Open Letter To Lord Singh

ੴ ਸ੍ਰੀਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂਜੀਕੀਫਤਹ ॥

Lord Singh jeeo,

Firstly I would like to take the opportunity to applaud you for all of the positive work that you have done for the Sikh community residing in England. Guru Sahib has done much Kirpa on you to put you in a position to help Sikhs living in England live with dignity and be able to voice their concerns in the Houses of Parliament of Great Britain. Your support of the request for transparency in regards to Britain’s involvement in 1984 left us feeling pride in your achievements. Sadly, reading today’s article in Sikh24 left me wondering why you decided to take the stance that you did. Please note that this is not an attack on your beliefs but a letter to urge you to reconsider your stance. My Benti is as follows:

“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 Siri Guru Nanak Dev Ji’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” – Sikh24, July 24, 2014

In the above passage you have branded the dietary requirements of Veer Gurpreet Singh as “superstitious” and have said that this goes against the “letter and spirit of Sikhi”. My question to you is, on which basis have you made this argument?

If this was an innovation of Veer Gurpreet Singh, or was a modern phenomenon only followed by a fringe group of Sikhs then your argument may hold some ground, but this is very far from the case. The Rehit of Bibek has been coming since the time of Siri Guru Nanak Dev jee, when Guru Sahib only accepted food from Bhai Lalo rather than Malik Bhago on the basis of Bhai Lalo’s food being in accordance with Bibek, and Malik Bhago’s food going against Bibek.

To the ordinary eye there is no difference between the food of Bhai Lalo and Malik Bhago, but Guru Sahib showed that the spirituality of the person making the food directly affects the food that is made. Bhai Lalo was living a life in accordance with Sikh principles and therefore his Parshada produced milk, whereas the Roti of Malik Bhago, who was not living in accordance to Sikhi, produced blood.

In this way Guru Sahib laid the foundation of Bibek, which is that a spiritually aware person should be mindful of the food that they put in their body. Food directly affects our mind and spiritual state, as per Gurvaak:

ਬਾਬਾ ਹੋਰੁ ਖਾਣਾ ਖੁਸੀ ਖੁਆਰੁ ॥
O Baba, the pleasures of other foods are false.

ਜਿਤੁ ਖਾਧੈ ਤਨੁ ਪੀੜੀਐ ਮਨ ਮਹਿ ਚਲਹਿ ਵਿਕਾਰ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥
Eating them, the body is ruined, and wickedness and corruption enter into the mind. ||1||Pause||
– Sri Raag, Ang 16, Guru Nanak Dev jee

Guru Nanak Dev jee warns that eating food devoid of spirituality is harmful to the individual’s mind and spirit.

Secondly I would like to contest your argument that these practices are against the “letter and spirit of Sikhi.” I will do this by making my argument in two parts.

Letter of Sikhi in this case would require Bibek Rehit to be supported by quotes of scripture, namely from Siri Guru Granth Sahib jee. There are many different places within Gurbani that could be quoted, but for the purpose of this letter I will limit myself to one quote.

ਚੋਰਾ ਜਾਰਾ ਰੰਡੀਆ ਕੁਟਣੀਆ ਦੀਬਾਣੁ ॥
Thieves, adulterers, prostitutes and pimps,

ਵੇਦੀਨਾ ਕੀ ਦੋਸਤੀ ਵੇਦੀਨਾ ਕਾ ਖਾਣੁ ॥
make friendships with the unrighteous, and eat with the unrighteous.

ਸਿਫਤੀ ਸਾਰ ਨ ਜਾਣਨੀ ਸਦਾ ਵਸੈ ਸੈਤਾਨੁ ॥
They do not know the value of the Lord’s Praises, and Satan is always with them.
– Guru Nanak Dev jee, Ang 790

From the above quote it can be seen that the “letter” of Sikhi does support Bibek Rehit, because the above Panktis warn against eating from those who are living an unrighteous life, i.e. a life against Sikhi.

To prove that Bibek Rehit is supported not only in “letter” but also “spirit” we look to Sikh history which shows that majority of the Khalsa Panth, regardless of Jathebandi used to keep Bibek Rehit. An example comes to mind of the great Sikh reformer and freedom fighter Bhai Sahib Bhai Randhir Singh.

In the fight for independence from British rule of India, Bhai Sahib Bhai Randhir Singh was sentenced to life imprisonment in the famous Lahore Conspiracy Case. Bhai Sahib Bhai Randhir Singh was an adherent of Bibek Rehit and had to go through many hardships during his jail sentence including going without food or water for 40 days to preserve his Rehit.

It should be dully noted that the British Government made allowance for Bhai Sahib Bhai Randhir Singh to be able to cook his own food and that of the other Sikh prisoners during his time in jail.

During one of the hunger strikes of Bhai Sahib Bhai Randhir Singh fought for the right to make his own food, word got out to Punjab that Bhai Sahib was protesting to be able to keep his Bibek. At this occasion, Kar Seva was being started at Harmandar Sahib and during the Ardaas to begin Seva, Ardaas was done at Akal Takht Sahib for Chardikala of Bhai Sahib as well.

This shows that Bibek Rehit is not a “superstition” but is an integral part of Sikh Rehit. It goes beyond a doubt that Bibek Rehit is fully inline with Siri Guru Nanak Dev jee’s teachings, and is justified in the letter and spirit of Sikhi.

Lord Singh jeeo, I urge you to revoke your statements to Chaplaincy HQ and to come out in support of Veer Gurpreet Singh’s right to follow Bibek Rehit and to be allowed to cook for himself.

Guru Sahib Kirpa Karan,

Preetam Singh


    One of the first Sikh Prisoners in British jails was Shahid Udham Singh, a friend of my parents. Udham Singh was hanged in Brixton Prison in 1940 for shooting Sir Michael O’ Dwyer at a meeting in Caxton Hall in London. O’ Dwyer was Governor of Punjab at the time of the infamous Jallianwala Bagh massacre. He was regularly visited in prison by my father Dr Diwan Singh who would travel up from Birmingham.
    In the 60s and 70s the hippy movement was in full swing and long hair became fashionable. Restrictions on long hair in prisons led to a problem for the Church of England Chaplaincy, with some inmates claiming that they were Sikhs and should be exempt from the requirement to keep their hair short.
    Although the law stated that it was a wholly Church of England Chaplaincy, there was some provisions for other Christian denominations and for Jews. With some people calling themselves Sikhs, the Chaplain General realised that he needed guidance on other faiths. He invited myself and a Muslim from the Regent’s Park Mosque to join us at the quarterly Chaplaincy Council meetings. (A few years later we were joined by a Hindu and a Buddhist).
    The meetings were conducted around a long table and we were made to sit at one end while the agenda was being discussed at the other end. If we raised any issue or concern, the Chaplain General would look at us in a hostile way. Fortunately we both had thick skins!
    By the middle of the 80s, the number of Sikhs in prison had increased significantly from a handful to nearly 300 (now more nearly 800) mainly due to political agitation connected with the attack on the Golden Temple and the mass killing of Sikhs throughout India in 1984.
    I felt every Sikh in prison should receive regular visits and support. I persuaded a few friends around the country to act as contact points or Regional Managers and it was their duty to find granthis or other retired people to visit prisons in their area. Much later, and with great difficulty, I got agreement from the Chaplaincy Council for the Sikh Chaplains to be paid for travelling and attendance time.
    There were many battles with the Chaplaincy Council over bringing in Krah Prashad and occasional langar for Sikh Services, and over the right of Sikhs to wear karas and a turban, and for Sikh Ministers to wear a kirpan. Eventually it was agreed that a kirpan of up to six inches in length could be worn by the Sikh minister providing it was concealed from view.
    Respect for other faiths improved considerably with the appointment of a new Chaplain General, William Noblett in the 90s. He had lived in India and had a great regard for Sikhs. On our first meeting he greeted me with Sat Siri Akal and a big smile. William was determined to change the Anglican Chaplaincy to a Multi Faith Chaplaincy.
    For the first time we were invited to the Annual Chaplaincy Conference with the designation of Faith Advisors. Additionally, we were allowed a Sikh Training Day. We also began having Sikh Chaplaincy meetings at our own expense. The Home Office gave each Other Faith Chaplaincy a small annual grant, currently £17,000 (less than the cost of a part-time secretary) to manage spiritual and pastoral care for every Sikh in every prison in the whole of England and Wales. The grant helps pay part of the office and administrative expenses, with the Director, Deputy Director and Regional Managers working on an honorary basis. Sikhs are now ahead of other chaplaincies in extending chaplaincy services to Scotland, with the help of resources from the Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO).
    Much has been achieved with the recognition of special provision for religious festivals. We have also compiled Prison Service Instructions (PSIs) giving an outline of the Sikh faith and faith requirements.
    Progress has not however been uniform. The Prison Chaplaincy is only advisory and is not a part of the management structure of the Prison Service. When a Sikh Minister at one prison was summarily dismissed, I was told I could not be given the reason because I was not a paid employee! I upset the new Chaplain General by appealing to the Head of the Prison Service who finally condescended to tell me that the Minister’s kirpan had fall loose and he was seen picking it up from the floor. He, like all other Sikh Chaplains at the time and most still now, was a ‘Sessional Chaplain’ paid only for the hours he worked with no employment rights.
    There have also been some self-created problems. There was a court appearance with a Sikh prisoner threatening to go on a hunger strike for special facilities. I attended court to assist him and saw him being slipped a packet of cigarettes by a friend. There are warnings not to bring in food from outside. Despite this, a well-meaning chaplain inadvertently brought in drugs laced samosas. Another Sikh Chaplain was caught smuggling drugs in his turban.

    Dietary Problems
    We have worked to ensure that the Sikh Chaplaincy PSI contains accurate information on Sikh dietary requirements in accordance with the teachings of the Gurus and the Sikh Reyat Maryada. The PSI , in line with the Sikh Reyat Maryada, explains that Sikhs do not eat halal but other than this the eating of meat or vegetarianism is an individual choice. The PSI also explains that many Sikhs will not eat beef and a fewer number will not eat pork.
    Pressure from the significantly more numerous Muslim inmates has led to the frequent serving of halal meals. Patient negotiation with the Head of Prison Catering with veiled threats of resorting to Equalities legislation has resulted in an acceptance that if halal meat is provided, there must also be a non-halal meat option; something sadly still not yet achieved in schools and public services catering.
    Whereas langar used to be brought in from gurdwaras, the official prison line now is that it must be prepared in-house to meet health and safety requirements for which they are ultimately responsible. They have agreed that this can be done by the Sikh prisoners or under the supervision of Sikhs. Some prisons however, still raise no objection to langar being brought in from outside. Some Sikhs are vegans and we work with prison catering to accommodate their needs.
    More recently, a member of a Sikh sect says that he will not eat food cooked or served by those outside his sect, including the sharing of krah prashad. He also insists that he can only eat food cooked and eaten in an iron vessel. Unfortunately some outside members of his sect claim that this amounts to religious discrimination, misquoting Gurbani and the Reyat Maryada to justify an exclusiveness that goes against the whole thrust of Sikh teachings on equality. We have managed to help this individual by securing an iron bowl and spoon and a supply of cereals and he is happy with this. While we will continue to help, we are not prepared to bend Sikh teachings as some would like. One Sikh website has suggested that’ Lord Singh has refused to support an Amritdhari Gursikh in practicing Sikh teachings. The same website declined to publish my reply and my offer to discuss this on any Sikh TV channel.
    Other Challenges
    There are still many other challenges. The main language now spoken by Sikh prisoners is English, with many Sikhs (mostly non-practising) being sent to prison for drink and drugs offences and crimes of passion. Some Sikh chaplains still have a poor command of English and there is a need for more focussed recruitment. Some Managing Chaplains, who are all non-Sikhs, to save money, try to pressurise Sikh Ministers to forgo their statutory weekly visit and come in fortnightly or once a month. We believe this is unfair to Sikh prisoners and are working to stop this. We are also pressing for Sikh chaplains to be accorded the same hours for religious teaching and prison duties as is given to those of the Christian and Muslim faiths.
    I am concerned at the growing number of educated young Sikhs who seem to believe that they are doing their bit by looking for faults in the work being done by others trying to live our Gurus’ teachings. My message is emulate, and hopefully surpass their work, for the benefit of our community.
    In conclusion, I would like to express my grateful thanks to the Sikh Chaplaincy team, particularly to Honorary Deputy Director Inder Singh Chawla , Gagandeep Singh Recruitment and Training Manager and all the Regional managers and chaplains for their unstinted and selfless support in this important seva to vulnerable members of our community.

  2. It would appear that you are way off the mark and need to revisit Sikh teachings. I have not heard such nonsense for a long time and if I didnt know any better I would suspect that you were deliberately trying to steer Sikhs down the wrong direction. Lord Singh is totally in the right.

  3. Dear P. Sigh Ji,
    It looks that you need to dig deep to learn from Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s
    Example. Does it matter How a food is cooked ?

    • Absolutely. If it didn’t matter, then it also wouldn’t matter how amrit is prepared, but yet there is a very strict process that has to be followed for mere water and sugar to be turned into life-giving amrit, the amrit that gives one Sikh the shakti of sava lakh fauj. Mere water and sugar mixed together in a glass bowl could never be the equivalent of amrit.

      Any scientist with even the most basic education can tell you that the substances and metals used to cook food, and the state of mind of the person handling/cooking the food, has a powerful effect on the food itself.

      Google “water crystal experiment” for proof that the physical and spiritual properties of food and substances are most definitely impacted by the spiritual state of individuals.

  4. There’s no such thing in Sikh Rehit Maryada, I understand that this practice is still in use after Khalsa panth has made ONE Maryada for all Sikhs. I experienced in our Gurdwara (observed) some Singhs came and took pershad and threw it away after learning it was not made by their sort of way. I was quiet hurt by their behaviour. These are practices like Brahmins follow, Such/Bhit. However, I think its dividing our Sikhi big way as there was need to unite Sikhs before they (Panthic Sihks including Bhai Randir Singh)wrote Maryada in 1920s when there were 38 types of other maryadas in practice. Are AKJ’s are in Sikh mainstream or they’re better (Bebeki Sikhs???) This whole thing is very sad. Lord Singh could be helpful but if tomorrow some other cult come up with some other demands it would be hard to practice such faith where Guru Nanak ji Sikhi will in question.Asa Ki War denounce such pakhand and kira kandh. look up for Chunka Bhit, Suche eh na ahkhea… soch kareh din raat…sukhmani. I wish Gurpreet singh the best, hope he gets on better in Sikhi. Sikh24 and Preetam Singh should also look in to Panjab Jails see if they have some arrangements for such cases.


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