Huffington Post – Vaisakhi celebrates the Canadian Sikh values now under threat in Quebec

Bill 21 would exclude many Sikhs from classrooms, courtrooms and other public sectors where selfless service is most needed.

Montreal – Quebec – Canada, 23 April 2019. We recently observed Vaisakhi, the biggest festival in the Sikh calendar. Vaisakhi marks the founding of the Khalsa, the collective of initiated Sikhs, by the tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji. It is not, as is often said, the Sikh New Year.

In 1699, at Anandpur Sahib (in present-day Punjab, India), the Guru called for the heads of those willing to sacrifice themselves. One by one, five Sikhs came forward into a tent. They later re-emerged wearing Sikh military attire and became known as Panj Pyare: the “five beloved ones.” They became the first Khalsa (initiated) Sikhs, and started a collective that today includes millions.

The occasion is celebrated by Sikhs through a nagar kirtan, or street procession of the Sikh Scriptural Guru, Guru Granth Sahib, led by five Sikhs who represent the Panj Pyare. Nagar kirtans include food, the singing of hymns and martial arts displays. Nagar kirtans are usually referred to as Sikh or Khalsa parades in North America.

Sikhs have been holding nagar kirtans in Canada for over 100 year. The first is thought to have been in 1908. Since then, they have grown to become some of the largest Sikh gatherings outside of India.

The Surrey, B.C. nagar kirtan last year saw over a quarter million Sikhs and non-Sikhs participating.

Vaisakhi is more than a celebration of the past

What do you see at a nagar kirtan? Largely, everything you will see in a Gurdwara.

There will be free vegetarian food, thanks to langar, the free Sikh communal kitchen service that is found in every single Gurdwara on earth. Judging from the reaction of many, food is one of the main things people enjoy about nagar kirtans.

However, as well as providing food for the stomach, Sikhs aim to provide food for the soul, too. That can come in the form of kirtan (devotional hymns).

Sikhs accompany the Guru Granth Sahib, singing shabads. Whilst hymn-singing is a normal part of most faiths, in Sikhi the music is integral to Sikh practice. All holy Sikh scripture is uniquely arranged by musical measure. Sikhs don’t just remember the Divine, but through devotional music, connect to it.

One of the most visually stunning sights of a nagar kirtan is the display of gatka, a Sikh weaponry martial art.
Although in the modern-day Sikh martial prowess is most commonly celebrated based on the hundreds of thousands of Allied Sikhs who participated in First and Second World Wars, the solidification of the martial aspect of the Sikhs goes back to the 1600s, when practices like gatka became crucial as Sikhs became the resistance against tyrannical Mughal rule.

Through modern-day displays, you can see our readiness to defend ourselves, to defend others, and where the inspiration to do so comes from.

Swords and samosas aside, nagar kirtans are expressions of Sikh sovereignty. Guru Granth Sahib is the eternal, worldly and divine, Sikh Sovereign. Canada’s Parliament was established in 1867, but even a hundred years before then, the Sikh Gurus were establishing political institutions of their own.

The divine light of the Guru Granth Sahib is also embodied in the Panj Pyare, who serve a critical Sikh political function. A nagar kirtan shows not just our present, but our past, too.

Quebec Bill 21’s impact on Sikh communities

The nagar kirtan is both an expression and celebration of our very being. And we invite everybody to join us at them, and to come see us for who we are.

This year it’s especially important. Secularism in Quebec is nothing new, but the impending Bill 21 from its provincial government poses very real threats to estimated 15,000 Sikhs in Quebec who wish to serve there.

For example, Sikhs that wish to join the police force would be prevented from joining because of their commitment to the Khalsa, the very same group that are celebrated by millions of Canadians during Vaisakhi.

Initiation into the Khalsa is more than just a baptism or confirmation, it is an unconditional dedication of one’s mind, body and wealth to the Guru. Sikhs of the Khalsa, with their uncut hair, turbans and kirpans, vow to serve and protect.

And yet they are the very people who will be excluded from Quebec’s classrooms, courtrooms and countless other places where the Khalsa spirit could be so beneficial to all Canadians, just as it has been many a time before; from community support for those impacted by the Fort McMurray fires to the countless Sikh individuals that help their community regularly based on the Sikh belief in seva (selfless service).

A Sikh’s uncut hair and turban has deep spiritual and political meaning, brilliantly explained by the likes of B.C.-based poet Jasmin Kaur. It is an assertion of a confidence that should be celebrated, which should serve as a role model for schoolchildren.

When you come to a nagar kirtan, you will see the irony in the attempt to curtail the rights of individuals who proudly and defiantly stand up for the rights of others. Come to a nagar kirtan, join us and ask questions about who we are.

And perhaps ask yourself afterwards: does Bill 21 reflect how Canadian Sikhs should be treated?

Harman Singh : Educator for Basics of Sikhi, a Sikh educational outlet dedicated to teaching Sikh philosophy, history, spirituality and scripture.

Vancouver Sun – Sikh-Canadian activists put on no-fly list after Trudeau’s India visit; critics say aim was to appease Indian government

Under the Secure Air Travel Act, the three have been told there are reasonable grounds to suspect they might ‘threaten transportation security’

Tom Blackwell

Vancouver – British Columbia – Canada, 22 April 2019. At least three Sikh-Canadian activists have been added to the Canadian no-fly list in recent months, more evidence the federal government may have changed its approach to advocates of Punjabi independence after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s controversial India trip.

Under the Secure Air Travel Act, the three have been told there are reasonable grounds to suspect they might “threaten transportation security,” or travel by air to commit terrorist acts.

Two of the three have filed court challenges to the decisions, saying the system for barring people from air travel is unfair and violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

One had flown from Ontario to Vancouver, only to be told when he attempted to board his return flight he was on the list, requiring him to drive back across the country.

Critics say they suspect the no-fly additions were made to appease New Delhi after Trudeau’s visit in February 2018, which brought to the surface the Indian government’s growing concerns about alleged Sikh extremism.

Moninder Singh, president of a major BC gurdwara, or Sikh temple, and an outspoken community leader, said the three activists who contacted him all received notice of their no-fly designation last year, in the wake of the prime minister’s ill-fated tour.

“They are activists, all of them in the Sikh community, quite vocal, against India in many ways,” Singh said. “Maybe these are key people they’re focusing in on, trying to silence, and this is one of the ways to do it. Stop them from being able to move around, make them feel they are being cornered.”

Singh linked the apparent trend to the latest, controversial edition of an annual Public Safety Canada report on terrorist threats, which included alleged Sikh extremism for the first time.

That reference sparked outrage among community leaders, prompting the government earlier this month to remove the specific mention of Sikhs or Khalistanis, those who advocate for an independent Sikh homeland in Punjab state. The report now cites those pushing for the separation of part of India.

Tim Warmington, a spokesman for Public Safety Canada, said security reasons prevent the department from commenting on who is added to the “passenger protect” list or how many people are on it.

“Individuals can only be added if they meet the legal threshold under the act,” he said.

The two men who appealed their targeting both related similar experiences in court applications.

Bhagat Singh Brar was given written notice at Vancouver airport on April 24, 2018. He appealed to the government’s Passenger Protect Inquiries Office, which provided an unclassified summary of the information used in his case, and indicated Public Safety Canada had other, classified material, as well.

A department official upheld the original decision on 21 December.

Parvkar Singh Dulai received notice at Vancouver airport last 17 May, with Public Safety Canada eventually confirming the decision this 30 January his court filing says.

Moninder Singh said a third Sikh-Canadian man found out in December he was on the list.

Richard Fowler, Brar’s Vancouver-based lawyer, would offer little comment as the case is before the courts, but claimed the evidence the government showed his client to back up its decision was “unbelievably thin,” including clippings from Indian media outlets that are often overtly pro-government.

The challenge of the legislation itself is based on the “almost impregnable” decision-making process behind the no-fly list, Fowler said. Blocked passengers are barred from seeing any information used against them if the government believes doing so would endanger national security or individual people.

Fowler suspects the recent inclusion of Sikhs is a response to the strained Canadian-Indian relationship. “It’s not a coincidence that people were added after the prime minister returned from what was widely described as a calamitous trip to India,” he said.

Trudeau’s tour was marred by a series of widely mocked photo opportunities, and the attendance at an event of Jaspal Atwal, convicted of attempting to murder a visiting Indian cabinet minister in B.C. in 1986.

Before the trip, Canadian officials held several meetings with their Indian counterparts to “address more effectively India’s growing concerns regarding the rise of extremism,” a parliamentary committee said in its report on the episode.

There were also charges of meddling by New Delhi. In a background briefing with Canadian media, the prime minister’s national-security advisor suggested the Indian government may have been behind the spread of the Atwal story.

The parliamentary committee’s findings on allegations of “foreign interference,” however, were censored from the public version of its report.

With files from Brian Platt in Ottawa

The minister does not personally decided no-fly list appeals


The Tribune – Sikh community has done great job: Kapil Dev

New Delhi – India, 21 April 2019. Iconic cricketer Kapil Dev, who has come out with a coffee book titled ‘We The Sikhs’ with Dubai-based entrepreneur Ajay Sethi, says the Sikh community has done a great job across the globe.

Asked what made him come out with the book on Sikhs, Kapil told IANS over an e-mail: “I feel that the Sikh community has done a great job across the world. They are a great example for the world to follow.”

‘We The Sikhs’ celebrates Sikhism and features photographs and original paintings of 100 Gurdwaras across the globe.

“One can learn how to live, be helpful and be a good human being from them. Sikhism is the best path of life,” added Kapil, who is currently touring the US with the book.

It began when Kapil visited a Gurdwara in Pakistan and got so moved by the experience that he decided to bring Gurdwaras from all corners of the world together in one precious publication.

The book is divided into three sections-The Gurus, The History and Artifacts and Gurdwaras.

‘We The Sikhs’ was launched on April 14 on the occasion of Baisakhi in the American city of Fresno.

Apart from the book, Kapil is also training actor Ranveer Singh for the upcoming sports film ’83’.

The Nation – 1,898 Sikh pilgrims return to India

Lahore – Panjab – Pakistan, 22 April 2019. As many as 1898 Indian Sikh pilgrims after celebrating Baisakhi festival in Punjab went back to India through Lahore Railway Station.

Sikh pilgrims arrived on April 12 to take part in the annual Baisakhi celebrations held at Gurdawara Hassan Abdal.

The pilgrims were headed back to India in three phases through a special train carrying. 624 Sikh pilgrims left for India on Sunday morning followed by another special train carrying 834 pilgrims, while the third train carried the remaining pilgrims.

Pilgrims paid visits at Gurdwara Panja Sahib, Nankana Sahib and Kartarpur Sahib and participated in Baishaki festival which marks the beginning of harvest season.

Talking to media, Sikh pilgrims lauded all the arrangements from accommodation to food and from transport to the security measures.

A S C – American Sikh Council delegation meets Governor of Punjab expressing concerns over Heritage Destruction in Kartarpur Sahib, Pakistan

Toronto – Ontario – Canada, 17 April 2019. A Sikh delegation representing the American Sikh Council (ASC) met with Governor Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar of Punjab, Pakistan and his staff to share their concerns over the destruction of the Sikh heritage due to new construction over the fields and forests at Kartarpur Sahib, associated with Baba Guru Nanak and seek his intervention.

Gurmeet Kaur, a USA based community activist lead the ASC’s heritage committee and presented its concerns and requests to the Pakistan Government regarding Kartarpur Sahib in particular and the Sikh heritage in general.

Gurmeet Kaur started with discussing the currently proposed plans to cater to an onslaught of expected visitors and how it would destroy the 500 years old heritage by doing an irreversible damage to the sacred fields of Baba Nanak where he farmed with his own two hands for 18 long years.

“Constructing on this acreage destroys the sanctity, the spirit of the sacred site and any chances of archeological revival of the lost heritage associated with Baba Nanak,” she stated.

She then mentioned of the voices against this destruction and how they have been trying to reach out to the Pakistan Government at all levels from the Prime Minister to the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (PSGPC) via written correspondence, personal meetings with the Pakistan Embassy, High Commission and via press for four months.

She mentioned that this campaign has a backing of over 17,000 petitioners worldwide, the ASC representing 74 gurdwaras in the USA, the Global Sikh Council (GSC), the Supreme Sikh Council of Australia, Mr Navjot Singh Sidhu (Minister – East Punjab), other organizations and individuals including the Pakistan PTI MPA Momina Waheed.

Ripsodak Singh the Principal of the Khalsa Community School said, “We are asking that Kartarpur be setup as an ecological heritage village of Baba Nanak and all new construction be done at least a kilometer away from current Gurdwara, outside of Baba Ji’s fields and align with the Guru period architecture and not be in the form of modern, unsightly hotels and shopping malls that destroy the spirit of the space”.

Gurmeet Kaur stated, “Despite our untiring efforts, we have no formal acknowledgement that our concerns are taken into consideration, no access or say in the current construction plans, no voice in the status and saving of 200+ other Sikh heritage sites that may be disturbed in the name of religious tourism, the very tourism that you are counting on us, the Diaspora Sikhs!”

She showed evidence of two historic Gurdwaras in Nankana Sahib that were recently demolished to the ground in the name of beautification and expansion and raised concerns that several others would go through the same fate if they were not protected as national heritage sites.

Harpreet Kaur, an educator and an activist made everyone emotional, pointing to her two year old son and declaring that she would love to bring him to Kartarpur only to touch and feel the soil of Baba Ji if his fields were preserved and the nature which he revers in Gurbani was honored and not to touch their forehead to the marble slabs that covered our real heritage.

Sher Singh a renowned Sikh writer concluded the delegation’s concerns by saying that the onus of preserving the Sikh heritage in Pakistan was on the Pakistan government. He said that this heritage is an asset to Pakistan and by utilizing foresightedness and keen judgement they may make Sikhs who already love this land, their friends forever.

Harpreet Singh, Principal of the Khalsa Montessori School brought a folder full of letters of heartfelt appeals by children from his school to share with the Governor in which they had pleaded the Prime Minister to save the heritage fields of Baba Nanak for the future generations.

The Governor said that he shared the concerns but since he was brought in very late to preside over the work in Kartarpur, was unable to alter the plans in progress and would have to approach the Prime Minister in this matter.

On reminding that the Prime Minister has forwarded their correspondence to the Governor, he said he will arrange a meeting with the Prime Minister immediately upon his return. The ASC delegation thanked the Governor and hopes he keeps his promise.

The American Sikh Council is the umbrella organization representative of Sikhs in the United States. It is an elected body of Sikh Gurdwaras and institutions. Currently 74 Gurdwaras and other Sikh institutions across the nation are members of ASC. The major governing purpose of the organization is to represent the collective view of Sikhs in the United States. ASC works to promote Sikh interests at the national and international level focusing on issues of advocacy, education, and well-being of humankind.

The Tribune – Board outside Takht raises eyebrows

GS Paul, Tribune News Service

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 18 April 2019. A yellow board outside Akal Takht has provoked curiosity in devotees. It proclaims that except for ‘patits’ (Sikhs with shorn hair) and those awarded ‘tankhah‘ (ex-communicated), anyone, irrespective of religion, can offer ‘ardas’ at the Takht. This norm is not new. The question is what has prompted its reiteration.

It is learnt that there was a board at Akal Takht prior to 1984 which went missing after Operation Bluestar. Akal Takht acting Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh could not be contacted, despite several attempts. His PA Jaswinder Singh said the board had been installed recently with identical ones at Takht Damdama Sahib and Takht Kesgarh Sahib too.

As per the Sikh Rehat Maryada, only an amritdhari (baptised Sikh) can enter the hallowed Takht enclosure. However, “ardas (prayer)” on behalf of any Sikh, except a tankhaiya, and non-Sikh can be offered at the Takht.

Only Gursikhs can be summoned for religious misconduct. In 2014, Cabinet Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu was accused of distorting ‘Gurbani’. It was demanded that he be summoned by the Takht. Since Sidhu was not a Gursikh, this was not done.

SGPC president Gobind Singh Longowal said he had been away for the past two days and didn’t know about the new board. Golden Temple manager Jaswinder Singh Deenpur also expressed ignorance.

“There used to be a board there earlier, but it must have been worn out and replaced with a new one. It is a known fact that prayers can be performed on behalf of non-Sikhs,” he added.

Former Takht Jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh could not recall if there was any such board before. “The Sikh Rehat maryada does not bar non-Sikhs from performing ‘ardas’. But I have observed that non-Sikhs are hesitant to perform ‘ardas’ at Akal Takht”, he said.

Associated Press of Pakistan – Sikh yatris arrive in Lahore

Lahore – Panjab – Pakistan, 18 April 2019. The Sikh yatris, currently in Pakistan for Besakhi celebrations, have reached the city through special trains from Nankana Sahib, in the leadership of Sardar Ravinder Singh Khalsa.

Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) Secretary Tariq Wazir, Deputy Secretary General Syed Faraz Abbas and other officials warmly welcomed the yatris. Later, they visited Gurdwara Dera Sahib.

Foolproof security arrangements were made at Lahore Railway Station by the Punjab government. Sikh yatris also raised slogans in favour of the government of Pakistan.

Talking to the media, the yatris expressed satisfaction over security arrangements and praised the ETPB officials and people of Pakistan.

Official sources said that Dayal Singh Cultural Foundation arranged a big ceremony in the honour of Sikh yatris in connection with Besakhi Festival at Aiwan-i-Iqbal on April 20. Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar will be the chief guest on the occasion.

Sikh yatrees arrive in Lahore – Karam Singh Bhoian’s peaceful struggle witness large influx of supporters

Sikh24 Editors

Tarn Taran Sahib – Panjab – India, 14 April 2019. The peaceful sit-in-strike of Sikh leader Karam Singh Bhoian seeking indictment of the demolishers of historic Darshani Deodi of Gurdwara Sri Tarn Taran Sahib today completed 14 days.

A lot of Sikhs extended support to Bhoian’s struggle today by appreciating his initiative and discussing the future course of action with him.

Speaking to Sikh24, Karam Singh Bhoian informed that the SAD (Amritsar) activists will take out a protest march in Tarn Taran tomorrow. He added that a memorandum will be submitted to the Deputy Commissioner demanding action against the demolishers of this historic Darshani Deodi.

Pritpal Singh Amritsar, Balwant Singh Gopala, Kulwant Singh Kotlagujra, Mukhtar Singh Keedian, Balbir Singh Mundapind, Lakha Singh Marhana, Resham Singh Tarn Taran, Mohinder Singh Chautala, Rajan Singh, Kulwant Singh Majhail, Bibi Harjinder Kaur Khalsa etc. were present on this occasion.

Day 14: Karam Singh Bhoian’s Peaceful Struggle Witness Large Influx of Supporters  

The Indian Express – Kartarpur Sahib corridor: India, Pakistan discuss technical issues

In November 2018, India and Pakistan had agreed to set up the border crossing linking Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, the final resting place of Sikh faith founder Guru Nanak, to Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur district.
Dera Baba Nanak (Gurdaspur) – Kartarpur (Narowal)

New Delhi – India, 16 April 2019. India and Pakistan Tuesday held a meeting on technical aspects of the proposed Kartarpur corridor linking Gurudwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan’s Narowal with to Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur district in Punjab, officials said.

At the nearly four-hour-long meeting, which took place in makeshift tents at “Zero point” of the proposed corridor, experts and technicians from both the countries discussed “timing for completion of bridge, alignment of roads and engineering aspects of the proposed crossing points”, they said.

Official sources said India proposed the meeting to address outstanding technical issues for the corridor and Pakistan agreed to it, adding implementation of the project is progressing with “speed”.

While the meeting was on, civilians were not allowed access to a point on the Indian side from where they can have darshan of Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib through binoculars.

Various issues were discussed for speedy completion of the proposed project, the officials said.

The Pakistani team included 8-10 delegates from the foreign ministry, and religion and federal works departments, while the 12-member Indian team comprised officials from the Land Ports Authority of India, National Highways Authority of India, Centre Public Work Department and Border Security Force.

In November 2018, India and Pakistan had agreed to set up the border crossing linking Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, the final resting place of Sikh faith founder Guru Nanak, to Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur district.

Kartarpur is located in Pakistan’s Narowal district across the Ravi, about four km from the Dera Baba Nanak.

The first meeting to finalise the modalities for the corridor took place on the Indian side of the Attari-Wagah border on March 14.

Technical experts of the two countries met on March 19 during which alignment, coordinates and several other engineering aspects of the proposed corridor were discussed.

However, on March 29, India conveyed its strong concerns to Pakistan over the presence of a leading Khalistani separatist in a committee appointed by Islamabad on the Kartarpur project.

India also postponed a previously agreed meeting on the project which was to be held on April 2 in Wagah on the Pakistani side.

India specifically sought response from Pakistan on presence of Khalistani separatist Gopal Chawla in the Kartarpur committee.

Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had on November 26 last year laid the foundation stone of the Kartarpur corridor in Gurdaspur district.

The Tribune – Dubai Gurdwara to hold daily iftar during Ramzan

Dubai, 15 April 2019. In a heart-warming gesture, the UAE’s only Gurdwara here, will host iftar for workers throughout the holy month of Ramzan, offering vegetarian meals, according to a media report.

The Gurdwara in Dubai’s Jebel Ali, which has been hosting an interfaith iftar during every Ramzan in the past six years, will offer iftar meals to workers in the area everyday during this year’s Ramadan, Surender Singh Kandhari, the chairman of the Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara, said on Sunday during Baisakhi festival celebration.

Iftar, a fast-breaking meal, is a daily ritual during the holy month of Ramzan that will start in the first week of May.

“There are a lot of Muslim workers in this area. There are not many places from where they can break their fast. We will invite these workers to have iftar from our Gurdwara,” Kandhari was quoted as saying by the Gulf News.

He said the free vegetarian meal (langar) offered to every visitor in the Gurdwara will be given to those visiting to break the fast also.

“We will add dates, fruits, rose milk, buttermilk and some Indian snacks like pakora, samosa also for them. We expect to host 100 to 200 people every day during Ramzan,” said Kandhari.

He was speaking after Baisakhi ceremony, the Sikh New Year* , which was attended by top officials of Dubai’s Community Development Authority (CDA).

“This year is very important for us here in the UAE. It is the Year of Tolerance for the UAE, 550th Year of Guru Nanak’s birth anniversary, 150th year of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary, 320th year of the birth of Khalsa Panth, and 100th year of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre which happened on a Baisakhi.

“Keeping all these in mind, we celebrated Baisakhi to send across the message of love, peace, humanity and tolerance,” Kandhari added.

* Vaisakhi is not the Sikh new year, it commemorates the founding of the Khalsa in 1699.