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Birmingham, UK – On Saturday 28th May 2011, the programme 'Sikh Reports' was aired from 9.30pm to 10pm on the UK’s Sikh Channel (Sky 840) that discussed the Dudley Sikh rally against Guru Nanak Singh Sabha Gurdwara which had arranged a meat and alcohol party in its Sikh Cultural Centre knowing well that UK Sikh community would not tolerate such sacrilege. Although the guests on the show explained the rally and what happened accurately in its correct context, the Channel itself showed a short video clip lasting less than a few minutes from the six hour peaceful rally that portrayed the rally in a negative light. From the actions of Sikh Channel it seems as if their interests are against the sentiments of the Sikh community who are attempting to uphold the sanctity of Sikh institutions.

The half an hour programme aired on Sikh Channel  presented by Jagjit Singh, had three guests that were present at the peaceful rally. The guest speakers explained how the rally had been initially called off on the afternoon of Thursday 26th May, after the family that had booked the meat and alcohol party realised that it was against Sikh ethics. The peaceful rally was called again after the community found out that the Gurdwara Committee had arranged another party to defy the Sikh religion and invoke outrage in the UK’s Sikh community.

The six hour rally was attended by 500 Sikhs which was a mix of young children, men, women and the elderly from across the country. However, the Sikh Channel video footage aired on Saturday night showed small group young Sikhs having a confrontation with the Police.  It is beyond belief how irresponsible the Sikh Channel has been in ignoring the Simran, Shabad singing and recital of Chaupai Sahib that happened throughout the protest and instead portray a negative light of the protest in the eyes of viewers through a small clip showing a small element of disorder. From the clip shown on Sikh Channel, which was shown without the awareness of the guest speakers, the impression given was that the whole rally was aggressive, unruly, and violent, which is far from the truth. We received an email sent to Sikh Channel from Bibi Surinder Kaur Dhesi, former Mayor of Banbury and Councillor, who attended the peaceful rally stating
        "I was deeply shocked and saddened that out of the 6 hour protest, Sikh Channel showed a short clip of a confrontation between Police and a tiny group from the hundreds of peaceful protestors. I attended the entire protest from beginning to end and did not experience any violence of any sort. Rather it was the party people who were swearing, goading and insulting the Sangat. The Sangat did Paath and Simran throughout the protest. None of this was shown on Sikh Channel.

If you were going to stoop so low, you could at least shown footage of the party people goading and insulting the Sangat, Police pulling the beard of a Singh, the Police taunting protestors and the Police bringing their dogs very close to the Sangat who were sitting down and reciting Chaupaai Sahib and doing Simran"
Bhai Mandeep Singh from London, who attended the protest stated:
 “I encouraged my mother to watch the show with me when I learnt of it's broadcast on the way back from Dudley, so that she can understand and see why I had to spend the whole day out. I was just as shocked as she was to see that 'violent' clip.

Having been there myself, I didn't even witness that violence, nor violence of any kind. But my mums first impression and fear was that I must've been involved in that violence if I was there. I was then left to explain to my mum that nothing like that occurred while I was there, but her first impression was hard to change.”
If Sikh Channel had planned to show the short video clip of disorder then they should have had enough moral integrity to explain the context that led to the small element of disorder.

The Sikh Channel failed to show the provocation of the Sikh Sangat from the Gurdwara party side which led to a small number of youngsters to charge at the party hall, these include:
1. A Mercedes pulled up at start of rally transferring booze into the Gurdwara hall in the full view of the Sikh Sangat who were sitting peacefully outside reciting Chaupai Sahib.
2. The party people purposely opened the door and starting blasting Bhangra to drown the sounds of Chaupai Sahib that the Sangat were reciting.

3. The party people came in front of the Sangat sitting on the road and taunted them by saying “Go to the Gurdwara and do your Paath and let us have our party” whilst jeering.
4. The party people roaming freely in the Gurdwara car park threw stones and swearing at the Sangat wanting them to react.

5. After the numerous taunts and disrespect of Gurbani and the Sangat, some youngsters charged at the party people, the party people hid behind the gates of the Gurdwara community hall and began to swear at the Sangat.

6. One of the party goers brought a plate of meat out and starting eating in front of the Sikh Sangat that had come to rally against the sacrilege to invoke further rage.

7. One person from the party purposely came out and said “Come on Singhs take a good photo of me” to provoke the Sangat even more.

8. Two so called "Amritdhari" ladies that wearing Patke were used by the Gurdwara Committee to make meat inside centre for party people.

9. Men drinking alcohol inside the hall, continued to drink alcohol when some of the Sangat entered the hall and began swearing and using obscene language against the Gursikhs.
Secondly, the provocation and mishandling of the situation of the West Midlands Police caused disorder, and added to emotions. In particular:
1. The Police failed to separate the two groups. The Sangat were cordoned off whilst the party people were free to walk around and taunt the Sangat.

2. Sikh men had their turbans knocked off by the Police.

3. The Police were using excessive force of pushing and striking people with their baton’s to move the Sangat back.

4. Eye witnesses from the rally witnessed some Police officers saying racist comments to the Sikh Sangat protesting. One officer shouted “This is the Queen’s country. You will follow the Queen’s Rule. This is the Queen’s country…”

5. At least two Police officers who were handling the dogs in front of the Sangat sitting in the road reciting Simran were wearing no number badge to identify them which is illegal.

6. Sikh men were given a dead leg after receiving blows with the Police batons by the stairs leading to the rear entrance of the hall.

7. One Police Officer told an Amritdhari Sikh “What you wearing?” whilst pointing at his Kirpan which was could be slightly seen through his clothes. He said he is wearing a Kirpan (a small Kakkaar Kirpan worn in a Gatra). The Police Officer said, “I am going to take that off you.” Showing the lack of religious training the Police Officers had.

8. The Police were disorganised and were not able to promptly arrange dialogue between the offending party people and the Sikh community.

9. Some of the Police Officers didn’t know what the protest was about and were confused what is happening, which is very dangerous. As a result of this some of the Police were handling the situation insensitively and heavy handily which people found intolerable.
If the Sikh Channel relies on the financial support of the Sikh community then they have a moral and ethical duty to portray a true picture of events and in its appropriate context. To add further fuel to the fire the Sikh Channel’s Official Facebook status showed support for the party goers and condemned the rallying Sikhs.

The Sikh Channel which does countless appeals for donations and direct debits has countless times disrespected the Sangat and played the Sikh community. It has aired controversial programmes that have gone against Sri Akal Takht Sahib’s Hukamnamas (edicts), they have had shows where the presenters have raked up controversial Panthic issues to hurt the sentiments of Sikhs within the community, they have shown Katha that insulting Gursikhs, Panj Pyaare and Sri Akaal Takht Sahib over Mool Mantar, they had a RSS affiliated person presenting a weekly programme, and now they have back stabbed the Sikh community with their video footage and Facebook official comments. 

We have received emails from several members of the public who were disgusted at Sikh Channel's behavior, one of them warned:
“I will be urging all my friends and family to withdraw their financial support from Sikh Channel unless an official apology is made on behalf of Sikh Channel aired on the channel and in writing within the next 3 days.”
Thirty seconds before his Punjabi radio show ended, Gurvinder Dhaliwal asked organizers of the Sikh New Year's parade in Surrey, B.C., the standard wrap-up question: “Any message for the people?” Many know the now-infamous answer: “All are welcome except for Ujjal Dosanjh and Dave Hayer. And if they show up, they are responsible for their own safety.” Both Dosanjh, a Liberal MP, and Hayer, a member of the British Columbia legislature, are Sikhs and vocal critics of separatist extremism.

That remark and subsequent threats on Facebook sparked a heated debate among Canada's 300,000 Sikhs, nearly half of whom live in Ontario. Dosanjh's warning that extremism among a tiny minority of Sikh separatists is on the rise in Canada only fanned the flames. Bitter arguments have broken out on radio shows, online and in ethnic newspapers.

This all comes mere weeks before the 25th anniversary of the June 23, 1985, Air India bombing — Canada's worst mass murder — and on the heels of meetings between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Singh has expressed concern about growing support by Canadian Sikhs for militants in India.

Most Sikhs worldwide long ago abandoned the notion of Khalistan, a separate Sikh state. But community leaders here acknowledge evidence that separatism is festering in Canada, believed to have the largest Sikh diaspora in the world. Some fear that extremist views offering a distorted view of what happened in Punjab years ago are influencing second-generation Sikh immigrants.

No one wants to talk openly about these suspicions, said Baldev Mutta, executive director of Punjabi Community Health Services in Brampton. But he has counselled worried parents, like those of an 18-year-old Brampton girl who seemed a changed person after she attended a religious retreat near Cambridge last summer.

“She told her parents that they were bad Sikhs because they didn't keep their hair and didn't pray every day,” said Mutta. “Within a couple of months, the girl moved out. They haven't seen her since.”

Yudhvir Jaswal, host of the Mississauga radio show South Asian Pulse and editor of Mid-Week News Weekly, said impressionable youth are being led astray. “The movement is dead ... long dead in India,” said Jaswal, who left India nine years ago. “But some people, a very tiny minority, have kept it alive here and divided the community.”

Others defend the diaspora's right to peacefully campaign for a separate homeland.

“What's extremist about advocating for the self-determination of Sikhs in India?” asked Pardeep Nagra, manager of employment equity with the Toronto District School Board. Nagra says he frequently has discussions about a Sikh separate state with young people and hasn't seen any examples of “so-called religious fanaticism.”

“I've had some phenomenal debates on (Khalistan),” said Nagra, who last travelled to India more than 25 years ago. “It's so enriching, so engaging.” Some call it the Kingdom of Sikhs.

The idea of creating Khalistan, an independent Sikh homeland in India's Punjab region, has its roots in the early 20th century, but gained momentum in the 1970s and 1980s. Growing discontent with an uncaring and corrupt federal government fanned the flames of Sikh nationalism and fundamentalism in Punjab.

In the early '80s, hundreds of youth took up arms in retaliation over perceived discrimination, led by the charismatic Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. With his followers, he occupied the Golden Temple in Amritsar.

In June 1984, the Indian army stormed the temple in a clash that killed Bhindranwale and hundreds of others, including ordinary devotees caught in the crossfire. The assassination of Indian president Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards that October caused a violent backlash, in which mobs systematically burned Sikh homes and businesses and killed thousands.

Between the late '70s and early '90s, thousands of Sikhs, many involved in the push for a homeland, immigrated to the U.S., England and Canada.

In India, the movement for a separate state largely evaporated in the early 1990s after it lost support of a majority of Sikhs, who were tired of the senseless violence.

But some Sikh temples here continue to display framed photos of Sikh extremists, including Talwinder Singh Parmar — accused of being the mastermind behind the bombing of Air India Flight 182, in which 329 people were killed.

At some prayer halls, saffron banners are hung proclaiming ‘Khalistan is Our Homeland.' Sikh prayers are held on birthdays of so-called “martyrs.” It is not unusual for members of a diaspora to be frozen in the past, said Myer Siemiatycki, a professor in immigration settlement studies at Ryerson University.

The diaspora often has left the homeland, in part, driven out by a sense of political unhappiness with the status quo,” he said. Though politics change in the homeland, those who flee can harbour guilt feelings about leaving and “develop a more extreme hardline political outlook.”

Siemiatycki said he can also see Canadian-born Sikh youths, particularly those struggling with a sense of identity, embracing Sikh nationalism.

Ranjodh Singh, a 19-year-old University of Toronto student who attended last weekend's Sikh New Year's parade, spoke to the Star about his own pride in his heritage. “My parents' generation may have given up on Khalistan but mine hasn't. Sikhs all over the world want it, including those in India. We'll campaign for it always ... peacefully, of course.”

The room is stacked with papers and books: on shelves, on the couch, on the floor. Uday Singh, his grey beard flowing to his chest, sits in the centre on a large white cushion and remarks: “We will not rest until we get our land.” At 87, Singh is probably Khalistan's oldest supporter in Canada.

A former math professor at Laurentian University in Sudbury, he wrote the book Waning and Waxing of the Khalistan Movement, which he believes cost him his Indian passport.

For years, he has run a weekend school in Rexdale, near the Sikh temple, where he teaches young people Punjabi, and Sikh history and culture. Singh, who says Sikhs have “never ebbed so low as we do now under the cursed Hindu rule” in India, won't say what exactly he teaches. “That's between my students and me.” Though he says he and his wife survive on a meagre pension, he admits to having sent money to Inderjit Singh Reyat, the only person convicted in the Air India bombing. Singh calls him “our Nelson Mandela. He is not guilty of sins that he is in jail for.”

Other alleged Sikh militants killed in India whose photos are on temple walls are “our heroes ... If they killed some people, it's excusable. I would kiss the earth below where the photos are hung,” says Singh, who lives in Caledon. Singh, who immigrated in 1961, hasn't been back to India in 30 years, but says Sikhs are still repressed there. That is why the “movement of Khalistan is still alive. We won't rest till we get it.”

It is people like Singh who are keeping the hope of Khalistan alive in Canada, said Gurdev Mann, president of the North York Sikh temple.

“They are misleading youngsters and giving them wrong information. It scares me — what they teach at these places,” said Mann. Giving wall space to photos of alleged martyrs and celebrating their birthdays also creates fissures in the community, he added. “These are divisive activities.”

Harvans Jandali, president of the Ontario Sikh and Gurdwara Council, which administers at least a dozen temples in the Toronto area, argued the photos have been hanging on temple walls since 1984 and have no impact on people who come to worship. “But whenever someone has tried to remove them, there has always been a bitter fight. I like to avoid (fights).”

Photos of alleged militants at Sikh temples is a non-issue, agreed Guelph's T. Sher Singh, co-founder of Spinning Wheel, a Sikh-related film festival. “I have no interest in Khalistan and I don't support it all. I've said it publicly that these people are all a bunch of idiots ... but I will fight till the end for the right of people to be stupid as long as they don't break the law.”

Dosanjh was savagely beaten in 1985 for speaking out against Sikh extremism by a suspected member of the International Sikh Youth Federation, a banned terrorist group. In an interview with the Star, he reiterated how the “young and second generation of my community are being trained in hate and violence. They are fed hate, lies and fanaticism ... myths of history, not real history, and if you do that 15,000 miles away and you have no contact with reality, you will continue to perpetuate these myths.”

Dosanjh, who has been branded a “rat” and “scumbag traitor” on Web postings, said the case of the Toronto 18 and Muslim extremism should be a warning to Canadians who think talk of Sikh nationalism is insignificant.

“If we continue like this, there will be demand for a Khalistan in this country,” he said.

Meanwhile in Surrey, Dhaliwal, who hosts his own program on Sher-E-Punjab radio station, still can't believe the whole brouhaha was triggered by his show. “I never thought it would get so big,” he said.

“I was shocked by the (parade) organizer's answer, but in my mind there was no threat, ever. This has been blown out of proportion.”

A Sikh Stemp that was Cancelled
by Rupinder Kaur

Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikhs is an inherent character of India’s culture comprising the hymns derived from the teachings of various saints and poets across the country along with the teachings of the Sikh Gurus. It conveys the collective religious and spiritual knowledge of the Indian society.
Guru Granth Sahib is more than just a scripture of the Sikhs. It was first compiled by the fifth Guru, Guru Arjan Dev, who installed it in the Golden Temple, Amritsar in 1604. He appointed Baba Buddha as the Guru's Granthi and told his Sikhs that the Adi Granth was the embodiment of the Guru, and should be treated in the same fashion as they respect him. It is said that when Guru Arjun first completed the Adi Granth, he placed it upon his own bed and slept on the floor. Its words were written without any spaces or breaks.

To commemorate the 400th anniversary of the First Prakash Utsav or the 400 years of the compilation and installation of Sri Guru Granth Sahib in 2004, the Posts and Telegraphs Department of India designed a Rs.10 special stamp. To highlight the importance of the occasion the department also created a sheet and a miniature sheet along with the first day cover. The stamp portrayed the Sri Guru Granth Sahib lying open with a chaurior a flying whisk in front of it. Above it is mentioned the number of years along with the specific dates in numerals and on top is written the name of the holy book in both Hindi and English.

The first day cover was also designed which shows the Harmandar Sahib from the side view with its golden structure standing against clear blue sky and the reflection falling in the holy water of the sacred tank. The miniature sheet shows the design of the stamp spreading beyond its set dotted lines which depicts the dome of Harmandar Sahib in golden color with floral patterns and supported by two pillars on both sides resting on a simple plinth represented by a free flowing line. Hence, the artist has tried to represent the Guru Granth Sahib installed in the Harmandar Sahib.
Reference:: Sikh Philosophy Network
Overall, the colors are soft and somber, comprising mostly of golden yellow, violet and sky blue with highlights of black and brown. The sheet shows a set of ten stamps all placed within a decorative border matching with the miniature sheet.
The concept and design of the stamp was strongly objected by the Akal Takht, the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) and the National Commission for Minorities (NCM). They had valid reasons to do so. First of all, since Sri Guru Granth Sahib is referred as a living Guru of Sikhs, therefore as per the Sikh maryada or Sikh code of conduct no photograph can be printed in any form and that too on a stamp accessible to public at large. Secondly, the scripture is shown without a rumala or a piece of cloth to cover the holy book. As such this disturbed the sentiments of the Sikhs on the whole.
Reference:: Sikh Philosophy Network

It will not be out of sight to mention that to commemorate the birth anniversaries of the Sikh gurus, Guru Nanak Dev, Guru Amar Das and Guru Gobind Singh, India Post released special stamps and first day covers portraying gurdwaras which stand at their birth places and other important events from their lives.

On the occasion of the 300th Birth Anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth guru of the Sikhs the Department of Posts issued a special stamp in 1967, in the denomination of 15 Paisa. The stamp shows the Gurdwara at Patna Sahib which stands at the birth place of the tenth master.

In 1969 the 500th Birth Anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, the first guru of the Sikhs, was celebrated throughout the world. The Department of Posts associated itself with this celebration by bringing out a special stamp depicting Nankana Sahib (earlier known as Talwandi), the birth place of the founder of Sikhism, which is now in Pakistan.

Later on the 500th Birth Anniversary of the Guru Amar Das in 1979 India Post issued a special stamp of 30 Paisa denomination depicting Gurdwara Baoli Sahib in Goindwal.

As such, to avoid any further controvercies this stamp was finally cancelled and immediately retracted from all head post offices by the Department of Posts across the country. In fact, to avoid such controversies the Department of Posts has been directed to consult the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) before designing stamps on religious matters of the notified minority communities like Christians, Muslims, Parsis, Sikhs and Buddhists, in future.

Even though the stamp was not released officially, the miniature sheets, first day covers and the sheet lets are possessed by numerous collectors and dealers. No other stamp has been released in lieu of this till date.