TORONTO, ON, Canada—Today, the Sikh Sangat of Ontario participated in a Nagar Kirtan to commemorate the 319th year of the initiation of the Khalsa (Khalsa Sajna Diwas). The Nagar Kirtan was organized by the Ontario Gurdwaras Committee (OGC) and was led from Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha Malton to the Sikh Spiritual Centre Rexdale. This year also commemorated the 40th anniversary of the 1978 Vaisakhi Massacre where 13 Sikhs lost their lives. This event was attended by well over a hundred and fifty thousand people.
The initiation of the Khalsa represents an important step taken by Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the 10th Guru of the Sikhs, in creating an initiation ceremony for Sikhs to formally accept the key principles and teachings of Sikhism. These include embracing the 5 Ks; Kara (steel bracelet), Kesh (uncut hair), Kacchera (long undergarment), Kanga (wooden comb) and Kirpan (small dagger). Additionally the Khalsa adhere to three core pillars of Sikhism; Naam Japna (meditation on Waheguroo), Vand Key Chakhna (sharing your earnings) and Kirat Karni (honest living). Members who are initiated into the Khalsa must also unequivocally commit to upholding human rights and fight against the tyranny and oppression of all communities.
This year’s Nagar Kirtan celebration held greater significance for the community because of the ban imposed by Gurdwaras on Government of India officials and its consulate representatives throughout the world. We sincerely thank the Sangat for their overwhelming support on this initiative. Recently, Canadian Government Officials made serious allegations of interference during Prime Minister Trudeau’s trip to India and in the Punjab Pavillion in Brampton. We call on these allegations to be thoroughly investigated by Canada’s Intelligence Agencies. The OGC will continue to work on initiatives that address these external influences so Sikh institutions and organizations can operate with complete autonomy.
Sikhs have always fought to uphold justice, equality, and fundamental rights for all people and will continue to do so against all oppressive regimes, including the Indian government which continues to oppress minorities in India. With the rise of the RSS and Hindutva ideologies we have seen the recent rape and murder of 8 year old Asifa who belonged to a minority community in Jammu and Kashmir, the elimination and alteration of the history of Sikhs by the Punjab Schools Education Board (PSEB) and visa denials of members from the US Commission of International Religious Freedom (UNCIRF) who wanted to report on religious freedoms in India.
The OGC also continue to advocate for Sikh Political Prisoners imprisoned in India. This year saw the illegal kidnapping and abduction of British born Sikh Activist, Jagtar Singh Johal. He was tortured, denied his fundamental consulate services and is still being held without charges. Moreover, Indian officials also purposefully denied Shaheed Bhai Harminder Ji Nihung of basic access to health services, which resulted in his martyrdom. The Government of India continues to detain Sikhs without charges or with false charges based on fabricated evidence. The OGC will continue to advocate on their behalf and seek their immediate release.
This year the Sikh Sangat also mourned with the rest of Canadians on the Humboldt and Toronto Van tragedies. These tragedies have affected all Canadians deeply and the OGC extends its deepest condolences to the families affected. At this year’s Nagar Kirtan Sikhs prayed for the victims, helped raise funds and honoured them on floats at the Nagar Kirtan.
We would like to thank the hundreds of Sevadars (volunteers) who put countless hours to the success of this year’s Nagar Kirtan. We look forward to working with the City of Mississauga, Region of Peel, City of Toronto, Peel Police, Toronto Police and the local community to continue to grow the success of this Nagar Kirtan.