Indian security forces march through the streets of Punjab after the Sarbat Khalsa, on Nov. 10.

Interim Akal Takhat Jathedaar arrested at Darbar Sahib, many Sikhs detained

Panthic | November 12, 2015

Interim Akal Takhat Jathedaar Dhian Singh Mand, appointed by the Sarbat Khalsa on Tuesday, Nov. 10, was arrested by Punjab Police from inside the Darbar Sahib yesterday. Chief Minister Parkash Badal and other Punjab leaders planned arrests of several top Sikh leaders with the Punjab Police, the Punjab advocate general, more than a dozen Punjab cabinet ministers and a senior BJP minister. They also launched a smear campaign against the Sikh leaders responsible for the Sarbat Khalsa.

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Sarbat Khalsa 2015

Sea of Sikhs throng Sarbat Khalsa 2015

Panthic | November 10, 2015

The 12-acre field in Taran Taran was packed today with about half million Sikhs in an ultimate display of respect for the Guru. The Panth condemned Sikh and Punjab leaders for allowing the desecration of several Guru Granths in the state and called for new representatives in the highest seats of miri-piri power. The massive gathering of the Khalsa was a referendum on the state-sponsored corruptions and violations that have continued in Punjab since 1984. See photo gallery.

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Akal Takhat Jathedar Gurbachan Singh receives a petition signed by about 3,500 Sikhs asking him to ban Bhajan's yogis from dancing and yoga-ing to Gurbani. Surjit Singh (yellow dastaar), president of the Bhai Makhan Shah Lubana Seva and Welfare Society in Mohali, Punjab, began the grass-roots signature campaign. He also is the founder of the "Wake Up Sikhs" Facebook page, which is a repository of 3HO/SDI videos and images of their transgressions.

3,500 Sikhs petition Akal Takhat against Bhajan’s yogis

Panthic | September 18, 2015

On June 28, the Akal Takht jathedar received a complaint signed by 3,500 Sikhs asking him to stop Yogi Bhajan’s disciples from "dancing and doing yoga to Gurbani." The grass-roots signature campaign began in Punjab and included the launch of “Wake Up Sikhs,” on Facebook, a repository of videos and images of transgressions committed by Bhajan’s yogis. On Aug. 11, the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee threatened to take legal action against Yogi Bhajan’s ashram (Hindu monastery) in Hamburg, Germany, for engraving the Manglacharan on the stairs leading to its yoga center. The leader of the yogi’s spiritual organizations, known as Sikh Dharma International and Happy Healthy Holy Organization (SDI/3HO), called for damage control measurements from their members, to contain the “slander campaign” of these Sikhs. Bhajan’s son-in-law called for a PR campaign and reinstatement of his leadership role. His family and SDI/3HO have been fighting legal battles since the Bhajan’s death, in 2004, for control of his empire.

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Sikh activists make the case against Kaes in California schools and beyond

Investigative, Historic, Education | August 30, 2015

In the ongoing process to include new Sikh content in California schools curriculum, Sikh activists are sending mixed messages about the Sikh identity and articles of faith, and pushing to label Congressman Dalip Saund, who cut off his Kaes shortly after arriving in the U.S., in 1920, as the most notable Sikh from California. Saund’s own writings show he cherished Hinduism and self-identified as a Hindu. It is unlikely he would have wanted to go down in history books as a Sikh. The activists, including the Sikh Coalition and SALDEF, assert Kaes is an optional tenet of Sikhism, and include Kaes-less persons in their organizations. Missing from the debate is the historical and legal precedence that says a person must have Kaes to be accepted as a Sikh. At stake is the right for Sikhs to have Kaes and dastaar in the military, at the workplace, at airports, and in schools. Note: In light of this report, Onkar Singh Bindra, who is leading the Sikh effort in the curriculum, has withdrawn his original request to identify Saund as a Sikh. “The word "Sikh" used for Dalip Singh Saund should be replaced with "Punjabi," he told Sikh Free Press shortly before publication.

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Yogi Bhajan pictured as his true self, a yogi. He claimed the Akal Takhat jathedar gave him the title “Siri Singh Sahib.” The jathedar publicly denounced his claim, and later threatened to excommunicate him.

American yogis distort Sikh scripture

Panthic, Investigative, Historic | April 14, 2015

The Gurus considered any alteration of Gurbani, explicit or implicit, as a sacrilegious act, and so do their Sikhs. But for more than two decades, Sikhs have accepted and promoted an English version of their scripture, the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, that contains not one, but countless, distortions – both single words and phrases – based on the Hindu yogic philosophy taught by the late Yogi Harbhajan Singh Puri Khalsa, a man who came close to being excommunicated for his heretical teachings by Akaal Takhat Jathedar Sadhu Singh Bhaura, in 1979. The distorted translation is authored by one of the yogi’s long-time disciples, Sant Singh Khalsa, a pediatrician from Arizona. It is prevalent everywhere on the Internet, including at Sant Khalsa did not know Gurmukhi, the language of the Guru Granth, and never studied Gurbani or Sikh history, he told SFP - and neither did his sole teacher, Yogi Bhajan - his former disciples told SFP. Sant Khalsa’s rendition is an English translation of an English translation, with Yogi Bhajan’s interpretations.

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The backdrop to the eyewitness's account is archival video footage from the first week of June 1984. One of the clips shows a rare interview with Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale just after the first strike by the Indian army. Other clips show conditions inside the complex.

An eyewitness to Blue Star

Politics, Historic | June 16, 2014

On the 30th anniversary of Operation Blue Star, an eyewitness has emerged to tell his vivid account of the first six days in June 1984 when the Indian army closed off the Darbar Sahib and massacred about 8,000 innocent pilgrims inside the complex.

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According to the secret “Ghadr Directory” published by the British Indian government in 1917, and in 1934, the Gadar Party had 616 members: 527 were Sikhs, 54 were Hindus and 35 were Muslims.

Smithsonian alters Gadar history

Politics, Historic | May 16, 2014

Tremendous racism and severe discrimination, invigorated by the British government, awakened the first Punjabi immigrants on the West Coast of North America, more than 95 percent of whom were Sikhs, to rise to the teachings of Gurbani and make democratic appeals for justice and equality. But when all peaceful means failed, they formed the Gadar Party. Its members included gurdwara granthees, farmers, lumber mill workers, and some students. These Gadarees called on the martyrdom spirit of the Khalsa and made plans to fight for the freedom of their homeland. Thousands sailed from California, Oregon and Washington state, and Canada, in 1914, to launch an armed revolution against the British Raj. But this is not the history being presented now by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. Its new exhibition on Indian Americans distorts the history of the Gadar Lehar (revolutionary wave) by portraying it as a non-Sikh movement, and crediting a single person, Har Dayal, an orator-turned-traitor, as its main organizer.

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The American newspaper, Bellingham, Washington, Sept. 5, 1907: "This is the type of man driven from this city as the result of last night's demonstration by a mob of 500 men and boys."

Smithsonian distorts Sikh American history

Politics, Historic | April 08, 2014

The Smithsonian Institution has distorted Sikh history in the United States in its new Indian American exhibition. The exhibition, "Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape a Nation," does not give Sikhs credit for their historical sacrifices and contributions to the United States and India during the early 1900s, and lumps them and their unique history under the label of “Punjabi” or “Indian.” Credit is shifted to non-Sikhs, and the narratives are either factually incorrect or insufficient, experts in this report said. About 95 percent of the immigrants to North America were male Sikhs. Their struggles for employment drove them from Canada into the Northwest of the United States, into Washington state, Oregon and California. Living in cramped quarters and working for lesser money, combined with racial and xenophobic sentiments, caused wage wars that led to discriminatory immigration and citizenship legislation. The Bellingham Riots, in Washington state, and other significant events of 1907 also were the beginnings of the Gaddar Party lehar, a revolutionary movement for India’s independence that was launched from the West Coast.

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The Smithsonian will not remove this offensive image of two men without Kesh tying a turban, representing Sikhism.

Smithsonian mischaracterizes Sikh identity

Politics, Historic | March 18, 2014

The Smithsonian Institution will not remove an image of two men without Kesh (religiously mandated unshorn hair), one tying a turban on the other, from its photo gallery on Sikhism because the two men “self-identified” themselves as Sikhs, a spokeswoman said. It is part of a new exhibition, "Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape a Nation," which opened on Jan. 27. SALDEF provided an intern, also without her Kesh, to do research for this exhibition on the “Sikh American identity.” The exhibit also portrays Sikhs as being a fearful community since the 9/11 attacks, and reinforces the stereotype of Sikhs being taxi cab drivers. This is not the first time that the Smithsonian has made a gross factual error about Sikhs.

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Left: US Army Maj. Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi, Right: A US Army Special Forces (Green Beret) soldier, in Afghanistan.

American Sikh soldiers need beard exemptions, US special forces do not

Politics | February 21, 2014

“Navy SEALSs and special operators can have these full blown beards, why can’t Sikhs?” the reporter asked. “I don’t know,” replied Army Major Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi. The military last month made minor changes to its religious accommodations policy, and left intact all the barriers that Sikhs face when joining the U. S. military, including for unshorn hair.

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The UK report shows UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher supported Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's plan to eradicate a small percentage of Sikh dissidents using a warlike operation from a historic shrine beloved by all Sikhs.

Report affirms Thatcher and Gandhi colluded on Operation Blue Star

Politics, Historic | February 06, 2014

The results, released Tuesday, of the UK government’s investigation into its involvement in the 1984 Operation Blue Star confirm that, at Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s request for advice, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher did send to Delhi a Special Air Services military officer, who then recommended a paramilitary attack at Darbar Sahib using helicopters. The Jan. 4 report attempts to minimize Great Britain’s role in the attack by explaining why the military advice from the SAS officer had “limited impact in practice.” But while UK officials are splitting hairs on the technicalities and mechanics of the operation, to downplay its actions 30 years ago, Sikhs are expressing outrage that Thatcher agreed to such a request. UK officials met with 30 Sikhs the same day, including Harmander Singh, Fauja Singh’s coach, and Jas Singh, spokesman for the Sikh Federation, UK. They told SikhNN that Sikhs were united in expressing their dissatisfaction with the scope of the investigation and its conclusion. They are asking for an independent UK investigation into 1984 and beyond.

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Norman Kreisman, of California, was known as Baba Nam Singh Khalsa when he was living at the Guru Nanak Niwas with Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, from 1982 to 1984.

The American who lived with Bhindranwale

Politics, Historic | January 17, 2014

Norman, Kreisman, previously known as Baba Nam Singh Khalsa, was living on the top floor of Guru Nanak Niwas at the Darbar Sahib complex when Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale moved in with nearly 30 of his men. It was July 1982, in Amritsar. He spoke to them in fluent Punjabi, he did paat and seva with them every day, and listened to numerous lectures by the sant on the roof of the niwas. He lived with them for two years before he was kicked out by the Indian government two months before the June 1984 Operation Blue Star. His is a rare account of personal experiences with the Sikh dissident and his men, and of a volatile period in Darbar Sahib’s modern history that was the beginning of the secret genocide of the Sikh people by the central government, and oppression by the state that still exists today.

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The National Archives, Phil Miller

Thatcher colluded with Gandhi on Operation Blue Star

Politics, Historic | January 13, 2014

A recently released top-secret letter from the British government, dated February 1984, shows that British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher sent a special-forces army officer to India, at the request of the Indian government, to draw up a “plan” to remove Sikh separatists from Harmandar Sahib. The “plan” was approved by Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, the letter say. The purpose of the letter was to warn the British Home Office of possible repercussions in the British Sikh community following the operation, especially if they came to know of the British collusion. The letter states that the British involvement had to be kept a secret in both London and Delhi. The “plan” manifested in June 1984 as Operation Blue Star, the invasion and attack of Harmandar Sahib.

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This is one of two images recently found on the Internet that shows a picture of Yogi Bhajan draped in garlands, with a large statue of Lord Shiva in the background. The second picture shows his family praying to this picture during his ash immersion and last rites ceremony led by the pujya swami of Parmarth Niketan ashram in Rishikesh.

Yogi Bhajan given Hindu last rites

Panthic, Investigative | November 24, 2013

Digest: Yogi Bhajan, an Indian customs officer who came to the United States in the late 1960s and built a significant religious following and a vast business empire under the name of ‘Sikh Dharma,’ had his last rites administered by a Hindu priest, Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswati, of the famous Parmarth Niketan ashram, in Rishikesh, India. The ritual also included the immersion of his ashes in Mother Ganga on Jan. 18, 2005, a few months after his death. His wife, two sons, daughter and up to 30 of his disciples attended the special puja, an ashram spokeswoman told SikhNN. Yogi Bhajan has known the swami for more than 30 years. He, his family and disciples have performed rituals at the ashram, and his is family and disciples have continued to participate in its rituals since his death. Yogi Bhajan's family members denied his last rites puja took place at Parmarth. While Indian Sikhs expressed outrage by the discovery, his former students were not so surprised that Yogi Bhajan, who claimed to have created a better Khalsa than Guru Gobind Singh, would want to receive his final rites as a Hindu. His ashes also were immersed in Kiratpur, Punjab, and Ram Das Puri, a sacred land near Espanola, New Mexico, that Yogi Bhajan claimed the Hopi Indians blessed to him as their profit. The Hopi denied any connection to Yogi Bhajan. Yogi Bhajan’s oldest organization, 3HO, is considered a cult by three US experts.

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Oak Creek, Wisconsin, gurdwara entrance.

A Year After Oak Creek

Politics | August 10, 2013

Reporting from Oak Creek, Wisconsin - In the annals of Sikh history, which are filled with accounts of massacres and attempted genocides, the Oak Creek shooting pales in comparison. But, perhaps it cannot be compared.


US Sikh Soldier Asks for Military Policy Change

Politics | June 10, 2013

Major Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi, a Bronze Star Medal recipient, testified to the US Commission on Civil Right that the military should change its uniform policy and allow Sikhs to serve without any restrictions to their articles of faith – unshorn hair and turban. The commission’s report is used to advise the president and the Congress. “We will be talking with them and seeing if we can’t generate interest in the issue, perhaps get them to call a hearing on the issue,” said Commissioner Roberta Achtenberg.


India Denies Interfering in US Sikh Caucus, Contradicts Indian Press

Politics, Investigative | June 06, 2013

In the wake of the formation of the American Sikh Congressional Caucus in April, Indian news media published several stories that the Indian government, through the Indian Embassy and the Indian lobby, pressured US Congress members to prevent them from joining the caucus, alleging that the Sikhs activists who made the grass-roots effort to have US representatives form the alliance were Khalistan supporters. The Indian ambassador, Nirupama Rao, told SikhNN last month that was not the case, and that India supported the caucus. The caucus’ scope is to address domestic civil rights issues that Sikh have been facing, particularly after 9/11. The denial represents a rare divergence between what is said in the Indian media and what is said by the Indian government, experts said.


Surprise Right at the Hate Crimes Hearing

Politics, Panthic, Community, Minority Report, People | September 25, 2012

In a room full of Sikhs, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, engaged New York University Prof. James Jacobs in a debate on the merits of hate crimes laws. Sitting next to Harpreet Singh Saini, son of Wisconsin gurdwara shooting victim, Paramjit Kaur, Jacobs testified that bias laws were “unnecessary” and “divisive.” Amardeep Singh, programs director at the Sikh Coalition, later said the professor’s views “missed the boat.”


Faith Groups Denounce Rise in Islamophobia a Decade After 9/11

Minority Report | September 11, 2011

A group of religious leaders representing the Islamic, Jewish, Christian and Sikh communities this week commemorated the 9/11 attacks by denouncing the rise of Islamophobia and by asking Americans to overcome the fear and division that has defined the decade since the tragedy.