Gurmat Sidhant is Clear but Women's Seva Committee is Indecisive

Special to SikhNet by Gurdarshan Singh Bahia

Prof. Darshan Singh briefed the media after the meeting. Jathedar Balwant Singh Nandgarh,
Amrajit Kaur and Kartar Kaur are also in the picture.

CHANDIGARH: April 25, 2003: The Committee constituted by Shiromani Gurdwara Parabadhak Committee fails to reach any conclusion in its first meeting to resolve the controversial issue of participation of women in Morning Ishnan Seva and Palaki Seva in Harimander Sahib, Amritsar despite the indubitable arguments of most of the participants representing various Sikh Organizations. The meeting was held here today at Kalgidhar Niwas in the chairmanship of Balwant Singh Nandgarh, Jatedar, Takhat Sri Damdama Sahib.

SGPC had constituted this Committee to resolve the issue which has come into the lime light after the SGPC employees stopped two England based Amritdhari Sikh women, Manjindar Pal Kaur and Lakhbir Kaur from performing the seva of Palaki Sahib in Darabar Sahib recently.

Besides Takhat Sri Damdama Sahib Jathedar Balwant Singh Nandgarh the other members of committee are Dr. Darshan Singh, Dr. Kharak Singh (both the members of Dharam Parchar Committee of SGPC), Amarjit Kaur Sekhwan and Kartar Kaur (both the members of Executive Committee of SGPC).

The committee had a lengthy interaction with about two dozen Sikh organizations and individuals to seek their view on the issue. Prof. Gurtej Singh of Institute of Sikh Studies, Chandigrah; Bibi Harjinder Kaur of Sikh Nari Manch; Sh. Rajinder Singh of Shiromani Khalsa Panchayat; Jaspal Singh Dhillon on behalf of All India Sikh Students Fedration (Bitu); Prof. Kulwindr Singh of Guru Gobind Singh Khalsa College, Chandigarh; Jagjit Singh Gaba of Siri Guru Singh Sabha Jallandhar and Gurcharan Singh Lamba, Editor of Sant Sipahi have expressed their views before Committee. The representatives of Sikh Missionaries of Faridabad and Guru Gobind Singh Study Circle also informed the committee of their stand on the issue.

The representatives Sikh Dharma in the Domain of the Western Hemisphere were represented by Mrs. Nirmaljit Sandhu, SS Surya Kaur Khalsa, Hari Jiwan Kaur Khalsa and Dharma Kaur Khalsa. These, along with Navkiran Singh of Voices for Freedom, ‘Fateh’ a Sikh organization of Vancouver, and Sikh scholars from Cambridge and Oxford universities have expressed their views on behalf of Sikh Diaspora. They are of the view that SGPC should take immediate decision to allow women to participate in the seva.

Dr. Darshan Siagh and Dr Kharak Siugh Mann, who briefed the media after the meeting, however, said the problem was with some influential Sikh organizations which held the opposite view. However, despite persistent quizzing, they refused to name these organizations. Their argument was that they were for evolving a consensus. Unlike the Hukamnama issued on the langar issue, this problem should not divide the Sikhs further.

Significantly, Dr. Darshan Siugh admitted that the Maryada (tradition) being followed in Darbar Sahib was not authenticated. The ban on women against performing the seva of Ishnan and Palaki Sahib is part of this unauthenticated Maryada. The Sikh theology and philosophy in no way oppose performing of this seva by women. Some of the practices which are being followed in the Darbara Sahib are not supported by the Sikh philosophy and teachings. These Sikh scholars admitted that there were distortions in Maryada being followed at Darbar Sahib. The big question is who should take the lead in removing the distortions.

Dr. Darshan Singh said that the committee will meet again on 8th of May for more discussions on the issue. He said that the committee will submit its report to the SGPC on or before 15th of May, positively, the deadline fixed by the SGPC.

Dr. Darshan Singh has denied making public the line taken by various Sikh organizations and individuals in today’s meeting but it is learnt that most of the participants expressed their views in support of participation of women in the seva.

The tyranny of the situation is that the Gurmt Sidhant (Sikh principle) is clear but the committee constituted to resolve this contentious issue of allowing women to perform Seva at Darbar Sahib the holiest of the holy Sikh shrines, is indecisive. At the same time, the committee members are unanimously of the view that the issue would be resolved in context of the Sikh philosophy.

Some independent observers feel that the leadership of SGPC is fully convinced that women should be allowed to participate in the seva but its political leadership has some reservations on the issue. This political leadership apprehends a risk of affecting its vote bank adversely because the opposing organizations have some influence on the Sikh voters. The SGPC is currently controlled by Shiromani Akali Dal led by Parkash Singh Badal as it has its majority in SGPC general house.

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