– World Sikh Parliament issue advice on practical steps for Gurdwaras to reopen

Sikh24 UK Bureau

Santokh Singh

London – UK, 27 May 2020. The World Sikh Parliament (WSP) on 26 May released two videos, one in English and one in Punjabi, with advice for Gurdwaras around the world on considerations they should take when reopening their doors to the Sangat after lock-down.

The videos cover topics from protecting the elderly members of the Sangat to the distribution of degh. The content highlights the dangers of a second and third wave of Corona-virus which may cost many more lives to the deadly disease.

Sangat is encouraged to conduct TV shows to engage with the Sangat and let them know about the changes they will need to bring in. WSP also ask Gurdwaras to put up signing, markings on the floor and potentially introducing a one way system if possible in the Gurdwara.

It is also highlighted that many Gurdwara granthis have also passed away due to the virus and the Sangat are encouraged to keep social distancing to protect the most vulnerable in the community and the Divans being extended in order to cater for the Sangat having Darshan of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji.

To see the videos click on the below link !

The Indian Express – For Afghan Sikhs, fear of another terror attack bigger than fear of corona-virus

Divya Goyal

Ludhiana – Panjab – India, 29 May 2020. While the world is in the throes of a pandemic, 29-year-old Inderjit Kaur has another worry gnawing at her soul. Two months after she lost her husband and two brothers in an Islamic State (IS) sponsored terror attack at Gurdwara Har Rai Sahib in Kabul, Inderjit lives in constant fear of another attack.

Huddled inside a tiny room along with her three children, Harjot (11 months), Simarjit (6), Arveen (3), her mother-in-law and two brothers-in-law, at Gurdwara Dashmesh Pita Sri Guru Gobind Singh ji Singh Sabha Karte Parwan, she says: Coronavirus ton zyada darr taan attack ton lagda hai.. assi haley vi darre hoye haan (More than coronavirus, we are fearful of another attack on us. We are still very scared).”

Speaking to The Indian Express over the phone from Kabul, she added: “Majboori hai saadi gurdware ch rehna, hor kithey jaaiye…I just want a safe life for my children. We want to move to India as soon as possible. Please take us out of here,” she cries.

It was on 25 March that the Sikh community in strife-torn Afghanistan lost 25 people in a ghastly terror attack at Gurdwara Har Rai Sahib in Shor Bazar of Kabul.

As Covid-19 infections surged world over, the pandemic hit the Sikhs in Afghanistan, just a little over 600 left in the country, by causing delay in visa approvals for which they had sent written appeals to the Indian Embassy.

Further, they are at a higher risk of corona-virus infection as the families, which lost one or more members in the 25 March attack, are now living together in gurdwara rooms in cramped conditions. Anywhere between 9 to 14 Sikh community members have been living in each gurdwara room in the aftermath of the attack.

While most Sikh families in Afghanistan were rendered ‘homeless’ after the Mujahideen took over in 1992 and have been sheltered by gurdwaras since long, the situation worsened after 25 March attack as families at Gurdwara Har Rai Sahib were forced to move to small rooms at other gurdwaras.

Gurdwara Har Rai Sahab has not opened since the attack, forcing these Sikh families to live cheek by jowl, sleep on floor and share washrooms with several others.

With more than 12,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 227 deaths, Afghanistan, meanwhile, has been grappling with problem of low-testing and inadequate health infrastructure to tackle coronavirus and experts feel most cases there are going ‘undetected’.

Paramjit Kaur (30), who lost her mother-in-law and sister in the attack, now lives at Karte Parwan gurdwara. She says that she along with her husband, three children of her own and four of her deceased sister, are living in one small room.

“It is always crowded here. Other visitors also keep visiting. We sleep on floor, all nine of us in the same room. At least fifty people use same washroom. Saadi taan zindagi barbaad ho gai, hun bacheyan di sanwar jaaye kisi tarah.

We know that coronavirus can spread here anytime and if one gets it, all will infected because we are together almost entire day but we do not have any option. We cannot afford to pay rent for rooms outside.

We do not have our own house. We are scared of another attack and coronavirus both, but fear of another attack is always bigger,” she said.

“Sangat ke liye coronavirus se bhi bada khatra aatank hai.. (For the Sikh community here, another attack is a bigger fear than coronavirus),” added Daljit Kaur (25), whose husband had died in the attack.

Now, she along with her brother-in-law and four children (aged 14, 10, 3 and 2) live in a single gurdwara room. “Five, six, eight, ten….persons are living in one small room here.

We cannot move out as we are still getting threats. It is not hygienic here. Coronavirus has already delayed the entire visa process. Be it India or any other country, just take us out of this hell,” said Daljit.

Community leaders in Afghanistan said that were just waiting for lock-down to end in India.

Chhabol Singh, member, managing committee, Gurdwara Karte Parwan said, “We have already given in writing to the Indian Embassy to rescue us. We need evacuation from here as soon as possible.

There are just around 650 Sikh community members left here and we have already submitted the list to Embassy.

But corona-virus has delayed everything. It has been decided that in the first batch, shaheed parivar (families which lost members in March 25 attack) and those who have someone living in India already, will be sent.”

On the Covid-19 threat, he added: “Yahaan na rehne ki jagah hai, na sone ki (Here families do not have place to live, to sleep). We are trying our best to maintain social distancing, but how do we do it?”

“(After the attack) around fifty persons were adjusted at Karte Parwan gurdwara, six families are living at Khalsa Sahib ji gurdwara, four at Gurdwara Baba Sri Chand ji and remaining at Baba Almas ji gurdwara and Mansa Singh ji gurdwara, all in Kabul.

But their earning family members are dead, they have no source of livelihood plus there is always a fear of another attack. We keep asking them to wash their hands and sit at distance of at least 2 metres in gurdwara halls but risk is always there.

Ek ko bhi virus ne pakda to sab jayenge hum (If even one among us gets infected, then we are all in trouble),” he said. – Hurriyat Conference strongly condemns attack on Derby Gurdwara

Sikh24 Editors

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 27 May 2020. Strongly condemning the recent attack on Gurdwara Guru Arjan Dev in Derby (UK), the All Parties Hurriyat Conference has expressed solidarity with the Sikh community. The APHC asked the British government to take stern action against the attacker so that no one could dare to commit such a heinous act in the future.

All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) is an alliance of 26 political, social and religious organizations formed on 9 March 1993, as a united political front to raise the cause of Kashmir.

In a press note shared with Sikh24, All Parties Hurriyat Conference’s spokesperson Muhammad Ashraf Sehrai has said that this attack was extremely painful as Sikhs have always stood for the cause of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

Smelling Indian agencies’ hand behind this attack, Muhammad Ashraf Sehrai said that Sikhs have always supported the Kashmiris.

“When the innocent Kashmiris were being assaulted by Hindu extremists in all parts of India in August last year, the Sikhs opened the doors of their Gurdwaras for the oppressed Kashmiri Muslims and provided them food and shelter,” Sehrai said while adding that the Kashmiris can’t even think of attacking Gurdwara.

He expressed hope that the Indian agencies will not succeed in its nefarious design focused on creating discord between Muslims and the Sikhs.

Muhammad Ashraf Sehrai’s son Junaid Sehrai was an active Kashmiri militant who recently lost his life in an encounter with the Indian forces in Srinagar’s Nawakadal area on May 19.

On 25 May a Muslim man of Pakistani origin named Mohammed Ibrar had attacked Gurdwara Guru Arjan Dev in Derby. He smashed the Gurdwara property causing damage worth thousands of pounds.

After the attack, he had left a written note in Gurdwara Sahib in which he had tried to depict that he launched this attack out of anger against the Indian government for oppressing Kashmiris.

Derby Telegraph – Police link attack on Sikh temple (Gurdwara) to Derby shop stabbing

A door was smashed in the early hours of this morning

Martin Naylor & Tom Bokros

Derby – Derbyshire – UK, 26 May 2020. An attack on a Sikh temple (Gurdwara) in Normanton has been linked to a nearby shop stabbing.

Guru Arjan Dev Gurdwara in Stanhope Street had its front doors smashed in the early hours of this morning.

The break-in was reported to police at 8.40am.

Now, police believe that this break-in is linked to a stabbing in Normanton Road nearby.

In that incident, a 41-year-old man was found unconscious and with stab wounds after he was attacked in Polanica Polish delicatessen this morning.

A man was arrested in relation to the shop incident.

Now, that same man has also been arrested on suspicion of burglary in relation to the temple break-in.

Police have also said that they do not believe anyone else was involved in the incidents, but they will continue to investigate.

Superintendent Gareth Meadows said: “I would like to thank the Sikh community and the local people in Normanton for their assistance with our enquiries.

“Our officers remain in the area.

“If you have any information in relation to these two incidents please speak to the officers or contact us using the methods stated.”

Guru Arjan Dev Gurdwara said on its Facebook page: “From the evidence obtained thus far, the male’s attire and the note which was left, appears that he is of Muslim background.

“This is an area with a multi-cultural community, where all have lived and worked together for many years.

“Especially during these times, faith-based charities have been at the forefront.

“This incident nor this message will create any tension between communities, but how you react to this will.

“We acknowledge this maybe an individual or a small group however we should not malign the whole Muslim community and therefore request people to refrain from such posts.”

Derby city councillor Baggy Shanker, who is a member of Guru Arjan Dev Gurdwara, said: “Any attack of this nature on any place of worship is cowardly.

“The police need to act promptly to deal with this individual and bring him to justice.

“Derby’s communities have a very long and good understanding of each other’s values and share the utmost respect for people’s beliefs.

“This isolated issue is not any reflection on that and must be treated with firmly and quickly.”

The Tribune – UK gurdwara vandalised, Takht wants action

Akal Takht and the SGPC have condemned the vandalism of Guru Arjan Dev Jee Gurdwara in Derby, UK, on Monday a day before the martyrdom day of the Guru.

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 26 May 2020. The UK police have arrested a man believed to be a Pakistani. It has been learnt that the man had posted a message seeking support on the Kashmir issue and caused damage worth thousands of pounds.

Akal Takht officiating Jathedar Giani Hapreet Singh demanded the UK Government to ensure the safety of gurdwaras and Sikh citizens. “Like other gurdwaras across the world, the one in Derby is providing the needy with langar and other relief material in times of the Covid pandemic.

It is beyond my understanding why Sikhs are being targeted,” he said. – Muslims should know Sikhs have always stood against the oppression of Kashmiris

Sikh24 Editors

New York – New York State – USA, 26 May 2020. On 25 May, a Muslim man of Pakistani origin attacked Gurdwara Guru Arjan Dev in Britain’s Derby. This attack occurred exactly on the day when the entire Muslim community was celebrating Eid-ul-Fitr and the worldwide Sikhs were greeting our Muslim brothers on this auspicious day.

Interestingly, this attack also occurred exactly a day before the 414th martyrdom anniversary of Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji.

After smashing the property of Gurdwara premises worth thousands of pounds, the attacker left a handwritten note behind, in which he clearly revealed his disturbed mindset due to the ongoing oppression of Kashmiris by India.

It clearly shows that a religious place of Sikhs got attacked because the attacker mistook Sikhs as supporters of the Indian government which is continuously oppressing Kashmiris.

This attack occurred because the Sikhs lack their distinct identity as nationhood and for being a stateless community. The Sikhs got targeted for the excesses being committed by the Indian government on Kashmiris.

Initially, the Indian media didn’t pay heed towards this attack, but as soon as it came to the fore that the attacker was a Muslim man of Pakistani origin, the Indian media outlets started airing this news considering it a golden opportunity to infuse hate in Sikhs against Muslims.

Sikhs have always stood against the oppression of Kashmiris.

In August last year, SGPC appointed Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh had openly opposed the abrogation of Article 370 by the BJP led Indian government in Jammu & Kashmir.

In Canada, the National Democratic Party’s head Jagmeet Singh had strongly condemned the oppression of Kashmiri people by India.

Similarly, the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) and Dal Khalsa had also condemned the abrogation of Article 370 by terming it a murder of democracy.

Muslims should know Sikhs have always stood against the oppression of Kashmiris

India Today – Corona-virus: Sikh volunteers at Delhi’s Bangla Sahib Gurdwara feed masses during lock-down

New Delhi – India, 25 May 2020. At first, the kitchen at the Bangla Sahib Gurdwara cooked 40,000 meals each day for the hungry who live on the streets of India’s capital city, or who have lost their livelihoods to the corona-virus lockdown.

But the need was greater than that. So workers at the golden-domed gurdwara in central New Delhi made 80,000 meals daily. Then 100,000. Soon, they expect to be making 300,000, all provided free to the growing ranks of the unfortunate.

For centuries the faithful have flocked to the Gurdwara for its healing waters and a free meal at the community kitchen [langar], the symbol of equality found at every Sikh Gurdwara complex and open to all visitors.

The Bangla Sahib Gurdwara has remained open through wars and plagues, serving millions of people simple vegetarian food on the cool marble floor of its enormous dining hall. But during India’s ongoing lock-down, among the world’s most stringent, religious congregations are banned.

Bangla Sahib kept its kitchen open, with the help of about four dozen men who sleep at the Gurdwara’s guesthouse. To save time commuting to and from the Gurdwara and avoid the risk of infecting loved ones, they haven’t seen their families since the lock-down began 25 March.

In colorful turbans and cloth bandanas tied over their noses and mouths, they work in the industrial kitchen in 18-hours shifts.

Head cook Balbir Singh stirs an enormous ladle through a potato and soybean stew, simmering with ghee and coriander in a giant cook pot. A machine that every hour makes 5,000 chapati, thin, unleavened bread, whirs long before the sun rises and after it sets.

Singh, 44, lights the flames at 3 am so that 35,000 lunches are ready for pickup by 9 am.

“If we serve at this time, God will give us more. It’s a give and take system,” Singh said.

Bangla Sahib is the largest of New Delhi’s 10 gurdwaras, whose kitchens together form a vital part of the city’s strategy to feed the poor during the pandemic.

The city government approached the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee just after India’s nationwide lockdown began in late March, according to the committee president, Manjinder Singh Sirsa.

Bangla Sahib, which usually prepares around half a million meals per week using donated ingredients and equipment, is quickly ramping up to produce six times that many, Singh Sirsa said.

The government sends trucks to pick up the meals each day and distribute them to a network of shelters and drop-off points, but pays nothing for the food.

Singh Sirsa struggles to protect his workers and collect donations to keep the enterprise going. “This is the biggest challenge for me in my entire life,” he said.

Anticipating many months of hardship ahead, he appears nightly on the Bangla Sahib’s own TV channel to appeal for more donations.

A man from Montreal recently pledged $10,000, another from London offered $100,000, he said. The dining hall heaves with sacks of rice, flour and lentils and cans of oil, six months of supplies, said Jagpreet Singh, a 27-year-old Gurdwara clerk.

“We believe in God. He’s giving us this power, so we provide,” he said.

The Indian Express – Devotees use four entrances at Golden Temple [Harmandr Sahib], Health Department says aware of only one

After the lifting of the curfew, devotees have been thronging to the holy shrine again. While social distancing is advised, it is not strictly imposed and further it is not common practice among devotees to cover their faces with masks inside.

Kamaldeep Singh Brar

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 23 May 2020. While four entrances are open for all devotees to enter the premises of the Golden Temple, the state Health Department has been screening devotees only at one. In fact, the Health department has even claimed that it is not aware that devotees have been using any other entrance except the one manned by it.

Nodel Officer for Golden Temple [Harmandr Sahib] and SMO, Mannawala, Dr Nirmal Singh said: “It is not in my knowledge that four entrances are open for the devotees. SGPC hasn’t informed me about it. Our team has been screening devotees at the Plaza entrance.

Sometimes we single out suspected persons who are weak for proper investigation. We have not kept count of number of devotees screened since the corona-virus outbreak.” He added that a 10-member Health Department team is deployed at Harmandr Sahib.

However, SGPC chief secretary Roop Singh said, “Our responsibility is inside the Harmandr Sahib. How the devotees enter the premises and from where they should enter, it is all related to administration and Health Department.”

He added: “We had made it very clear that we cannot stop devotees. We cannot close entrance to the Harmandr Sahib in any way. It is not possible. Administration had imposed curfew in the city. When curfew was imposed strictly, then very few devotees were coming because roads leading to Harmandr Sahib were closed.

We have been taking all the precautions inside the Golden Temple. It is for the administration to decide which path they have to open for the devotees to reach the Golden Temple. Roads belong to administration and they can decide which road to open and which one to close. Devotees will obviously use any open road to reach Harmandr Sahib.”

The Health Department has setup a canopy at the Plaza entrance, however, very small number of devotees have been entering from this side.

Most of the devotees have been entering from the community kitchen [langar] entrance, Akal Takht secretariat entrance and from Darshan Deori just opposite the Akal Takht secretariat entrance.

At all four entrances, SGPC employees are deployed to make devotees sanitise their hands.

At the community kitchen entrance, a “donated” sanitisation tunnel has been placed and SGPC workers along police personnel man this side.

“We try to control the devotees. Sometimes we ask people in queue to wait so that devotees already inside premises can leave and make space for them. We make attempt to control the number of devotees inside the premises,” said an SGPC official.

After the lifting of the curfew, devotees have been thronging to the holy shrine again. While social distancing is advised, it is not strictly imposed and further it is not common practice among devotees to cover their faces with masks inside.

SMO Nirmal Singh added: “Devotees are not in the habit of wearing masks inside the premises. I have observed that many devotees have an issue with wearing masks after entering inside. Maybe, it has to do something with devotion. We don’t know. We haven’t discussed this issue at any meeting.”

An SGPC official added: “We ask all devotees to maintain social distancing and cover their faces with masks. But you cannot force a devotee to do a particular thing inside the Harmandr Sahib premises.

Even outside the Harmandr Sahib, people have been in roaming without masks in the main markets of city. Government should make people strictly wear masks everywhere and then its impact will also be there inside Golden Temple.”

On devotees not wearing masks inside Harmandr Sahib premises, Roop Singh said: “Our employees repeatedly ask people to cover their faces and most of the devotees do cover their faces.”

Amritsar Civil Surgeon Jugal Kishore didn’t respond to repeated calls. Amritsar Deputy commissioner also could not be reached over the issue.

Hindustan Times – Devotees offer more wheat to Golden Temple (Harmandr Sahib) langar

The community kitchen [langar], serving meals to the needy, receives double quantity of wheat offering this year as compared to last year

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 23 May 2020. “We have never received such a large quantity of wheat crop earlier from the villagers during the rabi season at Sri Guru Ram Das Langar (community kitchen of Harmandr Sahib) which is witnessing huge heaps of wheat bags offered by the sangat (community) from various parts of Punjab, with the grace of Guru Sahib”.

This was observation of one of the regular volunteers who serves the devotees in the langar, considered as the largest community kitchen in the world offering free food round-the-clock daily to the needy people.

Amid Covid-19 pandemic when many people have become jobless due to the lock-down, the Harmandr Sahib langar has been feeding a large number of people, including stranded migrant workers.

On the other hand, collection of money offered by devotees has witnessed a drastic dip due to lock-down when very few devotees are able to pay obeisance at the holiest Sikh shrine.

The dip in collection had worried the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) as a sizeable portion of it is spent on serving langar (free food). However, the unprecedented response given by the devotees in the form of wheat and other grocery items have lessened the SGPC’s worries.

“Ever since the harvesting season has ended, tractor-trailers, trucks and other vehicles, loaded with langar items, including wheat, are reaching the kitchen daily from the villages in large numbers,” said Sukhbir Singh, manager of the community kitchen.

“Wheat is the most consumed food item in the langar. Last year, around 34,000 quintal wheat flour was consumed in the langar and quantity of wheat grains offered by the sangat during the harvesting season last year was 13,000 quintals. However, nearly 26,000 quintal wheat has been offered by sangat so far this season. And the arrival is going on yet,” said SGPC chief secretary Roop Singh.

“Guru Ka Langar is run with the cooperation of sangat. As community kitchens of all gurdwaras are feeding the needy during the lockdown, the sangat is very enthusiastic to contribute to the service of humanity,” he added.

Kulbir Singh, granthi of a gurdwara in Dhadiala village of Hoshiarpur, who along with villagers came with 33 quintal wheat, said “In my living memory, residents of my village never brought so much wheat to the Harmandr Sahib. Actually, some youths of my village asked all farmers to devote at least one wheat bag in view of the pandemic”.

Captain Tarlok Singh (retd) of village Firoz Singh Wala in Kapurthala district and residents of Chak Allah Baksh village of Mukerian sub-division of Hoshiarpur also said that they have brought wheat and other grocery items for the first time. Jaswinder Singh of Chak Allah Baksh said they brought 500 quintal wheat from their village in the past few days.

Notably, after the record dip in money collection, SGPC chief Gobind Singh Longowal had appealed to the community to contribute to the kitchen to keep it running without any hassle.

Kent-Online – Plane circles above Gravesend town centre in funeral-day tribute to late father

Megan Carr

Gravesend – Kent – UK, 21 May 2020. A plane has been spotted circling a town centre in memory of a late father and prominent member of the Sikh community. Just after midday, an aircraft displaying a touching banner was seen flying over Gravesend.

It has now emerged the touching tribute was to honour Makhan Singh Johal, who recently died, as his funeral was held at the Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara in Khalsa Avenue. Mr Johal who arrived in Gravesend from India in 1975, died last week after a long battle with cancer.

Gurvinder Sandher, chief executive of The Kent Equality Cohesion Council, said: “Today was Makhan’s funeral, in other circumstances around 1,000 people would have came to pay their respects but due to social distancing Makhan’s family wanted to offer another way for people to pay their respects.”

The banner read: “RIP DAD, 1955-2020, Chardi Kala, miss you. MSJ.”

Chardi Kala is a Punjabi phrase which encourages Sikhs to maintain a mental state of optimism and joy. It is often said and intended to demonstrate the belief of being content with the will of God even during harder times or in adversity.

Megan Carr