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Raising Kaurs
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Source: Miss Representation (click to enlarge)

Today is International Women’s Day and while our attention often (and rightfully) focuses on ways to improve the lives of women and children living across the globe, it should also be a time to reflect on ways we can positively influence the lives of young girls growing up all around us.

As the Masito an amazing seven-year-old girl, it’s been on my mind how important these formative years are for ensuring that my niece feels confident in who she is. I recently watched a documentary called Miss Representation (click here to see the trailer) which discusses the role the media plays in being both the message and messenger in the portrayal of young girls and women – one that is often negative. Quite honestly, the documentary scared me – how can we control what messages young men and women receive? American teenagers get approximately 10 hours of media consumption a day – that’s an awful lot of messages that they need to digest and make sense of. As one expert notes in the film, “little boys and little girls, when they’re seven years old, in equal number want to be President of the United States when they grow up. But then you ask the same question when they’re fifteen and you see this massive gap emerging.” The film includesfootage from a focus group of teenagers discussing media and the consequences. They speak of their low self-esteem, their anxieties, their sheer anger and frustration. I’m not even a mother and yet i worry.

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Homeless Punjabis in Southall

In late 2009, we wrote a post about the growing number of homeless Punjabis and Sikhs living in Southall. Almost three years later, the situation in Southall continues to concern us. A recent article from the BBC discusses the plight of these young men who seek voluntarily deportation back to India but who, without documents, are unable to navigate an unforgivingbureaucratic situation.

Jagdeesh pulls away a piece of cardboard revealing a tiny hole in a concrete wall. He invites me to climb through, declaring: “This is my home, come in.”

“I was told that life was good here. It’s not just me, other boys came for work,” he says. “You can see what state we’re in, there’s no work, no government help.”Jagdeesh has cut himself off from his family, saying he is ashamed of his failure to find work and would rather they thought he was dead than knew he was living in filth.”They sold land and took out loans to get me out of India. What can I say to my family back home? The money we’ve invested is lost,” he says. [link]

According tofigures from the UK Home Office, voluntary departures have risen steadily over the past few years, from 335 in 2005 to 15,537 in 2010. While many of these cases have been logged with the UK Border Agency, it seems that the Indian High Commission is dragging its feet on processing the cases. According to the article, the UK Border Agency admits that establishing the identity of illegal immigrants in order to issue them with emergency travel documentation is a “complex” process and that the time it takes to process these individuals varies by case. One individual, a man in his 30s, has been waiting for three years.

Many of theseindividualsabuse drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with the situation. Their thoughts often turn to suicide. Their only support system is each other and the majority of them haven’t even told their families, back in Punjab, about their broken dreams. It’s a difficult situation for these men – their lack of options in Punjab drives them to seek opportunities abroad but this promise of prosperity is not always what it seems to be.

As our UK co-blogger, Naujawani Sardar, states, “There are many questions being asked about the problems facing masses of illegal Punjabi immigrants in West London, but the most important questions that will prevent this situation from reoccurring in the long-term are not being asked:Why do so many youth risk everything to leave The Punjab?What is being done to curtail the agents that are facilitating their travel? And, what repercussions do UK citizens face for exploiting illegal immigrants?”

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Another Sikholarly Success in 2012

This past weekend, CSU East Bays Ethnic Studies Department and Sikh Studies Chair along with the Jakara Movement held its third annual Sikholars Conference. Along with the 11 graduate students from all over North America, nearly 100 community members came together to share and engage in their research projects.

Opening on Saturday, Dr. Jaideep Singh welcomed the participants and discussed the burgeoning field of Sikh Diasporic studies that is finally beginning to bear fruit. The first panel showcased the projects of Bandana Kaur, a Yale graduate, on issues of ecofeminism, biodiversity, and social effects of the Green Revolution and Guneeta Kaur Bhalla on the challenges, development, and prospects of the 1947 Partition Archive. Both projects bring together social histories and the voices of non-elite subalterns to the fore.

The second panel, titled the Identities of Law, explored Sikh-Americans in a legal context. Jasmine Singh discussed the racialization of Sikhs in the United States, while Kiran Preet Dhillon reflected on the ways that Title VII, instead of promoting accommodation to religion in the workplace, have served to limit and demean. She called for a rigorous opening of the conversation with groups that fight for freedom from discrimination in the workplace, including SALDEF and the Sikh Coalition. The panel discussant was conference host, Dr. Jaideep Singh.

The last panel of the day involved explorations in musicology. Neelamjit Dhillon, a student at California Institute of the Arts, showcased his music talents and the convergence of technology and music, adding visual imagery to the auditory experience. Harpreet Neelam, from the University of Toronto, mesmorized the audience with her vocal talents and her explanations of the partaal through the shabad Mohan Neend na Aavaey Haaveh. View her amazing rendition (along with Neelamjit Singh on the thabla; pagh salute: RimmyKay) below and continue reading beneath the fold.

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The first day concluded with a viewing of Harjant Gill (Sikholars, Class of 2010)s documentary Roots of Love.

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J.Korps 2011 – SUJH and Border Angels

Untitled.jpgFirst off, my sincere apologies to all in delaying the posting of this entry for far too long. Over winter break, nearly 20 students participated in the Jakara j.Korps initiative that seeks to explore the issue of immigration. Here is a photo-essay composed by Josh Singh.

During winter break 2011 members of the Jakara Movement were brought together for the first annual SUJH Alternative Winter Break to examine the issue of immigration first-hand by visiting the so-called ground zero, the Mexi-Cali border. The issue of illegal immigration continues to be brought to the forefront as witnessed in the divisiveness this issue caused among 2012 Republican primary candidates and the recent rise of nativist sentiment that has been fueled by deteriorating economic conditions. In 2006, huge protests calling for a more open and humane immigration policy were lead mostly by our Chicano/a and Latino/a brothers and sisters. The Sikh-American response to this issue however has been largely indifferent and silent. Through this trip, our goal was to break down commonly held conceptions about undocumented migrants and their journey into the U.S. (sujh=becoming aware). One of the most common misperceptions among people is that illegal immigration is a Latino-centric issue and therefore primarily deserves attention from that community. However, as seen in the LA times article earlier this year highlighting the increasing number of undocumented Punjabi workers in the U.S. (1600 were caught and detained in 2010 alone), this is hardly the case. It is imperative for us to stand in solidarity with other communities, especially on issues we have a personal stake in. Otherwise, how can we expect them to support issues that are deeply important to us?

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Sikholars 2012 Abstracts Announced

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Since the inception of Sikholars: Graduate Sikh Conference, we have featured it here on The Langar Hall. The past two years have been huge successes and the third year will prove no different. A terrific agenda of evidence and research-based topics, as well as current thinking and new ideas will be presented by graduate students and professionals in various fields to challenge you and get you thinking.

As always, this year, Sikholars will offer a balance of well-known experts along with new faces and a stronger international representation. Students and professionals will come together from all across the globe and have the opportunity to learn from each other, to interact and form personal and professional relationships and to focus on learning and spreading knowledge.

Everyone is invited to come to CSU East Bay on February 18th & 19th, 2012. For more information: www.sikholars.org

Below the fold, I’ll post the abstracts of this year’s presenters.

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CENSORED: Take Action to Protect Internet Freedom

As you may have noticed, today is a national day of action to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act and the PROTECT IP Act, two bills being decided on in US Congress right now. Tons of sites, including Wikipedia, are on a 24-hour blackout to protest the bills and urge action.

Needless to say, we at The Langar Hall are deeply concerned about this threat to online freedom and encourage our readers to take action and spread the word.

Dasvandh and End of Year Giving

bxp67488.jpgThis season, Americans are spending $465 billion, according to the National Retail Federation and a substantial portion of that is on gifts. Luckily, the final days of the year are a chance to give in a different kind of way and by doing so, gain a benefit – namely, contributions made to a charitable organization by December 31st count as a deduction on your 2011 tax return.

In Sikhi, there is the tradition ofdasvandh – or giving a tenth of your seva, time or profits.The concept of dasvandh was implicit in Guru Nanaks own Gurbani in the line: One who works for what he eats, and gives some of what he has – O Nanak, he knows the Path (SGGS p 1245).

While it’s not clear how much the Sikh community actually participates in this tradition (perhaps we just don’t discuss itpublicly), it’s nevertheless clear that giving is an integral element of our faith. According to the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, the fact that 35 percent of all American giving went to religious organizations in 2010 reflects how closely bound many of us are with our place of worship. In 2011, the United States now ranks the highest in terms of charity in a massive global survey that put the nation in fifth place just last year. According to those surveyed, two out of three Americans said they donated money to charity (65 percent), more than two out of five volunteered their time (43 percent) and roughly three out of four helped a stranger (73 percent).Finally,according to a new study by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University in nearly 90 percent of certain households, women are either the sole decision maker or an equal partner in decisions about charitable giving.

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Sikhi Is Part of the Solution: Ending Gendercide

Gendercide is a well-known problem in India. The BBC and ABC 20/20 have highlighted this issue. The low sex-ratio in Punjab, India shows how the soil, which gave birth to Sikhi is not devoid of this problem. The land on which our Gurus proclaimed the equality of women when others considered her impure has now become the dumping ground for unwanted baby girls. Their pure bodies are thrown onto piles of garbage for dogs to nibble away. Dead fetuses are stuffed into water wells.

A seminal research study conducted by Monica Das Gupta on selective discrimination against female children in Punjab states that Punjabi Sikh women are highly educated and well-treated in Punjab compared to other states. The harsh reality is that a rise in status has not changed the value of women. Women can be loved and cared for, but still under valued. They can be highly educated and treated well, but families want one of these daughters not two. But two sons would be okay. The value of daughters and sons is displayed when couples develop family-building strategies. How many children to have? If we have one daughter or two, will we be content with another daughter? Should we have only one son? Studies show that common answers to these questions are strongly rooted in a distorted value system, which reinforces the secondary status of women and allows for structures to be created to perpetuate this inequity. Thus, value systems and structures produce a circular cycle of mutually reinforcing each other.

The Sikh Gurus gifted us a value system that does not permit this secondary status of women. However, many have chosen not to implement it in their lives. It has even seeped its way into how Sikhi is practiced. Women are not allowed to do all kinds of seva at the Harmandar Sahib and our granthis/ragis kathaa most often highlight how a Sikh woman went to the Guru to request only a son.

If Sikhi is a key element to any solution for gendercide within the Punjabi Sikh community, wouldnt kathaa/sikhyaa in the Gurdwara be the most logical place to start? We do enter the house of our Guru to understand and reinforce our Sikh value system.

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Sikhs doing Seva

ssc.jpgFor many of us school is out and the holidays are upon us. Throughout the season, many Sikhs throughout the world engage in seva to support members of the community in which they live. We expect this year to be no different.

We hope that commenters will use this section to highlight events or drives that may be occurring in their local communities. Here is one such effort by the youth of the Fresno Jakara Movement group.

Part of something larger and hoping to set an example for other communities, the Sikh youth of Fresno are coming together to organize their annual Sikhi, Seva, Cinema event. More information can be found on their facebook page. They are hosting fundraisers for items that will be distributed to those that are currently houseless in the city. The event is completely youth driven and they are calling for other Sikhs to be generous with their time on December 17 or generous with their money to assist others. The national press has highlighted the preponderance of poor in rural central California. We hope other Sikhs become active in their communities, just as these youth are doing.

Surat-Lalkaar 2012 – A New Collaboration

slider4.pngGuest blogged by Mewa Singh.

Earlier this year, I wrote an in-depth post, summarizing the workshops and questions raised at the Jakara Movement’s annual Lalkaar conference. I was hardly alone. Our sisters at Kaurista shared their thoughts, as did a number of individual participants.

So now is something big and exciting. For years a criticism of the Jakara Movement was that it was California-centric. Recently an exciting collaboration opportunity availed itself. Sevadars of the annual Surat Sikh Conference were seeking fresh blood and ideas. The Jakara Movement was seeking an opportunity to begin unveiling its numerous local projects in more venues. Synergies were found and Surat-Lalkaar 2012 was born.

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A taste of Lahir via music and poetry (part 2)

As promised, here is my follow-up to Monday’s post about the Inquilab hip hop workshop in New York.

This past Saturday night brought together hundreds of Sikhs (and others) for the fourth annual Lahir: Move the Movement. I always seemed to have a conflict the last several years, but finally made it out to New Brunswick, New Jersey this year for my first Lahir. I am grateful for it.

Again, I’ll keep my words short as the video below speaks for itself. But a couple of things that were especially noteworthy to me about the experience.

The audience was really multi-generational. It was much more like a typical gurdwara sangat than I had expected, crying babies, hyper adolescents, and plenty of elders included. The energy was positive and empowering, and the high school and college-aged youth, in particular, were fired up.

The performances were extremely diverse and full of raw talent and passion. As you’ll see below, the performances (only a few of which I captured) went far beyond the spoken word and hip hop that I was expecting.

A friend of mine leaned towards me while a pre-pubescent high school student with a patka was rapping passionately about post-9/11 racism and said, “I am so excited about this new generation.” Indeed, I share her sentiment. These young people are indeed moving the movement, and in doing so, in the words of the event’s organizers, perhaps they are also “bringing Sikhi back.”

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Remembering Partition, One Story at a Time

Guest blogged byRanjanpreet Nagra andJaskiran K. Mann

Outreach__Yuba_City_Nagar_Kirtan__Nov_2011.JPGIn February 2011, six months after finishing my Masters in South Asian Studies from University of Michigan, I moved to Berkeley and was still looking for a job and a place to live when I met the founding members of The 1947 Partition Archive, an entirely volunteer-based effort aimed at collecting and preserving the stories of the 1947 Partition of British India. I expressed my interest in conducting interviews as well as helping out however I could, since I was fluent in both Punjabi and Urdu. I also had experience conducting interviews in college and for my Masters thesis. Since that first meeting, I have loved every aspect of my volunteer work with the Archive.

Ive had the good fortune to interview people in English, Urdu and Punjabi, and to travel to places throughout California, as well as Toronto, Canada. Presently, I am traveling through East Punjab, conducting interviews. Ive heard some amazing stories of adversity, fear, violence, and strength.

My first outreach work was that following March, tabling at Hayward Gurdwara on a cold and cloudy day. I enjoyed talking to people and telling them about the project. That was the first time I had to explain – in Punjabi – what we do and its purpose. I had some difficulty translating at first, but since then I have had many opportunities to explain, and become more comfortable doing so as a result.

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A taste of Inquilab via hip hop and poetry (part 1)

As Sundari blogged about a few days ago, we just had an exciting weekend of Sikh youth art and activism in the NY/NJ area. I was lucky enough to sit in on the Sikh Coalition’s “Inquilab: Raising Our Voices” hip hop workshop for a few hours on Saturday and then ride the bus to New Jersey with the youth to attend Lahir 2011: Move the Movement.

I managed to get some video footage of both events, so I will keep my own words to a minimum. Today I am posting a brief montage from the Inquilab workshop, and on Wednesday I’ll post some highlights from Lahir.

I walked into the workshop on Saturday in the basement of South Asian Youth Action in Elmhurst, Queens while the group was in the midst of a writing activity. Many of the young people of diverse backgrounds (mostly South Asian and many Sikh) ended up putting their newly honed writing skills to the stage — a pretty large stage — at Lahir that night. Their pieces were honest, real, accessible and courageous. I was truly inspired. And found myself wondering what my teenage years would have been like had something like this (both the workshop at Lahir) had existed.

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Sikh Youth and Expression: Inquilab and Lahir

322108_10150372143327003_8401147002_8832647_1745978292_o.jpgOn December 2nd and 3rd, Sikh youth will have the opportunity to participate in a special workshop that willallow them to learn the power of expression and how it can be used to create change in their life and communities. Inquilab: Raising our Voices, organized by The Sikh Coalition and Slumgods, will bring together hip-hop artists, Mandeep Sethi and Selena Dhillon, to work with South Asian youth as a way of encouraging their engagement with expression. Through this participation, youth can learn how to effectively use art to inspire positive change within their own communities.

317870_303077699717238_158143770877299_1143375_633730981_n.jpgFollowing the workshop this weekend isLahir – an event thataims to inspire, educate andawakenthe community torebuild the panth andencourage youthto becomeactivists. The concert will provide a much-needed platform for powerful Sikh artists to express themselves throughmusic, art, film, and poetry. Some more information from the organizers:

In past years, Lahir’s central theme focused on 1984 and Punjab. This year, Lahir 2011 will be “Bringing Sikhi Back”. Ten years post 9/11, it’s time to stand up as individuals and as a community to begin to shape the next ten years. Join us for an evening of spoken work, music, poetry and the arts to reflect and reenergize to ensure a future of chardi kala! This year, all proceeds will go to the Saanjh Sikh Youth Scholarship.We need strong voices in our community and we need diverse voices to help us educate others and ourselves about the historical, political, social, and economic issues that affect our community. Therefore, this event is not just for us, but for our future.

Inquilab will take place on December 2nd and 3rd 2011 at South Asian Youth Action Inc | 5405 Seabury St,Elmhurst, NY.

Lahir will take place on December 3rd 2011 atRutgers University| Douglass Campus | Trayes Hall, 100 George Street,New Brunswick,NJ.

We encourage you to learn more about these events, and if you are in the area – please attend and let us know how it goes!

Khalra Center for Human Rights Defenders

This week, The Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) and the World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) announced the inauguration of the “Khalra Centre for Human Rights Defenders” in New Delhi, in honor of Jaswant Singh Khalra. The announcement was made during The National Consultation on Human Rights Defenders conference,which brought together human rights activists from across the country. The Center has been established to serve as a legal resource for human rights defenders who find themselves in danger or who are attacked. The center will also undertake research into human rights issues.

The inaugural address of the conference was delivered by Paramjeet Kaur Khalra, widow of S. Khalra. Mrs. Khalra spoke about her husbands work and the way in which the human rights abuses that took place in Punjab have not been addressed by successive state and federal governments. WSOs legal counsel Balpreet Singh addressed the gathering and expressed solidarity with Indian human rights defenders. He said that because the abuses which took place in Punjab such as torture and disappearances were not addressed, the same pattern has perpetuated itself in other areas such as Kashmir and Nagaland and impunity has become systemic there. [link]

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Sikhs Occupying Wall Street

In October I wrote a piece about Sikhs and the Occupy Wall Street movement, stating, “I havent seen one other person who was easily identifiable as a Sikh. Im sure other Sikhs have come through at different times, but to be sure, this is no significant Sikh presence.” I am glad to report that this has most definitely changed. I see Singhs and Kaurs at Zuccotti Park aka Liberty Square almost every time I am down there (which is quite often!). In fact, one day last week, there were six turbans in Liberty Square at one time. Needless to say, I was pretty excited, and proud.

"Occupy Yoga" at Liberty Square

In my last post, I made an argument for why Sikhs should be supportive of the Occupy Together movements from a Sikh philosophical perspective, discussing the Khalsa revolution’s “plebian mission,” as Jagjit Singh calls it, and our Gurus’ calls to stand with the poor, the “lowest of the low.”

This time I want to focus less on the ideology and more on the process of Occupy Wall Street, on what is actually happening there.

The primary decision-making body at Occupy Wall Street (and most of the other Occupy movements) is the General Assembly, which is a large gathering run by consensus process (technically modified consensus where a 9/10 vote is needed to pass a proposal if consensus cannot be reached). In NYC’s Occupy Wall Street movement, we have just adopted an additional consensus-based model for decision-making called a spokes council, where each working group or caucus will have a “spoke” in the large wheel of the movement, and each group will have to rotate its spoke for each meeting to ensure collectivity and prevent hierarchies.

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Article of Faith: A Portrait of a Sikh-American Activist

When I met Sonny, I felt that his story demanded to be told. I was moved by his willingness to share difficult stories about how racism, xenophobia, and islamophobia impact him in a very daily and intimate ways. But more importantly, I was inspired by how he had turned this hardship into a motivation to fight for social justice for all people. I was welcomed with incredible warmth, and inspired by the Sikh traditions seeing the divine in all people, and fighting for equality.-Christina Antonakos-Wallace, Producer and Director of Article of Faith

To continue a discussion about bullying and bias-based harassment that seems to be appearing both here on The Langar Hall and also within langar halls across the nation, we wanted to take the time to highlight an inspiring documentary which discusses this very issue. Article of Faith is a short film, directed and produced by Christina Antonakos-Wallace, portraying one Sikh activist, Sonny Singh, who organizes New York City Sikh youth to combat harassment in their schools. Sonny shares his own, very personal experience with bullying recognizing how incredibly important it is for us to openly dialogue about these issues, so that other children who are experience similar challenges do not feel like they are alone.

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Challenge the Darkness for the [Unheard] Voices of Punjab

03.jpgThis week, Ensaaf launched their Challenge the Darkness campaign. The aim of the campaign is to remember human rights activist Jaswant Singh Khalraand bring awareness to the mass state crimes committed in Punjab, India from 1984 to 1995. At the end of the month, Ensaaf and the Khalra Mission Organisation will participate in a series of events to remember Khalra’s abduction, torture, illegal detention, and murder. We’ll update you on these events as information comes our way.

Post-1984 memory is often forgotten and yet hundreds of thousands of human rights abuses have been documented in Punjab during the 1984 to 1995 period when the Indian government ordered counterinsurgency operations that led to the detention, torture and enforced disappearance of thousands of Sikhs. Police abducted young Sikh men on suspicion that they were involved in militancy, often in the presence of witnesses, yet later denied having them in custody. See the Human Rights Watch Photo Essay here.

Director General of Police KPS Gill expanded upon a system of rewards and incentives for police to capture and kill militants, leading to a dramatic increase in disappearances and extrajudicial executions. By the end of the “Decade of Disappearances” in 1995, security forces had disappeared or killed tens of thousands of Sikhs. In order to cover up their crimes, Punjab security forces illegally detained, tortured, and killed human rights defenders such as Jaswant Singh Khalra and Sukhwinder Singh Bhatti, as well as secretly cremated thousands of victims of extrajudicial executions. [via Ensaaf]

In September 1995, Punjab police abducted human rights defender Jaswant Singh Khalra from his home for his discovery of thousands of illegal killings and secret cremations by the Punjab police. At the end of this post, you can view two videos depicting the events leading up to and of his disappearance.

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This is what profiling looks like

It’s been quite a day here in New York City. I woke up at 3am this morning and arrived at Liberty Square at 4:00 to protect the Occupy Wall Street encampment from eviction. Sleep deprived but fired up, I joined with thousands of others who showed up to stand in solidarity with this growing movement for economic justice. Before I left my house, I wrote the phone number for the National Lawyers Guild on my arm with a Sharpie, preparing for a possible arrest.

I was planning on participating in civil disobedience this morning. I expected to sit down and lock arms with hundreds of others, forming a barrier around Liberty Square to keep park owner Brookfield’s sanitation crew, and the police, from entering the park and in effect, ending the occupation (occupation in this case being a good thing, for a change).

As many of you have probably heard by now, Brookfield Properties postponed its cleaning of the park at the last minute, and the Mayor instructed the NYPD to hold off in its plans to remove the protesters. We were thrilled, elated, victorious this morning. We held the park, and the occupation of Wall Street continues.

Several hours later after a long nap at home in Brooklyn, I rode my bike back into downtown Manhattan to meet up near the World Trade Center site with some family visiting from India (a few short blocks from where my day began at 4am). My family was running late, so I sat on the corner we decided to meet on, leaning against a fence. After about five minutes, two men wearing hoodies and jeans approached me. One of them unzipped his hoodie, revealing an NYPD badge.

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Quiet and Loud Revolutions, Street Theater, and the Death of Sardar Gursharan Singh
Sardar Gursharan Singh

Gursharan Singh at his home Guru Khalsa Niwas in Putli Ghar Amritsar. 1986 (photo by Amarjit Chandan)

During my last year of graduate school, we were reading Lyrical Ballads, for a seminar on British Poetry written by Wordsworth and Coleridge. This collection published in 1798 challenged the basic principles of English thought at the time. Instead of using obscure and complicated vocabulary in their poetry to show how clever and refined they were, these writers used simple, everyday language; instead of resisting the use of sentimental language to explore the feelings of the human heart, they fully embraced it during a time when it was immensely unpopular to do so. Wordsworth famously defined poetry as a spontaneous flow of powerful feelings.

When we think of revolutionaries, we think of people like Malcolm X, Bhagat Singh, and Che Guevara, who advocated the use of violence to achieve justice. We tend to forget that three hundred years before Wordsworth, Guru Nanak Dev Ji was embarking on a much more important mission using the idea of making his message accessible to all, but on a much more profound and deeper level. We forget that all of the Sikh Gurus were revolutionaries, working towards the same goal, but using very different methods. Some refused to use violence, even under dire circumstances, while others believed the use of violence as a last resort was necessary to obtain justice for the downtrodden. You would think that these would be competing philosophies, but they merged as one, and form the core of Sikh philosophy: Sant-Sipahi (Saint-Soldier).

Many believe that Quebec’s “Quiet Revolution” that involved many reforms wasn’t really a revolution because violence or protests weren’t heavily involved. Interestingly enough, Che Guevara started first with reforms before overthrowing the U.S. backed Batista regime. The Khalistan Movement had its roots in non-violence (contrary to what the media tells us), as did many great revolutions. The Southall and Brixton riots are popularized as “the” civil rights movement in England, but the name of Paul Stephenson, who initiated a 60 day boycott of a racist bus company in England that refused employment to Blacks and Asians, is rarely mentioned. And we’ve all heard about how Gandhi singlehandedly made the British “quit” India through his non-violent philosophy. No mention of the much needed violent struggle and sacrifices of the Ghadarites or people like Bhagat Singh.

One such quiet revolutionary who made plenty of noise in his fifty years in theater died last week, on September 27, 2011, at the age of 82. Sardar Gursharan Singh was affectionately called Bhaaji, Baba Bohr, and even Bhai Manna Singh after a character he created. Although classically trained in theater, he decided to dedicate his life to bringing street theater thada in Punjabi, meaning platform to the masses, specifically in Punjab, performing at villages where he thought the real India resided.

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