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
Man in Blue


The Tribune – UK Sikhs seek recognition as ethnic group

Sujinder Singh Sangha

The recognition of Sikhs in Britain as a minority ethnic population and its monitoring, would provide a mechanism to analyse how Sikhs are faring in view of racial discrimination and hate crimes.

– Discrimination against Asian Black and Minority Ethnic (ABME) people is rooted in prejudice relating to the colour of skin, visible appearance, religion, culture, attire, language or origin

– Ethnic data influences the public decision-makings related to employment and services, the reliability of census data on the ABME people is essential for equality monitoring.

– Only a targeted counting and monitoring of Sikhs as a minority religious as well as ethnic population could enhance the census data.

– Some believe it may result in alienation and under-counting of Sikhs, as many may declare their ethnicity as Indian, Punjabi or another which may worsen the numerical position of Sikhs.

– The bid in Britain for Sikh ethnic identity and monitoring should be seen as integral to the Indian/ABME drive for social justice.

The Sikhs in Britain have relentlessly campaigned since the 1960s to have their basic rights established as a distinct religious minority. A natural next step for them is to seek recognition as a minority ethnic population by the census mechanisms of the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS is being convinced to introduce an ethnic category for Sikhs, in addition to the religious one which already exists. The ONS is in the process of consulting and testing the 2021 national census questionnaire for approval by the parliament.

The national census data provides a count of all people and households every 10 years to enhance the provision of population statistics that allows a comparison of different groups of people.

The national population statistics are used to carry out research and assessment to develop policy, strategy and resourcing to address the changing needs and expectations of the stakeholding population. The nature of data influences the decision-making related to employment and services.

So, the reliability of census data on Asian Black and Minority Ethnic (ABME) communities is essential for equality monitoring. The evaluation of monitoring of outcomes indicates the effectiveness of equality measures applied to improve social justice.

The Sikhs have requested the ONS to amend the census questionnaire by adding the Sikh ethnic category alongside the religious one to enhance the provision of data. They have also mobilised the parliamentarians to support them.

A news report in The Tribune, Chandigarh (“100 UK MPs back non-Indian ethnic identity move for Sikhs”, September 20, 2017) noted “New Delhi is unlikely to be amused if the demand (for Sikh ethnic identity) is granted; which means such an outcome has the potential of seriously impacting bilateral relations between India and Britain.”

This view takes the issue to a different level as outlined by the newly elected MP Tanmanjit Singh Dhesi: “The Office of National Statistics (ONS) gave guidance in 2003 and 2011 to public bodies — including education, health service, local authorities and police — to only use ethnic group categories in the census for the monitoring purposes.

Hence, the community’s focus on getting a Sikh category…would be useful for stakeholders, such as those concerned with Sikh identity, discrimination and hate crime…Sikhs are a legally recognised ethnic group (Mandela V Lee, 1983) protected from discrimination under law.”

MP Preet Kaur Gill, who chairs the resurrected All-Party Parliamentary Group for British Sikhs (APPGBS), has written to the ONS, hoping for a positive response on the inclusion of a Sikh ethnic tick box in the Census 2021.

She has alerted the ONS that failing that, the Sikh community may resort to legal redress or seek a change when the parliament is asked to approve the census 2021 questionnaire.

The ONS, 2017, has carried out an ethnic question test involving the Sikhs in Wolverhampton and Hounslow. The indications are that the response level was a low 11.2% and 15.5%, respectively.

There is no indication that the religious affiliation and ethnic group questions are capturing different populations. All respondents who selected Sikh ethnic group also selected Sikh as their religious affiliation.

However, no one would like a re-run of the 1980s. Had the House of Lords not accepted the appeal for overturning Lord Denning’s ruling, the Sikhs would have had to take up the matter politically to seek an amendment to the Race Relations Act 1976… Section (3) which defines a racial group by reference to colour, race, nationality, ethnic or national origins.

The impact of Lord Denning’s ruling and press publicity gave many employers an unfair advantage and discriminatory expectation that the turban-wearing Sikhs can be asked to remove turban and not wear a beard.

The House of Lords 1983 ruling rejected the High Court’s verdict and made any discrimination against Sikhs on the grounds of wearing a turban illegal.

The Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO), of which Lord Indarjit Singh is the director, believes that the campaign for ethnic identity is misguided. It may result in alienating many and could cause an under-counting of Sikhs in Britain as some may declare their ethnicity as Indian, Punjabi or another which may worsen the numerical position of visible Sikhs.

The Sikh Federation of UK (SFUK), whose activists are campaigning for the inclusion of Sikhs as a separate minority ethnic community, disagrees with the NSO.

Lord Singh argues that to call Sikhs a distinctive ethnic minority would be against the Sikh Gurus’ teachings that all humans are of the same race, man-made divisions based on caste or ethnicity are divisive and false.

He also points out that the monitoring could give legitimacy to discriminate against turban-wearing Sikhs, as large employers could pass the ethnic test with a few Sikhs.

However, the academic and functional definitions of ethnicity qualify Sikhs in Britain to be a minority ethnic population for counting and monitoring purposes, especially in view of over 50 years of campaigning against  discrimination and unfairness.

The ethnic identity and ethnic monitoring is a mechanism of assessing the effectiveness of affirmative actions, or analogous programmes by recording the ethnic background of the recruits.

The recognition of Sikhs in Britain as a minority ethnic population and its monitoring, would provide a mechanism to analyse how Sikhs are faring in view of racial discrimination and hate crimes.

Only a targeted counting and monitoring of Sikhs as a minority religious as well as ethnic population could enhance the census data and the eligibility for monitoring.

The writer is former principal & chief executive of a leading UK Further Education College
I used to work with Sujinder Singh when he was Principal of Stockton Riverside College and I was the national development officer of Faiths and Beliefs in Further Education (FBFE) – 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. – Giani Pinderpal Singh Receives Special Honour at Manji Sahib

Sikh24 Editors

Amritsar-Panjab-India, 14 October 2017. Renowned Sikh preacher Giani Pinderpal Singh received a special honour on October 13 by the SGPC. The recognition was made by SGPC Secretary Dr Roop Singh and other officials for Giani Ji’s contributions to raising awareness of Gurbani within Sikh masses.

This recognition was bestowed to Giani Pinderpal Singh for also narrating religious discourses from October 5 onwards to Sikh devotees at Gurdwara Diwan Hall Manji Sahib.

SGPC Secretary Dr Roop Singh said on this occasion that Giani Pinderpal Singh was performing a precious act of encouraging devotees towards Sikhi.

He added that the SGPC was committed to honour such Sikh personalities who have dedicated their lives for Sikhi parchar. On behalf of SGPC, he specially thanked Giani Pinderpal Singh on this occasion.

SGPC member S Ajmer Singh Khera, Additional Head Granthi of Sri Harmandir Sahib Giani Jagtar Singh, SGPC Secretary Dr Roop Singh, Manager of Sri Harmandir Sahib S Sulakhan Singh Bhangali, Bhai Harmittar Singh etc. were present on this occasion.

Earlier, Giani Pinderpal Singh was bestowed the title of ‘Bhai Sahib’ by the Akal Takht Sahib in 2013.

WCPO Cincinnati – Tri-State Sikhs group sends volunteers to Puerto Rico for hurricane relief

Jay Warren

West Chester-Ohio-USA, 13 October 2017. United Sikhs is an organization many in the Tri-State may not have heard of, but they’re recognized by the UN.

This weekend, they’re holding a fundraiser for humanitarian relief after some of their members have returned from hurricane recovery efforts Puerto Rico.

This week, about 60,000 people in Puerto Rico have clean drinking water again thanks to an engineer from United Sikhs who diagnosed and spearheaded repairs in Utuado.

“I don’t want to say ‘single-handedly,’ because he had a team helping him and a support staff, but he managed to fix and restore that main engine that’s going to serve 15,000 families with fresh water,” Jaipal Singh said.

Singh is a member of the group who just got back to Cincinnati Thursday night. He said the damage in Puerto Rico was “as if the Incredible Hulk was walking across the island and started picking up massive trees and telephone poles and started throwing them every which way.”

Friday afternoon, women were preparing food for the fundraiser. It’s an outgrowth of the philosophy of langar, getting to know someone through sharing a meal.

Sikhs believe in the oneness of mankind, which is what drives United Sikhs to volunteer, according to Maneshwar Singh.

“Everything is based off of recognizing that oneness, and from that you get a compassion and a lovingness for everything that is the creation,” Singh said.

United Sikhs will be in Puerto Rico as long as they’re needed. Now they’re also planning to send aid workers to California to help people displaced by wildfires.

Anyone interested in donated can visit the United Sikhs’ online fundraiser.

The Times of India – SGPC stops Johar from undergoing religious atonement at Golden Temple complex

Amritsar-Panjab-India, 15 October 2017. The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) on Saturday denied Gurdwara Ghallughara Sahib trust president Master Johar Singh, to undergo religious punishment at the Golden Temple complex on Saturday.

“I had come to perform sewa as directed by Sarbat Khalsa-appointed jathedars but the SGPC sewadars prevented me from doing so,” Johar told TOI.

He said it was unfortunate that a Sikh was not allowed to do sewa in the Golden Temple complex.

On October 12, the Sarbat Khalsa-appointed clerics had pronounced religious atonement of washing utensils, cleaning shoes and listening to kirtan at the Golden Temple for one hour each for seven days on Johar, who was held guilty of poor management of Gurdwara Ghallughara Sahib, Chhamb in Gurdaspur.

The following day, the SGPC-appointed jathedars held a meeting and declared Johar tankhaiya (guilty of religious misconduct).

Johar said the SGPC sewadars asked him to first appear before the jathedars and undergo religious punishment awarded by them. “I refused to appear before the SGPC-appointed jathedars since Panth has lost faith in them,” he alleged.

Admitting that the SGPC sewadars had refused Johar to undergo religious punishment, Golden Temple manager Sulakhan Singh said, “As par rehat maryada (religious code of conduct) Johar has to appear before jathedar of Akal Takht Giani Gurbachan Singh.

We can’t allow anyone to take religious atonement from any other cleric and undergo religious punishment.”

Meanwhile, Johar said he had informed the Sarbat Khalsa-appointed jathedars about the whole incident and was waiting for their reply. “I will undergo religious punishment only according to their directions,” he said.

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.

Sikh Federation – Cabinet Office Minister needs to improve his understanding of the legal status of Sikhs

London, 11 October 2017. Yesterday Preet Kaur Gill MP challenged the Cabinet Office Minister Rt. Hon. Damian Green in Parliament on the failure of public bodies to monitor Sikhs as part of the Race Disparity Audit. His response showed his lack of understanding of the legal status of Sikhs as an ethnic group as well as a religion.

Preet Kaur Gill the Labour MP from Birmingham, Edgbaston and the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for British Sikhs asked:

“Why have Sikhs, who are recognised as a separate ethnic group in legislation, been excluded from the audit? Will he put that right by ensuring that Sikhs are not further discriminated against and that the 2021 census will include a Sikh ethnic tick box?

Damian Green replied: “Religion is not routinely collected in many of the 130 data sets, so it would be impossible to include. It is not a question of excluding any particular group.”

This demonstrated the Minister who must in the next few months recommend to Parliament the Census 2021 questions does not understand the legal status of Sikhs as not only a religion, but also as an ethnic group.

Watch the relevant clip from the debate using the link below:

Gurjeet Singh
National Press Secretary
Sikh Federation (UK)

Posted by:
Sikh Federation
<> – Sikh Anand Marriage Act Implemented in Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Mizoram

Sikh24 Editors

New Delhi, 11 October 2017. The state governments of Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Mizoram have implemented the Anand Marriage Act. Earlier, this act was unavailable to 6 states within India outside of Punjab. With efforts of the Delhi Shiromani Gurdwara Management Committee, other State Governments have given recognition to this act.

Other states outside of Punjab where the act is implemented includes Haryana, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh, Orissa and Meghalaya.

Speaking with Sikh24, DSGMC General Secretary Manjinder Sirsa informed that he has been told by the Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor that the Delhi state government might also implement the Sikh Anand Marriage Act in upcoming days.

In 2012, India had passed the Anand Marriage (Amendment) Bill, after which Sikhs are able to register their marriages under the Anand Marriage Act instead of the Hindu Marriage Act, with President Pratibha Patil giving her assent to a bill passed by Parliament on 7 June 2012 in the budget session.

Sirsa further informed that he is in touch with state governments of Bihar and Uttarakhand in this concern and now he has received official confirmation from these states about ongoing process to implement Anand Marriage Act.

He further told Sikh24 that with the implementation of the act in these states, Sikhs residing there can get their marriages registered under this act. He added that this will be especially helpful to those Sikhs who travel abroad as earlier they had to face a lot of problems because of non-registration of their marriages. – 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.