The Tribune – Rivals seek to loosen SAD hold on Sikh politics

 Unsettled since dera pardon, high priests struggle to regain credibility

GS Paul, Tribune News Service

Amritsar, 20 October 2017. The increasing tension between the official jathedars and the ‘parallel’ ones, nominated at an ‘unofficial’ Sarbat Khalsa in 2015, may well be a proxy war between political parties vying for influence in Sikh politics. But the feud is causing confusion over the Akal Takht authority, undisputed thus far, in matters of religion.

The power play is weakening SAD’s grip on Sikh politics. As the official clergy took flak for Akal Takht decisions, rival Sikh groupings and other parties moved in to try and steer the ‘Panthic agenda’ their way, encouraging activities parallel to that of Akal Takht.

The Rashtriya Sikh Sangat (Sikh wing of the RSS) too has become more active. In 2004, Akal Takht had issued directives against the RSS intervening in Sikh affairs. The wing is now organising special programmes to commemorate the 350th anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh in New Delhi (October 25).

Some observers believe the RSS may try and approach a section of Sehajdhari Sikhs, who lost the legal battle for voting rights in the SGPC elections.

The recent killing of an RSS ‘pracharak’ in Ludhiana too has added to the tension in the organisation’s ties with the Sikh community.

But observers of Sikh affairs The Tribune spoke to believe the chances of any alternative grouping taking hold of Akal Takht are remote as the process of appointments is well-structured, beginning with the SGPC general body elections. And the next election is not likely before 2021.

Even as the Congress government in Punjab has maintained a silence on the matter, SGPC president Kirpal Singh Badungar suspects that “parallel jathedars” are being backed by the Congress to create unrest.

Weakening hold

Yet, there is no denying that the official jathedars’ authority among the Sikh masses is eroding, especially after now-ousted Jathedar Giani Gurmukh Singh accused SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal of coercing the Sikh clergy to “pardon” the Dera Sacha Sauda chief for his “act of blasphemy”.

Advising the community not to be swayed by the directives of “parallel” jathedars, Akal Takht Jathedar Gurbachan Singh has announced he will soon convene a meeting of high priests for steps to put a stop to their activities.

The nervousness is only to be expected. The “parallel” jathedars’ heightened activity has led to a curious situation, of the official clergy seemingly following in their footsteps.

There have been multiple instances of Jathedar Gurbachan Singh pronouncing hukamnamas (edicts) similar to those passed by the parallel group only days earlier.

Unofficial “interim Akal Takht Jathedar” Dhian Singh Mand excommunicated tainted SAD leader Sucha Singh Langah and Chhota Ghallughara Gurdwara management member Boota Singh on October 4. Identical decisions were then taken by Akal Takht on October 5 and October 6.

Again, when Mand awarded tankhah (punishment) to Chhota Ghallughara Gurdwara trust chief Master Johar Singh on October 12, Akal Takht Jathedar Gurbachan Singh issued a similar hukamnama on October 13.

Striking back

A wary SAD-dominated SGPC is not letting pass any act of rebellion without retribution. Giani Gurmukh Singh, who had questioned the SAD president’s visit to Dera Sacha Sauda and had also spoken against the high priests’ closed-door meetings, had to lose his position as Jathedar of Takht Damdama Sahib.

Subsequently, he indirectly gave recognition to the sacked Panj Piaras (dismissed for challenging the authority of jathedars in the dera case) by appearing before them.

He had been summoned by them as he was among the then five high priests who had granted ‘pardon’ to the dera chief.

As Gurmukh Singh also contended that the Badals were targeting high priests who did not follow their politically motivated dictates, he was moved to a Jind gurdwara. Recently, the SGPC tried to evict his family from the official residence allotted to him in the Golden Temple complex.

Before Gurmukh Singh, his predecessor Balwant Singh Nandgarh was dismissed in 2015 for protesting against amendments in the original Nanakshahi Calendar. With none of the various interests gaining a clear upper hand, the battle for official as well as moral ascendency in Sikh affairs is not likely to be resolved any time soon.

There are no Sikh priests, no high ones and no low ones !
The present jathedars without jatha have no link with any Sikh tradition
Historically there was only one jathedar, the jathedar of the Budha Dal
He was in charge of the Akal Takhat and issued hukamnamas on behalf of the Sarbat Khalsa
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Advertisements – Sikh women jatha finally given permission to perform kirtan at Patna Sahib

Sikh24 Editors

Patna-Bihar-India, 17 October 2017. In a revolutionary development on October 17, the Management Committee of Takht Sri Patna Sahib permitted baptized Sikh women to perform Kirtan inside Takht Sri Patna Sahib.

Notably, Takht Sri Patna Sahib is fifth Sikh throne and birthplace of tenth Sikh master Guru Gobind Singh Ji.

On being contacted by Sikh24 earlier today, newly elected President of Takht Sri Patna Sahib Management Committee S Harwinder Singh Sarna informed that a Kirtani jatha of Sikh women performed Kirtan of Asa Ki War on October 16.

“We had elaborate discussions on the issue and while Sikh women have not performed kirtan here in decades, we decided to allow the Sikh women to do kirtan seva,” said Sarna. Patna Sahib has no further booking by Sikh women Jathas, however they are willing to allow women to do seva going further.

It is pertinent to note here that the right to perform Kirtan inside sacred Sikh shrines for Sikh women is being demanded from long time. Currently, Sikh women are not allowed to do kirtan at Harmandr Sahib either.

During the tenure of Bibi Jagir Kaur as an SGPC President, she had made some efforts to get this right for Sikh women even inside the sanctum sanctorum Sri Harmandr Sahib but the SGPC appointed Takht Jathedars had not accepted the demand at that time.

The Times of India – First Gurdwara in the south still has scars of lightning

Sunil Mungara

Hyderabad, 16 October 2017. Tucked away in the lanes of Kishanbagh in Old City is the first Sikh place of worship in South India. Though historic, the Puratan Gurudwara Saheb Barambala is in a dilapidated state.

While a new place of worship is being built in the vicinity, it will not be a replica of the historic Gurudwara as the management could not take photos of the original structure damaged in lightning in 1950s. The new Gurudwara will be ready in a few months.

The Gurudwara was built in 1832. It is located on Kishan Bagh-Himayatsagar road. After it was damaged by lightning, no effort was made to restore it for want of photos of the original structure. While the search has been in vain, efforts are still on to get the original image of the Gurudwara for reconstruction.

The Gurudwara is the first and only made of stone and mortar in Hyderabad-Deccan. It was meant for Sikh soldiers employed in the services of the Nizam.

According to Rangareddy district gazette (2000), Sikh soldiers first came to Hyderabad on the request of Maharaja Chandu Lal, who served as prime minister, during the regime of Nizam IV , Mir Farkhunda Ali Khan Nasirud-Daula.

Sikh soldiers from Punjab were brought to Hyderabad to collect revenue in the Nizam’s dominions. The ruler of Punjab, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, acceded to the request of Maharaja Chandulal, and sent soldiers of his forces to serve the Nizam IV.

A special Sikh regiment was created in the princely sta te. The regiment was stationed in the city outskirts, which later came to be known as Sikh Chawni or Sikh Cantonment.The Nizam allotted about 200 acres for the stay of Sikh soldiers.

The Sikh regiment was divided into three groups. Two were stationed at places between Rambagh and Kishanbagh. The Gurudwara served the spiritual needs of soldiers. It was the main venue of major celebrations for over a century.

“The Gurudwara is of historic importance, though it did not get the heritage tag. A sixroom quarter complex was built inside for the benefit of people from outside the city. We have taken the help of Chanda Singh, a renowned architect, to rebuild the Gurudwara.

Singh had also designed the Gurudwara in Nanded,” said Bhag Singh, managing trustee of the Gurudwara.
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Encroachments have taken a toll on the historic structure. Of the 200 acres allotted by the Nizam, only 47 acres are now free of encroachments. “We have built a compound wall to protect the remaining land,” Bhag Singh said. There are three main entrances to the Gurudwara Barambala.

Esher Singh is the current Gurudwara head. He has been supervising construction of the new Gurudwara. Sajjan Singh, in-charge of the new Gurudwara, said, “Construction of the new Gurudwara is in full swing. We are spending nearly Rs 3.5 crore. The Gurudwara will be open to devotees in next few months.”

ANI – Amritsar: Three injured during clash outside Golden Temple

Amritsar-Panjab-India, 12 October 2017. Three people were injured in a clash between the supporters of parallel Jathedars and the Task Force of SGPC on Thursday, outside Golden Temple here.

This incident took place after the parallel Jathedars summoned Johar Singh, president of local managing committee of Gurudwara Chhota Ghalughara in connection to an old case. Tension prevailed when SGPC Task Force brought Johar Singh for the same.

Manager Darbar Sahib Sulakhan Singh said that the supporters of the parellel Jathedars tried to violate the rules and were responsible for the ruckus.

People were also seen carrying swords. (ANI)

The Tribune – ‘Parallel’ clergy punishes gurdwara trust president

Tribune News Service

Amritsar, 12 October 2017. The “parallel” Jathedars today awarded tankhah (religious punishment) to Master Johar Singh, president of Chhota Ghallughara Gurdwara Management Trust at Qadian (Gurdaspur), under whose charge “immoral activities” were witnessed on the gurdwara premises.

Taking cognisance of the August 11 incident, the 2015 Sarbat Khalsa-appointed Akal Takht “acting Jathedar” Dhyan Singh Mand and Takht Damdama Sahib Jathedar Baljit Singh Daduwal removed Master Johar Singh from the post and held that the trust will look after the administration of the gurdwara in his absence.

Mand said a three-member committee had held Master Johar Singh guilty of failing to preserve the maryada of the gurdwara. He was directed to perform sewa at Golden Temple [Harmandr Sahib] for seven days.

Master Johar Singh said he would undergo the directions from tomorrow morning.

Johar has also been summoned by Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh on the same issue tomorrow, but said “considering the humiliation I had to face on the directions of the SGPC in the Golden Temple complex, I would never appear before Jathedars led by Giani Gurbachan Singh”.

Bibi Jagir Kaur summoned too

The “parallel” Jathedars have also summoned former SGPC president Bibi Jagir Kaur to appear at the Akal Takht on November 7 following “many written complaints against her”.

Though acquitted of the charge of killing her daughter, she was convicted by the CBI court for conspiring in forcible abduction, kidnapping and wrongful confinement. She has been out on bail since 2012.

Meanwhile, Leader of the Opposition Sukhpal Singh Khaira has reminded Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh of the matter through a letter seeking “excommunication” for Bibi Jagir Kaur. – 483rd Parkash Anniversary of Sri Guru Ram Das Ji observed with fervor at Harmandr Sahib

Sikh24 Editors

Amritsar-Panjab-India, 9 October 2017. Guru Ram Das Ji’s 483rd birth anniversary was celebrated with great zealousness by the Sikh masses on October 7. Masses of Sikh devotees paid obeisance at the sanctum sanctorum Sri Harmandr Sahib on this day to receive blessings of Guru Sahib.

Special manifestation of Sikh artifacts was held inside the sanctum sanctorum and Gurdwara Baba Atal Rai Ji situated within the Sri Harmandir Sahib complex.

Following the culmination of Sri Akhand Path Sahib at Gurdwara Diwan Hall Manji Sahib, renowned Raagi Jathas, Dhadis and Kavishar addressed the religious discourse to devotees.

Beautification of sanctum sanctorum with imported flowers and special hi-tech lighting system remained centre of attraction for Sikh devotees. To avoid pollution caused by fire-crackers, LED lighting was held in the evening this time.

Thanking the worldwide Sikh devotees for manifesting appreciable enthusiasm towards the birth anniversary celebrations, the SGPC President Kirpal Singh Badungar said that the Sikh religion was plaintiff of communal harmony and the intent of selfless service, recitation of Almighty Lord’s name have been given special place in it.

“Adopting the great values depicted by great Sikh masters in our lives is true devotion to our Gurus” he added.

Birmingham Mail – Tributes paid to community leader Sewa Singh Mandla OBE who has died aged 90

Mr Sewa Singh Mandla’s high-profile battle against civic authorities in the 1970s lead to landmark legislation recognising Sikhs as a distinct ethnic and racial group

Amardeep Bassey

Birmingham, 7 October 2017. A prominent Midland community leader who successfully campaigned for a change in the law to allow Sikhs to wear a turban at work and school has died at the age of 90.

Mr Sewa Singh Mandla’s high-profile battle against civic authorities in the 1970s lead to landmark legislation recognising Sikhs as a distinct ethnic and racial group.

A retired lawyer, Mr Mandla was a long serving volunteer at the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha sikh temple [Gurdwara] in Handsworth, Birmingham, and was awarded an OBE last year.

It was presented to him by the Queen during her 90th birthday honours list in recognition of his 50 years legal, human rights and community voluntary service in West Midlands.

Mr Mandla was born in Kenya in January 1927 and moved to Birmingham in 1955 to practice law becoming one of the first non-white solicitors to work at Birmingham magistrates court.

The grandfather-of-six hit the national headlines in 1978 when he complained that a local private school had discriminated against his son Gurinder by not allowing him to wear a turban in class.

A House of Lords panel later agreed saying: “We find it impossible to believe that Parliament intended to exclude the Sikhs from the benefit of the Race Relations Act and to allow discrimination to be practised against the Sikhs.

“We agree with the noble and learned friend that Gurinder Singh cannot comply with the school rules without becoming a victim of discrimination.

“The discrimination cannot be justified by a genuine belief that the school would provide a better system of education if it were allowed to discriminate.”

Winning legal recognition as a distinct ethnic and racial group paved the way for Sikhs in the UK to become exempt from wearing crash helmets and hard-hats on construction sites and to freely wear turbans in the workplace and schools.

Last night tributes poured in on social media describing Mr Mandla as a “pioneering campaigner” and “selfless servant of the community.”

A spokesman for the Sikh Network said: “Mr Mandla’s passing will be lamented, he distinguished himself as an equal rights pioneer.

“The Sikh community is indebted to his tenacious fight against the shim of a school and the courts upheld our right to freely wear turbans.

“Mr Mandla will be remembered as a man of principle and a role model to all of civic society.”

Professor Upkar Singh Pardesi, Vice Chair of Nishkam Civic Association, said “The Sikh and wider community in Birmingham and the region has lost one of the longest serving lawyers, an active volunteer, and role model for spirituality.

“Mr Mandla shone and become a legend for his ability to successfully fuse his professional work in law with spirituality to make a difference to Sikh and wider communities in the UK.

“Mr Mandla’s perseverance to take the issue of turbans worn by Sikh pupils in schools is a testament of his dedication to fight for a just cause. He had an extraordinary passion and flair for serving the community in the pursuit of making a difference.

“His perseverance to follow through projects and tasks was one of his outstanding qualities.”

Mr Mandla is survived by a son Gurinder, daughter Tina and six grandchildren.

Leuven NMBS – Gent: Citadelpark, Gurdwara and Tram 1 – Stilte Kring on the Gent Korenmarkt

Leuven NMBS
23 September 2017

S20 to Ottignies

Gent: Citadelpark, Gurdwara and Tram 1
24 September 2017


Nishan Sahib with Khanda

Mata Sahib Kaur Gurdwara
Kortrijksepoortstraat 49
B-9000 Gent – Oost-Vlaanderen

De Lijn Tram 1
From the Gurdwara to Guislain

Stilte Kring = Silent Circle
on the Gent Korenmarkt
26 September 2017

Week of Peace
Radical together – Loving resistence

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The Times of India – Pakistan Sikhs object to ETPB fundraising plan

Yudhvir Rana

Amritsar-Panjab-India, 2 October 2017, A section of Sikhs in Pakistan have objected to the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) Muslim chairman leading a delegation of the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC) to Canada and the USA to seek funds from the rich and influential Sikhs settled there to develop a gurdwara in Pakistan.

“The ETPB had announced that the Pakistan government will construct one hundred rooms at Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib. Now, its Muslim chairman has not only backed out from his promise but has announced to lead a delegation to Canada and the USA to collect donations.

It is highly objectionable and is direct intervention of the ETPB in the Sikh religious affairs,” said a rights activist and president of Peshawar-based Khalsa Peace and Justice Foundation of Pakistan, Radesh Singh Tony, while talking to TOI on Friday.

ETPB chairman Farooq-ul-Saddiq had recently visited Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib along with the board’s additional secretary Tariq Khan, PSGPC president Tara Singh and member, Punjab (Pakistan) Provincial Assembly Ramesh Singh Arora.

On the occasion, Farooq had said that the ETPB had made a policy to facilitate Sikhs from across the world to perform ‘sewa’ (voluntary service) in gurdwaras of Pakistan.

“Whosoever wants to do karsewa in Gurdwaras of Pakistan are welcome but they should bring their own money and spend it on their own. We will provide them with technical assistance only,” Farooq had said, adding that he would lead a delegation next month to convince Sikhs about the ETPB plans.

“Legally, the ETPB and the PSGPC are two different bodies and the ETPB’s chairman has no right to take decision for the committee,” said a Pakistani Sikh advocate Hira Singh.

Singh, who is also president of the Karachi-based Sri Guru Nanak Satsang Sabha, alleged that the Sikh leadership of the PSGPC had their own vested interests for remaining quite.

“They draw salaries and enjoy other facilities provided to them by the ETPB,” he said.

While cautioning the Sikhs living in the USA and Canada who may generously donate to the ETPB for the cause, Hira Singh alleged that funds could be embezzled as there was no transparency.

Radesh Singh said they had also demanded Farooq’s resignation since he had failed to live up to the expectations of the minority communities.

The Tribune – Mixed response to SGPC stand

Neeraj Bagga, Tribune News Service

Amritsar, 1 October 2017. The SGPC’s decision that its president Kirpal Singh Badungar will not appear before a government-appointed commission probing sacrilege cases has evoked a mixed response.

United Akali Dal (UAD) president Bhai Mohkam Singh said the SGPC move would help those involved in desecration go scot-free. He said the stand proved that the then SAD-BJP government had allegedly played a role in such incidents.

He said most of the desecration cases had occurred in 2015 and 2016 and the Akali government had remained in power for nearly a year and a half since then. He also accused the the government of implicating those Sikhs in false cases who had been searching for culprits.

Former SGPC secretary Manjit Singh Calcutta said the Akal Takht Jathedar never appeared before any court or commission.

However, the Justice Ranjit Singh (retd) Commission had summoned only the SGPC president and sought record of the Akal Takht. He said the SGPC was constituted after the promulgation of an Act and its president could appear in a court, adding that its former presidents had done so in the past.

Meanwhile, Jathedars of three Takhts, including Akal Takht, and other Sikh religious institutions, endorsed the SGPC’s decision.

Jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh said the Akal Takht was the highest temporal seat of the Sikhs and an independent institute whose record could not be shared.

Takht Damdama Sahib Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh, Damdami Taksal head Giani Harnam Singh Dhumma, Nihang organisations head Baba Balbir Singh, too, supported the SGPC’s decision.

Dhumma accused the Congress government of hatching a conspiracy to interfere in the affairs of the Sikh community.

The Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) backed the SGPC’s decision to reject the commission. “This (setting up the commission) is a conspiracy hatched by the Congress to weaken top Sikh institutions. We warn the commission to desist from interfering in the affairs of these institutions,” the DSGMC said.