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Sikh Clergy Refuse to Toe S.G.P.C. Line

The last paragraph of this report is a rare and important observation by The Tribune. Unless supported by the masses, motions passed by the elite often serve little purpose other than to assert their own enlightened state. In this case, some folks are rightly skeptical of Jagir Kaur's true motivations. Her detractors might suggest that she is using this as an opportunity to earn goodwill and prove her open-mindedness in view of the charges pending against her in the case relating to her daughter's murder.

The Tribune, Amritsar, Aug. 19, 2005

Photo: Mejindarpal Kaur and Lakhbir Kaur, prevented from performing sukhasan seva at Darbar Sahib, Feb. 15, 2003

Despite a lot of pressure, the Sikh clergy today refused to toe the line of the S.G.P.C. for giving a final nod to baptised Sikh women for performing kirtan in the sanctum sanctorum of Harmandar Sahib.

It is learnt that Bibi Jagir Kaur, S.G.P.C. president, personally spoke to Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, jathedar, Akal Takht, for constituting a committee for a code of conduct for women who wish to perform kirtan and clean the sanctum sanctorum.

Mr. Waryam Singh, secretary dharam parchar, Mr. Harbir Singh Bhanwar, media adviser, and Mr. Harjit Singh, personal assistant to the S.G.P.C. chief, took the typed paper to Jathedar Vedanti but he refused to sign the paper.

However, after the initial hiccups, the Sikh clergy today gave clear indications that gender discrimination had no place in Sikhism and hence the case regarding allowing baptised Sikh women to perform kirtan in the sanctum sanctorum of Harmandar Sahib would again be taken up at the next meeting, being convened shortly.

In a written release, issued late in the evening, Jathedar Vedanti said the issue needed a marathon discussion.

However, he said except for kirtan and cleaning of the sanctum sanctorum, women had been performing religious seva (service).

Earlier, after the meeting of the Sikh clergy, Jathedar Vedanti told mediapersons that no decision could be taken up regarding allowing women to perform kirtan.

Interestingly, in the evening senior officials of the S.G.P.C. rang up journalists stating that the Sikh high priests had 'agreed in principle' to allow Sikh women to perform kirtan. However, Mr. Prithipal Singh Sandhu, unofficial personal assistant to the Jathedar, Akal Takht, claimed that no such decision was taken.

It is reliably learnt that the Sikh high priests are divided over taking a 'hasty' decision on this important matter concerning the entire community.

While a section of the Damdami Taksal and the Sant Samaj (headed by Baba Sarbjot Singh Bedi) had openly opposed the move, the S.G.P.C. chief is eager to ensure a final nod by the Sikh clergy on the plea that gender discrimination could not be allowed as per Sikh tenets. The Dharam Parchar Committee of the S.G.P.C. has already given its approval to allow baptised women to perform kirtan in the sanctum sanctorum. However, Giani Gurbachan Singh, head granthi, Darbar Sahib, had stated that only the high priests were authorised to take a final decision on such matters.

Interestingly, the Religious Advisory Committee of the S.G.P.C. had passed a resolution on March 9, 1940, to allow baptised Sikh women to perform kirtan, which could not be implemented for various reasons. Later, five Sikh high priests had directed the S.G.P.C. to allow baptised Sikh women to perform seva in the sanctum sanctorum of Harmandar Sahib on February 9, 1996, which was also opposed by a section of the Sikh Panth.