News & Views
President of Institute of Sikh Studies Visits USA
Recently, Bhai Ashok Singh Bagrian, President, Institute of Sikh Studies, visited USA and held wide-ranging discussions with diaspora Sikhs on Panthic issues. Here are a few excerpts from his report :
This summer I had an opportunity to visit some Gurdwaras in USA, where I interacted with their managements and sangats.
First Gurdwara was Plymouth at Detroit, where the main point under discussion was the Sacha Sauda happening. It was nice to note that sangat was up-to-date with the happenings in Punjab.
As I had attended the May 17, 2007 meeting on this issue, called by Akal Takht Sahib, I was able to provide details of the incident.
Here I took the opportunity to introduce the idea of an international body that can act as a meeting and rallying point for the Sikhs all over the world, since the Sikhs abroad, as of now, have no say in the decisions taken in Punjab.
Then I gave them the Constitution of International Sikh Confederation. They studied it and had further discussions with me. One gentleman who had retired from AIR invited me and some other members at his home, where Panthic matters were further discussed at a dinner. They appreciated our efforts towards creating the International Sikh Confederation (ISC). They were quite familiar with lnstitute of Sikh Studies (IOSS). They assured me that they will take up the matter in their meeting of Management, and get back to us.
Next week, I visited Gurdwara Gobind Singh Foundation, Washington. Here, Bibi Amrit Kaur, a relation of Late Major Agyapal Singh, is the secretary who is well informed about the activities of the lOSS. While introducing me to the sangat, she explained to them IOSS’ various activities.
In San Francisco, Dr Sukhmandar Singh had already been in touch with members of our community there. We had two very fruitful meetings. Our ISC member, Sardar J S Sodhi was already there working with Dr Sukhmandar Singh. Members of the Management of Freemont Gurdwara offered to hold subsequent meetings with our members. Sardar Ranbir Singh of World Sikh Council also joined our deliberations. A local Committee of the following was mooted:
Dr Sukhmandar Singh, Convener
S Ram Singh, Freemont Gurdwara S Manmohan Singh
S Manohar Singh Grewal S Ranbir Singh
S Kulwant Singh Chicago S Harbhajan Singh
At El Sabranto Gurdwara, where the President, Dr J P Singh is from Patiala, he and his colleagues assured me that they would keep in touch with Dr Sukhmandar Singh and do whatever is required. Gurdwara Management seemed to be under the influence of Chowk Mehta.
I found that a big chasm exists between our new educated generation and the gurdwaras in USA. Gurdwaras are managed in the old style, which does not attract the new generation. But these boys, on their own, have formed small groups where they get together and exchange views.
One incident shows the difference. In one school, there was a case where a Sikh boy was jeered at due to his jura and patka. The old guard wanted to go and hold protest outside the school, whereas the parents of the boy wanted to talk and discuss the issue with the Management. The parents’ meeting not only defused the situation but also the school management thanked the parents for making them wiser on Sikh sentiments. To top it, the boy was asked to show his fellow students how kesas are combed, jura made and patka tied.
There was also resentment amongst a section of Sikhs that no memorial has been built in Darbar Sahib complex in memory of the innocent pilgrims killed during Blue Star. They wanted Institute of Sikh Studies to take up the issue with the concerned authorities.
In London, I had an opportunity to meet Justice Mota Singh Ji and to interact with the local sangat.
One significant thing that I came to know was that a new gurdwara has been built by Sikhs who have shifted from Afghanistan. If any Sikh desires to start a new business venture, finance is made available from Golak money. These Sikhs have shown a way how Golak money can be used for the betterment of our community.
Commute Death Sentence to Life Term
Chandigarh, August 10. The Institute of Sikh Studies expressed its serious concern over the death sentence awarded to Sardar Jagtar Singh Hawara and Sardar Balwant Singh in the Beant Singh murder case, in a Press Note, dated August 10, 2007, reproduced below:
Universal declaration of human rights advocates abolition of capital punishment. This flows from the philosophy that the purpose of a judicial sentence is not retribution but prevention and reform. Death closes the door on reform. With the exception of the UK, no other European country retains the death penalty. Abolition of capital punishment may be considered the mark of a progressive, modern state.
More than 200 years ago, during the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, no criminal, whatsoever his crime, was awarded capital punishment. 21st century India must likewise abolish the death penalty.
During the last week, several death sentences have been handed down in two very high profile cases, namely, the 1993 Mumbai blast case and the 1995 Beant Singh assassination case. This is an opportune time to think whether or not India should retain the death penalty. Without reference to the nature of the crime, the Movement Against State Repression and Punjab Human Rights Organisation urges that higher courts should set aside these death penalties and commute them to life sentences. Fourteen years is the duration of a life sentence and the convicts have already been behind bars for 10 to 11 years.
Akal Takht Jathedar, Joginder Singh Vedanti, has characterized the convicted men as ‘swayed by extreme emotion which was provoked by the excesses perpetrated by the state on the Sikhs of Punjab’. It is well known that the government led by the late Beant Singh actively encouraged the Punjab Police, led at that time by KPS Gill, to murder in cold blood any citizen suspected of sympathizing with the cause of Khalistan. The rule of law did not operate in that era. There are persons whose hands are covered with the blood of far more men than the hands of Hawara and Balwant Singh, but these persons have never been brought to justice, rather they have been rewarded and extolled with encomiums such as ‘super cop’, etc.
MASR and PHRO see the actions of Jagtar Singh Hawara and Balwant Singh as an instance of political crime. The convicted men were not motivated by hope of personal gain nor did they resort to violence mindlessly or on impulse. India is no stranger to such political crimes, indeed the history of the freedom struggle records many. We join Jathedar Vedanti in calling for the death sentence to be commuted to life imprisonment.
From the angle of real politic, hanging Jagtar Singh Harwara and Balwant Singh will add more names to the already very long list of Sikh martyrs. Rather than being weaned away from violence, impressionable minds are likely to take inspiration from them.
Announcement For Students Doing Research On Sikhism
Most of the literature on Sikhism in Punjabi, English and other languages is superficial, superfluous, contradictory and outright repudiation of philosophy of Guru Nanak (Gurmat) enshrined in the Aad Guru Granth Sahib (AGGS), the only authentic source of Guru Nanak’s philosophy. Such misinterpretations are found in books, professional and non-professional journals and all the translations of the Aad Guru Granth Sahib in Punjabi, English and other languages. Repeated lies about Sikhism under the cloak of academic research published by Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and encyclopedias are taken as truth by the ignorant and gullible.
My recent analysis of the works of W H McLeod, Pashaura Singh, Harjot Oberoi and Doris Jakobsh has revealed that the McLeodian School is creating its own version of Sikhism like the Udasis and Nirmalas created their Brahminical version of Sikhism. After a great deal of introspection and pondering over this problem with learned Sikhs, we are announcing free help and guidance to students who are engaged in research on Sikhism. We urge Sikh students studying for undergraduate degrees to take courses on Sikhism. We will help them with their term papers and theses. As a start, we urge scholars to consult www.sikhspectrum.com and www.globalsikhstudies.net for information on Sikhism based on Aad Guru Granth Sahib.
Baldev Singh, Ph D
Letters to Editor
A Sad State of Affairs
I was reading your article on the plight the Sikhs are facing. I, too, am saddened by what is happening to our community. Brother, the problem is that it is 2007, and our people come to USA and Canada without any formal education. I work in the hiring department of a major trucking company. And I get many of our people applying for jobs. Yes, they are hardworking and honest. But they are illiterate to the highest degree, which presents a big problem. Twenty year olds Sikh girls and boys in the year 2007 should be able to speak and write in English. Now the problem here has worsened. Sikh truck drivers are using drugs and alcohol, while operating trucks. Something has to be done to let our people know the importance of education.
Another problem here is that our people make their old parents work in farms and factories, since in order to survive everyone has to work. But this is not the solution. Old people should not be forced to work. And generally Sikh women should not work in a factory. They should stay at home looking after the kids making sure kids do homework. It further creates problems, as no one gets exposed to any learning. There should be some center in Punjab, which prepares people before they arrive here. What do you think?
Sikhs and the Transfer of Power
This refers to the review of a book The Sikhs and Transfer of Power (1942-47) written by Dr Kirpal Singh and published in the issue of April-June 07. The review by Dr Kharak Singh is very well written and covers all major happenings in that period. The book appears to be well researched. Some Sikh writers blame the Sikh Leaders that they failed to get a homeland for Sikhs. The leaders might have committed some mistakes but, if they had accepted the proposal by Mr Jinnah, it would have been a blunder. Their decision to remain with India was correct. Sardar Baldev Singh is blamed for not accepting an invitation by some British MPs to stay back to deliberate on Sikh demands. It would have been useless. I think that Dr Kirpal Singh did not get a small book in which there are all-secret letters written by Lord Mountbatten to Secretary of State. It was published in 1980 or 81. I read it in 1983. In these letters, the viceroy had given details about his talks with Mr Jinnah and Congress leaders. There is only one letter in which he writes about meeting with a delegation of Sikh leaders. They demanded that if Pakistan was being created for Muslims, there should be a Sikh homeland too. The Viceroy listened to their demands patiently. Then he told the delegation that Pakistan would consist of only those areas where Muslims are in majority. Please tell me if there was even a district in Punjab where Sikhs were in majority. There was none. He furhter said that as the Sikhs had no majority area in Punjab, Sikhs’ homeland demand could not be accepted. He advised that if they wanted that more than 90% of Sikhs should remain in one state, they might consider the proposal of Mr Jinnah. As per views of Maharaja of Patiala, proposal of Mr Jinnah was very attractive but he could not accept it being practical. It is clear that Sikh leaders tried their best but failed to get any thing because they were in minority every where.
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ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2007, All