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Students Leave Sikh Missionary College En Masse
By LALIT MOHAN
The Tribune, Anandpur Sahib (Ropar, India), Feb. 15, 2004
All students of Sikh Missionary College here have left the premises, alleging ill-treatment. The immediate provocation for the 80 residential students who went away was the alleged beating up of a student the by principal, Mr. Surinder Singh, in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib. It is for the first time students have left any Sikh missionary college under such circumstances in the state. There are seven Sikh missionary colleges being run in the state by a Ludhiana-based society. The students are recruited after 10+2 [grade 12]. They are provided free board and lodging. Students in the college are trained to become Sikh preachers, dhadhis, kirtan singers, or granthis. The duration of the course is three years. At the time of admission, the management takes an affidavit from the students stating that if they left the course in between, they would have to pay Rs. 1500 per month as expenditure incurred on them.
The students who left the college were camping in a dera near Khalsa College, Anandpur Sahib. Talking to this correspondent, they alleged that inhuman conditions at the missionary college had forced them to take the step. There was no teaching in the college and the students who were residing there were being used by the management to earn money by performing kirtan and participating in other religious programs, they said.
The quality of food in the hostel was very poor and those who tried to raise their voice were beaten mercilessly, they alleged. Youth from poor families were recruited on the promise of jobs as granthis, preachers, and dhadhis. However, in the college there was hardly any facility to train them for these jobs. Instead, the students after preliminary training were sent for performing religious rituals and collecting donations from people, the students the alleged.
They maintained that they would return to the college only if the principal was transferred. The principal, at a press conference here, rejected the charges as baseless. He said before the recent incident, there had been no formal complaint from the students. A few students who had been creating indiscipline in the college and were reprimanded had motivated others into taking the drastic step of fleeing the college. He also claimed that 11 students had returned to the college.
All efforts of the management and others including the Jathedar of Takht Shri Keshgarh Sahib, Gaini Tarlochan Singh, failed to placate the students till this evening. Meanwhile, the management of the college today decided to rusticate 10 students who allegedly led the movement against the principal.