TOI: Christmas will heal Ludhiana’s Sikhs

In predominantly Christian countries like the U.S., Christmas has become a cultural holiday that even non-Christians celebrate to some extent. Most of us enjoy, at least, taking advantage of days off, eating lots of cakes and pies, and spending time with family and friends.

The Times of India thinks Christmas can do even more than give us a day off work… like heal the wounds caused by police brutality in Ludhiana against Sikh protesters of Ashutosh and the Divya Jyoti Jagriti Sansthan. Of course, TOI also mischaracterizes the conflict at issue as one between migrants who now feel left out of Ludhiana’s social fabric and Sikhs.

Christian organizations are planning to celebrate the festival by reaching out to the migrants, who have been feeling left out after the riots they were involved in and to Sikh protesters, who got hurt in police action.

Christmas celebrations have the twin themes of peace and prosperity. We will be going to the areas like Dhandari, which have many migrants staying there and witnessed a lot of clashes during the riots, said Albert Dua, president of Christian United Federation. [TOI]

TOI journalists may not have much of a grip on reality, and are probably overestimating what one holiday and a few days off can do. Still, I do hope you enjoy the holidays, however you spend them. Happy holidays!

On a remotely related note, if Santa were Punjabi….

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A Crime a Community Would Prefer to Ignore

“There is this very distinctive and self-incriminating silence within communities that have a history of ‘honour’ killings,” he says. “The so-called community leaders, the influential religious groups and the local language newspapers remain deafeningly silent when these killings happen. But that silence makes them just as guilty as the people who kill in the name of honour.” [link]

21killing1_279355s.jpgStatements like the one above, has made Jagdeesh Singh (pictured) a controversial figure within the suburbs of west London -home to many of Britain’s 400,000-plus Sikhs. While many young Sikhs consider Jagdeesh a role-model for the way he stands up and speaks against parochial traditions, many older and more conservative members of the community believe he is a troublemaker “who needlessly provokes controversy by shining an unwelcome spotlight on things that should not be aired in public”.

Eleven years ago, on 15 December 1998, Surjit Athwal disappeared during a holiday in the Indian Punjab with her in-laws. The 27-year-old customs officer at Heathrow had been desperately unhappy in her 10-year marriage to her husband Sukdave and had found love in the arms of another man.After years of abuse, she finally plucked up enough courage to seek a divorce but was persuaded by her domineering mother-in-law Bachan to travel to the Punjab for a family wedding in what she thought would be a final act of reconciliation. Instead, she was lured to her death. It took Jagdeesh Singh years to persuade the police to investigate his sister’s disappearance properly, and many more years of painstaking detective work to encourage one of the Athwal family members to testify. Finally, nine years after Surjit disappeared, Sukdave and Bachan Athwal were found guilty of ordering her death at a family council meeting. [link]

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One Step Forward

dixie_gurdwara.jpgWe often lament the state of our gurdwaras but we should just as often stop and think about how much we have accomplished.

Tonight I had a chance to visit the famous Ontario Khalsa Darbar (aka Dixie) Gurdwara in Mississauga/Brampton, Ontario.On a frigid Friday night in December, the place was packed with sangat and programs.

In one hall, a Hindu Panjabi family was having a bhog for a deceased elder. On the other side agurmat sangeet teacher was having a kirtan for her daughter with beautiful kirtan being sung in raag by her many young students. In the adjoining halls, the United Sikhs organization was having their 2nd Annual Global Sikh Civil Rights Conference with tonight’s opening session focusing exclusivelywomen’sissues. Upstairs, Harmeet Singh was holding his usual Friday session with hundreds of youth and their families. And to top this off Bhai (no longer Sant) Niranjan Singh Jawadi Kalan was performing kirtan to a packed hall in the main hall. Almost every program was in English or being translated into English on the screens.

So while we can (and should) continue to critically analyze the hardware (physical structures) and software (programs/initiatives) of our Sikh institutions, we need to simultaneously recognize when progress is being made.

Growing up I would have killed to have been a part of each of those individual programs happening at Dixie Gurdwara tonight (well maybe not the bhog) and today all of those functions were happening on the same day under the same roof.

On many days, it seems like we’re moving two steps back, but tonight I saw at least one step forward.

12/19/09


Sikh Community Wins Chase Bank’s Competition

fateh.jpgThank you to all TLH readers that voted and participated in the Chase Bank Community Giving competition. Over 500,000 organizations competed and 2 organizations from our community find themselves with $25,000 to further the community and a chance for advancement in the next round the Jakara Movement and Sikhcess.

So heres the deal. What would be your 1 million dollar dream for the community? Send some suggestions here. A plan is on the way, but we need community feedback first.


Comprehensive Immigration Reform In United States

Healthcare reform, immigration reform, banking reform, and the list goes on. This past week a diverse coalition lead by Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill) are laying down the marker in 2009 for comprehensive immigration reform by introducing the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for Americas Security and Prosperity (CIR-ASAP) Act of 2009. This bill has not been passed yet; it has only been introduced.

In a country built on the hard work of immigrants, it is imperative that this group be protected in the United States. Recently, there was a report that 1/3 of Los Angeles’s economy is dependent on immigrants. Also, immigrants are known for their entrepreneurship in small businesses. Tuyet Le, Executive Director of the Asian American Institute, says: Family-based immigration has long created the foundation for strong, entrepreneurial communities across the country. This bill will reunite immigrants with their loved ones and will also provide some increases in high-skill temporary worker visas.”

This legislation focuses on undocumented students, family reunification, and worker visas-issues affecting our Punjabi Sikh community in America. For example, CIR-ASAP would allow undocumented high school graduates who came to the United States before the age of 16 to attain legal residency. This residency would open up educational and financial aid opportunities. This portion of the bill is modeled after the DREAM Act of 2009, except that it shortens the six-year wait period to three years and removes fines.

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Exclusive New Haagen-Dazs in Delhi: Sorry, No Indians Allowed

Guest blogged by justasikh

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Every so often you come across news that your mind struggles to believe is real.

Is this real? A joke? Either way, the reaction is likely as interesting as the cause.

Haagen Dazs, a prolific producer of ice cream the world over approves a new location to be opened in Delhi, India. So far, so good.

Theres an emerging middle class lusting after one another’s things like an episode of the 1960s Mad Men. Lots of international travelers. Connaught Place. Lally Singh and his lovely motorcycle shop.

Now, we have Haagen-Dazs. Its the unevolved Kulfi, evolved. Made how it should be, I guess?

Look what is in Delhi!

Gives new meaning to having a case of the dreadful and queasy Delhi-belly.

So, lets see this train wreck coming from a mile away. Allow the self-annointed linguist in me to protest.

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Gurdwaras Join Efforts to Address Alcohol Abuse

GlassyJunction1.JPGA charity based in Southall, called the Drug and Alcohol Action Programme (DAAP) will be joining forces with local Gurdwaras to address high rates of alcohol abuse taking place at Asian, particularly Punjabi Sikh, weddings. Perminder Dhillon, CEO of the charity states that “it is no longer acceptable to ignore the dangerous levels of alcohol drinking at these events.”

There is a mistaken view in Asian communities that religious and cultural backgrounds act as a barrier to the kind of drunken scenes so often seen in so many town centres all over the country. She said: “Many parents feel pressurized to provide a huge quantity of alcohol at weddings even if they themselves are non-drinkers”. [link]

She goes onto say that there are huge expectations on families to provide alcohol at weddings – often demanded by the groom’s side. This problem has become so extensive now that it is likened to demanding dowry and by partaking, “we end up supporting users with alcohol-related health problems during the binge-drinking period”.

Research published in the British Medical Journal suggests that men of South Asian origin in Britain are four times more likely to die of alcohol-related liver problems than other ethnic groups. Eighty percent of those South Asians who are vulnerable to alcohol-related mortality are Sikhs.

The charity has stated that the strategy they will use to combat this issue is simple – they will “name and shame” those involved and publicly condemn individuals on their website.

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Vishavjit Singh, Sikh Toons, and the Manhattan Gallery

vishavjit.jpgVishavjit Singhs work hardly needs any introduction in Sikhdom. Since 2003, his Sikhtoons have become ubiquitous on those webpages where Sikhs are found. It was the events of 9/11 that first pushed this Sikh activist and 1984 survivor to tell his story and the stories and thoughts of so many more to pick up his pen.

From politics to 1984, from sports to Hindutva, few topics are beyond Vishavjits interest. This past fall, as so many Sikhs sought to remember 1984 in their own ways, Vishavjit Singh had a gallery display his artwork.

The New Century Artists is a nonprofit gallery caters to underrepresented communities and is among 15 galleries housed in a building located in Chelsea. From November 17th to November 28th they played host to the exhibit When A Big Tree Falls.

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Sexual Trafficking In India

Yesterday was International Human Rights Day where people across the globe were asked to recognize and take action against the many forms of human rights abuses that take place in the world. A powerful talk on TED by Sunitha Krishnan brought insight into the grueling ground realities of sex trafficking in India- a human rights abuse that affects millions of women, their children and families. Krishnan addresses both what it looks like and the difficulties of rescuing women and their children from this $10 million industry. Krishnan says, “It’s normal to be raped by 100 men a day and abnormal to live in a shelter. It’s abnormal to get rehabilitated. It’s in that context that I rescue children. I rescue children as young as 3 years and women as old as 40 years.” Krishnan has rescued 3,200 girls.

She highlights how this modern day slavery and third largest form of organized crime affects those of all backgrounds-from middle class IS officers’ daughters to street children. You can watch the talk here (disclaimer: the talk contains graphic images and descriptions of violence).

Her work on commercial sexual exploitation is powerful because of her courageous attitude towards rescuing victims. Krishnan’s tenacious spirit coupled with her collaborative approach of bringing government, NGOs, and corporations together to fight sexual trafficking is unique. While listening to her talk, I found her organization’s approach to moving women in the commercial sex trade industry into new jobs particularly unique. An essential part of these women’s rehabilitation is to gain a new economic skill set that utilizes the power from their pain while harnessing their potential. Thus, girls are being trained as professional welders, carpenters, and mansons instead of working on computers. Often providing technical skill sets in information technology is seen as powerful form of empowerment, particularly in a place like Hyderabad-the technological capital of the world. So, “why welding and not computers?” Krishan says,

“They had an immense amount of courage without any “pardahs” inside of their bodies. They could fight in a male dominated world very easily and not feel shy about it. [By working] as carpenters and masons … as security guards and cab drivers … they are gaining confidence, restoring dignity, and building hope. “

These women excel in their careers and works for large corporations. However, the biggest obstacle they continue to face is not economics but the lack of empathy from civil society. The stigma that these women live with even after moving out of the sexual trade industry forces them to suffer in silence. Krishnan says that civil society has “Ph.D.s on victimizing a victim”. She requests that within our limited worlds, civil society needs to open their minds and hearts to accept these victims of sexual trafficking as human beings. It is an essential part of their rehabilitation as is gaining an economic skill set.


Greenhouse gases are bad for our health

It’s official. Greenhouse gases (the ones that trap heat in the atmosphere) are bad for our health! You may havEPA.jpge known that for some time now, but the EPA just announced it on Monday so now, it’s official.

The US Environmental Protection Agency today announced its final determination that greenhouse gases are a hazard to human health a widely expected move whose less-than-expected timing came on the first day of climate talks in Copenhagen, Denmark. [CSM]

Word on the street is that if Congress doesn’t do something to pass a climate bill, then the EPA will start regulating emissions on it’s own. Renegade agency!

… it is also seen as the stick part of a carrot-and-stick approach that many observers say the Obama administration is using to nudge Congress toward new climate-energy legislation. If the Senate where the bill is bogged down wont act, then its clear the EPA now stands ready to regulate carbon dioxide emissions, analysts say. [CSM]

Climate talks have begun in Copenhagen this week and are expected to not result in a climate deal. What actually will be achieved remains to be seen. Will it even be worth the carbon footprint created to bring all of the environmentalists to Copenhagen? Let’s hope.

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Humble the Poet Says GET OUT AND VOTE for Sikh Orgs YouTube Preview Image

3 clicks could equal $25,000

Why would you not?

Vote for ALL Sikh organizations.

Stop putting it off, competition ends THIS THURSDAY!


“We’ll Get You Married in Punjab”

A few weeks ago we posted about the issue of women in Punjab marrying men from outside of Punjab, to only be deserted by them after marriage. The post created a colorful (although often one-sided) dialogue about the issue. While our response in the diaspora is significant and can often help initiate conversations and perhaps also change, it is the commentary by the community in Punjab which is hugely important. The video below is one such response to the issue of seeking grooms from outside of Punjab. Is the value placed on sending young Punjabi women to the UK, US and Canada higher than ensuring their happiness?

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UPDATES – Murdered Sikhs – The Day After Ashutosh and Ludhiana

Original post can be seen here.

News continues to filter in and the dust settles. While the violence of yesterday has passed the ramifications are still to be seen.

The death toll continues to climb and on Sunday the Punjab Police called curfew throughout Ludhiana.

Today (Monday) a bandh is being called on by various Sikh organizations.

Below is a newscast describing the incidents and the police charge without warning. Reminds one of General Dyer in Amritsar 1919.

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Government and Police Protect Ashutosh, Sikh Killed

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Ludhiana remains tense. Currently it is under curfew.

The Punjab Police has never been a force for the people. It neither serves nor protects, unless you are part of the Indian establishment, government, or have been provided special sanction by the government. Today was no different. The henchman acted on the orders of the mobsters.

goli.jpgToday one Sikh was killed and at least a dozen others wounded when various Panthic organizations called for a protest against Ashutosh and his Noormahalias, sometimes labeled under the acronym DJJS for the organizations full name – Divya Jyoti Jagriti Sansthan.

Panthic groups have had clashes with the group in the past for the vitriol leveled against members of the Khalsa and Ashutoshs own claim to be an incarnation of the Sikh Gurus.

Tweeters from Ludhiana can be followed here and tell of the latest violence, road closures, and situation. One of particular interest can be read here.

Parkash Badal seems to have ordered the police to open fire on the crowds as can be seen in the latest pictures. Again cult leaders are protected, while the people are fired upon.

Punjab watches and waits.

For pictures of the scene, see here. For news and updates, see here, here, and here.

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JUST UPLOADED FOOTAGE – Viewer Caution for Police Brutality and a Death

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Ambivalent About Amnesty

Blogged by: Amol Singh

ai.gifIn events and programs highlighted at remembering 25 years since 1984, the most vocal criticisms of these remembrances revolve around a desire to forgive or forget. For many it seems regressive and contradictory to highlight these tragedies while India hoists its Sikh Prime Minister to the worlds stage. On November 18, Amnesty International released a public letter to President Barack Obama, to mark Manmohan Singh’s impending visit to Washington, in which they highlighted grievances of not only Sikhs against the Indian Center, but also those of Muslims, the victims of the Union Carbide tragedy in Bhopal, the entire Northeast, Kashmir, Dalits, Adivasis, Chattisgarh, Manipur, etc.

Even though India is the world’s largest democracy, serious and disturbing human rights abuses are ongoing, including rape, extrajudicial executions, deaths in police and military custody, torture, cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, arbitrary arrests, and dowry deaths. The Government of India not only fails to prevent these abuses, but also shelters members of security forces from facing justice. People living in several of the northeastern states of India and in Kashmir, religious minorities, those belonging to the lowest social order called “Dalits”, and indigenous communities called “adivasis” face the brunt of these abuses. Other socially and economically marginalized groups including women face discrimination at the hands of the police and criminal justice system. Although laws were passed to address some of these human rights abuses, serious concerns remain about the implementation of such laws.

Some of the specific contexts in which mass abuses were or continue to be committed include:

Mass killings of Sikhs: Over three thousand Sikhs were massacred when the governing Congress Party incited mob violence targeting Sikh civilians in reaction to the 1984 assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. Scores of women were gang raped and some were burnt alive. After two decades, a judicial commission concluded that members of the governing Congress Party were involved. Twenty five years have passed since the massacre, but only a few have been brought to justice for this mass killing. [Read Full Text]

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Begin the New Year By Reflecting On Sikhi

In the coming New Year spend January attending two Sikh events-one in Canada and the other in the United States. The Toronto Sikh Retreat and Surat Sikh Conference will be taking place during the first half of January 2010.

Toronto Sikh Retreat is a 4-day retreat in the outskirts of Toronto in a winter wonderland. It will take place from January 7-10, 2010. Sikhs of various ages from around the world come together to learn, discuss 15F.jpgand reflect on various Sikh issues to better understand ourselves and the world around us from a Sikh perspective. With a limit of 65 spaces, the retreat provides an intimate environment for intellectual and spiritual growth through small group discussions, lectures, kirtan diwans, and creative projects (in-door and outdoor). Visit the retreat website and watch the video for more information. Registration is NOW open- take advantage of the early bird special!

The Surat Sikh Conference will bring together 180 Sikh professionals in New York City & New Jersey during Martin Luther Kingn2211948217_9438.jpg Jr. long weekend (January 15-18, 2010) to share, learn, and reflect on the theme “A Journey Through Ardas”. Through guest speakers, workshops, and a nonprofit poster session, the goal of the conference is to provide a space of introspection for participants on how to view the world through a Sikh perspective. Participants attend kirtan diwans, have intellectual conversations and enjoy outdoor activities. Visit the conference website and watch the video under the “About” section for more information. Registration will open on December 5th!


Unraveling Riddles

Guest blogged by sikhpulse

Before a beaded string of musical melodies lies a riddle. This riddle, composed by Guru Arjan Dev Ji, provides much clarity and purpose when revealed.

Mundavani, one of the final hymns of the Guru Granth Sahib, is sometimes translated as riddle. It precedes Raagmala, the beaded string of musical melodies. Mundavani is also described as Guru Jis closing seal of the Guru Granth Sahib as this composition served to authenticate and preclude any apocryphal additions to the bani. Like most of you, I have been in touch with these six lines since I was a wee little Sikh. And yet for years I only listened. It was only recently that the riddle of light shined within my mind, heart and spirit.

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Mundavani, Fifth Mehl:
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Upon this Plate, three things have been placed: Truth, Contentment and Contemplation.
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The Ambrosial Nectar of the Naam, the Name of our Lord and Master, has been placed upon it as well; it is the Support of all.
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One who eats it and enjoys it shall be saved.
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This thing can never be forsaken; keep this always and forever in your mind.
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The dark world-ocean is crossed over, by grasping the Feet of the Lord; O Nanak, it is all the extension of God. ||1||

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The Sikh Slate and the Return of Billa!

Recent coverage on The Langar Hall led us to celebrate the victory in Surrey of the YOUTH SLATE. Now here in the United States we have the formation of the SIKH SLATE.

8 Sikh organizations (Ensaaf, the Jakara Movement, SALDEF, Sikhcess, Sikh Research Institute, Surat Sikh Conference, The Sikh Coalition, and United Sikhs) have teamed up and are calling on all Sikhs to vote for the slate on Facebook.

Just a few clicks could gain $200,000 for our community through the Chase Bank Community Giving.

CLICK HERE to vote and for links to all the Sikh organizations.

Now enjoy the Return of Billa in Part Deux and most importantly follow his advice – VOTE NOW!

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Make sure you join the SIKH SLATE Fan Page on Facebook.

Please circulate widely to your family/friends (Sikhs and non-Sikhs)!


Rocket Singh

I normally only watch Bollywood, if ever, to laugh. At the acting, the ridiculous stereotypes, the loony drama.

Though when the bad acting, ridiculous stereotypes, and loony drama are played out by Sikh characters, it’s a little depressing.

A lot of people would probably say that the quality of films coming out of Bollywood is improving. And that might be true if you’re talking about cinematography, but when it comes to depth in a plot, I haven’t seen any signs of improvement. But maybe Bollywood will pleasantly surprise its critics with Rocket Singh?

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Find an Urge to Help on World AIDS Day

world_aids_day.jpgDecember 1st is World AIDS Day. Each year on this day we take the time to consider the impact HIV and AIDS has had on people around the globe. This year’s focus is on Universal Access and Human Rights. For as long as I can remember, the conversation has focused on the growing number of infections and deaths associated with AIDS. This year, however, the United Nations reports a notable decrease in HIV infections in some of the hardest hit areas of the world. It is clear, then, that the enormous amount of effort by HIV treatment and prevention programs have helped to provide education to raise awareness.

For three decades the world has been living with and responding to AIDS. Our response has often been too late or too little – and often both. But it has also often been unprecedented, groundbreaking and unpredictable. Activists and researchers have found common ground to work side by side to beat this disease. Together, they’ve developed new ways of conducting research and new ways of delivering healthcare in response to the AIDS pandemic. They’ve learned unexpected lessons and developed strategies that work against HIV and against other diseases. They’ve revolutionized public health. [link]

A recent NYTimes article discusses how humans may be born with an urge to help, and it makes me consider how very important this attribute is. Our communities rely so heavily on the help of each other – something we often take for granted. If humans are born with an urge to help, then Sikhi provides us with a strong foundation to make this happen. It is up to each and every one of us to seek out those opportunities. While World AIDS Day is a way to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS, it is also a reminder of the potential we each have to make a change. In Guru Nanak Dev Jis words,

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In the midst of this world, do seva.


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