My Turban is My Resistance: Vaisakhi 2012 Reflections

The last few weeks, Sikhs around the world have been celebrating the anniversary of the birth of the Khalsa. I intended to do a Vaisakhi post earlier, but travels have kept me from sitting down and writing down some of my reflections until now. I have found myself in small and medium-sized towns throughout the midwestern and southern United States these last two weeks, feeling my outward identity as a Sikh projecting more conspicuously than ever.

NYC's Annual Sikh Day Parade

Consequently, I began thinking a lot about the significance of the Bana that Guru Gobind Singh gave us in 1699. What a fearless, defiant act of revolutionary love it was for Sikhs to wear their identity so visibly in a time when they faced such severe violent repression. A time when it was dangerous to be a Sikh, where being a Sikh meant you were an enemy of the empire, a threat, where there was a price on your head, a target on your back. Yet rather than blending into Indian society and building its movement for sovereignty and justice subversively, the Khalsa wore its identity loudly and proudly so everyone knew very clearly who a Sikh was.

I think about this today as more and more of cut our hair because we can’t take the torment of bullying in schools any more or trim our beards so we look more “professional” at our corporate jobs. Bana seems to have lost its appeal to many, for an ever-expanding list of reasons. Looking back at our history, it never has been easy. And perhaps that is part of the point. I wouldn’t wish the traumatic experience of racist harassment on anyone, but I know very well that I wouldn’t be the person I am today without all the struggles I have dealt with because of my Sikh identity.

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Workplace Religious Freedom for Sikhs and Other Religious Minorities
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Credit: Karaminder Ghuman, Courtesy: The Sikh Coalition

The Sikh community is leading the way to strengthen law that will protect Sikhs and other religious minorities from job discrimination in the workplace. AB1964 – or the Workplace Religious Freedom Act (WRFA) – has been introduced by Assemblymember Mariko Yamada and is co-sponsored by The Sikh Coalition. Earlier this week, in a show of community leadership, the California Sikh sangat packed a hearing room in the California Assembly and testified in favor of AB1964. As a result, the bill passed through the Labor and Employment Committee and will be considered by the Judiciary Committee on Tuesday April 24th. The Sikh Coalition states that,

This is the first time in California’s history that the Workplace Religious Freedom Act has survived a committee vote, and this is a credit to the power of Sikhs to provide leadership on civil rights issues for all Americans. [link]

Why should Sikhs care about WRFA?

Sikhs suffer high levels of employment discrimination because of their Sikh identity. Many are told to shave their beards; others are told to remove their turbans; some are told that they can only work out of public view. If enacted, WRFA would make it harder in each of these cases for California employers to discriminate against Sikhs.

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Learn About Sikhi at Sidak 2012

Guest blogged by Sharandeep Singh

Sidak, run by Sikh Research Institiute, is a diamond among jewels. It is one program, which after attending, completely changes your outlook on Sikhi, and life – I speak unequivocally when I say there is nothing else like it!

As a graduate of Sidak 2011, I want to share my experience to motivate and inspire whoever reads this to attend, so that you too can join the ranks of people who haveenriched and developed their understanding of Sikh culture and history.

The annual retreat, based in Texas may seem daunting, particularly for meit being my first trip to the USI arrived with a feeling of trepidation, not fully aware what awaited me in the two weeks ahead. Suffice to say, I was not disappointed.

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Sikholars Canada 2012 – Call for Papers

CFP_BC.jpgFollowing the success of the third Sikholars conference in February, the Jakara Movement is allying with the Canadian Sikh Coalition to bring the conference to British Columbia.

This unique forum brings together researchers, budding scholars, and community members in conversations about some of the most pressing issues. For this year’s inaugural conference, a theme has been selected: Theeja Ghallughara: On Justice, Memory, and Transmission. The conference will be held at Simon Frasier University from June 16-17, 2012. Please help circulate and encourage young scholars to send their abstracts before May 16, 2012 for consideration.

The scope of the conference is global; papers may concentrate on particular localities or regions, or they may present cross-regional comparisons and convergences. We encourage submissions from a broad range of disciplines, methodologies, and perspectives. All approaches will be considered from medicine, to law, to history, sociology, media studies, etc. so long as they are related to the theme.

You can get more information about the conference at the Sikholars website.


UPDATED: Echoes of New Phases and some Updates

UPDATED: All of a sudden I remembered a video from KPS Gill. Readers on this site are aware of this murderous sadist, but maybe it is still worthwhile to juxtapose his lies with the findings announced this week.

All of our attention shifted towards Punjab last week. There was some interesting developments early this week. One is that Voices for Freedom, a non-government organization, based out of Punjab filed a public interest litigation (PIL) petition against the Sukhbir Badal’s appointee for Director General of Police (DGP) Sumedh Saini. Saini is a well-known human rights abusers and was involved in the many murders, “disappearances”, and torture during the 1980s and 1990s. From the media reports, while the petition may not go far, hopefully it does center some more attention on just the type of thugs that the the Badal Mafia appoints.

Another note from Punjab came yesterday when the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of India announced that they would pay Rs. 175,000 (about $3,500) to 1,500 families in the Amritsar district for the murder of their sons. Of course there is no culpability, just an attempt to buy silence. Well-known human rights lawyer Navkiran Singh of Chandigarh has rightly state:

It is too little too late and why only from Amritsar District? Khalra gave example of Amritsar district, but wanted an inquiry for the whole of Punjab. Imagine we had to pursue the matter in the NHRC for 17 years for this little justice.

UPDATE: I just wanted again to stress the lies that KPS Gill has restated for years. See this interview with an Australian journalist, when asked point-blank about the case of illegal cremations, KPS Gill lies without hesitation. Contrast this where the NHRC admits it occurred and even pays out money to families, though without casting any blame or responsibility. I have yet to see a true Indian journalist expose KPS Gill for his lies. Unfortunately they continue to lionize him, assuring that impunity continues – whether in Punjab, Delhi, Gujarat, Kashmir, and many other regions of South Asia.

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Balwant Singh Rajoana’s Gift to the Nation

rajoana2.jpgThe following is a guest-post,In Defence of Assassination:Balwant Singh Rajoana’s Gift to the Nation, by our guest-bloggerInklabi Singh.

Balwant Singh Rajoana has been in jail since 1995 and was sentenced to death 5 years ago, but it was only recently, as the date of his execution started to loom closer, that a wave of indignation and concern swept over the Khalsa Panth, both in Punjab and the Diaspora. As others have written, this is a spontaneous response to the power of a Sikh fully in love with his Guru and Panth, completely at ease with the will of God and unequivocally unafraid of death. This popular movement leaves many of us in a predicament though. The dilemma we face is that we are socialized to view acts of violence as inherently immoral. How then are we able to express love for an individual who planned and helped carry out the suicide bombing of an unarmed old man? Balwant Singh’s case puts us in an uncomfortable position. Can we defend assassination? Can the killing of unarmed officials be justified? Are such acts true to Guru Nanak’s vision of compassion and respect for diversity?

Many have been asking why the Indian government attacked Sikhs in 1984 in the first place. How did we reach a point that Balwant Singh felt he had no choice but to assist in the killing of Chief Minister Beant Singh in August of 1995? We can go through the history of South Asia and clearly delineate the path from the Independence struggle, through Punjabi Suba and Emergency to the Amritsar Massacre of 1978, but the short answer is a simple one. It is the same reason the British tied Sikhs to cannons in 1885, the Mughals executed 200 Sikhs a day for weeks in the courtyard of the Red Fort in Delhi in 1716 and why Guru Arjan was burned alive for five days in Lahore four hundred years ago. It is because we did what Guru Nanak compelled us to do, to speak truth to power and not be silent in the face of tyranny just as he did when he condemned Babur the Mughal’s invasion of India. That act, enshrined in Guru Granth Sahib jee, of standing with the oppressed against the oppressor, has led to generations of Sikhs putting the principles of freedom and human rights above their own safety and wellbeing.

This is never a fair fight. The oppressor controls vast resources and commands huge armies that dwarf our meagre numbers. This was true when Guru Gobind Singh’s forty Sikhs held off the entire Northern army of the Mughal Empire at Chamkaur for a long cold and wet night in December of 1705 and it was true when Baba Jarnail Singh and his band of a few hundred young men and women stood like a mountain against the technological might of the Indian army for a long, sweltering week in June of 1984. We will always be the minority for we take the uncomfortable, unpopular and dangerous position; we forsake the riches of collusion and collaboration for the principle of equality and justice, even if it means a tortured death.

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SSP Suspended in Gurdaspur due to Sikh Sangat Pressure and Other Updates

rajoana.jpgNews has started to trickle on this day that Bhai Balwant Singh Rajoana was initially scheduled to be hung. Due to the stay ordered by President Patil of India, there is an indefinite delay.

On Gurdaspur

News media are reporting the Punjab Police has suspended SSP (Senior Superintendent of Police) of Gurdaspur, Varinder Singh, for the shooting and has registered a case against the DSP (Deputy Superintendent of Police). This has only occurred due to the pressure of the sangat, especially that of Jaspal Singh’s family, who have refused to perform the cremation until the arrest of the Shiv Sainiks and police officials. According to some reports via Facebook (so read with caution) heads of the Sant Samaj coalition along with Jathedar Gurbachan Singh had started a dharna along with Jaspal Singh’s family calling for the police officers that ordered the firing to be punished. Badal was against this action by Gurbachan Singh, but Gurbachan Singh and heads of the Sant Samaj threatened to call for a bandh in Gurdaspur, if action was not taken. Badal then conceded to the request and brought about the orders against some police officers, though I have not heard anything about charges or FIRs against the Shiv Sainiks. If this is true, expect Prakash Badal to REIGN in his appointee – Gurbachan Singh – and for him to better play the role of a puppet. Gurbachan Singh knows who pulls his strings and this act of independence will be punished. Expect more pro-Badal quotes and a calling for an end to all events. We would do well to begin ignoring him.

Other news in Punjab

Members of the Sikh Channel were detained by Punjab Police for four hours. This is a serious blow against freedom of the press. While we are excited that they have been released, we hope that UK Sikhs put full pressure on the UK Foreign Office to reprimand the Indian Government on such matters. When UK journalists were captured in Iraq, Libya, and other war-zones, the Foreign Office helped put pressure for their release. We would expect them to lodge a complaint against Indian officials in this matter as well. If someone from the UK is drafting a letter and would like to share, please send us the link.

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Ranjeet Singh – CORRECTION and Other Updates

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It has now been confirmed by Navkiran Singh, well-known human rights advocate and a lawyer for Bhai Balwant Singh Rajoana, that Ranjeet Singh is in critical condition, but is alive. Our apologies for the incorrect information, but one can understand that with information from Punjab being limited, details are being lost.

Yesterday I wrote about Jaspal Singh, whose loss became well-circulated, due to social media and the outstanding work of Sangat TV and the Sikh Channel.

ranjeetsingh.JPGA very young Ranjeet Singh Mandher, only 16 years old, son of Jaswinder Singh, from villagePandher (Mukerian road) was shot by police. With the heavy police fire, no one came to help him. The veer had to take his own rickshaw to the hospital. From there the hospital in Gurdaspur sent him to Amritsar, where he is in stable condition. I am including the only picture I have received of the youth. If others can provide more information about this young student, please do send it to us.

In other news, Bibi Kamaljeet Kaur was not allowed to meet the family of Jaspal Singh in Gurdaspur. She was stopped on orders from the government. Such is the government of Badal, where police offers open fire and underlings can only be suspended. It only follows the logic of one that would promote a murderer as Sumedh Saini as DGP and give coveted MLA seats to the wife of a butcher like Izhar Alam. The Punjab Government fears Bibi Kamaldeep Kaur and are trying to limit her movement. At present, she is still giving interviews on Sangat TV and other media outlets. Sangat TV has a livestream that can be seen here as does the Sikh Channel, which can be seen here.

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Fallen Singh – Jaspal Singh, Update, and Shiv Sena

jaspalsingh.jpgDetails are murky, so to do a full analysis at this point is difficult. Right now, we stand to document the events. According to numerous reports, Shiv Sena from mainly Gujarat and Maharastra are entering Punjab. Gurdaspur has been a long-time stronghold of the Shiv Sena as well. Those that are arriving seem to be arguing that if Sikhs could shut down the state yesterday that they would be able to do it today. Read here from our live-blogger from Amritsar that shares much of the same information.

At Gurdaspur this morning, Jaspal Singh, a young 18 year old Sikh boy from Chor Sidhvan village, was killed by police firing. Below the tab you can find an eye-witness video of how the Sumedh Saini’s rogue police has differential treatment towards the Sikh youth and the out-of-state-arriving Shiv Sena. Remember it was Sukhbir Badal, the so-called heir apparent, that personally chose this known human rights abuser to be the Director General of Police. Murders are lauded in Punjab. It was this same Badal that ran for election the wife of the one of the worst butchers of Punjab – Farzana Alam. Farzana’s husband, Izhar Alam, ran his own crack team, called the “Alam Sena” that would give criminals unlimited powers to run wild. His own atrocities are stunning. Eye witness accounts describe his atrocities on women and his summary executions. These are our new “leaders” of Punjab installed by Badal

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LIVE FROM AMRITSAR – Day 2 (day after the Punjab Bandh)

rajoana2.jpgDay 2, March 29: Day after 1st Punjab Bandh

I tend to spend my nights at the Darbar Sahib, emerging from the complex around 9 am from the Manji Sahib jorha house. What I saw this morning near the South side of the Darbar Sahib complex near Baba Atal was notedly different from the scenes described yesterday.

As I walked towards the South side of the complex, there were sounds of people yelling and a general sense of urgency in people around me. When I reached the street, there was a large haphazard group of people filling the street speaking loudly and excitedly to each other. Many were kirpans and some had sticks in their hands.

I headed to the side to make my routine stop at the Nescafe shop for some coffee and learned from the Nescafe Uncle that Shiv Sena was coming to Punjab cities to exact retaliation for the arrest of 14 Hindu men/boys in Ludhiana yesterday. The 14 men/boys had been arrested as they caused damage/ruckus in front of Sikh shops that had been closed on Punjab Bandh, and got into a tussle with local groups of protesters as well. Shiv Sena had declared that if Khalistanis could shut down Punjab on Wednesday, they would shut it down on Thursday.

I headed next door to the Bram Butta Bazaar to run some errands, where the Uncle Ji at the shop excitedly explained that a group of Shiv Sena had entered the city at the Hall Gate (Amritsar Khaas) and started throwing stones/bricks at open businesses. I had noticed earlier that some of the shops were still closed today even though Punjab Bandh was yesterday. From the shop Uncle I learned that Shiv Sena called for Hindus to close their shops today. Shiv Sena was now harassing businesses that were still open, businesses that were expected to be of Sikhs or of non-sympathizers. Many of the Bram Butta Bazaar shops also started to bring in their displays and the Uncle urged me to run my errands tomorrow and get out towards the West side of the Darbar Sahib complex and head home.

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LIVE FROM AMRITSAR – Day 1 on Punjab Bandh

rajoana2.jpgThe following are daily live reports we have been receiving from a friend in Amritsar. This came from yesterday (March 28, 2012) on the Day of the Bandh. So long as we hear from them, we’ll keep posting. We’re posting this exactly as they wrote it – spelling, capitalizations, and all.

Hi guys, a friend asked and I know a few others might be curious so here is what i’m seeing today. Sorry for being somewhat terse and possibly rambling, I’m kinda taking a break when i dont have time for it:

Outside my door is loud and rowdy as its a shutee for everyone and the kids are running around playing with the adults sitting and drinking cha…

Beyond my street, in Amritsar Khaas, its not nervous, its not calm either, but everything is shut down. it is quiet and more deserted than i’ve ever seen. Patiala is pretty much entirely shut down, Ludhiana is half open, half closed. Here, around Darbar Sahib, everything is closed and there is less sangat. It is definitely the quietest Amritsar i’ve ever seen.

Most ppl wandering around are ppl in orange paghs and dupattay, not to make it sound like there are mobs of them however, there are some groups, and many people going about as individuals in orange. the army has been making short marches around the city mainly to show that they are here and to give non-sympathizers a feeling of security. but there are also short marches of supporters.

It does not feel like any kind of revolution or w.e. the heck ppl are calling it on facebook and twitter. its mostly a political ploy, and the events that have occured up to Punjab Band in Siyasat and the folks leading these efforts make me want to throw up at their farce.

they won’t hang Rajoana. they’ll commute it to life and cut off our legs at the knees by doing so, and by ‘our’ i mean the panth and Rajoana’s qurbani that landed him in jail to begin with and his wish to kiss the noose and go out with a jakara.

i’m also sickened by how much of twitter and facebook doesn’t get the idea of “Shaheed” with their stupid petitions.

The most exciting thing that happened personally was an argument I and a friend got into with some bhaiyay at a juice stand. they didn’t know why ‘some guy was being hung’ and when we interjected with an explanation, we discovered two of them were patriots. at this point, the juice stand guy (who had an om tatoo on his hand and tikka on his forehead) told them to ‘dafaa ho’ and heartily declared that Rajoana was a Sher and they should have sharam before they speak without knowing what this man experienced first hand at hands of police and that he had more ijjat and drarirtaa than any of them would ever have combined.

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Why We Salute Bhai Balwant Singh Rajoana

News of the Punjab bandh have overwhelmingly described it as a success. The community is in a wait-and-see mode. Unfortunately I feel that the political machine is already manipulating the system to create disenchantment and disillusion.

Some are claiming that the “stay” against execution should be read as a victory. First off this goes AGAINST the wishes of Bhai Balwant Singh Rajoana himself. He asked us NOT to do this. I, too, disagreed with this being read as a victory and described it in a previous post. A friend in Punjab expressed the same sentiment BEFORE the announcement as well:

they won’t hang Rajoana. they’ll commute it to life and cut off our legs at the knees by doing so, and by ‘our’ i mean the panth and Rajoana’s qurbani that landed him in jail to begin with and his wish to kiss the noose and go out with a jakara. [link]

Political pundits are weighing in with their laughable opinions. Jonathan Kay of Canada would wish we stopped lauding Rajoana and instead admire Tara Hayer. He really has no clue. The only editorial I found actually interesting, despite my disagreement, was that of Yug Mohit Chaudhry in The Hindu.

A beautiful and moving video called “The Salutation” gives the reason for why all of us are united in saluting Bhai Balwant Singh Rajoana and why he represents a spirit that will not die – the spirit of the Khalsa and its commitment towards ensaaf/adalat (justice).

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UPDATED: “Stay” of Execution Announced – Bhai Balwant Singh Rajoana

UPDATE: In accordance to Badal’s great game, he allowed for the bandh, but won’t let this moment fall from his bony and corrupt grasp. He has already imprisoned all those that may possibly post a challenge to him. Daljit Singh Bittu and others are being imprisoned throughout Punjab as we type this post. Just as Bhai Balwant Singh Rajoana said, we are getting played by these blue-turban wearers.

Signs of victories and congratulations are being issued by Sikhs on social media. The question was not ‘if’ a stay would be announced, but ‘when.’ This is the game….

It was always going to occur. More than even the Central Govt, Badal fears the Shaheed. The Shaheed has convictions, where he has none. This is how Badal does stage management of the Sikhs – allow the kettle to boil, but not too much. Then show the Central Government that only you are the mastermind that can “control” the Sikhs, cementing your importance to them.

How to break this? Up the ante. This is my humble suggestion – Bhai Balwant Singh Rajoana has showed his convictions. While we (against his wishes) circulated petitions and asked for clemency, he only asked for justice. The stage is set. If he were to begin a hunger strike for justice asking for the release of all political prisoners, the Government of India could not accede. The Punjab Government would be brought to its knees if during this hunger strike, the Sikhs converged upon Patiala.

Let us not pat our backs about the “stay.” We are being manipulated before our eyes. We have seen our potential (the amazing pictures of kesri flags throughout Punjab and even at India Gate attest to this). However, the march must continue….

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Zindabaad

Guest blogged by Preeti Kaur

For Bhai Balwant Singh Rajoana

For everyone who flies the kesri jhaanda today

 

ZINDABAAD TO THE KESRI FLAG WAVING ACROSS MY HEART

ZINDABAAD TO MARCH 31, 2012

ZINDABAAD TO THE EYES

ZINDABAAD TO THE LUNGS

ZINDABAAD TO THE WRIST WHICH WEARS THE KARA TO REMAIN SHACKLED TO THE SKY

ZINDABAAD TO THE ROPE

ZINDABAAD TO THE TATI TAVI

ZINDABAAD TO THE BELLS RINGING

ZINDABAAD TO THE BRIDGE

ZINDABAAD TO THE LAMP

ZINDABAAD TO THE KIRPAN DIPPED IN INK

ZINDABAAD TO THE CHILDREN OF THE FIELDS RUNNING AWAY RUNNING TOWARD

ZINDABAAD TO THE DISAPPEARED WE REMEMBER

ZINDABAAD TO THE DISAPPEARED WE FORGOT

ZINDABAAD TO THE ASHES WHICH COULD NOT TRAVEL TO KIRATPUR SAHIB

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Worldwide Events in Honor of Bhai Balwant Singh Rajoana

rajoana2.jpgThis post is a community work-in-progress. Facebook events are popping up by the hour. I am hoping we supplement the fine effort’s of Berkeley SSF’s Facebook page – Global Movement for Bhai Balwant Singh Rajoana. Send links, suggestions, and details in the comment-section and I will update them.

A rekindled spirit is sweeping the Sikhs. This is the wonder of the Shaheed.

WORLDWIDE

  • We will ALL be flying Nishan Sahibs from our homes. Send us your pictures!
  • #IpledgeOrange – wear orange in support of Balwant Singh Rajoana on Thursday, March 29, 2012.

PUNJAB

  • Bandh is scheduled for WEDNESDAY, MARCH 28th, 2012. All students, workers, famers, shop-keepers, etc. are asked to fly their kesri Nishan Sahibs high and stay home. THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT EVENT. NRPs call your family, message friends on FB, and let’s shut down the state in solidarity. As our last great Jarnail of the Panth oft reminded us – “We are not a minority; we are a nation.”

CANADA

  • York – Kirtan for Chardikala of Balwant Singh Rajoana on Thursday, March 29, 2012 from 4:30pm-8pm. Click here for more details.
  • GTA (Greater Toronto Area) – Kesri Nishan Car Rally in Support of Balwant Singh Rajoana on Friday, March 30, 2012 at 6pm. Click here for details.
  • GTA (Greater Toronto Area) – Discussion on Balwant Singh Rajoana and State Murder on Friday, March 30, 2012 at 7pm, Dixie Gurdwara, Hall 5, led by Sikh Activist Network.

UNITED KINGDOM

  • Birmingham to London – Convoy for Rajoana (youth) – Thursday, March 29, 2012 – 12pm departure Birmingham; 1pm departure Coventry; 3pm departure Oxford; 6pm arrival Houses of Parliament. See here for details.
  • Birmingham – Protest to Free Rajoana – Saturday, March 31, 2012 from 1-4pm. Click here for details.

UNITED STATES

  • New York – Rally for Bhai Balwant Singh Rajoana – Wednesday, March 28, 2012 – 11am-2pm, 47th St.-1st Ave – see here for more details.
  • Sacramento – Ardas for Bhai Balwant Singh Rajoana’s Chardikala, West Sac Gurdwara, Friday, March 30, 2012 at 6pm. See here for details.

EUROPE

  • Brussels, Belgium – March in Celebration of Bhai Balwant Singh Rajoana – Thursday, March 29, 2012, 11-4pm in front of European Parliament Building. See here for details.

MALAYSIA

AUSTRALIA
  • Canberra, Australia – Protest in Support of Bhai Balwant SIngh Rajoana – Wednesday, March 28, 2012. Buses are available. See here for details.

OTHERS


The Wonder of the Shaheed Shaheed da Gazab – Bhai Sahib Balwant Singh Rajoana

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Kaum shaheed Guru dey buhey
Kar suthee Ardasaan

Nation at the Gurus door
I was asleep after Ardas

These lines penned by the Panths last poet Harinder Singh Mehboob. These lines ring true today, as they did nearly three decades ago.

It is the blood of the martyr that stirs a slumbering nation; it is the blood of the martyr that scares those in their palaces of power.

Bhai Balwant Singh Rajoana has shaken the Sikhs. From London to Ludhiana, from Surrey to San Francisco, Sikhs are showing that the spirit of the community is not dead. We are not so focused on elections, careers, wealth, and family to forget the soul of the nation.

Although well-intentioned, I have seen some Sikhs circulating various petitions asking for clemency or a stay on the execution. They may not have read Bhai Sahibs own words he is calling to become a Shaheed. I humbly request people to stop circulating these petitions.

Punjabis and Sikhs in music and in conversations often lament for another Bhagat Singh or another Jarnail of the Panth. The wonder of the Shaheed stands before us. He asks not for leniency, but he asks to be embraced in the arms of the Guru as he marches to his wedding day on March 31, 2012. He has proudly admitted his actions and seeks judgment not from the courts of tyrants, but only from the Court of the Timeless. We are to celebrate that one Sikh stands tall with dignity, his dastar, his smile, and his Guru.

Others online have called for Ardas, akhand paaths, simran, and kirtan. All this is wonderful and should be done.

However, Bhai Sahib Balwant Singh Rajoana has called for something else.

He has called ALL SIKHS to fly Kesri flags on March 31, 2012. Please tell your friends and family to fly the flag from their dorm rooms, homes, apartments, businesses, and offices. Share your pictures on the internet and social media so that we take strength from one another. As our last Panthic Jarnail repeatedly reminded us – We are NOT a minority; we are nation.

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21st Century Lynching with Impunity

17-year-old Trayvon Martin’s life was taken away from him a few weeks ago in a gated community in Florida simply because of the color of his skin. On his way back from picking up a pack of Skittles and an iced tea at the local 7-11, he was shot dead by 26-year-old George Zimmerman, who was a part of the neighborhood watch group and found Trayvon “suspicious.” Trayvon was wearing a hoodie and carrying a pack of Skittles, unarmed.

To date, Zimmerman has not been arrested nor charged with any crime.

A petition has been circulating on Change.org for the last week or so, calling on Florida prosecutors to charge Zimmerman with the murder of Trayvon Martin. In the last few days, the mainstream media has picked up on the story.

In a message sent through Change.org today, Trayvon’s parents said:

Our son didn’t deserve to die. Trayvon Martin was just 17 years old when he was shot and killed by George Zimmerman. Trayvon wasn’t doing anything besides walking home with a bag of Skittles and some iced tea in his hands.

What makes Trayvons death so much harder is knowing that the man who confessed to killing Trayvon, George Zimmerman, still hasn’t been charged for Trayvons killing.

Despite all this, we have hope. Since we started to lead a campaign on Change.org, more than 500,000 people…have signed our petition calling for Florida authorities to prosecute our sons killer.

Our campaign is already starting to work. Just last night, the FBI and Department of Justice announced they were investigating our sons killing. Newspapers around the globe are reporting that its because of our petition.

But our sons killer is still free, and we need more people to speak out if we want justice for Trayvon.

We aren’t looking for revenge, we’re looking for justice — the same justice anyone would expect if their son were shot and killed for no reason.

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Bhai Balwant Singh Rajoana

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See UPDATED post from TLH here at The Wonder of the Shaheed.

On March 31st, Bhai Balwant Singh Rajoana is set to be executed in Punjab for his involvement in the assassination of former chief minister of Punjab, Beant Singh. It will be the first execution in Punjab’s history in 24 years.

Chief minister Beant Singh was involved with carrying out brutal and mass killings of Sikhs in Punjab. He is widely held responsible by many Sikhs for ordering the kidnap, torture and death of many young Sikh men. A report by Amnesty International can be found here.

Balwant Singh Rajoana has confessed his involvement in theassassination. He’s accepted the sentence without protest, identifying a lack of faith in the Indian judiciary system and accusing Indian courts for applying dual standards of law. The Indian judiciary system is one that has continued to protect the culprits of the mass killings of Sikhs. In his will Balwant Singhannounced his wish to donate his eyes and other body parts after his death, in particular, he expressed his desire that his eyes should be transplanted to Hazoori Ragi of Darbar Sahib, visually impaired Bhai Lakhwinder Singh. An English translation of his living will can be found here.

Sikh groups in the diaspora are organizing demonstrations to bring awareness to Balwant Singh’s case. You can find out more about these events on this facebook page. In addition, apetition has been created to stop the execution of Balwant Singh Rajoana.

Let us not forget those men and women who have stood up against injustice.


What Do You Want To Do With Your Life?

Author Richard Florida identifies three questions that each of us struggle with over the course of our lives.

1) What do I do with my life?
2) Who do I spend my life with?
3) Where do I want to live?

Obviously, all three are interrelated in many ways but for most of us growing up in North America the first question is the one the one that actually sets up the other two. How I want to spend my life is also a very different question than what kind of job do I want to have. A job or career must be examined in the greater context of one’s purpose in this world. This is even more relevant for practicing Sikhs as our destiny is one of greater purpose. We have been blessed with the awareness that the Creator of this universe resides within each of us and we are here to reconnect with this divinity. To do that, we must live a life of effort, remembrance and service. Yes as Sikhs we are to live in the world as householders, but there something more to life than just going to school, getting a job and raising a family. We are saints and activists, connecting with the Divine and fighting to the death for the rights of all.

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Plutocratic Politics of the Punjab 2012 and An NRPs Guide to Understanding Punjab Politics

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WARNING: This is long!

Last week, the Punjab election results surprised many. Most pundits had believed the cycle of anti-incumbency would continue and the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) would fall to the Congress Party, under Captain Amrinder Singhs leadership. The results were stunning and after the final count the Akali Dal (56) combined with the BJP (12) had a majority (68) of the 117-member Punjab Legislative Assembly. The Congress Party had finished with a dismal 46 and 3 seats were claimed by Independents. The much-heralded (at least in the diaspora and on the internet) Punjab Peoples Party of Manpreet Badal finished even worse than expected, with the main leader himself finishing in 3rd place in the two constituencies he contested.

Now the debate has shifted to making sense of the elections. In the diaspora, laments such as that of my fellow langa(w)riter decrying corruption and the social ills that have been broadcasted farmer suicides, drug addiction, etc. Writers in Punjab, such as Yadvinder Curfew saw the victory not as that of the Akali Dal-BJP combine, but of a new experiment by Sukhbir Badal and the shift in politics from issue based politics to one of media and money. The Badal family has control of both. Friends across social media spaces have provided their own analysis – from the business classes aligning with Sukhbir now that the populism of his father is dead [pagh salute @VehlaComrade] to swing voters, especially cash voters (aligning with the ruling AD-B) and educated netizens (splitting between PPP and Congress) [pagh salute @askang not the singer, mind you!] tilting votes in favor of the Akali Dal.

Now I get to add my voice. Hopefully in doing so, it will also help diasporic Sikhs and Punjabis understand the politics of Punjab and understand why seemingly irrational choices (those that everyone knows are corrupt) can still be rational.

I turn to political science explanations, although I am no political scientist, in order to help understand the results and the specificities of the politics of Punjab. I cite some of the most common explanations and offer some rambling comments, criticisms, and reflections. Hopefully in the comments section, you will add yours and we can have a great discussion.

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