Peaceful Demo's Across UK

Dhan Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji
Peaceful Protests at Ek Niwaas and Baba Wadbhag Singh Trust Greenford

Over the past weekend once again Sikhs had to take direct action through peaceful protest to prevent further disrespect to their 11th Guru, Sahib Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. On 10th December 2006 Sikhs from across the country, with Guru Ji’s grace, managed to restore Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the living Word and Guru incarnate to their rightful throne of the Gurdwara at two locations in England.

Ek Niwas Wolverhampton
As some readers may already be aware, there has been a history of disrespect to Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji at Ek Niwas, Wolverhampton. Discussions had continued over several months with negotiators including Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh from Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha and representatives of Gurdwara Councils of Sandwell and Wolverhampton. These discussions had culminated in a signed agreement between the Sikh community and Ek Niwas, witnessed by representatives of West Midlands Police. The agreement concluded that the two saroops of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji at Ek Niwas would be respectfully accompanied to Akal Takhat Sahib unless the Akal Takhat gave permission for Ek Niwas to continue to have the company of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. Akal Takhat Sahib refused the request from Ek Niwas due to the presence of idols and other activities, such as dancing, inconsistent with Sikh practice.

It recently transpired however, that Ek Niwas had taken a contentious and devious route instead, of obtaining two senchiyaa (volumes) of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji and carried out parkash (revelation of scriptures for public Court) together on a manji sahib (dais). Such parkash symbolises the embodiment and presence of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji and went against the original agreement.

On the morning of Sunday 10 December Sikhs gathered outside Ek Niwas to firstly confirm in police presence the attendance of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji at Ek Niwas and upon confirmation to accompany Guru Ji to a Gurdwara. Upon substantiation of the containment of Guru Ji’s saroop at Ek Niwas the protestors grew in number. Early in the afternoon members of Ek Niwas became abusive and violent as they spouted inflammatory language, made indecent gestures and hurled missiles at the Sikh sangat who were peacefully stood outside the centre, many of them praying.

One Sikh youngster received extensive cuts to his forehead and a further two were injured as a result of violence by Ek Niwas followers. In response to the abuse and attack on the protestors some Sikhs entered Ek Niwas, however upon police intervention quickly departed. Police responded by cordoning off the main Dudley Road, barricaded the protestors off and repulsed any further protestors from arriving or leaving. Due to the violence by Ek Niwas followers, sangat from across Wolverhampton and neighbouring towns began to arrive as word spread of this incident. By late afternoon Sikhs from cities across the country had started to arrive to share the duty of restoring respect to Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. They were in preparation to camp there all night if this was the seva Guru Ji had set them. With the growing numbers, which by early evening were amassing several hundred, a resolution was reached and by 9pm senchiyaa of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji returned to Guru Nanak Gurdwara Sedgley St in Wolverhampton and their righteous resting place at the House of the Guru (Gurdwara).

Thereupon Guru Ji blessed the Sikh Sangat with the following Hukamnama:

Sikhs are a community who are not only tolerant to other faiths but also respect other peoples beliefs. In so doing Sikhs do not have anything against Ek Niwas; nonetheless when the question of respect to our eternal Guru Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji arises, Sikhs will not sit aside whilst their Guru is confined to an inappropriate location. Sikhs contend that the Ek Niwas Centre is clearly not a multi-faith centre but a Hindu mandir. Ek Niwas is affiliated to the National Hindu Council which works closely with the World Hindu Council, which does not recognize the existence of Sikhism as a separate religion. Contrary to a truly multi-faith centre, Muslim scriptures are not kept at the centre, the Muslim insignia has been removed from the centre’s gates and the centre lacks both a functional Muslim prayer room and a chapel for Christians to pray in. The centre is seen therefore as deliberately setting out to provoke the sentiments of the Sikh community.

Baba Wadbhag Singh Trust Greenford
On the same day as the campaign at Ek Niwas in Wolverhampton a simultaneous peaceful protest was held at a centre known as Baba Wadbhag Singh Trust on Greenford Road in Southall. Even though the building is fronted as a Gurdwara contra-Sikh activities were being carried out at this centre. There is a code of conduct which regulates the procedures and practices for the care of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. Any environment and practice which violates this code causes disrespect to Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji.

After two hours of discussions some of the congregation of Baba Wadbhag Singh Trust agreed that they were in gross violation of Sikh maryada, and came to agreement that Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji would not remain in the premises and would be restored to their rightful place at a Gurdwara. Despite this agreement, one of the occupants pressed the panic alarm as the Sikhs were leaving. The police arrived within minutes and unaware of the agreement stopped the Sikhs from progressing. The lady in charge at the Wadbhag Singh Trust incorrectly told the police that the Sikhs were forcibly taking Guru Ji; the police proceeded to remove the Sikhs from the building who consequently resumed the peaceful protest outside.

At Baba Wadbhag Singh Trust, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji were kept in an undignified manner in a room where bras and make-up were found in sachkhand or resting place of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the inner sanctum of any Gurdwara. The sachkand should be mandatorily confined to no other use other than Guru Ji’s resting place. Furthermore, practices being carried out at Baba Wadbhag Singh Trust, including Hindu idols and black magic, as at Ek Niwas are proscribed in the Sikh religion. The environment and circumstances at Wadbhag Singh Trust like Ek Niwas were in contrast to the principles and values of Guru Ji. The violation of code of conduct, disregard and disrespect for Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji at Baba Wadbhag Singh Trust so distressed the Sikh community that the protestors included many elderly, young, and women picketers, illustrating the impact this disrespect had on the entire Sikh community. The peaceful protest lasted a further 6 hours and negotiations between the police, protestors and the Trust eventually resolved that the 3 saroops of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji were to be restored to their rightful abode at the Gurdwara.

An Unacceptable Widespread Problem
Sikhs are proud to be British and don’t only talk about values such as tolerance, their history is one of interfaith practice and respect to other religions which is inseparable from their philosophy. They live side by side in harmony with all races and communities. The 9th Sikh Guru became a martyr by giving up his life for the freedom of others to practice a faith he did not aspire to and his predecessors had rebelled against. In spite of the respect Sikhs have for other religions, the fifth Guru the first Sikh martyr gave up his life to uphold the sovereignty of the Sikh faith from external influence and coercion by refusing to alter a passage within the text of Aad Granth Sahib Ji. Therefore disrespect to Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji is intolerable, and misappropriation of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji deeply hurts the sentiments of the community. Imagine the hurt Christians would feel if the bible was mistreated or the Koran disrespected even though they are commonly referred to as books and adherents as people of the book. The hurt may be similar to the sacred offering by non-Christians of holy sacrament bread and wine as representation of the body of Christ or Eucharist. However, for a Sikh the hurt is incomparable as not only are Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji the literal Word of Sikh Gurus and the eternal textual embodiment of the previous Gurus, they have been bequeathed as the living 11th Guru and therefore are not remotely comparable to the description of book or scripture.

The incidents of the past weekend illustrate that disrespect to Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji is both an unacceptable and widespread problem. If the issue of respect to Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji is not adhered to, then Sikhs will have no option but to continue to raise their voice and deal with the problem in a positive manner. The responsibility to ensure respect for Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji must lie therefore foremost with the Sikh community. As in all faiths, the Sikh community needs regulations and safeguards to ensure that Sikh sentiments are not willfully offended by the continuous encroachment of their good nature. In a similar manner to other organized religions, Sikhs need to establish a centrally administered system to ensure compliance and monitoring of Sikh practices and regulation of Sikh centers. This is imperative to both scrutinize standards and to keep in check the ability of individuals to exploit some of the most vulnerable members of society by using Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji to gain credibility for their unSikh practices.

Sikh Sangat Article
BBC News Article
SS Part 2 with pictures

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