PAKISTAN REVISITED

We left on 2/14/2006 for Amritsar by Shetabdi leaving around 7 am from New Delhi. After a comfortable six hour ride, we were received by a car sent by Advocate Jaswinder Singh. We were taken to a room in the Guru Arjan Niwas at Darbar Sahib where we left our baggage and then went out for a lunch of dosai at Bhrawan da Dhaba, the same place that Balwant Dhillon had recommended in 2004 for the Seminary group. The food is good but we come away unsure if taking Ibrahim and party there would have been a prudent choice.

In the evening I met with Jaswinder in the Darbar Sahib Information Office. He introduced me to Mr Sekhon who was a Minister in the Badal Govt. We had constructive conversation. Jaswinder is an advocate and the youngest elected member of the SGPC. He has a great degree of openness and talked of the charawa money disappearing as the SGPC organizers used to return after the yatras at Pakistan Gurdwaras. He felt that SGPC had now seemingly recognized PSGPC when Avtar Singh Makkar presented siropa to the PSGPC President when he recently visited Darbar Sahib. He was clearly for the PSGPC to be in control of Gurdwaras in Pakistan.

Also met P S  Sahni, who is ETC Channel Punjabi Associate Editor based at Amritsar. Briefly talked about programs televised by them and their relay in the US by Zee TV. Told him about Zee having put the ETC on a lower scale by reducing their time to one hour and substituting one hour of Hindu discourses. The Zee purpose seemed to be to induce Sikhs to subscribe to Alpha Punjabi as an additional channel. He asked me if I could send him the information – sent him an email on return from Pakistan; not even an acknowledgement received forget about a thank you note.

Jaswinder asked me to join next morning for a meeting of the SGPC, Singh Sabhas and several other Sikh institutions to consider the programs and projects for three centenaries coming up in 2006. They asked me to speak after Avtar Singh, Gulshan from the UK, Bibi Inderjit Kaur of 3HO from the US and one more. My suggestions were:

  • Meaning and celebration of martyrdom in Sikh tradition by bringing clarity to values inherent in shahidi to contemporary Sikh situation so that the spiritual, ethical and moral issues are identified and presented especially the first shahidi.
  • Declare 2006 as the year of Miri & Piri. Encourage work on the concept to articulate its ingredients as a whole life faith. Muslims have the concept of Mazhab and Deen – the latter being mazhab plus social, economic and political thought as evinced from the Quran, other scriptural literature, life of the Prophet and related sources that are used as a guide for their way of life.
  • We have a need to involve children and the youth in our celebrations. My experience is that whenever I arranged for media coverage of our Gurpurbs in the US, the reporter straight headed for the youth to ask them what the festival meant to them; its message as understood by them; how did they celebrate the festival as a family; in what way is the festival different from other festivals celebrated by them. The answers are not easy or clear. We have to find creative ways for involvement of the young so that they are able to relate to the occasion, understand its import and grasp the message the festival is intended to bring home.
  • We also have a need to look at the training of sevadars in Gurdwaras. There are a variety of programs offered for the clerics in newer techniques; contemporary issues and problems in the society; relating to congregation; rituals, maryada; relating to media and so on. Gave example of the program for Purohits being launched by the Hindu University of America because Hindus also face some of the problems we have in the Diaspora due to inability of the servadars to relate to the youth, media, interfaith groups etc.
  • We need to reach out to the non-Sikhs for there is a lot of ignorance, misinformation and lack of awareness about Sikhs and Sikhism all over the globe. We should try and increase the reach of our publications in various markets. This will also help improve their quality. At the same time we should encourage multiplicity of organizations to work in the diverse areas important to us as a community.

The comments were very well received and commended upon by the Secretary/compeer. Avtar Singh and Jaswinder asked me to send a note encompassing the suggestions for them to follow through. Both of them asked for us to stop on return for another meeting that Avtar Singh wanted to have. Inderjit Kaur is a Ph D, Bhai Sahiba, Chief Religious Minister, Sikh Dharma International, Espanola, NM. She also spoke and gave me her card to stay in touch back in the US.

We were given a SGPC jeep to take us to Wagah border with two sevadars. As we went to our room to pick up our bags Veena spotted Jessie sleeping on a couch. She had come looking for us along with Helen. We took them along; dropped Helen at the Girl’s College Hostel, where she was going to continue to stay till we returned, and headed to the Border. Across from the border we could not find the car. I called Chaudhry Hamid Ali Khan [phone 92 42 516 3982/3/4] and he said a car was on the way and gave me its number and driver’s name. Soon enough he was there and we were comfortable that we may not be stranded.

One incident here was unfortunate. We had taken porters to get our baggage across both on the Indian and Pakistani side. I had used them in my earlier visit and was familiar with the system. I paid the persons who helped us on the Indian side and they were quite happy. I paid the same amount to the persons on Pakistani side but he would not accept it – as too little. I think I increased the amount but he would still not take it. The driver and the bystanders felt we were being fair but he walked off. I asked the driver to go after him. He tried and came back saying forget it. We drove off but I could not get over it and asked the driver to turn back and find them so we could pay them. He could not locate them so we had to leave but I gave the increased amount to the driver to give it to any charity.

The drive along the canal was nice. This time the canal had been desilted and the water was flowing. The trees were all fresh and green and lots of wild roses and bougainvilleas along the way. I asked the driver to take us to Kinnaird College where Veena’s Mom had studied. We took a few pictures from outside – there was no question of going in. It must have been closing time for the students were leaving, mostly picked up by parents in cars waiting outside.

From there I asked the driver if he could take us via FC College where I had spent a year in the hostel. We made our way to Velte Hall and I showed Veena and Jessie the room that I had lived in. There were no students around. We took a few pictures of the still fairly well kept courtyard garden and a couple from the outside. Veena liked the setting and the campus.

KARTAR PUR

It seemed a long drive from Lahore though it should not be. As we alighted from the bus and walked along the path at the back to the Gurdwara entrance, on the left we saw a small open enclosure where white and purple blue peacocks were kept and the white peacock was gracefully dancing unconcerned about our prying eyes. We walked in thru a trough of water past beds of red roses in full bloom. The Gurdwara building is on the right and the langar on the left. The Nishan Sahib was donated by Premjit K Kang in memory of her husband.

Outside the Gurdwara on right side is an open mausoleum [mazar] where the Muslims are supposed to have interred the flowers found as remains of Guru Nanak on their side as per tradition. The open structure was covered with granite about five years back from a kacha structure for centuries. It had a red velvet covering and is taken care of by a Muslim family who possibly live off of the offerings.

The Gurdwara has beautiful rosewood like doors [8], rather short in height but ornately carved with satnam wahiguru engraved. There is an inner cubicle with a quadrangle surrounding. The marble palki in the sanctum sanctorum is fixed [as at Nanakana Sahib]and Guru Granth Sahib had the same red velvet cover sheet with a pretty glass chandelier hanging above. The granthi is Gyani Gobind Singh, 32 years old.

Met some Pakistani Sikhs. Gurtej Singh and his wife Sukhvinder Kaur moved from Peshawar to Nankana Sahib in 1965. They lease 4/5 acres of land from a local Muslim for Rs 4500 per year and do farming on it. Their income is about 7/8000 per annum – barely at poverty level.

Gurvinder Pal Singh, 18, got opportunity to visit Amritsar where he also received Amrit pan. He is in X class school at NS and would like to go to College at Lahore to pursue computer science. The cost could be 7/8000 per year so he would stay at Gurdwara Dera Sahib. He said Mahipal Singh [first Sikh Doctor in Pakistan] and about 20 kids live at Dera Sahib.

Ramesh Singh, 30 ½ years old, did his MBA [finance] in 1999 from Punjab University and is working for a World Bank Project, Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Project, at Islamabad and said his salary was 50000 pm. He is their Human Institutional Finance, Community Development specialist. He is the first and only Sikh MBA in Pakistan and is brother of the Granthie. Their mother Sumiter Kaur was from Hoti Mardan and was married to Gopal Das Nagpal’s son Ram Lal who used to live in Chak number 114 in Faisalabad in 1947 and was persuaded by their Muslim friends not to migrate to India. Ram Lal had 2 brothers and three sisters with a large extended family now; one brother had 3 sons; the second 2 sons and a daughter; one sister had 8 sons, the second 2 daughters and a son and the third 4 sons and 4 daughters. Sumiter Kaur lost her husband early and brought up her sons. A devoted person she was doing seva in the langar. On finding matches for kids, she felt it was more difficult to find matches for girls than boys even among Pakistani Sikhs.

There are ten persons working for the Gurdwara including Malis, Cooks, Cleaners etc. They are paid between 2500 to 3500 per month. The Granthie is paid Rs 4300 pm. Mukh sevadar, Veer Manjit Singh, said he was a BA from Lahore University. He also said that the Gurdwara had about 3 acres of land; current prices being 3-3 ½ lakhs per acre. He

came to Kartarpur from Sindh.        

The Gurdwara building, even though it has been renovated, has not suffered too much alteration in the process. As said earlier the old doors are in position. The quadrangle around has a number of tablets recording the donations received in the earlier times, more notably upto mid 20th century. Maharaja Bhupinder Singh donated Rs 1,35,600 during 1920-29. Another tablet showed donation of Rs 251 from Diwan Amritsar, Rs 1676 from SGPC and Rs 60 ??? from sangat during 1/4/32 to 31/3/34.

We had langar at the Gurdwara. It seemed like a regular affair though my guess is that they knew about our group coming. The romallas used were nice. We also sat around inside as Hinjan sang the shabad ‘sahib mera mehrwan’. I joined in. Iqbal Kauser also recited a poem by Teja Singh. The place has a few rooms for pilgrims/visitors to stay.

Punja Sahib

We traveled by a chartered bus from Lahore. Turned out to be pretty costly because we were not many and also because Harbans Lal with the help of Sooch junior wanted to raise some more funds to pay for the event at Lahore because the sponsors had backed off. It was a day trip – all returning back to Lahore in the evening except us who dropped off at Rawal Pindi on the way.

The Gurdwara has 2 Granthies, 3 sewadars. The Serai has 320 rooms, three with bathrooms. Giani Inder Singh Granthie [phone 30095 60971] is paid Rs 7000 pm. Ranjeet Singh [phone 300 525 8113] , the other Granthie is paid Rs 4772 pm. I discussed with him the issue of educational assistance for the kids and setting up a system for the same. He said he would discuss with the parents and other sewadars and come to some determination after Baisakhi. He gave me his card – a colorful one with the picture of the Gurdwara and his picture inset.

A sewadar Gopi Singh has a daughter 4 and is paid Rs 3000 pm. Sewadar Partap Singh [phone +92 30093 95210] is paid Rs 3000 pm. His son Jasbir Singh is 14 yrs old and is in 5th class at Jinnah Elementary Public School, Hasan Abdal [upto 8th class]. The subjects studied are Urdu, English, Science, Social Studies, Maths and Islamiat. The Principal is Saeed Khan and Moheeb Khan. Students are expected to wear uniforms. For High School they have to go to Wah, Taxila or Rawal Pindi.

There were a number of families of refugees from the recent earthquake who had been moved to the Gurdwara for shelter. The sense that I got was that both the sewadars and the families wanted them to be resettled at Hasan Abdal. Talked to as many of their kids as I could get hold of:

  • Rawail Singh, Hakim: has two sons Karamjeet 11 and Karan 10.
  • Deep Singh, Hakim: two sons Harnit 12 and Inderpal 11.
  • Hari Ram has a toy stall [Rs 5 everything]: three sons Kamaljeet Singh 14, Jugnu Kumar 12 and Ganesh 7.
  • Surinder Singh Jaggi has a sanitary and fitting store: three boys 7, 10, 12 and a girl 14.
  • Harinder Singh Hakim: one son 5.
  • Ranjit Singh Granthie: two sons 7 & 4.
  • Giani Inder Singh Granthie: none
  • Ram Singh sewadar: two sons 4, 5.

DERA SAHIB

There was a lot of sangat that day at the Gurdwara. The reason was that a number of Sikhs from Peshawar come every week to Lahore to take part in a Flea Market from Thursday though Saturday. Their main business interest is sale of textiles – fabrics that they get from Surat. Met a number of these young traders and got a lot of speculative information not all of which can be considered credible without verifying.

Peshawar has about 200 Sikh families with a total population of about 2/3 thousand. One Sikh has had foreign education and about 10 have businesses. There is one small school and one Gurdwara out of a total of 220 Gurdwaras in Pakistan. A guesstimate was that there are 5/6 doctors, ½ in Peshawar and 2/3 in Lahore; no engineer, professor or lawyer; BA’s may be around 100. Gurmukhi is taught at Peshawar and Nanakana Sahib only. There may be 10/15 evacuee families from Afghanistan. There is hardly any sehjdhari in NWFP. The total number of kids in Peshawar area may be around 200.

In Lahore there are 3 Sikh families. Bishan Singh is a member of city council and has a small business. One of the girls who made a presentation at the conference was from one of these families. Her brother is a good singer. He is physically handicapped but bravely kept the audience entertained during the breaks. Her sister is getting married to a boy working in Germany. Both sisters had Masters Degrees. Met the father too – they are sehjdharis or monas. [notes re their names ?]

Met Jeevan Das with Manjula and Kamlesh Kumari, from Karachi staying at the Gurdwara. On a business trip to Lahore he has two sons – both in Pre Engineering college at the University. According to him there would be about 2500/3000 Hindu/Sikh families in Karachi and about 5000 in Sindh. They are not allowed in hotel or food business. There are no artisans though there are some goldsmiths. His estimate is that there could be about 1000 doctors, 2000 lawyers, 600/700 engineers.

S Gobind Singh looked very saintly, again staying at Dera Sahib, on a mission to get his mother treated at Lahore. He came from Zill Kishmore in Sindh which has about 6/7 Sikh families and about 200 sehjdhari families. Earlier he used to live in Dera Bukti in Balochistan where he said there are a total of 150/200 Hindu/Sikh families out of which 4/5 are Sikh families. They had a Gurdwara. The area is highly disturbed with the local Nawab at war with the Pakistan Govt on issue of Gas finds in the area. There is a lot of tension and many people have become ‘ghar tau beghar’ because of ongoing hostilities. He does kirtan too. There are about 4/5 Kirtanya jathas, all self trained, in Pakistan.

As per Gobind Singh there are Gurdwaras in Sindh at Karachi [Sikh families 2], Darki [5/7], Jacobabad [around 50], Jhat Pat, Usta Mohd, Gotki. Most Sikh boys end up marrying Hindu girls because girl population among Sikhs is low.

There are three paid sewadars at Dera Sahib – all from Peshawar. Each is paid a salary of Rs 8000 pm. As per another source the Granthie is paid Rs 5000 pm, malis 3500 pm, chowkidar 3500 pm, sweeper 3500 pm and the manager 7000 pm. Langar is subsidized by the Govt. ¾ Malis are also employed by the Govt. The Govt pays all maintenance bills. Later we all had langar at Dera Sahib – channa dal, rice, kari, piaz, roti in good, clean thalis with spoons. They have running hot water for washing utensils. DSC asked for tea – seemed it was not normally offered with langar.

Spoke to Vijay Kumar, 31 and Ram Kumar, 18 both come from Sukkar in Sindh on business to Lahore and staying at Dera Sahib. They are into cosmetics business and do their buying at Lahore and Karachi. There are about 250 Hindu families and about 10/12 Sindhi Sikh families in Sukkar. Also met Kumar Matrin who again is in cosmetics and medicines.

According to their account there is a Gurdwara each at Kandhra, Dharki, Karmpur, Kandkot, Kashmor, Dera Bukti, Jacobabad and Sukkur. All Sikhs we met had well kept facial hair, turbans and attired in shirt/pants. Hindus were dressed in white kurtas with shalwars. Also met a group of 10+ Muslim Tehsildars due for promotion who had come to seek Guru’s blessing in their forthcoming selection but were denied entrance because of Govt restrictions on entry of Muslims. I pleaded with the Muslim manager and thought he agreed to let them in as accompanied by me but learnt later he did not.

LAHORE CONFERENCE

Met a few Sikhs including:

  • Gurpreet Singh, a B Com from FC College. He is son of a Granthie Darshan Singh. His email address is gurpreetsingh772@yahoo.com
  • Mahipal Singh, MBBS [2005], from Nanakana Sahib, the first Sikh doctor who works at New Hospital Lahore and wants to be Pediatrician.
  • Santokh Singh, elder brother of Mahipal Singh is a Lab Technician.
  • Charan Singh, the first Sikh to be selected to be an officer [cadet] in Pakistan army.
  • Manor Singh who has business [Singh Bros] of Banarcy Suits, Sari, Lehnga, Shawl etc in Gulberg II, Lahore.

Others at the conference I recall meeting from their business cards are Zafar Cheema, Tamgha –e-Imtiaz, Director Dyal Singh Research and Cultural Forum; MM Khan, member Fedral Public Service Commission; Akram Hamidi Special Correspondent, Daily Jang London and Pakistan Times; Dr Mazhar-ud-Din, Medical Supdt Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Lahore.

GURDWARAS IN LAHORE

The Gurdwara Sis Ganj is being almost rebuilt thru the efforts of Karseva Committee UK, Avtar Singh Sanghera, President and Joga Singh, Secretary. The site incharge is Jathedar Balbir Singh. Of the planned living accommodation for 150 rooms, 17 were ready and 35 bathrooms were ready. There are said to be 250,000 shahids on this site? Foundation 10 feet deep. Located in busy part of the city – had to walk part of the way to get there because of heavy traffic of all kinds, rikshaws included.

Gurdwara Chhevin Patshahi, Temple Road has a short Nishan Sahib – with a soiled, torn Nishan. There is no parkash of Guru Granth Sahib and the caretaker is a Muslim, Tanveer Hussain Shah. The place has two rooms to stay. In Jun they have an akhand path when the place gets a lot of devotees.

Gurdwara Janam Asthan Guru Ramdas in Chuna Mandi Lahore is also being renovated. The place is dilapidated presently with no parkash of Guru Granth Sahib. The old structure had some pretty patterns painted on walls and around windows – all likely to be erased and lost. I suggested to the karsewa in charge to try and save them and suggested how it could be done but doubt if it would be taken care of. Met one Qadir Bhai who is a tour operator specializing in tours to Sikh Gurdwaras in Lahore and Nanakana Sahib. His contact is 0300 436 0673 and 0321 467 0673, both cell phones.

We stayed ay Hotel Alpine in M Block, Model Town Extension, Lahore [phone 92 42 5168401-4, FAX 5168405; aasif_alpine@yahoo.com; hotelalpine.20m.com] is a dump but reasonable. The food that we mainly ate there was breakfast – usual routine of Pakistani Paratha-and or egg and toast with lassi.

Of the old contacts Mohd SuheylUmar was very sweet. He had invited us to the Iqbal Academy to meet with some intellectual friends but had to cancel the meeting because of the eruption of disturbances post the Dutch caricature of Prophet Mohd incident. He came to the Hotel with a pile of books as a gift. Asif Hameed and his brother in law Abdul Basat took us including Jessie for dinner, received us on return from Pindi and took us shopping for Neelam’s music cassette request. Rashad Bukhari also invited us to a lovely dinner in one of those charpoy type of ethnic eating places. Food was good – also invited was Christine Fair of US Institute for Peace, Washington, DC.

Iqbal Qaiser was with our group thru our stay. His book is a pretty good documentation of the Gurdwaras in Pakistan with pictures and some description. It is not exhaustive but must have been a painstaking effort at research and documentation. He also is the moving force behind Punjabi Khoj Ghar, Kasur based center for research, publication and advocacy on the history, culture, literature, music and art of the Punjab. Did not visit the center but the brochure makes some interesting claims of work and resources developed in its establishment since 2001.

The conference did come about on the 18th Feb 2006 in spite of all the uncertainties due to the ongoing agitation. The program at the Anbassador Hotel, Sir Agha Khan Road [Davis Road] lasted thru the day, was well attended, with full house at meal times and overflowing for dinner. I was asked to move the resolution condemning the caricature of Prophet Mohd in the European media and later in the afternoon given an almost free time to make my presentation with Zafar Cheema in chair. Both were very well received.

At Rawal Pindi we were guests of Mehboob Sada, Director Christian Study Center [ 51 558 1450, home and 320 493 1205, cell]. They were very hospitable and Mrs Sada took a day off to take us around and show us Islamabad. We also spent a whole evening in trying to locate the house where Veena was born but did not have much luck. The place has changed so much and the house possibly pulled down and reconstructed into a multi storied building. For the evening dinner they also had as guest Father James Channan, Ordained Priest, who was ordained on April 9, 1980 and his 25 years of priestly service was celebrated on 17 Feb 2006 at Pastoral Institute, Multan. He knew the only Sikh lawyer in Pakistan at Abbotabad and connected me on his cell phone and we had a nice conversation.

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It was reported that some Sikh devotees who often visit here have expressed their concern over the worn out condition of Gurudwara Sat Guru Nanak Dev, situated near the shrine of Baba Haji Sher on Burewala-Sahoka Road in Lahore. Guru Nanak Dev stayed at the shrine of Haji Sher Chawli Mushaikh for some time and Hazrat Baba Faridudin Masud Ganj Shakar meditated in the well by hanging on a weak thread for 12 years and gained spiritual enlightenment. The cool water of the well is said to have healing power and the well will continue to run till the doomsday.

I have returned from a visit to Pakistan recently. While I agree that to the extent it can be done, all the historical and other major Gurdwaras in Pakistan should be brought into a good state of maintenance, the question that seems to be always not asked and therefore not answered is who will take care of these shrines; perform seva and keep up ritual liturgical functions for the rare devotees who may be visiting. Pakistani Sikhs are far too few to take on this responsibility nor is it right for non Pakistani Sikhs to expect it of them. Let those who bewail such neglect, go and live there and perform some constructive seva. These Gurdwaras are our shared heritage and should be our shared responsibility.

Dear Tayab Bhai,

So good to know you are feeling better. It is a scary experience and my wife went thru it when we were traveling to India in 2004 and were in Chandigarh to attend a wedding. She had acute pain symptoms that did not subside thru advised treatment and finally we ended up in Fortis Hospital where she threw up almost a litre of blood as she was awaiting admission paper work. Fortunately Dr Raina, their surgical chief, who was attending on her moved with great alacrity and made necessary interventions to stabilise her. With Guru’s grace she has been ok since then though I always tend to think that she sould be as vigilant as Devinder Chahal is about spicy food. That discipline seems to be key apart.

That lovely evening at your house as I recall we had with us Brigadier Sangat Singh Sally and also perhaps Dr Ujagar Singh Bawa and his wife in addition to others you have identified.

With our kind regards,

Nirmal Singh

Dear Harideep ji,

As Mona may have mentioned to you we are back in PA after our trip to India that this time took us also to Pakistan and Australia. The visit to Pakistan was triggered by an invitation to participate in a Conference at Lahore on Guru Nanak’s heritage of interfaith understanding and the added desire to visit several of our holy sites in that country.

During our visit I followed up on my earlier interest on the status, problems and issues confronting Sikhs in Pakistan and any constructive role by global Sikhs in regard to that. My conversations with a fairly large cross section of Pakistani Sikhs helped me to look afresh at my earlier impressions and also meet with a couple of Sikh youth who have succeeded in achieving some of the firsts among Sikhs in that country.  One such first is Ramesh Singh Arora who is the first and I think the only Sikh MBA in Pakistan.

I met Ramesh at Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib where his brother is the Granthi. Ramesh is working for the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund at Islamabad – I believe funded or supported by World Bank or other multilateral organizations.

I felt that people like Ramesh who have worked tenaciously to break thru layers of enormous difficulties to carve out a place for themselves must be encouraged so that they can be seen as role models by other young Pakistani Sikhs and motivate them to strive for improvement.

I had asked Ramesh to send me his Resume with the intention of sending it to you for help and guidance and am attaching the same with this mail.

I have copied this mail to Ramesh Singh too.

With loving regards from us both,

Nirmal Singh

Thank you Manmohan ji for a detailed report on the Nanakana Sahib Public School. It deserves all our support so that Pakistani Sikh children [as also non Sikhs] in Nanakana Sahib have a good, affordable school to go to. Nanakana Sahib is the place with the largest Sikh concentration in Punjab and the number of Sikh families is increasing due to re-migration from other areas. The other place is Panja Sahib where the nucleus of around four families is now going up due to refugees from the recent earthquake. The kids at Panja Sahib, numbering more than a dozen that I spoke with, are all barely interested in education for lack of facilities, economic reasons or family support. One family is said to have moved to Nanakana Sahib for education of the kids and may be also for work opportunities. I also learnt from those few who had passed school and then gone to college or a professional diploma course that their place of choice was Lahore and they stayed at Dera Sahib. The most important way we can help Pakistani Sikhs is to help in their education and job opportunities. Most of the youth I talked to wanted to be Hakims – a profession that seems to need no education, and that for some reason is attracting the youth. This is a vagrant, itinerant occupation and would not lift them out of cycle of poverty. The real lacunae is also non existence of a reliable agency to channel and administer any donations from outside. Sikhs are not organized and PSGPC is a hybrid organization more interested in revival and upkeep of Gurdwaras which is a huge task and cannot be managed without Govt support. I tried connecting up with a Muslim or Christian volunteer agency to help in administering some scholarships for Sikh kids but did not succeed. Direct remittance to parents or schools may not achieve the objective of performance linkage. I would welcome mpre input and suggestions. Respectfully, Nirmal Singh ———————————–During my last trip to Nankana Sahib, I visited the only Sikh School in Pakistan, near to the Janam Ashthan. This is a private school started, managed and funded by a small Sikh community of about 70 households at Nankana Sahib, most of those being lower middle class as per Pakistan & Indian standrard, but poor as per international standards. The school named “Sri Guru Nanak jee Khalsa Public school”, has over 600 students from pre-school to high school, amongst those are about 200 Sikh students and rest a mixture of Muslim, Christian and some Hindus. The school charges a small fee of about Pak Rs. 250 per month, as against that other private schools charge over Rs 2000 per month. The Sikh male students are all keshadhari wearing Patka or Pugri. Ther school had very basic facilities, grossely inadequate by any standard. They did not have even test books for teaching Punjabi (Gurmukhi), although over 200 students learn that subject. The teachers use photo copies of some old text books at random. They do not have any text books to teach Gurmat, Sikh Studies or Sikh history and they use some self compiled notes to teach. The other subject text books are as prescribed by Pakistan Govt. published loccaly. Though they had one small computer teaching room with a few old computers, donated by a Sikh pilgrim, but the science laboratory had only one Sink with one tap, no aparatus, just a few small items on display, but still they teach science subjects. The library was being just started, with about 20 books. The school results in high school are indeed very good. The problem is lack of funds and utter lack of support from Sikh community and Sikh organisations in India and overseas. I arragned to send text books for Punjabi and Sikh studies for all classes from level 1 to level 9, as were avialable at Amritsar. I also approached Dharam Parchar Committee of SGPC to send books in Sikh History and Dharam Pohti for all levels, which they publish for free distribution, though promised to be sent, nothing has done thus far, duriing 5 months since I sought their help. I also requested them to make a regular cash grant from education fund of over Rs.5 crores SGPC annually disburses to Khalsa Schoold in India, but nothing has happened. Though the lady former president of SGPC during her visit at Nankana Sahib boasted of making the school so big to turn into a Sikh university soon, but not a thing was done. I beg all those who can help to please donate money in cash by direct remittance to School in the name written earlier or send books to teach Punjabi, Sikh studies and other related material. They will also be grateful to recieve books on all subjects and topics to build up library for reference by the students. They will be gratefull to recieve relevant aids and equipment to teach all branches of science to students from call 1 to class 12. If some knows of a school in their city discarding outdated equipment in advanced countires, those might be of great benefit to the students there. However, please contact the school prior to sending any equipment to ensure that they have set up or organised the proper procudure to be able to get those goods cleared from customs. The books can however best be sent by seamail post parcesl, as those would be dellivered tho them. Those Sikh who go to Nankana Sahib, please do visit Khalsa School, in the same street, about a block away. Manmohan Singh (Baveja)

Manmohan Singh Baveja ji has done a very commendable study of the Gurdwaras in Pakistan during a short one week period. I might add that we should all be beholden to Pakistani Sikhs and their Govt who really are taking care of the global Sikh heritage in that country. The number of Sikhs in Pakistan will not be enough to provide seva at all the Gurdwaras that are being recommissioned even if every one of them took to being a Gurdwara sevadar. So even as I share the anguish one senses in the accounts of all who visit there, I would also encourage ourselves to do something to help take care of this heritage – not only by sending money for more buildings and akhand paths – but by taking time to go and do some seva there and encouraging our youth to do so. I thank Baveja ji for creating interest in the subject.

Respectfully,

Nirmal Singh

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I am not an expert on Pakistan Gurdwara affairs, but I am basing my comments on some information picked up during my first visit last October for about a week, when I visited all known Asthan of Guru Sahiban. My information, obtained by talking to various persons, may not be accurate and is very broad. All the Sikh historical Gurdwaras are under the legal control of Waqaf Board, which under Muslim law and Pakistan Law manages all properties without a specific heir and in Pakistan it also manages all evacuee property, including Sikh Gurdwaras. There is a separate department in this Board, which has a large staff who control and manage all these Gurdwaras. All the staff is Muslim, including those who look after and manage Gurdwaras, except the Granthis and Sewadar who look after Parkash Asthan and Langar. These Sikh local staff have no powers at all. Pakistan Gurdwara Parbandhak Commmittee is a body of persons nominated by Waqaf Board and Pakistan Government and has no legal power, not any control at all. This is just an advisory body on Sikh religious practices and a show piece to avoid attention to the fact that all the Sikh Historic Gurdwaras in Pakistan are under control of Pakistan Govt., through Waqaf Board. There are only about 300 Sikh Keshadhari families in Pakistan, out of which about 100 or so are at Nankana, where most have moved to recently. Many of these did not have hair untill recently, but are encouraged to keep hair due to importance being accorded to Sikh Gurdwaras and Sikhs in general in Pakistan in recent times. Even Granthis are not proficient in Gurmat or even not in Kirtan, as they are mostly Sikhs from Mardan, who were mostly Sehajdhari and a few in the family kept hair. They were the only ones available to be employed as Sikhs for looking after Parkash Asthan ang got the jobs. The members of PGPC, thus have little personal or political stature, being small business persons. Influence of some Sikhs in America on the Pakistan Govt. has helped to improve the status of Sikhs and Gurdwaras in recent times. There was very large land area attached to most of the historical Gurdwaras and Nankana Sahib had far too big an area. Much of it has been grabbed by local farmers or influential persons, mostly during early years after independence, when anti Indian sentiment was strong and Sikhs had no influence at all. SGPC was not even able to create a rapport. In the recent years, due to attention of Waqaf Board and pressure of Sikhs from overseas, some of this land has been identified and brought under control, income from which pays for salaries of large staff and management and also for repairs and upkeep of properties, which had run down during early years. The buidlings and surroundings had become extremely worn and damaged, which have been greatly improved. I was astonished to look at the pictures of previous and current status from a book put by PGPC. Actully some buildings and surroundings are much better than even pre- partiton days. In recent years Sikh organisations from UK and Bhai Jagtar Sing (Sewa Wale Sant) have undertaken much improvement and new construction. Each groups have just comleted a buidings each with 300 rooms each at Nankana Sahib. UK Jatha have renovated Gurdwara Patti Sahib and Bhai Jagtar Singh group have rebuilt the Sarovar. At Lahore, UK Jatha have rebuilt Gurdwara Singh Singhreean ( Shahid Asthan) and Bhai Jagtar Singh group is buidling new Gurdwara at Janam Asthan of Sri Guru Ramdas, in most difficult surroundings. Bhai Manjit Singh is responsible for reconstruction of an impressive Gurdwara and surround facilities at Kartar Pur Sahib, with accomodation, three story Gurdwara and several acres of farms and orchids around. This is most peaceful place to spend a few days at. Khalsa School at Nankana Sahib does not receive any operation grant from PGPC, though the building was given at the start. Panja Sahib has a large residential complex, with improved central Parkash Asthan with Sarovar. Gurdwara Sacha Sauda has most impressive buidling, which was built later, with an impressive garden sorrounding it. Gurdwara Rori Sahib at Aminabad has been renovated and looks most impressive, with an excellent garden and farming are surrounding it. In the town nearby, two house have been renovated recently, one where Guru Nanak Jee was imprissioned by Babar and had to run Chakki, the other being the house of Bhai Bhago where Guru Nanak jee gave the message of simple food with honest labour being prefferable as against elaborate feast with income from ill wealth. The people and chidren were most affectionate. One place, depressed us most,is Gurdwara Beri Sahib at Sialkot. This place was in ruin and boys were playing cricket in the Gurdwara compound, utterly neglected. This place is little known, but on prompting from our car driver we decided to take the long detour and were pleased to have visited this famous place, where Guru Nanak jee had set foot. At lahore, besides Dera Sahib, there are many other Gurdwras, some being upgraded, others still neglected, the saddest of all places in utter neglect is the Shahid Asthan of Bhai Mani Singh jee. There is a small pavilion, inside a motor repair shop, sorrounded by old truck wheels, but the owner was most kind to allow us to pay our respects inside this little structure. There is a book published by SGPC “Gurdware – Gurudham jina ton Panth noon Vichoria gia hai”, containing details of most of these places. Copies can be had from SGPC or other book sellers. Restrained by time and space, I am unable to give more details and would be pleased to answer any questions.

Harbans Singh Noor ji said: This is a very good news. If and when it becomes a reality it would encourage scholars not only from Pakistan and India, but also from other parts of the world to understand and appreciate better the message of Guru Nanak, apostle of human rights and social justice. Pakistan, through this University, I hope, would be able to spread the message of brotherhood of mankind, and thereby contribute to the cause of peace and understanding in this troubled world.

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This is indeed a commendable development. There are other ongoing initiatives in Pakistan in the field of Sikh studies. Dr Zafar Cheema, Director of Dayal Singh Library & Research Centre has a few Doctoral scholars working on Sikh topics. I have a couple of observations. Firstly there are so far no Pakistani Sikhs engaged in pursuing Sikh studies – most of them are engaged in sewa at the various Gurdwaras and others in petty businesses. I would have interviewed over two dozen youth and most of them were inclined to quit school and become ‘hakims’ – family profession followed by many. So far there is only one Sikh doctor, one lawyer and one MBA over the last 60 years or so. One young man has succeeded in breaking into the exclusive Army officer’s club. Another aspect that seems significant to me is that qualitatively Pakistani scholarship seems to have an edge and their publications seem to indicate it. This possibly is result of the strong and more rigorous scholastic tradition among Muslims. This may help promote serious work unless ideological or polemic issues come to dominate the purpose of enquiry. In any event the greater benefit in the short run could be the added opportunity for local Sikh youth to pursue college education which is their most important need to pull themselves out of the degrading cycle of poverty playing out in their lives. Respectfully,

Nirmal Singh Why not some youth volunteers from the Sikh Diaspora go there to render seva. This can hardly be left as the responsibility of the Pakistani Sikhs or their Govt alone. I am sure the authorities would help in getting the premises vacated. Help of persons like Ganga Singh Dhillon who have cultivated relations with the Waqf Board for decades should also be sought. Would our voluntary organizations consider this also as part of their seva projects. There are Sikh heritage sites in so many places that are suffering from neglect – including in India. Respectfully, Nirmal Singh — “B.S.Goraya” <kartarpursahib@yahoo.co.uk> wrote: > Gurdwara falls into disrepair > (please visit Dawn as there are photographs also) > http://www.dawn.com/2006/09/25/nat21.htm > > > By Gulzar Baig > > > VEHARI, Sept 24: The historical Gurdwara of Guru Nanak > Dev Ji, popularly known as Tapasthan Guru Nanak, is a > picture of neglect and abandonment thanks to > inadequate efforts of the Evacuee Trust Property > Board. > > Situated at Chak 317/EB on Sahuka-Burewala Road, the > gurdwara has some special significance for Sikh > followers as Baba Guru Nanak stayed here and also at > the shrine of > > Haji Sher Chawli Mashaikh. The shrine is not more than > half-a-kilometre from the place. > > According to historians, the government and the ETPB > were bound to protect all worship places of minorities > under the Liaquat-Nehru pact. > > Burewala Tehsil Nazim Usman Warraich said the Punjab > government had allocated Rs3 million for the > renovation of the gurdwara building a few months back, > but the grant was never released. > > At present, three families have occupied the gurdwara > building, which is now in a sate of disrepair. > > When this correspondent recently visited the > historical site in Burewala, occupants of the building > refused to allow him to visit the gurdwara. Later, on > the interference of some locals, the ?permission? was > finally granted. > > A resident of the same locality gave out that occupant > families with the connivance of some local district > administration officials were trying to get this land > allotted in their names. > > Another resident, requesting anonymity, said that > valuables, hidden underground, including silver, gold > and coins, had been stolen from the gurdwara a few > years back. > > He said that after the theft incident, the authorities > concerned had sealed the internal door of gurdwara. > > Some parts of the gurdwara had already been demolished > by locals and the families living in it, but the > district and tehsil administrations did nothing to > protect this historical building. > > Muhammad Saleem, an old resident, claimed the ETPB had > not spent a penny on the renovation and repair of the > gurdwara after the partition despite earning millions > of rupees annually. > > Gurdwara Pehli Patshahian, the graceful darbar of Sat > Guru Nanak Ji, is also in bad repair due to its > occupation by three families. Frequent whitewashing > has also spoiled valuable scriptures and the artwork. > > The Sikh devotees, including former revenue minister > Sardar Harnek Singh, Forest Minister Hans Raj Josan > and others visited the place and expressed their > concern over the dilapidated condition of the place of > worship. > > ETPB’s Multan zone in-charge Jawed Bashir said that he > had recently taken his charge and was not aware of the > state of affairs of the gurdwara in Burewala

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