The 17th general election in India is already underway in seven phases over 38 days. Voting for 545 seats between April 11 and May 23 that will decide the next Government of India. There are 900 million registered voters, and about 70% are expected to cast their vote. 15 million are voting for the first time; 18 and over are eligible to vote. The result will be declared on 23 May 2019.
Who holds the ‘key’ to the elections for the Panjabis and the Sikhs?
"...$270 million has been seized by the election commission officials; in the 2014 election, $42 million was seized..."
Election rules require that no Indian citizen should have to travel more than two kilometers to vote. Model Code of Conduct demands minimum behavior for peace, freeness, and fairness of the election process. Hate speech, asking for votes in the name of religion and caste, and using the state machinery for campaign purposes by the ruling party are considered violations of the Model Code. To-date, $270 million has been seized by the election commission officials; in the 2014 election, $42 million was seized. Who really follows these codes?
The Election Commission of India runs the elections with a permanent staff of 800 employees. It borrows 12 million employees from federal and state governments.
In 2014, 75,237 villages were deemed sensitive with a history of conflict and violation during elections. It also identified 200,000 individuals who had a history of misconduct, threatening or intimidating voters, polling officials or representatives of other political parties on the polling day.
The Indian state of Panjab will hold its elections on 19 May 2019, on the seventh and the last phase of the election. Thirteen Members of Parliament will be elected for the Panjab. There are four competing alliances, some are just one party in the Panjab. United Progressive Alliance (UPA) includes Indian National Congress (INC); National Democratic Alliance (NDA) includes Shiromani Akal Dal (SAD) and Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP); Aam Aadmi Party (AAP); and Punjab Democratic Alliance (PDA) includes Lok Insaf Party (LIP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Punjabi Ekta Party (PEP), Communist Party of India (CPI), Revolutionary Marxist Party (RMP), and Punjab Front (PF). UPA has all 13 INC candidates. NDA has 10 SAD and 3 BJP candidates, respectively. AAP has all 13 candidates. PDA has 3 candidates each of LIP, BSP, PEP; 2 candidates of CPI, and 1 candidate each of RMP and PF.
The real coalition in the Panjab is actually of PDA alliance: from left to right, from religious to atheist, from high caste to low caste, and from the former establishment to anti-establishment.
‘Parachute candidates’ include Bollywood actor Sunny Deol and current Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, both from BJP.
In 2014 elections, NDA, AAP, and UPA won 6, 4, and 3 seats, respectively. But this is not your average election campaign.
Four of the thirteen constituencies are reserved for “SC”; SC stands for Scheduled Castes which are essentially so-called lower castes or untouchables.
Khadur Sahib is located near the river Bias, about 38 kilometers from Amritsar, Panjab. It was founded by Guru Angad Sahib after he was anointed as the uncontested leader of the Sikhs by Guru Nanak Sahib. Khadur Sahib is where Guru Angad Sahib replicated the Kartarpur Sahib model as the hub of Sikh activity near the river Ravi. Eight of the ten Guru Sahibs visited Khadur Sahib. There are seven Sikh historical markers commemorated as Gurduaras (Sikh place of learning) in Khadur Sahib.
Khadur Sahib is where Guru Angad Sahib spent 13 years, furthering the IkOankar paradigm of 1-ness. This is where the Gurmukhi script was organized, the first Gurmukhi Primer was developed, the first Sikh school was established and the first pothi (short anthology) of Sabad-Wisdom was prepared. This is also where the first Mal Akhara for wrestling was established. Institutions were developed to create access to education and health to free people.
Vira Bai or Sat Bharai’s (because she had seven brothers) home was what brought Khadur Sahib on the Sikh map. Guru Nanak Sahib visited her up to six times. Her home is where Guru Angad Sahib came and deliberated on how to further ‘jot-jugat’ (light-method) amidst the chaos that was taking place in the Sikh world. Guru Angad Sahib came here instead of going to his ancestral home at Matte di Sarai, Muktsar, Panjab.
“Then, the eternal Guru, the son of Pheru, came to dwell at Khadur” records Guru Granth Sahib when the leadership was transferred to Guru Angad Sahib.
Now, in 2019, is Khadur Sahib the place from where a Sikh woman will rise amidst the chaos?
In 2009 and 2014, Khadur Sahib’s MP seat was secured by SAD beating INC, though in 2009 it was a close contest. In the last election at Khadur Sahib, 31, 62, and 2 polling stations were declared hypersensitive, sensitive, and critical, respectively. The by-polls were conducted with 2,100 security personnel, which included 1,500 police officers and 6 companies of the paramilitary forces. The polls had 150 micro-observers appointed at different polling stations.
There was a by-election in 2016 for Panjab Assembly’s Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) seat; at the time this constituency had 187,184 voters; of which 58% voted. The by-polls were necessitated after the sitting INC legislator Ramanjit Singh Sikki resigned in October 2015 over incidents of sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib throughout the Panjab. The state failed to stop the incidents and catch the criminals. SAD candidate Ravinder Singh Brahmpura won with 79% votes, INC and AAP boycotted, Bhupinder Singh Bittu and Prof. Sumail Singh Sidhu received 16% and 2% votes, respectively.
Khalra: Shahid’s Bibi
Paramjit Kaur Khalra (Bibi Khalra) is vying for a parliamentary seat in the Panjab which has nine Panjab Legislative Assembly segments. She is a 65-year young Sikh woman who is contesting elections from Khadur (popularly Khadoor) Sahib. In doing so, Bibi Khalra is making history. She is the first openly defiant Sikh woman to take on state repression in the Panjab, first to run in the parliamentary elections for the Panjab on human rights as a core theme. This is monumental given the current trends in India and the globe where the economy is trumping human rights. “From this platform, we hope to tell the world why people like Jaswant Singh Khalra (Shahid Khalra) are important for democracy and peace in society,” she remarked. For 24 years, she has fought a long and lonely battle to ensure justice for her husband and the 25,000 missing Panjabi-Sikhs.
The community has been waging a long battle for justice, both before the law and with society. Shahid Khalra, a banker and a human rights advocate, was abducted on 6 Sep 1995 and killed on 27 Oct 1995 by the Panjab Police under the direct orders of the then Director General of Police KPS Gill. Shahid Khalra’s body was disposed of in Hari-ke-Pattan, largest wetland in northern India in the Panjab. Six police officers were convicted for his murder in 2005; four of them were later sentenced to life imprisonment for his murder. The verdict was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2011. Shahid Khalra’s work was to share evidence and to highlight unclaimed and unidentified bodies during fake encounters of Sikh youth by the Panjab Police during the Sikh militancy.
The Shahid Khalra narrative has become an epic story in the annals of human rights. His work is cited by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Ensaaf, among others. Many community organizations, artists, songwriters have paid tribute to him. Awards, scholarships, trophies, and parks have been named after him. Why? Because he traveled from cremation ground to cremation ground and established that, the police had cremated over 2,000 “unidentified” bodies in Tarn Taran district alone. Shahid Khalra is featured in the Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
“He dared to pose a question to the mighty state: Who were those people? It was a simple question to which the state didn’t have an answer. They tried to silence his voice but before that, he was able to tell the world about the malpractice of fake encounters,”
-Bibi Khalra shared.
This is not the first time Bibi Khalra is contesting an election. Earlier, she was a candidate of the Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal (founded in 1999, dissolved in 2003) floated by Gurcharan Singh Tohra after parting ways with Parkash Singh Badal of SAD.
As for the elections, the political arithmetic is loaded against her. Bibi Khalra is up against SAD heavyweight candidate Jagir Kaur, a former MLA of the Panjab, a state minister, and a former head of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) who was sentenced to 5-year imprisonment for the honor killing of her own daughter.
Bibi Khalra neither has the money – her assets total $158,000 (Rs 1.1 crore) – nor the electoral machinery to reach about 1.5 million voters. But Bibi Khalra does not count electoral success as the only parameter. “For me, each vote is a sign of acceptability, of one more person accepting me and our community.”
The campaign is also deeply personal. That’s why the fame and adulation she has achieved as a candidate is a validation of her life choices: “The world knows me for continuing the legacy of my husband Jaswant Singh Khalra.”
She keeps getting better at making the core agenda for this election consistently about human rights.
Bibi Khalra’s constant allies are her daughter Navkiran Kaur and son Janmeet Singh. Together, they continue to build on Shahid Khalra’s legacy in India, the United States, and Canada. For decades many in the Homeland and in the Diaspora, have been publicly claiming at “panthak” platforms that they stand with the Khalras. Are they really supporting via intellect, field-work, or money?
My first introduction to Shahid Khalra was in 1994.
There used to be a Human Rights Wing of the Shiromani Akali Dal. Shahid Khalra was this wing’s General Secretary and Jaspal Singh Dhillon was its President. I would get faxes at my work, which I then would disseminate to relevant Sikh and non-Sikh organizations from my Kansas (USA) aerospace office. On 16 Jan 1995 press release, Shahid Khalra went public with the allegations regarding police abductions, disappearances, and illegal cremations; the court took note.
Yes, the same SAD party who created the human rights wing temporarily and the same INC party under which the abduction and extrajudicial killing took place, are running major candidates opposing Bibi Khalra now. However, many Sikhs outside of INC and SAD are converging for her victory. In fact, there are 19 candidates in total, many with similar sounding names to confuse and break the votes. For example, 2 last names of Khalra and one of Khambra. Bibi Khalra’s differentiation on the ballot is the insignia of a ‘Key.’
Key is a powerful symbol in the Khalra story. It symbolizes opening and closing powers; in this instance, depriving a person’s and community's freedom and unlocking it. Metaphysically, it is a journey from mystery and curiosity to knowledge and wisdom. Will enough Sikhs and Panjabis vote for her to become their MP? 80% of the global Sikh population still lives in the Panjab.
This is the only election that matters to Sikhs, 1 out of 545 seats. Not because it will change policies or parties necessarily, but because it is the only one ‘challenging the darkness’ with an impeccable track record. For a Sikh of the Guru, it is not about losing or winning, but “Speaking the Truth, at the moment of Truth” as per Guru Granth Sahib.
On 20 April 2019, the District Election Officer who reports to the Chief Election Commissioner of Panjab issued a notice to Bibi Khalra for terming Guru Granth Sahib as her election manifesto; she was given 48 hours to submit clarification. The complained was based on ask of SAD and INC candidates. She responded:
Firstly, the message of Guru Granth Sahib is not only for a particular community. The message of Guru Granth Sahib is for the entire humanity ... I am saddened that the notice was issued to me on the complaints of those leaders who oppose Guru Granth Sahib’s thought-process and were responsible for the attack on Darbar Sahib with tanks and guns (June 1984) … those who are responsible for sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib. I want to tell you that the guidance of Guru Granth Sahib is about human equality, elimination of caste system, opposing persecution, supporting the downtrodden and assuring goodness for humanity. . . I consider taking support-guidance from Guru Granth Sahib is not a violation of the model code of conduct.
Recall, Kanshi Ram (1934-2006) and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar (1891-1956), both leaders of the Mulnivasi movement which works to establish rights for the so-called Dalits or untouchables, considered Guru Granth Sahib as their manifesto to free the people of India.
On this 550th anniversary of Guru Nanak Sahib, will the people of Panjab send Bibi Khalra to continue Shahid Khalra’s mission and build her own legacy in Delhi as the representative of the people of Khadur Sahib?
What happened at Kartarpur Sahib? – Harinder Singh
I have a morning ritual: I drop my daughter to her school, turn on NPR (National Public Radio in America), and listen to it for about 7 minutes, return home, to make sure that my son catches his school bus. Several weeks ago, I caught the tail-end of coverage from “Kartarpur Crossing” around 8:26 am in New Jersey, USA. It was pretty good. It nuanced the politics of India and Pakistan, with Sikh affairs in the middle of it. But, like all global news coverages so far, it also missed the original impetus of Kartarpur Sahib. So, here it is!
Let’s first start with Kartarpur as presented in the Guru Granth Sahib -- the Sikh constitution, the charter or the manifesto -- which is generally only presented as scriptural canon. Guru Arjan Sahib, Nanak V, in Bilaval Rag reveals Kartarpur is all about musical-lyrical intermix to invoke happiness, uniqueness, 1-ness. Witness the interplay recorded in the Guru Granth Sahib (816) between the people and the source that exemplifies why this space was necessary in the first place:
Remembering, remembering, perfect Divine, all tasks will be completed.
Creator lives in Kartarpur (Creator-ville), amongst the Truth-Exemplars.
No obstacle persists, supplicate to the Infinite-Wisdom.
Earth-Force is the protector, the wealth of the devotees.
No deficiency ever enters at all, treasures are full.
Divine, Transcendent, Infinite’s lotus-feet (humility) lives in mind and body.
All live, earn, are comfortable; no shortage is seen-experienced.
With Truth-Exemplar’s grace, find-meet Perfect, World-Owner, Divine.
Everyone praises; beautiful, eternal, space.
Nanak: Recite Nam-Identification, the treasure of comforts,
attain perfect Infinite-Wisdom.
In Sikhi, the Guru refers to Sabad (Infinite Wisdom). The Guru is honorifically used for the ten founder Gurus who revealed that Infinite Wisdom, their jot-jugat (light-method) was same, hence considered Nanak I-X. By the tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Sahib, the Guru’s jot-jugat was transferred to the Guru Granth Sahib and the Guru Khalsa Panth. The Guru is enthroned in Guru Granth Sahib where the Infinite Wisdom is treasured as the guiding light. The Guru is enthroned in the Guru Khalsa Panth where the Infinite Wisdom is interpreted as the sovereign practice.
Now, let’s go back to the early 1500s.
In 1515, Guru Nanak Sahib founded a new settlement on the western banks of river Ravi and named it Kartarpur. This was after the Guru’s second journey. The Guru would sit next to the river and recitation would start. People heard and came: some to see, others to learn. Puratan Janam Sakhi records (Sakhi No. 40, 140-141):
Then, in Nanak’s home, “One Nam-Identification is voiced.” Much praise started, and much repute began. Hindus, Muslims, yogis, anchorites, celibates, ascetics, Digambars (Jains), Vaishnavites, renunciates, householders, recluses, chieftains, nobles, kings, queens, courtiers, peasants, landlords, whoever came, tested [the Guru]. All people rendered praise [to the Guru].
By 1518, Kartarpur had become the center for learning the Guru’s way. It served as an exemplar of the Guru’s new lifestyle. People came to listen and learn IkOankar’s (1Force, 1-ness) paradigm, some came for a mere sight. The Guru’s presence was felt by all. Many developed a new understanding, few entered the new fold. They returned to their homes to practice the Sikhi they had learned in their daily occupations. Kartarpur was bringing new freedom to numerous lives. It was the hub of Tisar Panth’s (the third culture, the other two being Semitic and Indic) activities, a new Nam-culture was borne amidst the Hindu and the Muslim confrontation.
The Guru settled and farmed in Kartarpur. At Kartarpur’s community hall and kitchen, people from all walks of life and all corners of the continent came as seekers.
Bhai Gurdas (1551-1636), a Sikh theologian who is considered the ‘key’ to understanding Sikhi, lists the first eleven Sikhs who served Guru Nanak Sahib with their physical, intellectual, and financial endurance, as such: Taru, Mula, Pritha, Kheda, Mardana, Prithimal, Rama, Daulat Khan, Malu, Manga, and Kalu. (Var 11, Pauri 13). The list continues in next Pauri (akin to a verse in Ode) Pritha and Kheda are mentioned as the ones who “lived in effortless-joy once in Guru’s Feet-Humility sanctuary.”
Bhai Pritha and Bhai Kheda first met the Guru at Kartarpur. When they arrived, Guru Nanak Sahib was sharing wisdom-reflection with the Sangat (fellowship). They sat down and listened attentively for they had come for the Guru’s darshan (vision). When the Guru enquired their visits purpose, Bhai Mani Singh (1644-1737), a Sikh scholar and martyr who accompanied Guru Gobind Singh Sahib, in Sikhan di Bhagat Mala (p 25) elaborates:
They said: Revered, Patron of the Poor! Give us sanctuary at Your feet-humility, and grant us this gift – we shall ask for nothing realizing the world is insubstantial.
Utterance Occurred [the Guru spoke]: You are always in the sanctuary of my feet-humility, my body is tangible, and Sabad-Wisdom is my heart, it is an intangible form, if [you] unite with the body, then will also separate, and if [you] unite with the Sabad-Wisdom, then will not separate.
Many were coming to see the Guru. Many were testing the Guru in their own ways. A Sikh becomes the Guru. Mahakavi Santokh Singh (1787-1843), a Sikh poet who wrote magnum opus Sri Gur Pratap Suraj Granth in 51,820 Braj language verses, captures the gist in Sri Gur Nanak Prakash as such (p. 1122):
Here and there [the Guru] started Sikhi practice.
Then [the Guru] settled in Kartarpur.
When [the Guru] tested Sikhi of Sikhs,
Granted the throne to revered Angad. (Stanza 81, Chapter 1)
[The Guru] brought awakening in Kartarpur.
Granted greatness to revered Angad.
[The Guru] self-returned to Eternal-abode
Light-form transformed into the body [of Guru Angad]. (Stanza 6, Chapter 2)
Revered Divine [Guru] spoke, this is the way of my path:
Go and always remain in the Eternal-fellowship.
Work to distribute, then consume.
This is how to earn feet-humility Sanctuary daily.
This is how one sees the Guru!
First, the Guru freed the world during his journeys at Baghdad, Mecca, Madina and his dialogues with eighty-four assemblies of the Sidh (‘proven ones’) yogis. “The Muslims and the Hindus bowed before the Guru.” Then, the Guru started his seat of authority at Kartarpur. There, the Guru started training the congregation so their ignorance be removed via Sabad’s Infinite-Wisdom. In the Panjab, the Guru imparted the IkOankar paradigm of 1Force. And when the Guru’s sons also didn’t realize IkOankar, the authority was transferred to Bhai Lahina for he had become like IkOankar.
In Var 1, Pauri 38, Bhai Gurdas details what Guru Nanak Sahib did after reaching Kartarpur:
Then Baba came (back) to Kartarpur, removed all attires of a pilgrim.
Wore worldly clothes, alighted to sit on the throne.
Reversed Ganges’ flow: Angad was anointed as the Guru.
Sons didn’t obey the command; counterfeit minds became hostile and deserters.
[Guru’s] mouth uttered inspired-words: to bring light-wisdom to dispel darkness-ignorance.
Wisdom-discourses and discussions forever, rose tune of unstruck infinite-wisdom.
Sodaru and Arti were sung (in the evening), Japu was recited at the immortal time (early morning).
Guru-oriented (Guru Nanak Sahib) freed (people) from Atharban Veda (people started believing in Infinite Wisdom).
Kartarpur is where the Guru started the Raj (rule), a new system of governance. This is where the Guru’s policies were implemented. While the dialogue legacy continued in all domains, Kartarpur was the Guru’s domain where other political-spiritual systems weren’t the law. IkOankar paradigm was now translating into tangible governance model which addressed concerns of people, from hunger to liberation.
Guru Nanak Sahib’s succession plan was implemented while he was at Kartarpur. The culture of Nam (Identifying with the One) was established; the Panth’s sovereignty was proclaimed. It was declared to not differentiate between the bodies of the Guru for their wisdom (jot) and methodology (jugat) were the same. In Var 1, Pauri 45, Bhai Gurdas details when Guru Nanak Sahib transferred the sovereignty at Kartarpur:
After Multan journey, then [the Guru] came (back) to Kartarpur.
[Impact] increased day by day, Nanak focused on Nam-Identification in ignorance-era.
Asking for anything other than Nam is inviting the pain among pains.
Struck the coin-sovereignty in the world, Nanak started the filth-free Panth.
Anointed Lahina while [the Guru was] alive, Guruship’s canopy was waved on the head.
Combing a light with the Light, Eternal-Guru Nanak transferred his form.
Nobody comprehended [this secret], awe’s awe was shown:
[Bhai Lahina’s] body transformed into [the Guru’s] perfect-form.
Bhai Gurdas very clearly describes the only successor of Guru Nanak Sahib appointed at Kartarpur (Pauri 46, Var 1):
That mark, that canopy overhead, that eternal throne occupied.
Guru Nanak’s hand-seal is now proclaimed to be of Guru Angad.
Kartarpur is where the Panth’s vision, mission, values were institutionalized. Bhai Gurdas so emphatically records these governing mechanisms were for time immemorial (Pauri 1, Var 24):
Kartarpur as Principle-Sanctuary,
[the Guru] populated the Eternal-Realm with Sage-Companions.
Imparted the perfect infinite-wisdom of Vahiguru – Awe-Perfection!
Dr. Harbans Singh in Guru Nanak and Origins of the Sikh Faith captures the Sangat formation, ‘people coming together to be moved’ as such (pp 178-79):
The fraternity coming into being at Kartarpur was marked by faith, charity, equality, affirmation, trust, mutual help and service. It was no monastic order, but a fellowship of ordinary men engaged in ordinary occupations who believed in the Guru and made his word the support of their lives. They came to Kartarpur and then returned to their homes filled with ardour and hope and devoted to the practice which they had witnessed and shared. Devotion was laicized and the rewards of the religious way were shown to be accessible equally to all. Kartarpur signified a complete rule of life based not on any elaborate code of conduct, but on living a moral ideal informed by deep faith in the God and Guru. Thus was exemplified in practice what the guru had taught through the years.
At Kartarpur, the kirtan (musical glory) of IkOankar became the lifestyle. Bhai Mardana played the Rabab; a few years later, his son Shahzada, joined too. The Guru’s love-songs from his voice of 1-ness in Rags Vadhans and Tukhari Barahmah were revealed in the vastness of Kartarpur. There were many more love-songs revealed at Kartarpur: Sidh Gosti’s collective freedom not just personal salvation, Oankar’s joy in a creator-creation relationship, Patti’s acrostics and alphabets for the people’s vocals, and Thiti’s transcending numbers and exact methods.
In the wheat farms of Kartarpur, people heard the love-songs. Prof. Puran Singh in The Book of Ten Masters (p. 43) captures it so beautifully:
In the trackless world of time … singing his Hymns of Nam, and gathering every trace of love. The Afghan and the Biloch, the Turk and the Tartar, the Sufi and the Brahman, the white and the dark races, mingled in his great heart. The disciples, both men and women came from all directions, and took part freely in the song of the Guru.
At Kartarpur, the Langar (nourishment) was availed to all. Langar of Wisdom and langar of Food; both were to free people, make them independent. At Kartarpur, langar was served to those who stayed at the headquarters. On special occasions, it was served to the entire people of Kartarpur.
At Kartarpur, the transformation en-masse started. Bura came to be known as Bhai Buddha; Lahina left Durga goddess and eventually became Guru Angad. Now, personal transformations were many.
The Guru was born in the Panjab. The Guru grew up in the Panjab. The Guru worked in the Panjab. The Guru was married in the Panjab. The Guru raised a family in the Panjab. The Guru declared IkOankar from the Panjab. The Guru returned to the Panjab. The Guru founded the new society in the Panjab. The Guru left this earth in the Panjab.
Sirdar Kapur Singh in Guru Nanak’s Life and Thought captures how the Guru presents his Panjab in Guru Granth Sahib (pp 1107-10):
One of his very last revelations is Tukhari Chant. In it, Guru recalls with a rare, chaste passion, in a diction at once sophisticated and simple, the seasonally changing face of the land where he was born, a land which, before it is seen through the eyes of the poet and the prophet Nanak, is a barren dry alluvial plain, studded with stunted monotonous shrubbery. Guru Nanak reveals the hidden beauties of this land changing face in response to the changing seasons of nature, month by month, in the literary tradition and genre of the baramaha, ‘the Twelve Months!’ In the background of these changing moods of nature in the land of his birth and childhood, Guru speaks of his passionate love of God, the restlessness of the soul, in search of its true nature and its yearning for unison with its original source and ultimate base, the abiding significance of human life and actions on this earth and now this life and human actions may be coordinated to the totality of these forces, as sustain the universe. He speaks of the totality of these forces, as a Person (Purakh), and how the varying moods of nature provide an aid to the endeavors the individual soul of union with this Person. (p. 18)
Nanakshahi 551 year is around the corner, it starts on March 14. Nanakshahi 550 is marking the advent of Guru Nanak Sahib which traditionally is celebrated in Kattak (Oct-Nov) though some historically place it in Vaisakh (mid-April). The real question is this: Are you ready to proclaim Guru Nanak Sahib as your Ruler? Do you to feel the arrival of spring in Cet on March 14 as the Sikh New Year? Here’s how the Guru sings and shares (Guru Granth Sahib 1107):
Cet and spring are glorious,
the bumble-bees look beautiful
Vegetation is blooming in the fields;
is my Beloved coming home?
How can the being have comfort if the Beloved doesn’t come,
body breaks in separation-strife?
Kokil (nightingale) sings on the mango tree, beautiful!
How can [the separated] one bear pain inside?
The bumble-bee hovers over the flowering branches;
how can I live, I’m dying, O’ Mother!
Nanak: comfort comes naturally in Cet,
if the being finds the 1-Beloved in house.
In 1539, at Kartarpur in Panjab, South Asia, Guru Nanak Sahib left this Earth. He anointed Guru Angad Sahib to continue the development of new Nam Culture. When the Sabad enters the consciousness, the Guru reflects: “Nanak, the Self uttered the words; doubts departs for the one who receives the gift.” And the Guru continues in next Pauri to unveil in Rag Majh in Guru Granth Sahib (150):
I, the bard, was jobless; [the One] gave me a job.
Night and day sing Var-Ode, the Origin commanded.
I, the bard, was called to Eternal Mansion by the Owner.
Eternal Praise Glory, dressed clothes (trained).
Eternal Immortal Nam, is to be the food-sustenance.
Eat-experience fully with Perfection’s wisdom, attain comfort.
Bard expands-progresses, playing the Sabad-wisdom.
Nanak: by Eternal Praise, Perfect is found.
Kartarpur signified a complete Raj-Jog (Rule-Connection) based on love, living ideals informed by a deep faith in IkOankar. It was exemplified in behavior what the Guru taught.
Kartarpur forever became Kartarpur Sahib, not just in Sikh or Panjabi psyche, but on the global map.
Today, Kartarpur Sahib can’t be understood through the Panjab-India-Pakistan political games. Be it a captain of cricket or army, or now in the prime or ministerial positions invoking the corridor. Their gestures are welcomed, their reverence will only come when Kartarpur Sahib is not reduced to a footnote. Do even Sikhs realize Kartarpur Sahib was the initial Sikh control and command center, and how its endurance scored five and half centuries of reverence?
Only the Truth-exemplars can do justice to Kartarpur Sahib. Let’s unveil Creator-ville!
Watch this webinar about Kartarpur:
In Asa rag (musical measure), Guru Nanak Sahib, the founder of Sikhi, proclaims:
Wake up, wake up, O’ Sleepers!
The traveler-trader is leaving.
- Guru Granth Sahib 418
In the aforesaid line, the actual word in Gurmukhi script from the old Panjabi language is Jaghu (ਜਾਗਹੁ), which in contemporary Panjabi is Jago (ਜਾਗੋ). It means wake up. The Guru Granth Sahib is the Sikh charter which is classically presented as scripture but it is more of an anthology of love-songs exalted to the status of Perfect Wisdom.
Five hundred and fifty years ago, a new lamp was lit in the Panjab. That illumination introduced a new culture of Nam – Identifying with the Force. That Nam-culture was borne out of Ik Oankar, the Oneness that transcends gender or race. Guru Nanak Sahib shined liked the Sun and roared like the Lion:
The Perfect One from the Panjab,
One World-Wisdom via the Rabab:
Revealed Creator-Creation eternally,
Enjoyed Rule-Union incessantly,
Graced meek-mighty endlessly,
Lived political-spiritual actively,
Embodied Light-Love infinitely.
Guru Nanak Sahib is the light that awakened the world, the light infused with love. Allama Iqbal sings in the praise of Guru Nanak Sahib in Bang-i-Dara:
Again, the voice of Oneness has arisen from the Panjab;
A perfect man has awakened India from her daydreaming.
Jago the awakening enters the culture where it intermixes the five dimensions of the classical, the folk, the spiritual, the musical and the poetics of the Panjab in South Asia. The Sabad – the Infinite Wisdom – centers of the dialogue between the Being and a being, the Beloved and the lover through mystical flights.
The most popular form of Jago is during the Panjabi wedding. The night before the wedding, female relatives of the bridegroom used to prepare a 'Jago'. Gagar, clay pot, used to resemble a Panjabi home’s balcony which was lit with lamps made from wheat flour dough, filled with oil, cotton wick lighted to bring heavenly stars home. Twinkling gagar on the head of the groom's mothers' brothers' wife, singing, dancing, frolicking, knocking on the doors of the groom's village residents, to accept presents of primarily raw material for food. They would continue the rounds through the night. This symbolically celebrates the “bride” is of the village and the whole village is preparing for the groom’s party. It always took a village to raise the child, and to assure the nuptials were arranged properly. She-child is so precious, the life-line for next life.
The Pind to Shahir, village to city, mobility brought its own modern tones in Jago. Malkit Singh, the king of Bhangra from UK made Jago popular, and Jatinder Kaur brought back the folk into contemporary times. A popular Panjabi song ‘Tell Me’ (das ja) invokes Jago as follows:
For the past three days, you've been at your mother’s family home.
You bring so much life to the wedding home.
In our village the moon hasn't even come out,
After seeing your face.
Last night at Jago when you twirled your ghaghra (long skirt),
The whole village was stunned after seeing you.
That's why we repeat your name,
Seeing you everyone else will be left behind.
Jago, like Jugni (feminine voice of guided spirit in Panjabi folklore in the last 100 years), travels through centuries in Panjabi-Sikh psyche in myriad ways. The celebratory excitement of weddings enters the political consciousness too. The catchword confronts the fear of death. Then, the chorus produces deadly effect to exhort the mortal beings to become immortal revolutionaries. The symbolism of awareness and wedding enters the new phase: marrying the death to achieve freedom for fellow human beings, to remove the shackles of political slavery, to become ultimate witness to the Truth. There, the Jago invokes: for the self-aware, your death has come, embrace it; to the perpetrator, I’m here to relieve you, accept it!
Now a days, a Jago celebration weaves the groom and the bride families with the party fanfare a day or two before the wedding. The songs are still sung, a gagar is procured, and the lamps are still lit albeit artificially, but I wonder if we are listening to this line inviting us to participate amidst loud music and sexualized dancing: “O’ Neighbors, are you awake or asleep!”
Are YOU as excited as the night before the wedding?
Let the #Nanakshahi550 be that “wake-up call”!
To all the 130 million Panjabis (East, West, and the Diaspora):
Save Panjab. Let’s start with its water, the life-source!
To all the 30 million Sikhs globally:
Invoke Sabad. Let’s start with Ik Oankar, the One Force!
To all who self-identify with any element of Sikhi and Panjab:
Visit Panjab or any place connected with Guru Nanak Sahib, from Saudi Arabia to Sri Lanka!
In this Mela-festivities, may the Phulkari of beautiful tapestry move the beings to water the garden. Wake-up, don’t just trade.
Nurture the self.
Nurture the surrounding!
Sikhs have long served as a political football for all Canadian political parties, it’s time to demand the representation we deserve.
On 11 Dec 2018, the report from the public-safety ministry documenting terrorist threats to Canada included a section on “Sikh (Khalistani) Extremism” for the first time — a move that has received backlash from the Sikhs across Canada, not just politicians. There has been a call for a retraction, with the argument that the short mention in the report maligns and stigmatizes the entire Sikh Canadian community, who dealt with these same sentiments 30 years ago, after the Air India bombing of 1985.
Screenshot From Public Safety GC Canada Website
In over 20 years, evidence presented by the former Crown prosecutor reveals that the threat of Sikh extremism is virtually non-existent in Canada or India. The real threat to Canadians of all stripes, supported by evidence, is the very real, and current wave of right-wing extremism accentuated by Neo-Nazis and Three Percenters.
A retraction is not the end game and won’t help the Sikh community address why the community finds itself at the center of one firestorm after another. It is clear that despite having Sikh politicians and civil servants at the highest levels of government, Sikhs are pawns in Canadian politics, and some Canadians regard the community with suspicion, which makes them willing participants in the promotion of anti-Sikh propaganda. Canadians deserve better.
Sikhs form less than 2% of the population in Canada and India, serving in major civil servant and ministerial roles at federal and provincial levels. Despite their positions, they have not been able to successfully advocate for their human rights in India or collectively recognize the trauma and history of India’s Sikh genocide in their new, adopted homelands where they do not face the same degree of political oppression.
India has appointed and elected those directly accused of playing a role in the 1984 Sikh Genocide. In Canada, a resolution proposed by the provincial New Democratic Party (NDP) to declare 1984 a genocide was defeated in Ontario, later winning in the same province through the Liberal party, spearheaded by Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) Harinder Kaur Malhi (this was through the efforts of then-MPP Jagmeet Singh). All of this came into play in the last trips to India of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Feb 2018) and Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan (Apr 2017), where even the fact that the resolution passed was denied in India. In both countries, we see Sikhs as the political football in the endless game of politics. Depending on who is in power and which vote bank they are catering to, politicians in both countries flip-flop on whether the pain-filled recent history of Sikhs, is worth acknowledging.
It was only after 34 years, on 28 Nov 2018, that the Delhi High court in its landmark judgment, finally acknowledged the 1984 Sikh Genocide: “The large-scale rioting, mob violence, arson, plunder, genocide, and looting has been duly proved and established.” And in another judgment on 17 Dec 2018 while sentencing a former MP for a life term, the court acknowledged: “Neither ‘crimes against humanity’ nor ‘genocide’ is part of our domestic law of crime. This loophole needs to be addressed urgently." On 21 Dec 2018, the Legislative Assembly of National Capital Territory Delhi adopted a resolution on 1984 Sikh Genocide terming it “clearly and unambiguously a genocide" and the "worst genocide in the history of India's national capital."
NDP leadership candidate Jagmeet Singh. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Let’s look at the numbers. In 1907, 111 years ago, harsh immigration introduced legislation to disenfranchise and deprive Sikhs of voting rights. Today, of the currently ruling Liberal party in Canada, 4 Sikhs are Federal Ministers and 14 are MPs. Sikhs serve as policy makers, and their policy now says Sikh extremism is a top five threat to Canada. Further, their stance that even the act of asking for Khalistan is extremist is a denial of the ‘rights and freedoms’ guaranteed since 1982 via Canadian Charter to all Canadians. Sikh-Canadians have a right to discuss the concept of an independent Sikh homeland, and it is notable that Quebecers asking for separation are not deemed extremist.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet pose for a photo inside Rideau Hall in Ottawa, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015.
Let’s zero in on four Sikhs at the national political scene: Navdeep Singh Bains (LP), Harjit Singh Sajjan (LP), Jagmeet Singh (NDP), and Tim Singh Uppal (PC).Why these four? Because they are also initiated Sikhs. In Sikh terms, this means they chose to give allegiance to Sikhi, that their turbans and kirpans (swords) are not optional. Three have served or serve as federal ministers and one is leader of the party. There are MPs now who grew up with the stigma of Sikh extremism, but they seem to be unaware of how they themselves are creating and reinforcing this same stigma for future generations.
Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh charter of spiritual-political paradigm, begins with Ik Oankar (One Force), the foundation of Sikh religion-revolution. Understanding the foundation of the the Sikh worldview -- the belief that everything is One -- is critical to understanding Sikhs as a larger community both in Canada and around the world.
Stemming from the Ik Oankar paradigm is the slogan often heard by party representatives when they visit Sikh platforms: Degh Tegh Fatih. It means: “Guaranteeing economic and political freedoms shall establish victory in life.” This is from the seal of the Khalsa Raj, a Sikh historical precedent established in 1710 in the Panjab. It emphasizes that establishing just rule, informed by Ik Oankar, is critical to a healthy society. Understanding the Sikh context is crucial to understanding Sikhs, because without that understanding, Sikhs can easily be written off as extremist when in fact they are not a threat to Canada.
Here are the asks: The Canadian Government should explicitly retract their offending statements and commit to further due diligence in the future. Sikh politicians must work together to form a multiparty Sikh caucus, and Sikh civil servants need to create a Sikh-leaning policy making organization. Each party must establish written platforms on issues important to their Sikh constituents. With the 2019 federal elections on the horizon, Sikh-Canadians must examine all party platforms. Sikh voters need to assess a party’s overall policies, looking beyond a single issue. A vote for any candidate is also a vote for all that his or her party stands for. It is the overarching policy commitments of these parties which should weigh far more heavily in determining how one votes. Single-issue voting is simply not responsible.
The Canadian government’s job is to address risks and ideologies directly. It can do that job even better if its concerns are not party to non-evidence based propaganda from foreign governments. It can instead act extensively to protect all of its citizens from claims and allegations levied by foreign governments at a time when we know Canada's elections could be susceptible to foreign interference.
All Sikh Canadians deserve better treatment than they received in 2018 at the hands of Canada, the media, and those politicians counting their Sikh votes en route to some of the highest offices in the land.
Guru Granth Sahib (468) unequivocally states:
“The constituency, the leadership, and whole world is full of trash-lies ... [Guru] Nanak humbly submits, without You, all is trash-lies.”
The only solution, for all, is to identify with the Eternal: truthful living that sees the One in all dimensions.
Such people suffer neither hunger nor sorrow,
Nor can they ever be termed poor.
Such people are not subject to sadness,
Nor are their limits known.
Such people are not subject to any other one,
For they nourish hundreds, nay, thousands.
Such people sit on carpets,
They can base and debase others.
Such people enjoy the pleasures of the world,
Wearing a shield of safety, they are safe even amongst enemies.
Such people are meaningful,
Favoured by Guru Amardas.
To live in style and benevolence, to speak and listen attentively, to carry an attitude of defiance - it is for a life lived steeped in these values that I salute our famous ambassador, Patwant Singh [March 28, 1925 - August 8, 2009].
Why do I call him an ambassador? Because when I read the aforesaid savayya (verse of praise) in the Guru Granth Sahib, I found Patwant (literally, honorable) Singh meets every standard.
I met Patwant Singh on American soil for the first time when he came to the Midwest in 1995 to do a book signing for his memoir, Of Dreams and Demons (1994). His niece, Rekha Basu, a correspondent for The Des Moines Register, had arranged the event at a local Border's bookstore. My uncle, Dr. Kirpal Singh, who was a prime factor in turning me into a reader, took my cousin Ravpreet Singh (Vismad Design & PanjabMall) and I to the event.
I remember Patwant Singh's demeanor was very impressive: regal and majestic. This was my first impression of the man which is still vivid for me.
One fine late afternoon in the winter of 1998, Karamjit Kaur and I entered 11 Amrita Shergill Marg to seek advice on a human development program FATEH organization had started. The house was atypical of the South Delhi bourgeois "humble abodes." Simple, yet elegant, artsy and full of life - the house hummed with character.
Upon being led into the library-ish room by his secretary, we were greeted by Patwant Singh with a "Sat Sri Akal." We responded with Waheguru ji ka Khalsa, Waheguru ji ki Fateh".
At that, he paused for a second, then said, "You are right, I have been using the wrong salutation, a war cry actually, all my life."
We became more comfortable with each other after many conversations, and some time later he asked me about the most readily available book of his, The Sikhs. I shared my impressions with him candidly. I loved the way the thesis of Sikhi was presented in it: Sikhs are here to create an egalitarian society, which means confronting the domination of Brahmanism. The raison-d'être for Sikhs is to champion ignored and under-represented causes and people; for example, the legal apartheid of South Asia whose victims remain the Dalits (untouchables; though mulnivasi - "the original inhabitants" - is the preferred term as Dr. Manisha Bangar recently conveyed to me).
I also conveyed to him that the book had several trivial mistakes from Sikh tradition and historical angle, comments which he gracefully acknowledged. No doubt though, he definitely got the big picture right!
Another incident I recall which epitomized his character, took place at the Imperial Hotel in Delhi. It was January 13, 1999, when Justice Kuldip Singh, Former Judge of the Supreme Court of India, gave the Chillianwala Memorial Lecture of that year, speaking on the Criminalisation of Governance and Public Life in India.
After the Justice had finished, Kanwar Sandhu (whose career spans India Today, The Tribune, The Indian Express and the Hindustan Times, and is currently managing a TV channel) asked an unrelated, sensational question about "terrorists" in Punjab.
Patwant Singh, who was chairing the session, grabbed the mike and lectured (actually, scolded) Sandhu on misusing the word "terrorists" instead of "freedom fighters," and cited the lack of professionalism and ethics among the media outlets in India. He cited Yassar Arafat and Nelson Mandela as case studies when the media dropped the "terrorist" label, and found a Nobel Peace Prize winner instead.
During another memorable visit, Patwant Singh shared an amusing anecdote over tea. He had been asked to address an audience at a prestigious Delhi club (you can guess where the remnants of the post British Raj Indian bureaucrats congregate).
A few days prior to the talk, the club's president had called Patwant Singh to acknowledge that he had been coerced to invite K.P.S. Gill, a notorious former Director General of Punjab Police. To this revelation, Patwant Singh responded, "My doctor has advised me to not go near pollution, it is bad for my health."
According to Meher - Patwant's wife - despite the gentle rebuke, it was with all seriousness that Patwant refused to be on the same platform as K.P.S. Gill - a man who, in Patwant's words, "made his disdain for
humanitarian principles clear."
Public record of more examples of his fearlessness can be found in the Asian Age (January 31, 2000) headlined "State Terror that Executed Punjab."
Patwant Singh wrote there, in reference to K.P.S. Gill: "During his four years in office from November 19, 1991 till December 31, 1995, the State of Punjab, which once reveled in the joie de vivre of its people, became a fetid place - dark and brooding like the man who seemed bent on casting it in his own image."
Patwant questioned the "Indian state for lionising such men whose hands are awash with the blood of thousands of their innocent countrymen."
In those few sentences, it should be clear that Patwant Singh was a man who could stand anywhere in India, in any forum, and speak with vigor and courage. His was a rare personality among scores of Sikhs who remain submissive and overly cautious as they continue to try to appear "Indian-enough" to be left alone by the State.
At a gathering in 2005, Patwant Singh put his hand on my shoulder and offered to introduce me to Sardar Manmohan Singh. To his surprise, I politely refused. Looking askance, I revealed to him that I appreciated the financial genius of the man who The Economist had called "another Adam Smith" for bringing India out of License Raj. However, I could not appreciate his blanket lie at the 1993 Vienna conference where he said "... being Sikh, [I] find no abuses of Human Rights of Sikhs, much less any minorities in India."
Please. Go ask Soli Sorabjee, former Attorney General of India and Special Rapporteur to the UN's Human Rights Commission. He will set the record straight. And for a comprehensive, credible documentation, visit Ensaaf's website.
Patwant Singh wasn't aware of Manmohan Singh's grossly inaccurate statement, and understood why I didn't need to shake the Prime Minister's hand.
One afternoon, while discussing heritage issues, Patwant Singh pointed me to the Indian Express of the
day, saying, "See this - there is only one IAS officer (Indian Administrative Services, the bureaucracy which runs India) in the whole of Punjab who is honest - that is why the Punjabi political leadership put him [Gurnihal Singh Pirzada] in jail. Otherwise, who can touch the bureaucrats, let alone put them in jail?"
Incidentally, Lord Meghnand Desai recently commented: "The British invented bureaucracy for India, the Indians perfected it."
Today, the expression of dissent in India comes with severe repercussions. But that doesn't mean that Patwant Singh has ever stopped championing those few who stood up!
The filmmakers of The Widow Colony, Harpreet Kaur and Manmeet Singh, and I met with Patwant Singh to invite his leadership at the documentary's November 2005 premier in India.
Despite his deteriorating health, Patwant Singh spoke defiantly about the conspiracy of silence surrounding the 1984 pogroms. While chairing the post-screening panel, he forcefully discounted the notion of "we should forget about it" and cautioned against the dire consequences of judicial failure.
Afterwards, along with advocate Harvinder Singh Phoolka (champion of 1984 survivors, encouraged heavily by Patwant Singh), Patwant Singh and I initiated educational programs for the pogrom survivors through the Gyan Sewa Trust.
And that wasn't the only outreach he had initiated. In 1977, he established the Kabliji Hospital and Rural Health Center in Haryana after witnessing pregnant young women stuck on a roadside; ironically, this hospital was burned down by a Hindu mob in 1984, but it was rebuilt again.
The last time I spent time with Patwant Singh was at his house. My friend Davinder Singh and I had gone to seek his advice on Panjab Digital Library's efforts to locate and digitize everything related to the Panjab region. At the time, Patwant Singh was co-authoring a biography on Maharaja Ranjit Singh with Jyoti M. Rai (numismatist & historian).
He jokingly shared that Satjiv Singh Chahil (like a son to Patwant Singh and a "wiz" at Apple, Palm & Hewlett Packard) had bribed him with a Mercedes, but he couldn't even take it for a spin on Delhi roads. He had to keep the Benz parked under a tree, under a cloth, to protect it from dirt and hidden from people.
"What a cover-up!" he laughed.
A few days later, I returned with a list of some rare books on Ranjit Singh which might augment his research, and he gifted me a signed, out-of-print, copy of his earlier book, The Golden Temple.
This trans-national Sikh ambassador excelled in multiple dimensions: as an author, designer, activist, philanthropist and conservationist. After The Fatal Miscalculation (his editorial debut on 1984 and Punjab issues), his focus in life and writing shifted primarily to the Sikhs and their faith. He had already become widely known for introducing and running Design - a revolutionary magazine covering architecture, urban planning, visual arts, graphics, and industrial design.
Upon discovering that the real problems of India lie in its politicians, government procedures and corruption, he began work on a series of articles and books meant to affect public opinion and official policies. Those included India and the Future of Asia (1967) and The Struggle for Power in Asia (1971). Post-1984, Patwant's passion exploded in his efforts to present Sikhs as sovereigns, to counter the Indian propaganda machine bent upon maligning Sikhs.
The Golden Temple (1989), Gurdwaras in India and Around the World (1992), The Sikhs (1999), Garland Around My Neck (2001), and Empire of the Sikhs - The Life and Times of Maharaja Ranjit Singh (2008), were the fruits of decades of labor on this front. He also published The World According to Washington: An Asian View (2005) and The Second Partition: Fault-lines in Indian Democracy (2007).
How did he do all this while maintaining his aristocratic lifestyle, especially after his 1984 transformation? How did he manage to write extensively for newspapers and magazines (The New York Times, The Globe and Mail, The Independent, The Asian Age), work in the Sikh art world with Susan Stronge (Victoria and Alberta Museum's curator) and Inni Kaur (impetus behind I See No Stranger exhibition at the Reuben Museum, New York), run non-profits, and still make time for conservation of anything Sikh or Punjab related?
He did it through pure strength of vision and commitment. And of course, because Meher (literally, grace) was at his side through the later years as his partner-in-crime. She brought infinite charm and dignity to Patwant Singh, in addition to keeping him in great health, until the man completed his earthly journey at the age of 84.
This is how a Sikh transcends transmigration, here and now.
Last month, I was at the "1469" shop in New Delhi - what a place for all things Punjabi! The shop's owners Kirandeep Kaur and Harinder Singh were my conduits to Patwant Singh for the last decade. "1469" is planning a sale of commemorative paraphernalia as a tribute to Patwant Singh's inspiration and encouragement in preserving our heritage. I very much look forward to the unveiling.
I often quote Patwant Singh's words from The Golden Temple: "It took the industry, passion, perseverance
and sacrifices of whole generations to build, adorn and defend it."
In keeping these words vital and alive, I hope that all Sikhs will hear and understand them at a deeper level. Industry, passion, perseverance, sacrifice - and of course, a few ambassadors like Patwant Singh! - will be what helps the Sikh Quom (commonwealth) to re-discover its raison-d'être!
[The author works for the Sikh Research Institute and the Panjab Digital Library. His focus is on education as a fulcrum for social change.]
Translation of verse from Guru Granth Sahib adapted from English translation by Dr. Darshan Singh.
Sikhs of BC’s Lower Mainland invited the Sikh Research Institute (SikhRI) to bring their programming to Canada to educate, inspire and engage the local community. The weekend’s events, from March 26-28, 2010, addressed a broad range of topics which were presented through various formats, including radio shows, workshops and Gurduara assemblies
Friday morning began with a stirring discussion on “ The Harjinder Thind Show” on RedFM. Harinder Singh, SikhRI’s Chief Programming Officer, went on air to discuss the topic of “Panjab Today”. Listeners were moved to call the show, and expressed views ranging from anger to helplessness to hope. Discussion of the topic did not end at the radio station. That evening, Harinder appeared on BC’s only South Asian mainstream news broadcast station, Omni TV, allowing more viewers to tune in and comment on “Panjab Today”.
Saturday’s schedule involved a day-long interactive workshop, “The Guru: Connecting with the Divine Light”, and was held in a lecture hall at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. The sangat of BC specifically requested the session, and it was made possible with sponsorship support from the Khalsa Credit Union. Facilitators guided the nearly 80 participants through three sessions: What is Guru? Meaning, Role & Importance, The Prophet-Genius of the Ten Nanaks: Attributes, Lives & Contributions, and Guru Granth & Guru Panth: Origin, Development & Institution.
Paul Sidhu of Abbotsford remarked on the workshop: “This program benefited me by opening my mind to which direction I need to take to become a better and more educated Sikh. The main change it had on me is it made me aware of the corruption and the misled teachers that are out there. I am aware that I need to go back to the source and educate myself and interpret it myself.”
Another participant, Johnny Kang, reflected: “This program is very empowering . . . blowing past the labels and confusions the current Sikh nation is facing. Everyone was involved and catalyzed into individual journey of “Am I a Sikh?” and “What is a Sikh?” Beautifully delivered reverent information of the real life present moment lives of our Sikh Guru tradition and relevance of Khalsa Panth. Always an awakener when taking part in SIKHRI events.”
Saturday night’s events coincided with the globally recognized Earth Hour, which involves people turning off their lights for one hour to save resources. In marking the occasion among the Sikh community, Harinder Singh took the stage at Sukh Sagar Gurdwara in New Westminster to deliver a compelling speech titled, “ Sikhi on Social Responsibility and the Environment ”. He urged the sangat to reflect upon how our lives and actions, both as individuals and as a community, affect the environment and the socio-economic experiences of people around the world. He cited numerous references in Gurbani where the Gurus have reminded Sikhs of the interconnectedness of the enviro-eco systems of the world. The presentation was timely and well received; so much so, that Harinder presented again on the same topic the next morning to the sangats of Guru Nanak Sikh Society Gurdwara and Dasmesh Darbar Gurdwara in Surrey.
There is not much awareness of these issues from a Sikhi perspective and I believe people were very inspired to see that our responsibility to the environment is very central to the Gurus’ teachings,” said Baljinder Kaur, president of SikhRI Canada.
During his speeches at the Guru Nanak Sikh Society and Dasmesh Darbar Gurdwaras, in addition to environmentalism, Harinder Singh spoke on Bhagat Singh, commemorating the anniversary of his martyrdom. He highlighted the necessity of Sikhs and Panjabis to own Bhagat Singh’s struggle, heritage and martyrdom as a significant and inspirational part of history.
The weekend came to a close with a radio discussion on Sher-e-Punjab’s Dilaan di Saanjh, which is hosted by Kuldip Singh. The segment gave the community a moment to thread the issues of the weekend together.
SikhRI also travelled to the east coast of Canada for two events over the weekend of April 10-11. On Saturday, 30 participants gathered at the University of Toronto Mississauga for a Saneha on the topic of “Asa ki Var: Transcending Duality”. The program explored the structure and significance of Asa ki Var as well as offering guidance for transcending duality in thought, conduct and society.
The program was benefited by the excerpts of bani that were used with translations. The connection between the instructor and the attendees was definitely there, which added to the aura of the seminar. I will look at this bani with a different eye, with the new information I have learned,” said Harjote Singh, of Brampton.
On Sunday, Harinder Singh spoke on the topic of “Celebration and Thankfulness” at Shiromani Sikh Sangat Gurdwara.
As an individual and her family invests intellectually, socially and financially to build academic qualifications towards a successful career, it requires relentless pursuit in developing a relationship with the Divine. What is needed is a disciplined and purposeful physical, mental, and financial commitment to be with the Force, the One Reality,” said Singh of the program’s focus.
SikhRI is also pleased to announce that after this recent visit it will be bringing on a coordinator for the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
Kulvir Singh will act as the main contact for SikhRI event scheduling and programming. Kulvir said that he looks forward to working with SikhRI to bring programming to Toronto and the surrounding area and it is his hope that a coordinator for the eastern provinces will allow SikhRI to schedule activities similar to those they frequently host in BC. He encourages members of religious, cultural and student organizations to investigate what SikhRI has to offer and to be in touch to discuss future visits and programming options.
"In the constitution of the Khalsa commonwealth, the greatest act of genius of Guru Gobind Singh was when he transferred the divine sovereignty vested in him to the God-inspired people, the Khalsa."
- Prof. Puran Singh
On Vaisakhi Day 1699, ‘The Rider of the Blue Steed' inaugurated a highly dynamic personality - the Khalsa.
This community's ‘Light of Life' ceaselessly radiates glory, justice and love. The Nash doctrine enforced on Vaisakhi day freed us from the shackles of slavery: shattered inequities due to caste-apartheid or lineage, eliminated doubts borne out of a polluted mind, and eradicated sexism through annihilation of patriarchal hegemony.
Today, Vaisakhi has become a reminder to all Sikhs to reflect on the Guru's vision of personal and community development as articulated in the Guru Granth Sahib. It implores us to revive the Spirit Ascendant that changed the destiny of South Asia and beyond through unparalleled sacrifices. It demands us to think strategically and respond to the critical issues and challenges we Sikhs are facing worldwide, both internally and externally.
In today's global Sikh reality, Vaisakhi translates into making genuine and concerted efforts on three fronts simultaneously: break intra-Sikh barriers of prejudice and hostility among people and institutions due to gender, caste, social-strata, tribe or clan; confront global powers, not conform, when they act against the well-being of the Sikh nation and the rest of humanity; and build inter-religious understanding, especially where prejudice runs strong through strategic alliances with like-minded people who live by the principle, ‘The end does not justify the means'.
Let us become active agents of freedom. Let us treat women with dignity and respect in our private and public lives. Let us identify and align with the unrepresented and under-represented communities: from the Dalit struggle in India to genocide-laden Darfur. All this is possible once every Sikh recognizes and maintains the Guru-granted sovereignty.
Guru Nanak and Guru Arjan share great insights with us on Vaisakhi. To them, Vaisakhi is a beautiful moment: submitting to the Guru in totality, feeling the divine presence in everyday life, and discovering the Divine via infinite wisdom. At that moment, one is ready to be part of the Guru Khalsa Panth, the collective whose utter volunteer spirit becomes Guru-like.
This is not the panth of jutts, bhapas, ravidasis, or the andocentric males. Our Panth is One Panth that belongs to the One Force. One Panth that frees and empowers each and every person. One Panth that lights a fire in the gut and explodes the creative potential. One Panth that makes us humble and courageous concurrently. One Panth that delivers justice to the enemy within and outside. One Panth that is sharpened by the Ten Nanaks and follows the Guru Granth Sahib.
Which Panth do you belong to?
Claim your legacy!
[Harinder Singh is a co-founder of the Sikh Research Institute (SikhRI). He is actively engaged in educational programs as a fulcrum for social change.]
In this podcast we talk to Harinder Singh on the greatness of Guru Gobind Singh Ji. You have never heard of the Guru in this way!
Guest: Harinder Singh (@1Force)
Host: Manpreet Singh (@Mjassal)