Sunday, August 27, 2006

Shinda Singh Explains Sikh Student Camp

Shinda Singh Explains Sikh Student Camp


As many of you may or may not have heard, there was some rawkus in the UK over the weekend that saw a group of individuals hospitalize members from another. Undoubtedly many are shocked at such brazen - “Sikh on Sikh” violence, but from the sounds of it, wasn’t this all a long time coming?

Firstly I’m not condoning the violence, although I’m not against the use of violence to accomplish a means, I do hold that violence should remain a last resort, and a certain level of thought / care needs to be taken before one chooses to cross that line, because rarely is it possible to undo such damage. In other words, once you cross that line, there’s no crossing back, so it better be worth it.

Now to the real flesh of the topic, as to why was this all a long time coming. I need to make it clear now that I’m not involved in any way with the Sikh Student camp in the UK, never been there, don’t personally know anyone who has, so everything I do know about it, for or against comes from third party sources.

Having talked to various people, my understanding of the Sikh Student camp emerged out of the old BOSS Student Camps when the UK Nihang faction (Niddar Singh and crew), were removed from taking part in any shape or form. This led to the creation of the Sikh Student camps which offered what it and those who support the camps claimed to be, a diverse outlook on Sikhi. Now I don’t know how much of an influence Niddar Singh or his minions have on the actual camp but if it’s anything like the views expressed on their website, then we all know how diverse they can be. Also, Niddar Singh and company are no strangers to violence, with news of fights that occur between members of his own group or that of opposing factions emerging yearly whether it be in the UK or stretching as far as India. However, to this degree it has been refuted that Niddar Singh and company have nothing to do with the camps, so I guess we’ll just have to take their (those saying such things) word for it, [to the contrary] that these two “beefs” are not connected.

Many individuals in recent times have expressed a disgust with the camps, over videos and images that have emerged on the net depicting individuals in a negative light. Whether it was of organizers’ [can’t say if they are or not] doing there best to imitate Pac, or dropping verses like Chamkila, it’s fair to say that not everyone was happy, and felt that these few reasons alone were a just means to call for a boycott.

I would have to give this one to the defendants [Sikh Students], simply because you can’t hold the organizers responsible for the actions of a few. The singing and dancing video apparently was done for jokes, and it seems that people are blowing it out of proportion to justify their own means, as for the pictures, not exactly capturing individuals at there finest moments, but again I’ll give some of these images the benefit of the doubt that they were being done for jokes, whether or not you share in their sense of humor I’ll leave to you.

What raises an alarm with me however are the allegations of harassment and lude behavior towards the Bibian at the camp. These are always serious allegations that require serious attention, but just posting ones claims on message boards does seem rather redundant, as it rarely serves a purpose in solving the problem.

Now apart from the rest the Sikh Student camp has faced many of these allegations and offered assurances that mistakes of the past will be corrected, yet it seems that they have gone against their word, based on various articles. If this is the case then one needs to wonder where their [those behind the camp’s] motives lie.

Especially with all the press against the camp one can’t be so naive to the fact that there isn’t more then what meets the eye. After all for the major jathebandi’s to ask for a boycott of the camp, something serious must be wrong.

Taking all the above into consideration, its hard not to imagine why individuals would want to see the camp closed, but apart from that there’s also the Gurmat aspect of it.

Now I’m not against a camp which promotes a Jatha’s own view or slant on Gurmat, after all every camps views on Gurmat will be slanted in some manor one way or another. At the same time though, I’ve never heard of a single Jatha which condones alcohol, cutting of hair, and discouraging people from keeping rehit. Whether they stress the importance of keeping rehit at there camps or not, [has been said that Rehit isn’t over emphasized to prevent from scaring away the new comers], discouraging people from rehit is absurd, which has been the case reported by those against the camp.

Looking at the above its easy to find why those against the Sikh Student camp would feel frustrated by the actions [or lack thereof] on the part of organizers to fix these problems. Would this constitute their right to bomb someone’s car or jumping them in there driveway, probably not, but it does help serve a better picture of what’s really going on.

Lastly, are the victims really the victims? No doubt they are the ones who are suffering from the attacks, but how innocent are they to the whole ordeal? After all, imagine if they simply challenged those against the camp by saying something like, “we’re doing this camp one way or another, we dare you try and stop us” or something to that effect, can you really hold it against someone for calling their bluff?

Again, I’m not here trying to condone the violence, because like I said earlier violence has a time and place, which I really don’t feel it did in this situation, but to also paint things black and white, having a good guy and bad guy just doesn’t seem fair, since clearly there is a lot of grey area in between.

Finally, in-fighting amongst sikh groups is nothing new, nor the violence between them. There has been in-fighting since the times of the Guru’s, and the ways of the elder generations is no deep dark secret. End of the day, we do need to stand up against those who go against the very rudimentary principles of Sikhi, however we do need to leave some flexibility and room for rationality and the ability to agree to disagree. With all the problems facing us, we need to pick and choose our fights, and the amount of energy we exert into each carefully, otherwise we will quickly find ourselves drained with nothing left. Conflicts at the grassroots levels such as Sikhi camps are especially dis-heartening as it sets all parties back when trying to convince parents and youth that they are genuinely interested in helping the kids. One needs look no further then the Bugga camps that used to happen in Ontario in the early 90’s. Ever since the corruption and exposure of those camps parents have had to take that extra vigilance before sending there kids to any camp [which they should be doing anyway’s], but when it comes to those who just don’t have the time, saying no and keeping the kids at home becomes just that much easier.

Shinda Singh

Friday, August 11, 2006

Chigwell Camp

On 8/8/06, Sikh Parents Awareness Society <> wrote:
Dear Sikh Student Camp 2006 Team
It is disheartening to read you request of detailed of the incidents that we have highlighted in the leaflet. If you remember a meeting with yourselves was organised by Seva Singh Lallee, Manjit Singh and other Gravesend Gurdwara Committee members in early July 2006. not only did this meeting have representatives of the camp & the victims of the camp, but also had many members of Gravesend Sangat, because it was held in the Gurdwara Diwan hall.
Within this meeting all facts were presented to the Camp Organisers such as Gurmukh Singh, Randip Singh & Jasjot Singh. Furthermore to jog your memory this meeting has been captured on video by yourselves and we have an audio recording.
The culprits responsible for these and other incidents have been identified face to face and it is important to realise that you where dismissing these issues by saying those individuals have been banned for some time and so been dealt with. When the pictures of 2005 camp are reviewed those individuals are in the front during seminars and workshops. These same individuals were promoting the camp at "Keertan in the Park" in Hounslow, one week ago.
We have done nothing more but to given you suggestions and offer our help to stop these things from happen this year. Please remember our resolve to allow 10 or so of us to help out at your camp, this was flatly refused by Camp Organiser Gurmukh Singh of Gravesend.
Please acknowledge that within this meeting you agreed that these issues happened. Refering to the camp organiser who is head of security, she stated that if the Camp Organisers cannot impliment controls then the camp should not happen. When we questioned about how these culprits were dealt with, Camp organisers like Gurmukh Singh refused to elborate, again this doesnt give us any confidence in your intentions.
Within some of the emails I have received people are asking to clarify the camp organisers. If you remember you agreed to submit to us a list of camp organisers so that we could differenciate the organisers from the culprits. As to this day we have not received this list. It looks as if you do not wish to differenciate the organisers from the culprits.
The details have been with the organisers for many weeks now and we are still awaiting any response or action.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Ramdev VIP at Gurdwara Soho Road

"Symbol of Hindutva" Swami Ramdev given VIP status in UK Gurughar
By SSNews, BBC, deccanherald
Aug 2, 2006, 20:40

Swami Ramdev is known for his Yoga exercises, he heads Divya Yog Mandir Trust which also uses Ayurveda to their patients, under the guidance of Acharya Bal Krishan.

Swami Ramdev earned popularity in India and the West by claiming to cure diseases through ‘pranayam’ but was criticised for the alleged use of powder made of human skulls and animal parts in his ayurvedic medicines.

Over 100 ex-volunteers from Divya Yoga Pharmacy went on strike alleging Swami Ramdev was putting powder of human skulls and animal organs in "medicines" and giving them to the less fortunate who are desperate for medical help.

Swami Ramdev is alleged to be a major supporter of the RSS, which Panthic groups describe as Anti-Sikh. They state their aim is to distort Sikh principles, history and rehat with the aim of bringing Sikhi under the umbrella of Hinduism. He is often seen with influential members of the RSS and makes speeches in support. He attends RSS rallies as a dignitary and is shown above with K.S. Sudarshan, the leader of the RSS, at a recent RSS convention. The BJP, the political wing of the RSS describe Swami Ramdev on their website as the "living symbol of Hindutva" (which Panthic groups describe as an Anti-Sikh socio-political-religious philosophy). The BJP state "Swamiji has dedicated his life to promoting good health and spreading the essence of Hindutva"

On his trip to the UK, he visited cultural centers, and religious places and was invited by Gurudwaras. Gurudwaras are by nature welcomming and open to all and ignore Caste, Colour, Creed or any other denomination. However, many UK Gurughar invited him and bestowed VIP status to him over and above that of sangat thus causing disrespect to this principle Sikh tenet.

On Wednesday 26th July Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha welcomed Swami Ramdev at their Birmingham Gurdwara and Nishkam Educational and Cultural Centre (NECC). GNNSJ were advised by members of local sangat that it would not be a good idea inviting a major supporter of the RSS to address congregation at the centre as it is the duty of each and every Sikh to endeavour to spread Gurmat. However, SSNews has often written highly positively about the excellent sewa of GNNSJ in both the UK and abroad and hope such endeavours will continue as a primary focus.

Gurdwara Karamsar (Ilford, UK) also received Swami Ramdev giving him a VIP reception. Outside the Diwan Hall sangat pictured people bowing their heads to the local Baba Partap Singh who received Swami Ramdev. Ramdev was then ushered into the Darbar of Dhan Dhan Sri Guru Granth Sahib Maharaj and seated on the stage. The committee actively encouraged the disrespect to Guru Maharaj of having the RSS supporter speak over the Gurbani of the Akhand Path that was being conducted. Sri Guru Granth Sahib was being recited without the microphone on and the voice of the "living symbol of Hindutva" was being played on the loudspeakers to the congregation.

The Gurughar invited the major RSS supporter at a time when the Hukamnama of the Akal Takht to boycott the RSS community was in effect. Sangat allege at certain Gurughar clearly the status of parbandhak committees, Babae and even RSS-supporters is taking precedence over Guru Maharaj and Gurmat. In truth, Sikh Principles, Rehat and Respect for Guru Maharaj should be ensured at all costs.