A Sikh’s Rights

Lately there has been numerous stories affecting Sikhs around the globe, and an interesting number of them concern our innate rights as Sikhs. Sarika Singh, a 14 year-old Sikh girl living in Wales, was excluded from her school for wearing a Kara. Last November a legal fight began for Sarika to be allowed back into her school, whom say she was “legally” dismissed due to violating their policy of “No Jewelry” to ensure equality for students. The school’s governing committee have yet to research the importance of the Kara  and appreciate the significance it holds for Sikhs. Sarika has now filed her case in a High Court. 

Another ongoing issue concerns the French law passed which bans students from wearing “religious headgear” in schools.  A great number of students have been expelled from class for not abiding with this ban, which in fact means Sikhs cannot wear turbans and Muslims cannot wear headscarves.(The Sikh schoolboys lost their appeal in a French court). I felt great disappointment and anger when this was passed in France, and I thought where are the rights of these individuals as Citizens of this country? Then I remind myself how Sikhs in the U.S. must have felt when the TSA was allowing the searches of their Turbans in public. Thankfully with the perseverance of the Sikh community, and organizations like Sikh Coalition, SALDEF, and United Sikhs, we were able to “educate” people and facilitate an addendum to their policy.  In 1969 Sohan Singh Jolly, a 66 year-old Sikh man living in the U.K., won a fight to wear his Turban on duty as a busman. I am amazed that we are still fighting for our rights as Sikhs, and yet we feel we have come such a long way.  Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been urged to bring up the issue of this ban with French President Sarkozy, when he visits India later this month. Sikhs held a peace march to protest against the French turban ban earlier this week in New Delhi. (Now with India being tagged as one of the emerging economic powers of the world, maybe Sarkozy will feel the need to make relations better with the Indian community, like Gordon Brown did earlier this week).

Tejinder Singh Sidhu was denied entry into a Calgary court earlier this week due to wearing a Kirpan. He had been summoned by the court to testify as a witness, and was not allowed to fufill his civic duty and testify.  Our rights as Sikhs to freely practice our faith are continuously being violated. I am thankful that we have a great number of Sikh organizations that work incredibly hard to maintain and fight for our rights every day. But something is wrong in the world today where we are allowing such laws to be passed that discriminate, and are unjustified.

Maybe we fight more passionately for our rights because Sikhi instills values in us like equality amongst all people, respect and live by positive ideals, and fight for justice and fairness for all? 

Between Martin and Malcolm

Today across the country, many Americans, but by no means all, will come together to celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr. (true, others will just enjoy the day off). Many Sikhs, undoubtedly, will attend interfaith functions, make promises for more interfaith functions, and never talk to those people again until next year’s MLK’s holiday. martin.jpgOn the other hand, Indians will pat themselves on the back as the media will use MLK to link it with the life of Gandhi, though as a Sikh the Gandhi hagiography as well as the movie’s portrayal proved hollow many years ago.

However, in critically reflecting on Martin, I cannot help but think of Malcolm. Maybe the era of my youth coincided with “X” hats or the powerful performance by Denzel Washington in Spike Lee’s movie, but the place of Malcolm for me has always been equal if not higher to that of Malcolm Martin. Traditional history and mainstream media takes a ‘freeze’ shot of the two without looking at both men’s changing lives and worldviews, making them polar opposites. While in someway I am going to continue with this simplification for the purpose of this blog entry, the reality should not be forgotten. I merely wish to make a comment for other activists to reflect upon.

Revolution or evolution? Maybe they shouldn’t be posed as choices, but rather as a relationship. Most movements begin by those that call for the replacement with the old with something fresh and new. However, most movements succeed (but not all) when a more conciliatory tone makes change more palatable, or possibly even inevitable.

Revolution or evolution? The problem with this approach often comes when I see that two groups that have the same general beliefs will fight each other like the worst of enemies, despite their general agreement. Freud calls this the narcissism of minor differences. It seems to plague many activists.

Revolution of evolution? The way out, I think, is to recognize who you are. Know thyself. Are you taking an evolutionary or revolutionary stand (I HATE the terms moderate and extremist)? Recognize the value in those that may be fighting the same fight, but taking a different path.

Just a thought and reflection. Maybe even a reminder for myself. Other thoughts?

Baby Boys and their BMWs

The news of the tiger attack in the San Francisco Zoo made national headlines. A few days later it was revealed that two of the three people attacked came from a Sikh background. bmw_1.jpgPaul, 19, and Kulbir, 24, Dhaliwal were hospitalized but recovered from the attack, unlike their friend Carlos Sousa Jr. Further evidence has come to light suggesting that the three boys had provoked the tiger. All three seem to have had high levels of alcohol and marijuana in their systems.

However, it seems that this incident was not Paul and Kulbir’s first panga. It seems that they have been arrested for public intoxication in the past. At the time of the tiger attack, Paul was on felony probation after pleading no contest to reckless driving, driving under the influence, resisting an officer, and providing a false name.

However, while reading the latest updates, something caught my attention.

Police found a small amount of marijuana in Kulbir Dhaliwal’s 2002 BMW, which the victims rode to the zoo, as well as a partially filled bottle of vodka, according to court documents.

How did I know they drove a BMW? I am not going to further indict the Dhaliwal brothers. They are going to have enough problems of their own as I am quite convinced their original story of not harassing the tiger will soon fall apart. But this article is really about the majority of the male youth in our community.

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Lohiri Celebration: Girls and Boys?

Recently I attended a Lohiri Party celebrating the birth of a baby boy. Complete with bhangra, ghidda, food in the garage, a fire in the backyard, peanuts, rarroya, ladies in the family room, and the Babujis in the living room. While there I had a conversation with the new bride in the family about Lohiri. Our family friend’s son had married a Latina and this was her first Lohiri. She told me that the dancing had started hours ago and that her husband’s female relatives had pushed her into the middle of the ghidda circle because then “ju can have a boy too if ju dance in the middle during Lohiri”, while eyeing her stomach. They just got married a few months ago! She then went on to say that she asked her husband if they could have a Lohiri if they have a baby girl in the future … he said “I don’t know … we usually only celebrate it for boys”. She seemed to have this look of disappointment in her eyes, while smiling when she said “well we are going to change that one”. I responded that they should definitely celebrate Lohiri if they have a baby girl and give out laados too! She said, “Yeap … I am changing this tradition”! I began to wonder if there were similar conversations taking place at other Lohiri parties.

Did anyone recently attend a Lohiri Party for a baby girl or a girl’s marriage this year? What are your thoughts after attending any type of Lohiri celebration this season!

Insaaf Zindabad

Although this article is over 3 months old, I still thought it was necessary. While the press has all but forgotten Burma, the struggle still continues. In the aftermath of the devastating brutality unleashed by the junta, I found a new hero.

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Surinder Singh Karkar AKA U Pancha (The Punjabi) seemed to be out of place in the marches. In a sea of monks with shaved heads and maroon robes, we saw one sardar with a full beard and purple turban. His bravery and his willingness to fight for justice for his fellow Burmese people are awe-inspiring:

“I took up the protest again because prices were rising and people were starving around me. I was not at all frightened. I participated in the forefront, I was prepared to die,” he said.

The beginning of the video suggests that he had “witnessed the horrors of the Saffron Revolution firsthand.” I am not sure if this means that he was in India during 1984 and witnessed that violence as well. If any commenters can find any information on this, I would be interested to find out.

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The Spirit of Langar

After attending a recent workshop organized by the Sikh Research Institute on The Guru: Connecting with the Divine Light, I have been pondering much of what was discussed. The focus of the workshop was becoming “Guru centered” and one of the questions that arose in the discussion was related to the discrepancy we see today between what our Guru’s teachings say and how they are actually practiced. What many of us struggle with is asking difficult questions about whether our words and actions follow those principles that have been bestowed upon us in the Guru Granth Sahib.

It’s dismaying to constantly hear about the divisions being created in our community. So, I was happy to come across a press release from Sikhcess, relaying information about a forthcoming global langar project providing an example of unity:

Today, Sikhcess, a community service organization, unveiled definitive plans to feed the homeless worldwide through its ‘Feed the Homeless’ campaign on March 1, 2008. Sikh communities throughout the globe will participate, with efforts to feed the homeless and needy in Canada, the United States, Great Britain, Singapore, Malaysia, and Australia. [link]

I think this is what our Guru Ji intended when the revolutionary concept of langar was introduced. And to me, it is a good example of how Sikhi is working today.

Through this ideal of equality, the tradition of ‘Langar’ expresses the ethics of sharing, community, inclusiveness, and oneness of all humankind.

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Rocket Roger and Raging ‘Roids in Rural Raikot

* (the asterisk)
This symbol should be assigned to most of the professional baseball’s records over the last two decades. From Barry Bonds to now Roger Clemens, most of the greats of this baseball era have had their images tarnished by allegations of cheating. Whether the baseball owners and media are accomplices will be left for another post.

steroids.jpgHowever, the steroids use hits closer to home. Although this article (you may need to register for a free account) is over 4 years old, recent visits to Punjab makes me believe that the problem has gotten even worse. A more recent article from only two weeks ago discusses how steroid usage is now common among school children for athletic competition.

Steroid usage has become normal throughout village ‘health centers.’ In rural areas, unemployment is high, alcoholism is high, mix that in with steroids and you have a volatile mix. Chris Benoit’s heinous murder of his wife and son and subsequent suicide was largely based on the neurological damage caused by prolonged steroid usage. Will we be reading more reports in the future about ‘roid rage violence against women?

Bringing the issue to the diaspora, there are many Punjabi males that take steroids. Bodybuilding and gym usage is popular. This phenomenon is nothing unique in our community, but are there any specific pressures or attributes within our community that many males to take to steroids?

Has the Anand Karaj Lost its Significance to the Afterparty?

Hey readers…I accidentally deleted the post on Sikh weddings and we are in the process of trying to retrieve it. I may attempt a reconstruction if we cannot, but in the meanwhile – We’d still like to hear your thoughts on the question posed in the title.Anand_Karaj.jpg The question is prompted by this article in the NYTimes about the trent of having ridiculously expensive weddings going on in Afghanistan currently. Reading the article made me think about our own wedding traditions and how much of the Sikh wedding has lost its meaning (particularly the anand karaj itself) and the focus has really shifted to the afterparty and in the case of Sikh weddings in Punjab the “before-during-after party” where many guests bypass the anand karaj altogether and head straight for the wedding palace.Recently the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee even mandated simple Sikh weddings (without extravagant parties that include alcohol) for the Sikhs to whom it was to issue marriage licenses.So, what do you think – has the anand karaj lost its significance to the afterparty?

P.S. some of the comments also were deleted with the post so if you commented, I apologize for losing your thoughts.

4 days in New Hampshire

Last week I made the trek from Connecticut to New Hampshire to campaign in the presidential primaries. While I’ve campaigned and door-knocked for a variety of issues in the past, I’ve never really been moved to canvass for a presidential candidate. In my voting life, I haven’t really been enthusiastic about either party or its candidates, so while I always vote, I’m not always happy about my options. This election has been pleasantly different, so I brushed off my organizer skills and drove north.

When I first moved to New England from California, I knew there was going to be a bit of a culture shock. However, traveling from southern Connecticut to southern New Hampshire, I was shocked by the overwhelming homogeneity and vastness of the state. Granted, I was not campaigning in a city (e.g., Nashua, Manchester), but I was a little overwhelmed by the vast space of it all.

I was certainly one of the only people of color in the area (and I was a transplant!), but I was happily surprised to find a significant number of desis, and more specifically, another ABD, Punju, Sikh. If you think of the two of us as a fraction of the volunteer population, then we were certainly repping hard!

This made me think of the growing number of ABD Sikhs who are becoming politically active. There’s often a generational disconnect around politics and participation, but there also seems to be an ever-growing cadre of folks getting involved through political action groups, elections, and parties. Have current events (read: post 9/11 backlash) catalyzed participation, or do we just notice it more, now? Are there other factors that may explain the growing number of folks becoming politicized and politically active?

Mamla Gadbad Hai

In an earlier post, a couple of commenters mentioned the shortfalls of much of today’s Punjabi music industry (lack of depth and creativity, among other things). I agree that much (though not all) of today’s Punjabi music leaves me wanting something more, but I thought we could switch to a lighter note for a moment to reminisce and revel in the works of one of the best artists from modern Punjab…(I’d love to hear what others’ favorites are too)

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The simple taal at the beginning makes my skin tingle. And the pure charm of this 1970’s (I think- guessing from the clothes) Gurdas is like a breath of fresh air…

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Travesty Theatre: Iran, the Los Banos Reservoir, and RDX

While most Americans spent Wednesday with their attention focused on the New Hampshire primaries, in hope of the 2008 presidential election, the current president was continuing the travesty that is his presidency.

los_banos.jpgReminiscent of the Gulf of Tonkin incident that was used to begin action in Vietnam, US government official claims are reported as absolute truths.

During the Gulf of Tonkin incident the official story sold to the American people was that the North Vietnamese torpedo boats launched an “unprovoked attack” against a US destroyer on a “routine patrol.”

Sound familiar?

Here is what the LA Times reported:

A group of small Iranian boats charged and threatened three American warships just outside the Persian Gulf, military officials said Monday, elevating tensions and illustrating how easily a military confrontation could develop between U.S. and Iranian forces. [LA Times]

Another wrote:

According to U.S. military officials, five Iranian boats made hostile moves toward U.S. ships entering the Persian Gulf while threatening to “explode” them. Although the U.S. military has labeled the incident a “significant confrontation,” the Iranian government has characterized it as a routine event. [SF Gate]

NY Times editors warned:

Iran played a reckless and foolish game in the Strait of Hormuz this week that — except for American restraint — could have spun lethally out of control. [NY Times]

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Update! It’s Happening in the Bay

Tragedy falls upon our community again. Just two days ago, two Sikh men were killed in cold blood inside their Richmond, CA (Bay Area) “Sahib” restaurant. Paramjit and Ravinder Kalsi seemed to be well-liked recent immigrants in the East Bay community. Members of the Berkeley Sikh community may remember these brothers as the two use to repair apartments and do tile work in the area.

kalsi-brothers.jpgNewspapers quoting members of the El Sobrante Gurdwara sangat seem to indicate that these brothers were honest, hard-working, and well-liked. “They were totally pure guys, not in a fanatical way, just really hard-working,” friend Gurman Bal said. “They were very spiritual. They listened to Indian religious music, watched religious TV. They knew their path, and they stayed on it.”

At this point, police seem baffled by the murders. A Richmond Police Detective said, “It does not look like a robbery. It looks like these two guys went in there to kill. That’s what worries me. Why?”

Another officer commented that the motive “is completely unknown. Even veterans to law enforcement are puzzled by this. Based on the brothers’ lifestyle and the dynamics of how it went down, it’s very unique. It’s also very disturbing.”

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HIV/AIDS In Punjab and India: The Impact on Women

According to the World Health Organization at the end of 2005 there were 5.7 million adults and children living with HIV/AIDS in India with a population of approximately 1.1 billion. India is the second largest country behind South Africa with the highest number of HIV/AIDS patients. red-ribbon.thumbnail.jpgIn India, Mumbai is generally viewed as the Indian city with the most HIV/AIDS patients. However, the state of Punjab is not immune to the epidemic, even though the numbers are relatively small compared to major urban centers such as Mumbai. Numbers aside, the primary source of transmission of the HIV/AIDS within and outside of Punjab is heterosexual intercourse and intravenous drug use. Prof. Sehgal S. of the Department of Immunopathology, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh states, that 80.5% of HIV/AIDS patients contracted the virus heterosexually in Punjab, while India’s National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) believes that “the bulk of HIV infections in India occur during unprotected heterosexual intercourse”. Furthermore, the International Women’s Health Coalition cites that one of the highest risk factors for women contracting HIV/AIDS is marriage with 4/5 of new infections in women resulting from having a sexual relationship with their husband. Hence, women, particularly, those in rural areas are one of the fastest growing populations of HIV/AIDS patients in India as well as other countries. A CBS News report states that for Dr. Solomon, 90% of “female patients [at his AIDS hospital in Madras] are not prostitutes, but monogamous women who’ve contracted HIV from their husbands”. Many of these women are like Periasamy Kousalya “… whose husband from an arranged marriage was a trucker. He had HIV before they got married”.

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A list of do’s and don’ts?

Initially I was going to post about self-loathing and its role in gurbani….so I went to trusty old sikhitothemax.com. I accidentally hit “search” without typing anything in the search box. Up came this list of “Sikhi favorites” on the left pane. At first I started clicking on what peaked my interest. Here’s just a few of them:

  • See truth with your eyes
  • Serve and respect your parents
  • Forever remember death
  • Believe in one God
  • Gurbani is the Guru
  • Eat, Sleep and Talk little
  • Accept Nam as true religion

Then it got into the “Do Not’s”

  • Do not be greedy
  • Do not be proud
  • Do not be jealous
  • Do not get attached to the world
  • Do not associate with manmukhs
  • Do not steal or gamble
  • Do not see bad in others
  • Do not slander anyone

I’m not even going to pretend that I know gurbani, or that I can translate it, or that I can remember shabads or anything of that nature. But I am fairly confident that SGGS is not a list of “Do Not’s”. Now, being someone that considers myself a sikh (whatever that means…) I tend to discuss the openness and the LOVE and I repeat LOVE that Sikhi focuses on. In my limited research into gurbani and the meaning of it, I have rarely seen such blatant instruction as to what we should or should not do. I understand that this may be a result of the translation over to English. But it still doesn’t sit right with me. Descriptions/translations I have seen of “vices” or “bad things” have always discussed the action and then the consequence, or the individuals that have these characteristics.

I know Sikhi is often presented as a list of Do’s and Dont’s; that’s how it was presented to me anyways. How can that possibly be encouraging? Someone that is questioning their Sikhi – how would they see this list? Would it perhaps just further deter them from experience the immense resource that the SGGS is? Is this a correct reflection of Gurbani?

The Nightmarish Joke that is the Punjab Police

I just saw this post on Sepia Mutiny on Ruby Dhalla’s recent trip to Punjab. As previously blogged by Anandica, Dhalla, the Canadian MP of the Brampton, was there to attend the Punjabi NRI Sammelan. It seems one of her staffers had her bag snatched in the village Pohir. Dhalla was in the village to speak at the SDP College for Women. Encouraging women to reach for their dreams, she saw the nightmare that is the Punjab Police.

Their tender age didn’t stop Punjab police from thrashing them mercilessly,” the Times of London wrote. “The kids begged and pleaded for mercy but the cops didn’t relent: they kept raining blows on them.

punjab police.jpgAlthough this blog is still very young, I am sure future blogs will continue to impunity in which the Punjab Police functions. Earlier this week we read of the prison rebellion after the Punjab Police prison officials forcibly cut a Sikh inmate’s hair.

Although a popular joke in the Punjab, unfortunately it speaks of its realities.

The CIA, UK’s Scotland Yard, and Punjab Police all try to prove that they are the best at apprehending criminals.

They decide to have a competition. A lion is released into a forest then the police agency will go out to capture it. The police agency that succeeds in the least time will be the winner.

The CIA goes first. They place animal informants throughout the forest. They question all plant and mineral witnesses. After 1 hour of extensive investigations they catch the lion.

Next it is the turn of Scotland Yard. Following tracks and examining changes in the foliage, they are able to capture the lion in 45 minutes.

Finally, it is the turn of the Punjab Police. Hours go by and the judges get no response. Deciding to check on the Punjab Police, the judges venture into the forest. There they see a donkey hung upside by its hind legs. A Punjab Police Officer (probably KPS Gill) is lashing the donkey with an iron rod, screaming “Bol thu sher hai” (“Say/Admit you are a lion!”).

Just Cool

My brother sent me the following picture. There is no article to accompanying it, but I thought that it is just cool to have a sabat surat Sikh portrayed in such a positive and “normal” light. The man in the picture is Fauja Singh, a world record holding marathon runner. This billboard appears in Vancouver, Canada.

Harbhajan Singh in a Zidane Mess

So I’m kind of amazed how much press Harbhajan Singh is getting for his, admittedly, terrible use of words. Racism is racism, but whoa, the drama? Isn’t that left to the world of football soccer? (Remember the Zidane episode in the 2006 world cup final?) I for one did not realize how incredibly significant cricket is in the world of… well, in the world. Now…I’m captivated.harbhajan_singh.jpg

Harbhajan Singh was banned for making a racist remark during India’s tempestuous defeat to Australia in the second Test…Australia‘s players had claimed that Harbhajan called Australia‘s Andrew Symonds a “monkey” during an on-field incident…All-rounder Symonds, 32, is the only non-white player in the Australian side. [BBC]

The Indian team felt they were victims of two injustices, the first being the umpiring (which cost them the game) and then the second being a ruling from the referee, Mike Procter, which could cost Harbhajan Singh’s participation in the rest of the games series. (Please excuse my lack of correct Cricket verbiage).

Clearly, calling another player a “monkey” isn’t cool, especially when this same player experienced taunts from the crowd when he toured India last October. But without actual evidence, Indians are calling the ruling against Harbhajan “blatantly false.”

Many in the Australia-based Indian diaspora have come forward claiming that Harbhajan is not guilty of a racist slur – and that the controversy is the product of a cultural misunderstanding…”Considering that the Monkey God is one of the revered idols of Hindu mythology and worshipped by millions, it’s surprising it was considered a racist term,” said Raj Natarajan, the president of the Sydney-based United Indian Association.

Recent news updates suggest the tour will most likely go on… and therefore, so will the finger-pointing.

Rohanpreet, Little Prince of Patiala

There is a singing competition on Zee TV called Sa Re Ga Ma, Little Champs. I’d usually not be so excited about it, apart from the fact that I stumbled upon Rohanpreet Singh’s performance one day. He is an impressive and talented young boy. You can view one of the performances below, pay special attention to the tribute in the last part of the clip. Enjoy!

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love across the lines

After many a post on the quandaries and challenges facing young (Sikh, Punjabi) folks today on the romance tip, I wanted to write something anecdotal about relationships today.

After Partition, and particularly after 1984, I think there’s been a polarization of Sikh identity within the diaspora, especially around conversations about relationships. I definitely grew up thinking that the default assumption was to find someone Sikh, most likely Punjabi, to grow up and get “settled” with [qualifier: I was really young when I thought this was the expectation]. I also grew up thinking that Sikh-Sikh couples were the norm.

Au contraire. Among my parents’ first cousins alone, at least 50% are in interfaith or interracial marriages (our motley family includes several Christians, Jews, and Hindus; Southies and Northies; ABDs and DBDs; and desis and non-desis). In fact, my mom is one of the only cousins to have married a Sikh Punjabi man, and certainly the only one to marry a kesdari Sikh. I always took this diversity for granted; it didn’t seem diverse because it was normal to me. What I find striking is that I still held the assumption that my parents’ expectation was much more limited (this of course changed when I was adult). I started to wonder where the heck I got the strange idea that Sikh-Sikh couples are the only “acceptable” outcome.

I thought more and more about where these ideas came from. I realize that some of it certainly came from the gossipy chatter of aunties and uncles. You know the subset — these are the same folks who comment disdainfully about everyone’s relationship choices (if the person is not the right religion or race, they’re not the right education or income or region). But I also wonder if the diverse “couplings” in my parents’ generation were more common/normal because there had NOT been the same level of polarization (most of these couples met pre-1984) that has ensued over the past 20+ years. Or, could it be that when Sikh-Sikh couples were common, there wasn’t the same level of “desperation” around finding a partner if you were open to a non-Sikh partnership?

This also made me reflect on how Sikhi is often interpreted or taught to children. I was taught that Sikhi requires both partners to be of the same faith (although this faith need not necessarily be Sikhi). This isn’t the reality on the ground, though. Is this really one of the most important facets of the religion? Does this vary based on how you want to raise your kids? Is it for the sake of consistency and to mitigate arguments within a relationship? Does it help provide a common  ethical framework? Couldn’t many of these issues exist despite being of the same faith background?

Punjab NRI Conference

Economic development and investment opportunities in Punjab were discussed at the Punjab NRI Sammelan, in Chandigarh and Jalandar, on January 5th and 6th. This brings about an important topic of maintaining our heritage and the significance of NRIs giving back to their communities in Punjab. There was a time when NRIs were investing their money made overseas by going back to their village and building a big haveli with a huge artificial plane sticking out of the roof (so they, and everyone else, could see their house when flying over their village!). Thankfully something positive, and more meaningful, is being asked of Punjabis overseas. We are all fully aware of the lack of employment opportunities, education and healthcare and how these issues have created dire consequences of drug-use and alcohol abuse. The conference was attended by prominent NRI’s including Dr. Ruby Dhalla, M.P. from Canada; Ms. Neena Gill, Member of EV Parliament in Brussels; and Mr. Varinder Sharma, former Major of London and Member of Parliament UK. The purpose of the conference was to present initiatives Punjab Chief Minister Badal, and his committee have created as improvements needed to increase the efficiency of Punjab’s infrastructure. nri punjabi.jpgThe goal of this conference is to attract technical and financial investments from NRIs. The attendees were given the opportunity to voice their opinions of what they felt should be noted as additional initiatives concerning the NRIs continuing financial support in future projects. One such request has been validated with the creation of an eleven member Advisory Committee to preside over issues related to the welfare of NRIs investments.

During the conference a British NRI pledged Rs. 5 million for the renovation and upkeep of a state-run school in his village, which was met by an equal pledge from the Chief Minister. Hopefully this action will encourage other individuals to follow suit, especially considering Sikhi teaches us values to help others less fortunate than ourselves and strive to create equality amongst people. Education is a key element in creating a sense of pride back into our Punjab, and a little can go a long way. I applaud this conference and hope we will hear and see more positive consequences from it. There is the likelihood of some negativity, such as the incident of Deepak Obhrai, the highest-ranking Indo-Canadian in the present government, being ignored by the Punjabi government. He feels he was excluded due to being “Hindu Punjabi” and not “Sikh Punjabi”. This does not bode well for us, especially when the purpose of this conference is to gain support from ALL Punjabis, and that we should be striving for equality. Differences need to be put aside for the selfless purpose of improving Punjab and allowing the people of Punjab to reach their true potential. Hopefully that purpose will be achieved successfully, and we can finally make a difference.

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