LEICESTER, UK—Lord Indarjit Singh of Wimbledon, the Director of the Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO), has expressed views which have offended Sikh sentiments.
A conversation regarding Sikh dietary practices and regulations had arisen as a result of the dietary requirements of an Amritdhari prisoner. Gurpreet Singh Palak, 25, had recently received a lengthy sentence on the grounds of conspiring to commit violent disorder in relation to the Moghal Durbar restaurant raid – a vigilante raid which took place in response to a perceived lack of police action regarding a Leicester grooming ring.
Gurpreet Singh had sought accommodation for his dietary requirements. As an Amritdhari Sikh, Gurpreet Singh observes a strict diet as a result of both his interpretation of the Sikh faith and the instruction given to him by the Panj Pyare during his Amrit Sanchar. As such, his following of a lacto-vegetarian diet and only eating food which has been cooked by spiritually disciplined Amritdhari Sikhs and prepared in sarbloh (iron), are aspects of his spiritual life which cannot be compromised or questioned – a discipline which is in accordance with the Sikh Rehat Maryada.
Lord Singh was called upon by a friend of the prisoner, Mandeep Singh, to intervene in the matter and contribute to finding a solution that will offer Gurpreet Singh a more balanced diet during his sentence. Mandeep Singh had hoped that the Sikh Chaplaincy service would jump at the opportunity to help the Gursikh maintain a Gursikhi lifestyle whilst serving his sentence.
However, Lord Singh bluntly rejected the suggestion that the NSO should intervene to accommodate the requirements of the prisoner. Gurpreet Singh’s beliefs, according to Lord Singh, are not in line with the Sikh Rehat Maryada, and attempts to accommodate them would therefore give a distorted view of Sikhi to the prison authorities.
Lord Singh’s initial claim that the dietary beliefs are not in line with the Sikh Rehat Maryada was contested by Mandeep Singh, who provided evidence in order to demonstrate that such dietary beliefs are very much in line with both the Sikh Rehat Maryada and traditional Sikh practices.
Lord Singh has as of yet avoided discussion on the specific topic of the dietary laws and their inclusion within the Sikh Rehat Maryada, in spite of persistent attempts to engage him.
Lord Singh had also written to Chaplaincy HQ after they requested advice regarding the situation following an e-mail sent to them by the Sikh Council. In his response, Lord Singh rejected that Sikh scriptures support such dietary beliefs and branded them “superstitious” and “totally contrary to the whole thrust of Guru Nanak’s teachings.” He continued that the dietary practice of Gurpreet Singh has nothing to do with Sikh teachings, and that adherence to such practices is directly contradictory to the letter and spirit of Sikhi.
What began as a request from a friend of Gurpreet Singh had led to a rash exertion of judgement, and Lord Singh has been accused not only of exerting judgement rather than supporting the needs of the Sikh prisoner during a difficult time, but also of using his position to exert judgement in matters relating to Sikhi. The case has prompted many questions, relating to the perceived authority of Lord Singh to speak on behalf of Sikhs; the processes and procedures which govern the Sikh Chaplaincy Service and whether basic Sikh principles are being adhered to; and the transparency of the organisation.
Page 30 (Sikh Rehit Maryada, Punjabi original version)
ਸਿਰਗੁੰਮ , ਨੜੀ ਮਾਰ (ਜੋ ਸਿੱਖ ਹੋ ਕੇ ਇਹ ਕੰਮ ਕਰਨ) ਦਾ ਸੰਗ ਨਹੀਂ ਕਰਨਾ |
English translation: “You must not associate with [those that whilst being a Sikh have become] Sirgum (cut-haired person) and Narhee-maar (smokers).”
Page 31 (Sikh Rehit Maryada, Punjabi original version):
ਠ) ਤਨਖਾਹੀਏ ਇਹ ਹਨ:-
- ਮੀਣੇ, ਮਸੰਦ, ਧੀਰਮੱਲੀਏ, ਰਾਮਰਾਈਏ, ਆਦਿਕ ਪੰਥ ਵਿਰੋਧੀਆਂ ਨਾਲ ਜਾਂ ਨੜੀ ਮਾਰ, ਕੁੜੀ ਮਾਰ, ਸਿਰਗੁੰਮ ਨਾਲ ਵਰਤਣ ਵਾਲਾ ਤਨਖਾਹੀਆ ਹੋ ਜਾਂਦਾ ਹੈ |
- ਬੇ-ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤੀਏ ਜਾਂ ਪਤਿਤ ਦਾ ਜੂਠਾ ਖਾਣ ਵਾਲਾ |
- ਦਾਹੜਾ ਰੰਗਣ ਵਾਲਾ |
- ਪੁੱਤਰ ਜਾਂ ਧੀ ਦਾ ਸਾਕ ਮੁੱਲ ਲੈ ਕੇ ਜਾਂ ਦੇ ਕੇ ਕਰਨ ਵਾਲਾ |
- ਕੋਈ ਨਸ਼ਾ (ਭੰਗ, ਅਫੀਮ, ਸ਼ਰਾਬ, ਪੋਸਤ, ਕੁਕੀਨ ਆਦਿ) ਵਰਤਣ ਵਾਲਾ |
- ਗੁਰਮਤਿ ਤੋਂ ਵਿਰੁੱਧ ਕੋਈ ਸੰਸਕਾਰ ਕਰਨ ਕਰਾਉਣ ਵਾਲਾ |
- ਰਹਿਤ ਵਿਚ ਕੋਈ ਭੁੱਲ ਕਰਨ ਵਾਲਾ |
- The following are Thankhahie (individuals liable to be reprimanded involving automatic social boycott):
- Anyone maintaining relations or communion with Meene, Masand, followers of Dheermal or Raam-Raae, or any other anti-Panthik individuals or groups, Narhee-maar (users of tobacco), kurhee-maar (those who kill or abort their daughters), and Sirgum (those who cut their hair). [You can associate with any of these if they take Amrit and join the Panth.]
- One who eats/drinks leftovers of the non-Amritdharis or Patit (fallen Sikh)
- One who dyes their beard [or Kes]
- One who marries their son or daughter in exchange for financial gain
- Users of intoxicants (hemp, opium, liquor, narcotics, bhang (marijuana), etc.)
- One holds any ceremonies against Gurmat.
- One who [knowingly] makes any mistake in Rehat.
Sikh Rehit Maryada, the footnote on page 31 (original Punjabi version) states:
ਵਰਤਣ ਤੋਂ ਭਾਵ ਰੋਟੀ-ਬੇਟੀ ਦੀ ਸਾਂਝ ਹੈ, ਜਿਸ ਦਾ ਸਪਸ਼ਟ ਅਰਥ ਰਿਸ਼ਤਾ-ਨਾਤਾ ਕਰ ਕੇ ਬਰਾਦਰੀ ਦਾ ਸੰਬੰਧ ਪੈਦਾ ਕਰਨਾ ਹੈ| ਗੁਰੁ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਦਾ ਭਾਵ ਪੰਥ ਨੂੰ ਇਕ ਕਰ ਕੇ ਰਖਣ ਦਾ ਸੀ ਤਾਂਕਿ ਵਖਰੇ ਗੁਰਿਆਈ ਦੇ ਸੈਂਟਰ ਜਾਂ ਮਿਲ-ਗੋਭਾ ਸਿਖੀ ਦੇ ਅਡੇ ਨਾ ਬਣਨ|
Translation: “This means Roti-Beti dee saanjh (sharing relations via eating food and marriage), which in a clearer sense means social boycott. The reason for Guru Ji for this Rehat was to keep the Panth united and one so that different centres of Guruship and watered-down versions of Sikhi do not form.”
Our Guru is Guru Granth Sahib Ji and the Guru Panth, which is represented in the Panj Pyaare. Assuming you have taken Amrit, you should very well know that the Panj Pyaare at any Amrit Sanchaar give the following instruction after receiving Amrit:
“ਖਾਲਸਾ ਦੇ ਰੋਟੀ ਬੇਟੀ ਸਾਂਝ ਖਾਲਸੇ ਨਾਲ ਹੈ |” “Khalsa keeps the relation of food/dining and marriage within the Khalsa.”
The above Rehat is orally given at Akal Takht Sahib and other places by the Panj Pyaare who follow and abide by the Sikh Rehat Maryada of the Panth. This should be common knowledge.
Furthermore Gurbani instructs us the following regarding company and dietary Bibek:
- ਸੰਤਨ ਕਾ ਦਾਨਾ ਰੂਖਾ ਸੋ ਸਰਬ ਨਿਧਾਨ|| ਗ੍ਰਿਹਿ ਸਾਕਤ ਛਤੀਹ ਪ੍ਰਕਾਰ ਤੇ ਬਿਖੂ ਸਮਾਨ||੨||
“The dry bread of the Saints is equal to all treasures. The thirty-six tasty dishes of the faithless one are just like poison.” (Bilaval M:5, p. 811)
- ਬਾਬਾ ਹੋਰੁ ਖਾਣਾ ਖੁਸੀ ਖੁਆਰੁ॥ ਜਿਤੁ ਖਾਧੈ ਤਨੁ ਪੀੜੀਐ, ਮਨ ਮਹਿ ਚਲਹਿ ਵਿਕਾਰ॥
“O Baba! The pleasures of other foods are false, eating which is unhealthy for the body and the vice and corruption enters the mind.” (Siree Raag M:1, p. 16)
- ਕਬੀਰ ਸਾਕਤ ਸੰਗੁ ਨ ਕੀਜੀਐ ਦੂਰਹਿ ਜਾਈਐ ਭਾਗਿ|| ਬਾਸਨੁ ਕਾਰੋ ਪਰਸੀਐ ਤਉ ਕਛੁ ਲਾਗੈ ਦਾਗੁ||੧੩੧||
“O Kabeer! Do not associate with the faithless cynics; run far away from them. If you touch a vessel stained with soot, some of the soot will stick to you.” (Salok Bhagat Kabeer Ji, p. 1371)
- ਸੰਤਨ ਸਿਉ ਮੇਰੀ ਲੇਵਾ ਦੇਵੀ ਸੰਤਨ ਸਿਉ ਬਿਉਹਾਰਾ||
“My dealings are with the Saints (i.e. Gursikhs), and my business is with the Saints (i.e. Gursikhs).” (Sorath M:5, p. 614)
- ਊਤਮ ਸੰਗਤਿ ਊਤਮੁ ਹੋਵੈ|| ਗੁਣ ਕਉ ਧਾਵੈ ਅਵਗਣ ਧੋਵੈ||
“In the uplifting society, one is uplifted. He chases after virtue and washes off his sins.” (Aasa M:1, p. 414)
- ਨਾਨਕ ਕਚੜਿਆ ਸਿਉ ਤੋੜਿ ਢੂਢਿ ਸਜਣ ਸੰਤ ਪਕਿਆ||
“O Nanak! Break away from the false, and seek out the Saints, your true friends.” (Maaroo M:5, p. 1102)
- ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਬਾਝਹੁ ਗੁਰੁ ਨਹੀ ਕੋਈ ਨਿਗੁਰੇ ਕਾ ਹੈ ਨਾਉ ਬੁਰਾ||੧੩||
“Without the True Guru, there is no Guru at all; one who is without a Guru has a bad reputation.” (Aasa M:3, p. 435)
- ਗੁਰ ਸੰਗਤਿ ਕੀਨੀ ਖ਼ਾਲਸਾ ਮਨਮੁਖੀ ਦੁਹੇਲਾ |
“The Khalsa associates with the Guru’s Sangat (company), whilst the Manmukhs (those who do not obey the Guru) remain in duality.” (Bhai Gurdas Singh)