13 July 2008

What Is A Dalit Sikh?

Disgusting, just flat out disgusting!

Any time I see the words 'Sikh' and 'caste' in the same sentence, I cringe. The very idea that after all these centuries, we still carry this evil baggage around with us is disheartening. But what can I do? I can explain to nonSikhs that caste is a Hindu belief, but, yes, some Sikhs don't follow the teachings of our Gurus. Sad. I can simply tell them I neither have nor want caste.

But I have thought long and hard about what can I say to other Sikhs. What can I do to help eradicate this evil from our midst? I have come to the conclusion that there is only one thing I can do. From now on, I am a Dalit Sikh. Take it or leave it. Now. Does anyone out there have the guts to follow my lead on this?

I was going to let this article pass, but my friend and nemesis, Darcey, of Dust My Broom has picked it up, so I guess it has to be addressed. Here is the offending article:

From Canwest News Service

Temple allowed to restrict members because of class

Catherine Rolfsen
Canwest News Service

Saturday, July 12, 2008

VANCOUVER -- The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has dismissed a complaint by two members of the Indo-Canadian community who were denied membership in a Burnaby Sikh temple because of their social ranking in India's caste system.

Gurshinder Sahota and Sohan Shergill said they were discriminated against by the Shri Guru Ravidass Sabha Temple because they belong to a higher caste in the traditional system of social ranking than do temple members.

Caste is a complex and much-maligned hierarchy that has historically divided Indian society according to occupational categories.

The 900 members of the Shri Guru Ravidass Sabha Temple belong to the lowest group, Dalits, formerly referred to as "untouchables" and often considered outside the caste system altogether. Sahota and Shergill are from the jat caste, which is traditionally a land-owning class in the Punjab and now makes up much of Metro Vancouver's Sikh community.

The decision, released this week, was hailed as an affirmation of temple members' right to gather as a "minority within a minority," said spokesman Jai Birdi.

"Since the decision has come out, the members are feeling quite empowered by it," he said. "They're feeling that this really reinforces their ability to come together as a marginalized community from India to talk about their heritage and historical unresolved issues and come up with some strategies for moving forward."

He added that the complainants are welcome to attend the temple's religious ceremonies and social programs.

"Our vision is that one day the community's confidence will increase to the point that they are not feeling oppressed . . . and then there will no longer be a need to restrict membership," he said.

The Shri Guru Ravidass Sabha Temple was formed in 1982 to meet the needs of Dalits who "felt that they weren't fully welcome in the existing temples," Birdi said. Members follow the teachings of a 15th-century guru who preached against the caste system.

Birdi said temple-goers were worried that if membership was opened to non-Dalits, it would defeat the purpose of the organization.

The tribunal dismissed the complaint for two reasons: First, it found it does not have jurisdiction over temple membership; and, second, citing a prior decision regarding the United Native Nations, it agreed that the temple should be allowed to restrict membership to a minority group in order to promote the group's welfare.

Sahota and Shergill argued that by denying them membership, the temple was promoting the "evil caste system," according to the tribunal ruling.

But Birdi said that after centuries of social segregation and extreme poverty there is a need for Dalits to unite. He compared the struggle to that of Canada's First Nations and African Americans, groups that have gained a sense of pride and identity through organization and advocacy.

Although caste is not taught in the Sikh religion, in reality it still affects many aspects of life for Sikhs in India and Canada, with even local matrimonial ads specifying caste preference, he said.

Vancouver Sun


© Canwest News Service 2008

A Little More About Brother Laibar Singh Ji

This article doesn't really say anything new - except maybe he shouldn't call the cops for help, lol. Would someone please inform me about the demonstration on Saturday! Was there a demonstration on Saturday? I want to report, but I can't unless I get some infoirmation!

Anyway, here's the article from 660 News (All New Radio):

ABBOTSFORD, B.C. - As paralyzed refugee claimant Laibar Singh marked one year in sanctuary Sunday, his supporters were concerned about visits by Canada Border Services agents to the Sikh temple where he has sought sanctuary.

Spokeswoman Harsha Walia said the unannounced visits are making the tradition of religious sanctuary meaningless.

"The fact that they're entering into sanctuary without notice and without consent is of concern," Walia said.

"Immigration authorities themselves have typically respected sanctuary because that's the intention of that tradition, but for them even to come for any purpose is a concern.

"It's just told to them that they really shouldn't be doing that," Walia said. "They haven't attempted a removal because they know he's in sanctuary but it is a little bit alarming."

Singh came to Canada on a false passport in 2003.

His appeals to stay in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds have been complicated by the fact that he was left a quadriplegic after suffering an aneurysm three years ago.

His refugee claim was denied because the government believed he did not have sufficient ties to Canada, although supporters pledged money to pay the costs of his care.

Singh was initially to be deported in June 2007, but took sanctuary in the Sikh temple in Abbotsford, about 60 kilometres east of Vancouver.

He has been provided shelter in several Vancouver area Sikh temples but is currently at the Abbotsford gurdwara.

He has been granted two extensions to remain while his refugee claim was dealt with.

A deportation order was issued in December despite claims that his health would suffer if he was returned to India, where he has family.

He is being cared for by supporters and doctors who are donating their services.

Walia said in an interview that Singh's health remains precarious.

"His medical condition is always up and down," she said.

"He's really stressed out (and) has a high degree of anxiety particularly because he's in a place where he can't leave because of fear of being detained and or being deported."

Federal Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day, who is responsible for the CBSA, suggested in January that the law would eventually be upheld in Singh's case.

And Border Services Agency spokesman Chris Williams said the same month that the fact a person is in a place of worship to avoid deportation will not stop the enforcement of a deportation order.

Day also rejected suggestions the agency might look weak due to its handling of the case. He noted when a crowd of Singh's supporters forced the cancellation of a January removal effort, agents had instead shown "sensitivity" to a situation possibly becoming inflammatory.

The minister noted the CBSA successfully removes 12,000 people a year.

Visits to Singh at the Abbotsford temple would not be the first time officials had allegedly violated the tradition of sanctuary in B.C.

An Iranian refugee claimant who spent almost three years in sanctuary in a Vancouver church was arrested in February 2007.

Amir Kazemian said he'd been tortured in Iran and had been living at St. Michael's Anglican Church in east Vancouver since June 2004 when he sought sanctuary from a deportation order.

The Canada Border Services Agency released Kazemian after Citizenship and Immigration officials granted permanent resident status on humanitarian and compassionate grounds not long after the arrest.

Kazemian had reportedly called police to the church himself to investigate complaints he had been receiving harassing telephone calls relating to a business deal.

The attending officer arrested Kazemian after a check of his name found an immigration arrest warrant from June 2004.

B.C. Attorney General Wally Oppal said the police officer was simply doing his job when he arrested Kazemian on an outstanding warrant