396.The Man in Blue – The Sang Parivar

This is not an anti-Hindu article. I met many Hindus who believed in the One, who believed in One Humanity and who did not look down on people of low caste, who made an honest living and shared with others. Some were better Sikhs than many of us.

But I strongly dislike members of the BJP, the VHP, the Bajrang Dal, the Shiv Sena and whatever other ‘Sang Parivar’ organisations there are inside Bharat Mata and outside it.

I dislike these people, as I dislike Panjabis who look down on people from Bihar and UP, as I dislike caste Hindus looking down on ‘outcastes’, as I dislike anybody anywhere who divides humanity in higher and lower.

The Sang Parivar has given up on the idea of Dharm as a way of righteousness. They class all people who follow a dharm that originated on the sub-continent as Hindus. Not in a friendly open way but in a way that wants to narrow down all to their own narrow vision.

The Sang Parivar loves the Sikhs when they fight against Mughals or other Muslims. But if you tell them that a good Sikh should stand up against all dictatorships and all oppressors, including their own intolerant lot, they start foaming at the mouth.

They think that all Indian Christians and Muslims should leave their alien creeds and rejoin the Hindu Dharm. And they do not go about this in a friendly manner either. I agree with them that western Christians or Central Asian or Middle Eastern Muslims have no business to come to India to bring their ‘true religions’ to the poor ‘heathens’.

But killing missionaries, persecuting Christians and Muslims, infiltrating Buddhist, Jain and Sikh organisations, puts them on the same level as the most intolerant members of the Ibrahimic religions. This kind of Hindu supremacist ideas are not unique to the so called ‘Sang Parivar’ but can also be found amongst members of Congress and other smaller parties.

The Dal Khalsa which bravely keeps the idea of Khalistan alive in the East Panjab, makes a big mistake in their attitude towards poor, low caste Hindus from UP and Bihar. These people very often follow the Bhagats whose sabads have an important place in the Guru Granth Sahib.

The people that follow the Sang Parivar ideology are mostly Caste Hindus, not the poor low caste people. There is no Hindu majority in India. If you add the faith and ethnic minorities in India together and include the Dalits, they will form a majority. A real rainbow coalition could rule India, and might even make the biggest democracy a real democracy.

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Published in: on November 30, 2009 at 7:45 am  Leave a Comment  
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395.The Man in Blue – St Truiden and Ieper II

In my previous article we got to the point where we left late from St Truiden and arrived late in Ieper on Armistice Day, November 11.

The weather forecast was reasonable and the first part of the day was better than the forecast. In the afternoon it was more cloudy and windy, but at least we did not get soaked like in November 2008.

There were only about 3 Sikhs from the UK (we can and must do better), a few from the USA, including Sardar Gurmit Singh, president of Council of Khalistan, about 10 people from the Netherlands and for the rest Sikhs from St Truiden, Gent and surroundings and from Brussel/Bruxelles (the Gurdwara is in Vilvoorde, a Dutch speaking town just north of Brussel).

We attended the act of remembrance, the one minute silence and the playing of the last post at the Menen Gate, and in spite of a request to have just one wreath from every community, the Sikhs had quite a few.

After the main event we went to the Grote Markt, had tea and biscuits, and then walked back to the Menen Gate where the Sikhs commemorated the events of 1984, the attack on Darbar Sahib and the anti-Sikh pogroms.

Afterwards we went by coach and cars to the Bedford Cemetery, where some soldiers of the British Indian Army are buried, and from there to Hollebeke, where in October 1914 the first Indian soldiers were deployed on the ‘western front’. There is a small monument with text in Sanskrit, Urdu and Gurmukhi which was unveiled in April (Vaisakh) 1999.

We had St Truiden bread parkoré, simple food, not bad, and a cup of tea at the cemetery and later in Hollebeke more bread parkoré and roti and dal. Hollebeke is also a good place to take pictures.

Sardar Gurmit Singh spoke about the efforts to establish Khalistan, he highlighted human rights issues on the subcontinent, and attempts to get the Sikh rights recognised in the countries they live in. Others also made a contribution.

This was not the most successful Ieper Armistice Day commemoration from the Sikh point of view. The numbers were low and it was a pity that there were so few people from outside Belgium and the Netherlands.

We will keep working on it, but in spite of a slight disappointment I was very happy to help the organising of the event and to make a contribution on the day itself. Having an annual event that gets members of the small Sikh communities in the Benelux together is good, remembering our European history is even better.

Published in: on November 22, 2009 at 8:08 am  Leave a Comment  
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394.The Man in Blue – St Truiden en Ieper I

I am busy preparing for interfaith week, for which many of the FE Colleges I work with want my advice and assistance. I am also preparing for the London Regional Forum of the 24th of November, where London FE Colleges learn about new developments in interfaith work and get some training.

To restrict my time even more I went to Coventry on November 7 to meet my friend Balwant Singh and to visit all the Coventry Gurdwaré and I am writing this during a four-day visit to Belgium to attend the 11/11 Armistice Day commemoration in Ieper.

Saturday 14/11 I will be at an all day Lib Dem London Region conference where I will speak about my work with FE Colleges, Tuesday 17/11 I will be in Birmingham for the Association of Colleges conference and on Friday 20/11 again in Birmingham to discuss the status of the Sikh 5 Ks and turban.

I am not complaining or bragging, just explaining that the interesting and rewarding life that I have been blessed with sometimes gets too interesting.

On 10/11 I went to Belgium by Eurostar and got my kirpan through without too much trouble. From Brussel Zuid station I took a train to Landen and a connecting bus to the Sikh Sangat Gurdwara, Halmaal, St Truiden.

The bad news from St Truiden is that my brother Mohinder Singh, the Gurdwara pradhan, has recently been attacked by some white thugs. The good news is that the Gurdwara held its second Nagar Kirtan where this time the Panj Piaré were allowed to carry their traditional talwar.

On the afternoon after my arrival I went with Manpreet (Louke) Kaur and Granthi Kewal Singh to an event in the adult education centre where the Flemish equivalent of ESOL classes are given. I spoke with the burgemeester (mayor) about the cultural and religious communities in St Truiden.

The political situation in St Truiden is complicated. I hope that if the mayor loses his job the good work he is doing with the diverse communities of the town will continue.

November 11 is a national holiday in Belgium, and as per usual we went from the Gurdwara by coach to Ieper. The grey sky did not look to threatening, but it also did not really promise sunshine.

We left late and arrived in Ieper late, we missed the actual parade but were on time for the ceremony at the Menen Gate.

This report on my visit to Belgium will be continued next week. Pictures will appear both on this blog and on my flickr account.

Published in: on November 14, 2009 at 7:56 am  Leave a Comment  
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393.Man in Blue – Brahminical Practices

Although the Guru Granth Sahib makes it perfectly clear that Brahminical practices are a waste of effort, many of our fellow Sikhs seem to know better than Guru. There are persistent misconceptions around food that are not supported by the Guru Granth Sahib or the Rehat Maryada. 

The Guru Granth Sahib pokes fun at the Pandits, who think that by creating a cooking square, by drawing a line around them, by cooking everything themselves and keeping others out, they can keep ‘pollution’ out, while from the air all kind of stuff falls on them. 

There is only one thing that I can understand. I do prefer eating food cooked lovingly at home, in the Gurdwara or at a small family run restaurant. Also, I have been a vegetarian much longer than I have been a Sikh. 

But the idea that eating meat is a sin, that I can only eat stuff that has been cooked by fellow Sikhs, the idea that I would be polluted by going into a meat shop, that somebody’s hand over my food pollutes my food, all this makes no sense, it serves no purpose and it is not Sikhí. 

Sikhí is about making an honest living, Sikhí is about always thinking about God, Sikhí is about sharing. Sikhí is about learning to love God and creation, Sikhí is about learning to experience God’s love for us. Sikhí is about giving a positive direction to your lust, anger, greed, attachment and ego. 

Ethical behaviour, making a positive contribution to society, defending the defenceless, fighting injustice are part of Sikhí. In ‘Vár Malár Ki’ Guru Nanak writes about meat and he looks at both sides of the argument. Guru does not tell us to be a vegetarian, Guru does not tell us not to be a vegetarian. 

It is clear that a pandit type lifestyle is not what Guru expects from us. 

I knew this family in Panjab where the son and the mother were Amritdhari and the father and two daughters were not. The son was of the Taksali way of thinking and insisted that only his mother could do the cooking and the cooking preparation, otherwise he could not eat with his family. 

As a result the daughters were sitting around being idle, while their mother who did not have very great health was working away in the kitchen. Our brave Amritdhari boy might help in the langar kitchen, but of course would not give his mother a hand. Is this Sikhi ? NO ! 

In Amritsar, before I took Amrit, I could never share the overgenerous helpings of Karah Prasád, that sevadars gave me, with my friends, many of whom were followers of the Taksal or AKJ. They would not accept any food from me. Is this Sikhí ? NO !

Published in: on November 9, 2009 at 3:19 pm  Comments (2)  
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392.Man in Blue – First Hounslow Youth Kirtan Darbar (YKD) Evening Programme

Friday October 30 was the first time that the YKD team was in charge of the early evening programme of Rahiras, Ardas, Kirtan & Katha. This will take place from 18.00 till 20.00 every last Friday of the month for the coming year. On every first Sunday of the month from 11.00 till 12.00 there is a further katha in English and kirtan programme.

This first time the Rahiras was read by Jaswinder Kaur and me, the ardás by me and the Vák by Jaswinder Kaur. This was followed by about 30 minutes of kirtan by the young kirtanis studying with Santokh Kaur Bhain-Ji and after that I did half an hour of simran and katha in English.

I did simran on Vahiguru, on the ‘Mul Mantr’ and on Gobinde, Mukande from Jáp Sahib. In my katha in English the main theme was the definition of a Sikh as found in the Rehat Maryada, followed by the leadership of the Sikhs by the Guru Granth Sahib.

Pritpal Singh looked after the projection of the shabads and Ardas on the screen, and Gurkamal Singh was in attendance of the Guru Granth Sahib.

We demonstrated that we are able to deliver the programme. Our challenge is to involve more and more young members of the sangat. We do have sufficient kirtan contacts, with the students of the kirtan class and older kirtanis who do kirtan in rág.

It should be easy to involve youngsters in the reciting of Rahiras, first sitting with us and later taking the lead. We are not worried about mistakes, but I do not want the sort of superfast recitation that you hear too often. Same goes for the ardás. There is no need to know the ardás by heart, we can read from my prepared sheets or from multi-lingual or Panjabi gutké.

For the vák we use the shabad that came up first thing in the morning, which makes it possible to become familiar with the text to be recited.

Finding people who are confident to do katha in English will be more difficult. I had a chance to ‘practice’ in the smaller Gurdwaré in Belgium and the Netherlands. I am gaining confidence in doing this, but it takes a lot of preparation to come to full understanding of any shabad.

In all this we try to stick to letter and spirit of the Rehat Maryada, which means that Rahiras starts with So Dar, as it does in the Guru Granth Sahib, and ends with Mundavani and the final slok.

This is a good chance for young Singhs and Kaurs to learn Sikh skills. We should be less dependent on granthis, ragis and kathakars, I think the Gurdwara should be run by the sangat under the guidance of the granthi.