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Women "Assaulted," "Prevented" From Performing Sukhasan Seva at Darbar Sahib
By VARINDER WALIA
The Tribune, Amritsar, Feb. 15, 2003
Gender discrimination came to the fore when two England-based Sikh women were allegedly 'assaulted and insulted' by S.G.P.C. sevadars during sukhasan (ceremony of carrying Guru Granth Sahib in a palanquin) at the Golden Temple late last night. In a complaint lodged with the Akal Takht secretariat here today, Bibi Mejindarpal Kaur and Bibi Lakhbir Kaur who had come all the way from London to participate in the daily evening ceremony of taking 'savari [ride] of the holy Guru Granth Sahib' on the personal assurance of Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti [jathedar (high priest), Akal Takht] during his visit to Britain, became victims of gender discrimination.
Both the Sikh women sought immediate intervention of the jathedar of Akal Takht and S.G.P.C. chief for ensuring that women be allowed to perform any seva [service] at the Golden Temple including carrying of palki (palanquin) during the ceremony of sukhasan [ceremony for retiring the Adi Granth for the night]. Instead of allowing them to participate in the ceremony, they were maltreated, they alleged. The women asked the Sikh clergy to grant permission to women to perform any seva in the Golden Temple without any discrimination. 'We traveled from London to do Guruji's palki seva at Sri Harmandir Sahibji and would like to take the message back to the Sikh community that Sikh women are being allowed to do any seva at the Golden Temple as per the Guru's tenets and that Darbar Sahib is now liberated from the mahants [Udasi bachelor caretakers] in the true spirit,' they said in a letter addressed to the S.G.P.C. and Akal Takht.
Talking to T.N.S., Bibi Mejindarpal Kaur said that she had never experienced such a rude behaviour. She alleged that when she along with Bibi Lakhbir Kaur tried to touch the palki, they were pushed back and the S.G.P.C. employees shouted that women were not allowed to perform this seva. The complaint further reads, 'The sevadars attending to the procession prevented us from queuing with the male members of the congregation. They said only male members of the congregation are allowed to do so. We were pushed, assaulted and insulted by the sevadars [workers]. One of the sevadars said his livelihood was at stake if he allowed us to join the queue of male members taking the palki,' they added. Meanwhile, Bibi Kiranjot Kaur, former general secretary, S.G.P.C., has condemned the incident and urged the Sikh clergy to ensure that there should not be any gender discrimination in the Golden Temple as gender discrimination is against the tenets of Sikhism.