Roused, SGPC to enlighten US on Sikhism
By Harpreet Bajwa | Published: 15th September 2013 08:24 AM |
After dragging its feet over many projects, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) seems to be planning some action on the ground, to spread awareness about Sikhism and to get even with those who show the community in bad light, including Hindi films with misleading titles.
Following the findings of a Stanford University survey released on September 9, the SGPC has decided to set up a Sikh mission on 14 acres of land in California, US, for spreading awareness about Sikhism. According to the study carried out by Sikh American Legal Defence and Education Fund (SALDEF) and Stanford University, 49 per cent Americans still believe that Sikhism is a sect of Islam.
The apex Sikh organisation in the country came under fire from the Shiromani Akali Dal president and Punjab’s deputy chief minister Sukhir Singh Badal at a meeting in August. Badal is said to have given the members a tongue lash for not doing enough work for spreading the religion’s philosophy.
“I would be leaving for the US with a four-member delegation on September 25 to start the process for establishing the Sikh mission,” SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar said. “The SGPC plans to form a team of research scholars to prepare multi-lingual literature containing information about the religion,” he added.
“The aim behind setting up the mission is propagation of Sikhism and building up a supply line for sending Sikh literature abroad. We also want to educate children of Sikh NRIs about our tradition, culture and Punjabi language. The mission would play a key role in redressing various issues faced by Americans Sikhs on account of mistaken identity,” he said. SGPC had earlier planned to take over a gurdwara in the US, which was in a financial crisis and house the mission there. However, this did not materialise.
Dal Khalsa, a radical Sikh organization, has welcomed the decision to set up a joint Sikh Mission saying it is “better late than never”.
Work on refurbishing the Central Sikh Museum has also begun. Shri Akal Takht, the primary seat of Sikh religious authority, had asked the SGPC to expand the museum and give it a modern makeover. Akal Takht high priest Gurbachan Singh met Soumitra Ghosh of Art and Craft, Delhi, in July to discuss the expansion plan. “The refurbished museum will be air-conditioned with a multimedia system and state-of-the-art technology available in museums world over,” said Singh.
The SGPC will also finally begin restoration work on the holy Guru Granth Sahib that was damaged in 1921 at Saka Nankana Sahib and during Operation Bluestar in 1984, with the help of subject experts from Hyderabad and Patiala. It has decided to send `10 lakh to the Sikh Council in Pakistan for expenses incurred on court cases pertaining to gurdwara properties there.
Earlier in June, Makkar had written to Pakistan’s prime minister Nawaz Sharif to ensure safety of Sikh shrines in Pakistan. Makkar said he wrote to Sharif to save the property of Gurdwara Sahib Singh Sabha, Sahiwal, from the land mafia there.
The SGPC has already sprung into action on the home-turf as far as safeguarding the image of the community is concerned. Bollywood star Sunny Deol’s next Singh Saab the Great has run into trouble with SGPC which has objected to the title of the film. The film directed by Anil Tutu is slated for a November 22 release. A few years back, Deol’s Jo Bole So Nihaal had also invited controversy because of its title.
The SGPC says the movie’s name is a sacred title bestowed on the Jathedars of the five Takhts and the granthis of the Golden Temple and therefore, should not be used for commercial purposes.
Akal Takht high priest Gurbachan Singh said that the promoter of the film must get a clean chit from the SGPC review committee before the film is released.
Last year, much fuss was created over the film Son of Sardar for allegedly portraying Sikhs in a bad light. The film’s lead actor-cum-director Ajay Devgan had sorted the matter with the Sikh clergy. On directions of the Akal Takht high priest, SGPC got “objectionable” scenes removed after which the movie was released.
-The Sunday Standard