of the entire mankind. It was admitted by all of them that unity & uniformity could be possible only by imbibing gurbani in our life as the message of universal brotherhood as given there. It could bring such a state of unity not only among the Sikhs but among all the peoples of the world. While discussing the reasons for lack of unity, most of them mentioned the increasing tendency among the Sikhs to go away from the teachings, attach more importance to their family status, caste, regional & political aspirations. The selfish and materialistic attitude of our leaders, the weak administration and management of our Gurudwaras and the proliferation of the Deras by the so called Sants and Babas in Punjab were other main reasons of disunion among the Sikh people. It was pointed out by them that our main organizations like SGPC were not playing the requisite role for propagation and promotion of Sikh religion. Akal Takhat Sahib which is the highest seat of authority for all the Sikhs is also not being permitted by the politicians to play that role which the Sikh people look forward to from such high seats of honour (Takhts). That is why the people are unable to seek clarifications, dispel their doubts and know about the Maryada which needs to be uniformly followed by all the Sikhs of the world. As a consequence, apostasy and addiction to intoxicants have risen to alarming heights.
It was felt that Akal Takhat Sahib and other Takhts should be made more powerful, independent and free from any kind of interference in performing their duties. These Takhts must have the position to issue suitable directions, clarifications and guidelines to the people and their decisions must be followed by all the Sikhs without demur raising any ifs & buts. It was also desired by the scholars that there should be one Gurudwara Management system for the whole world. Further, we may have different political and social affiliations, but on all panthic issues, there must be unity and uniformity among us. A minimum program agenda is required to be prepared and all controversial matters like that relating to Dasam Granth and Sikh calendar be sorted out amicably, if need be, even by holding a Sarbat Khalsa which had been a popular method of deciding important issues of Sikh community in the past. Spiritual and religious education, raising the educational standard of the Sikh institutions and promotion of Punjabi language were also considered as highly important issues for bringing a sense of unity and uniformity among the Sikhs. It was the unanimous view that a new Singh Sabha Movement was the need of the times.
The scholars who spoke on this occasion were:
S. Iqbal Singh IPS
S Gurtej Singh, Ex IAS
S. Bhagwant Singh Dilawari, Ex IFS
Dr. S P Singh, Former VC, GNDU, Amritsar.
Gyani Kewal Singh, Former Jathedar Takht Damdma Sahib.
Dr. G S Bachan, Former Sect SGPC.
Dr. Mahip Singh, Eminent Writer
S. Harjit Singh, Editor Sikh Phulwari.
Gen. Kartar Singh, International Sikh Federation.
S. Gurpreet Singh, Institute of Sikh Studies, Chandigarh.
S. Jaspal Singh, Chairman Hindustan Refrigeration Company.
S. Tirlochan Singh, Former MP Rajya Sabha & Former Chairman National Minority Commision.
The comparing of the program was done by S. KP Singh, member of Kes Sambhal Prachar Sanstha. S. S J S Pall, Ex IRS & Chairman KSPS, concluded the sessions by stating that more programs will be organized by different organizations joining this move of unity and uniformity at different places in the country. The purpose is to unite the Sikhs for raising voice for necessary reforms in the Gurudwara elections, management systems and against social evils like dividing the people on the basis of caste and regions and diverting them from the righteous path shown by our Gurus. Supporting his call for frequent programs of this type for creating awareness among the people, S. Gurpreet Singh from the institute of Sikh Studies announced that the next program in this regard will be organized by them on 11th June, 2011 at Chandigarh. (A Report by S Partap Singh)
Letters to Editor
Hindu rituals into Sikhism
Recently, Kathakaar Pinder Pal Singh stated at West Sacramento Gurdwara that when going to Beas river daily for 12 years to bring water for the bath of Guru Angad, Sri Amar Das ji walked backwards all the way (a distance of many miles) to avoid backing towards the Guru. This cannot be true considering the following:
1. Guru Nanak preached at Mecca that God is everywhere, in all directions.
2. We are told that all Gurus who followed Guru Nanak had the soul and philosophy of Guru Nanak and are called Nanak 2, Nanak 3 and so on.
Secondly, he said that Amar Das tripped over the Khaddi (loom) when he was bringing Gagar full of water. He was not walking backward. He was walking forwards. The loom would not have been in the open, on the pathway. It would have been in a room protected from sun and rain. If so, how come Shri Amar Das jee tripped over the loom?
It seems to be a concoted story, perhaps introduced by some Brahman to introduce Hindu rituals into Sikhism.
Pinder Pal Singh’s statement contradicts the philosophy of Guru Nanak. Please direct him and other preachers not to tell such unbelievable stories that contradict the philosophy of Guru Nanak Dev Ji.
Onkar Singh Bindra, Ph. D.
Editor’s Response follows
The learned correspondent has arrived at the conclusion, that the episode of the fall of Baba Amardas carrying water in a pitcher has serious flaws contrary to the Sikh ethos. In his analysis, he has argued:
a) God is omni-present according to Guru Nanak’s religion and facing in any particular direction is reminiscent of Brahminical illusion. By observing it, Guru Amardas would be acting against the Sikh principles.
b) It is not feasible for a person to walk backwards for several miles regularly to fetch water from the river Beas.
c) The weaver’s peg could not be outside his room housing the loom.
d) Baba Amardas could not be walking backwards since he was going in the direction of Guru Angad. His fall due to walking backwards on weaver’s peg is unsubstantiated.
e) Hence, the incident of the fall of Baba Amardas on the peg cannot be true but a myth circulated by Brahmins.
1. God according to Sikhism has no colour, shape or line. Baba Amardas was, however, devoted to Guru Angad Sahib, who had a physical presence. He wished to face the Guru walking away out of his utmost love for the Guru. It does not go contrary to the Sikh basic postulates. Omnipresent God and a physical Guru are not the same. Moreover, he was a disciple at that time, totally merged in devotion to the Guru. In another incidence, the last wish of Bhai Mati Das before being sawn alive was to die facing Guru Tegh Bahadur.
2. In India, various sects, even today, out of their fidelity and fondness, walk backwards, to show their respect to the Deity. That was also the courtesy in the medieval times in the eastern durbars which is still practiced in some remaining eastern monarchies. River Beas was not that far from Khadur Sahib in the times of Baba Amardas. Many persons still walk backwards long distances of several miles to carry sacred Ganges water for ablutions of idols at far flung temples. They do not allow the pitchers of ganga-jal to touch earth and keep standing till they deliver the sacred water at the destination. Baba Amardas was a staunch Devi worshipper before he met Guru Angad Sahib. His ascension to Guruship, of course, left no scope for his earlier convictions and beliefs. In Sikhism we strongly believe in wholesome love and total surrender to the Master. Gurbani avers: Jithe jae bahe mera SatGuru, So thaan suhava Ram Raje.
3. It may sound strange to a person used to living standards of the West, but it is factually true that in the democratic Republic of India even in the 21st Century, majority of people do not have a “home” measuring 6’x 6’. The poor weavers do not always have space inside their hovels to install looms and pegs. It is not uncommon for the artisans to spread out their activities on the streets. Even today, weavers, carpenters, iron-smiths, cobblers prefer to work outside their small cubicles due to inadequate space available and to attract customers. It is not unbelievable that Baba Amardas tripped in the dark on account of the weaver’s peg outside his hut.
4. Walking backwards to the Guru’s abode is a miscomprehension, as he was facing towards the Guru. That his foot got struck by the peg and he fell, while balancing the pitcher is undisputed.
5. This is a traditional account which has been in circulation since the times of Guru Angad Dev who is said to have showered praises on Baba Amar Das for his total devotion, whom the weaver couple had called nithava. (Vagrant)
6. The evidence in the ancient and medieval times was not as handy as it is nowadays. It was more of oral nature, at some later stage penned by a devotee. Traditions were formed by word of mouth. If one harbours suspicions and decides to go strictly by proof as available in modern times, all sacred texts like the Old Testament, the Holy Bible, The Holy Koran, the Hadith, the Hindu scriptures and all ancient scripts will become doubtful, as these were all transcribed at a much later date, from widespread oral traditions. The episode of the fall of Baba Amar Das is strongly embedded in the Sikh psyche and there is no reason to disbelieve it.
An event can be examined positively or with skepticism depending on the viewer’s mind set. Doubting historical events on unreliable hypotheses is, in itself negation of faith. A practicing Sikh should analyse matters in detail, with abiding faith in the Gurus’ wisdom and total adherence to the Sikh philosophy. The purpose of Sikhi is to merge in the love of God and Gurus to reach the state of beatitude and attain all virtues; imaginary faults and blemishes only mislead one away from the objective.
Donation for Institute of Sikh Studies
Sat Sri Akal, I do hope this letter finds you all in the best of health and high spirits.
A cheque for Rs 22,000/- (Rs twenty two thousand only) is enclosed as my donaton to the Institute of Sikh Studies, drawn on the State Bank of India, Sansad Marg, New Delhi.
Today is our Wedding Anniversary, and what better way to share our joy than support those who are helping to spread the Word of the Gurus.
May you have a long, healthy and happy life, to enable you serve the Panth for long time to come. Kindly ack receipt of the cheque through email.
Col Avtar Singh
Modification of name not desirable
I have been finding an inconsistency in the Editorial policy of Abstracts of Sikh Studies since long. I would have not pointed it out at all, if I were still living in India. The people who love to live in a culture of docility and ignorance never care to worry about such matters because life out of the pack becomes unpleasant and unbearable.
First of all I would like to bring it to your kind notice that in Sikh
philosophy all people are treated equal in the sangat and pangat except
in any office of secular organization. Secondly nobody has the privilege
or power to write the name of anybody in any other form in which he or she writes it himself or herself. In the issue April [VOL. X III, Issue 2] the following names in the Title page and inside the article mentioned as under:
Col Davinder Singh page 6 Col Dr Davinder Singh
Dr S S Bhatti Page18 Dr S S Bhatti
Jasbir Singh Page89 Jasbir Singh Sethi
Dr J S Grewal Page 108 Dr J S Grewal
Lt Gen Kartar Singh page 113 Lt Gen Kartar Singh
In some issues of this esteemed Publication I found Dr S S Johal before. But my name written as it Sarjit Singh Sandhu right from my Matriculation examination, has been modified in the editorial office by same set of people who have been looking after the publication of this Journal. Would you be kind enough to publish it as a letter from a subscriber. Sikh Gurus preached something that has been put in a different context by people who has an axe to grind.
Sarjit Singh Sandhu
Akal Takht the Cementing force for the Unity and universality of the Panth
Of late Sikh organizations have felt concerned about the unity and universality of Sikhs. All ills of Sikh community including unity problem can be cured if Sikh spirited organizations join heads to raise the pristine glory of Sri Akal Takht.
Akal Takht was conceived to be a seat of authority compliance of which is considered to be the privilege of every Sikh under the sun. The eighteenth century provided the best example when its authority was ordained as Gurus Hukam. To solve Panthic problems leaders of the community representing different groups assembled as Guru Panth and after threadbare deliberations the conclusions bore the status of Gurumatta.
The Panth is facing various problems and it needs a perennial body to constantly find solutions thereof. The present Heads of Takhts, i.e. Singh Sahiban are not wellverses in various complexities of the Sikh society; they are more of head priests and are unable to provide the leadership needed by the Sikh community ensuring unity and universality amongst the various group of Sikh society.
Akal Takht does not represent seat of authority only, it is a symbol of Sikh power saturated in Sikh sentiment framed by the tenets enshrined in Gurbani, Sikh history, and Sikh traditions. Akal Takht, manipulated by a group of persons, big or small becomes a political hot bed and cannot be construed as arepresentative body of all Sikh framed under Guru Granth-Guru Panth Concept.
Let all the well-meaning groups and institutions, associations of Sikhs in a Panthic assembly select from throughout the world a panel of 5-11-21 Gursikhs capable of representing the spirit of community. Only the best brains of sublime caliber and unshakable dedication to Panthic interest can be entrusted the authority of Sri Akal Takht. We may call them Singh Sahiban. The decisions of such a body taken in full consideration from all angles on any problem must be obeyed by every Sikh unflinchingly.
We all know that Sri Akal Takht has no police force to implement their decisions. The worth utility and sagacity of the decision has moral and spiritual sanction behind the edicts of Sri Akal Takht.
As an alternative all the Sikh societies, institutions associations clamouring for Panthic unity can call such assembly jointly. An organization of the status of Chief Khalsa Diwan, DSGPC, International Sikh Confederation, Kendri Singh Sabha may venture to call such assembly and select 11-21 Gursikhs as a Panchayat worthy of providing leadership to Sikh community. Mere selection of such a body will not be sufficient. The selectors must have a plan to provide office, residence and all financial and manual needs for the effective operations. There should be a call amongst the entire community to refer all Panthic problems to this Panchayat. The decision of Panchayat may be conveyed to Akal Takht for implimentation.
The seminars, assembled resolutions without a practical approach would be just bubbles on surface only. The creation of a trustworthy body will receive support of all Sikhs thirsting for a competent leadership. Forces opposing such refermatory efforts would not stand before the movement. Only determination, will and courage to do spade work is needed.
God willing if and when the above dream materializes then the selected body should be given all Panthic Powers to decide all issues. Let us repose our trust in a thoughtfully selected leadership. The dozer of Sikh loyalty will smoothen all the bottle necks.
Kartar Singh Goshti
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2011, All