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World Sikh Convention on Schedule Despite Opposition
The Sikh Times, Boston, Oct. 24, 2003
The World Sikh Convention, scheduled to take place on October 26 at an undisclosed location in Mohali (Punjab, India), is facing stiff opposition from various Sikh establishment organizations.
Those in opposition include the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (S.G.P.C.), the All India Sikh Students Federation (A.I.S.S.F.), the Sant Samaj, and various Nihang groups.
The extent of the opposition is evident from the delay in announcing a venue for the convention. According to The Tribune (October 24), 'Organizers of convention said today that it [the convention] would be held as scheduled and its venue would be announced at a press conference tomorrow. Earlier, Dara Film Studio [in Phase VI, S.A.S. Nagar] had been booked for hosting the convention. Prof. Gurtej Singh met the Chief Secretary today to request that the organizers should be allowed to use P.U.D.A. land at Mohali to hold the convention in case the management of Dara Studio, which had [been] approached again, did not agree to allow the convention.'
Voicing his opposition in The Times of India (October 19) the S.G.P.C. president, Gurcharan Singh Tohra, confirmed that Akali Dal-aligned organizations have set out to oppose the convention. With characteristic vengeance, Tohra threatened to withdraw the 'S.G.P.C. National Professor of Sikhism' title from convention organizer Gurtej Singh. On October 23, The Tribune reported that both Tohra and Simranjit Singh Mann, president of S.A.D. (Amritsar), have voiced their opposition claiming that the convention is aimed at creating 'chaos' and 'schism' within Sikhism. Tohra argued that '[if the] organisers of the Mohali convention wanted to take control of Sikh institutions, they should contest the S.G.P.C. elections.'
A.I.S.S.F. president, Harminder Singh Gill, has been most vocal in his opposition. On October 23, The Times of India reported that Gill has 'threatened to forcibly prevent' the convention from taking place. The Times of India (October 11) also quoted an acknowledgement from Gill that 'They [the convention organizers] are trying to project Kala Afghana as a Salman Rushdie vis-a-vis Sikhism.' On October 23, The Tribune reported that Gill has 'welcomed' Dara Singh's decision to disallow the use of his studio for the convention. Dara Singh is a member of parliament (M.P.) and a former international level wrestler and movie actor.
As confirmed by Tohra's oblique reference to the need for state security, Punjab's Congress-led government, headed by Chief Minister Capt. (Retd.) Amarinder Singh, has allied with the convention's organizers and offered to provide the necessary muscle to keep the opposition at bay.
An Octboer 13 press statement issued by the convention's organizers at Chandigarh's Aroma Hotel claimed that Joginder Singh Sawhney, editor of the Spokesman (Chandigarh), was being threatened with excommunication because the 'popular Sikh monthly . . . has been exposing the clergy-politician nexus [and] the spiritual suppression of the Sikhs.' The press release added that this 'nexus' is 'subservient to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (R.S.S.).'
The R.S.S., a Hindu-chauvinist organization alligned with India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (B.J.P.), has consistently adopted an assimilative approach toward Sikhism as well as other religions in India. On November 10, 2002, Sify News quoted R.S.S. honcho K.S. Sudarshan thus: 'everybody living in Hindustan [India] is Hindu.'
On October 24, The Tribune (Chandigarh) reported that Baba Santa Singh, chief of the Budha Dal, has said that 'Nihang organisations, including the Taruna Dal, Harianbelan Dal, Baba Bidhi Chand Ji, Taruna Dal (Baba Jawand Singh), and Malwa Taruna Dal won't allow the organizers of the conference to raise [a] voice against [the] age-old institutions of [the] Akal Takht and the Sikh clergy.
The press release also accused the 'nexus' of attempting to popularize 'spurious history books like Gurbilas Patshahi 10.'
The following is the list of signatories to the press release issued by the convention's organizing committee:
Gurtej Singh, S.G.P.C. National Professor of Sikhism and former I.A.S. officer
Ajit Singh Bains, former justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court (Chandigarh, Punjab, India)
Dalip Singh, former president of the J&K Sikh Gurdwara Board
Kanwar Mohinder Partap Singh, Principal, Gurmat Gyan Missionary College, Ludhiana, Punjab
Major General (Retd.) Narinder Singh, World Sikh Council
Rajinder Singh, Convener, Shiromani Khalsa Panchayat
Mohinder Singh Josh, Shiromani Sikh Samaj
Dr. Mann Singh Nirankari, Nirankari Darbar, Rawalpindi Wale
Kirpal Singh, Gurdwara Parbandh Sudhar Jatha, Bathinda, Punjab
Inder Singh Ghagga, an international preacher
Dr. Sukhjit Kaur, a human rights activist
Dr. Tarlochan Singh, former president of the Sikh Missionary College, Ludhiana, Punjab