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Sikhs and the Indian Constitution

Sikhs and the Indian Constitution

Wahe Guru Ji Ka Khalsa, Wahe Guru Ji Ki Fateh.

All Sikhs, in India and around the globe, feel that Article 25 of the Constitution of India, which deals with Freedom of Religion, is unfair and discriminatory towards the Sikhs because it considers Sikhs as Hindus. I have often questioned about the history behind Explanation II and why it was articulated as it was. It seems to bar caste discrimination in places of religious worship and creates misunderstanding of Sikh identity. The ‘Article 25’ as it stands now in the Indian Constitution is unjust, unethical and illogical since Sikh religion is an independent religion and not an offspring or branch of any other religion. Everyone is aware that the Sikh Dharma was established as a separate religion with its own code of conduct by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699. Guru Nanak gave the Sikh concept of God, with its emphasis on unity, equality of all human beings regardless of caste, creed, gender and color and service to mankind which are distinct virtues and cannot be confused with any other religion, much less with Hinduism. Sikhism is a major departure from Hinduism and from its rituals and superstitions.

The unique character of Sikhs is obvious not only from their philosophy and their way of life (Rehat Maryada), but also, and even more so, from their history. It was the Sikhs who faced the ire of the Mughal rulers in India and their order to kill “the followers of Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh wherever and whenever seen”. Hindus were not covered by this policy of genocide and in fact the Sikhs saved the Hindu religion from the wrath of the Muslim invaders. It was the Sikhs who stood up to the invaders who came to loot India and convert the citizens to Islam and because of the Sikhs and their sacrifices, India today is a not an Islamic state. Sikhs fought against tyranny and injustice perpetrated by the alien rulers who had entered India as hordes of marauders for loot, destruction  and conversion of Indian citizens to Islam religion. Due to the sacrifices and struggles of the Sikhs, India experienced liberation from foreign rulers after almost a thousand years of slavery. This history should be enough to establish the distinctive and independent status of the Sikh religion

Constitutions are framed to prescribe parameters for law makers for safe guarding the interests of minorities and providing security to them. But Indian Constitution eradicates a minority, particularly the Sikhs.  It is in the interest of India that an immediate amendment of Article 25 is adopted; otherwise India would lose its secular credentials and become a communal state. Sikhism is a separate religion and is acknowledged as such throughout the world, except in Indian legal system. The demand of separate status for Sikhism under the Constitution has been supported by the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (NCRWC) headed by the former Chief Justice of India, Justice M.N. Venkatachaliah which in its report has recommended amendment to Article 25 of the Constitution to restore the status of Sikhism as separate religion. The Sikhs have been recognized as a separate minority under the National Minority Commission Act.

Sardar Tarlochan Singh, ex MP and Chairman of National Commission for Minorities was the first Sikh MP to introduce a bill in 2008 in Parliament to amend Section 25. Three times this bill was on the agenda but never discussed due to various political reasons. Sikhs are opposing and protesting against this controversial piece of legislation right from 1950 when Indian Constitution was adopted. Sardar Tarlochan Singh was also instrumental is getting the Anand Marriage Act Bill passed, which is a great victory for the Sikhs.

In my opinion Sikhs deserve to be having their own personal law and not covered under the Hindu law and termed as Hindus. Constitution grants us rights of freedom to religion and this should be granted to Sikhs. Although many demands and recommendations have been made to the Indian law makers and to the Prime Minister’s Office, there has been no discussion in Parliament about amending Article 25 with respect to Sikhs.

Sikhs shall and should continue to protest against this non-secular and unjust law and I appeal to all Sikh bodies and organizations in India and around the world to continue their demands for an amendment to Article 25 of the Indian Constitution as it relates to Sikhs.

Why none is joining Sikhism

Why none is joining Sikhism

Wahe Guru Ji Ka Khalsa

Wahe Guru Ji Ki Fateh

The reason no one is joining Sikhism in foreign countries is that no one is making any special efforts to bring the teachings of Sikh Gurus to the western countries. So far in this century, only Yogi Bhajan was successful in inspiring many foreigners to join Sikhism, because his main mission was to share the teachings of Siri Guru Granth Sahib with the world and was genuinely interested in spreading Sikhism. Today, Sikhs are more interested in donating for more and more gold on the Gurdwaras; putting expensive marble and wooden doors, etc. It is good to have beautiful Gurdwaras but Sikhs need to pay attention towards other causes such as education, schools, universities, sending Parcharaks (educated in different languages) all over the world, translating Siri Guru Granth Sahib and various Bani’s in more foreign languages, outreach programs to other communities and sharing the message of SGGS, teaching Sikh courses in universities and schools, and many other such projects. The people out in the world are ready to receive the Sikh teachings but no one is approaching them. Our Sikh bodies like SGPC, DSGMC, the Takhat Jathedars are more interested in local politics and how to save their positions and party posts. 

Yogi Bhajan showed us a way and we can inspire many around the world with Sikh teachings which will result in many joining the Sikh faith. Many followers of Yogi Bhajan around the world (who have not yet become Sikhs) are ready to adopt Sikhism in great numbers-we just need to go to them and share the teachings and show them a way to join Sikhism. Yogi Bhajan students in Europe, Russia (and Eastern countries), China, South America, S.E. Asia, Japan, and Africa are ready to adopt Sikhism provided we can go to them and share the Sikh teachings with them and inspire them. 

Yogi Bhajan’s SIkh Dharma organization has already done all the ground work and we just need to approach these students and share the Sikh teachings with them.

I would personally request and invite Sikhs and Sikh organizations to participate with us and we can inspire many hundreds of thousands of people around the world and I am confident they will adopt Sikhism.

Sikhs asked to remove turban at the airport.

Sikhs asked to remove turban at the airport.



Mr. TOWNS. Mr. Speaker, there have been more incidents in which Sikh men were asked to remove their turbans at an airport. Dr. Gurmit Singh Aulakh, President of the Council of Khalistan, has brought these to my atten- tion.

Satpal Singh Kohli was about to board a Southwest Airlines flight from Albuquerque to Los Angeles when members of the ground crew demanded that he remove his turban. He told the ground crew that his Sikh religion re- quired him to wear the turban and he could not remove it. The ground crew insisted that he remove his turban. He needed to get to Los Angeles to be with his ailing father. When the agents would not budge, Mr. Kohli de- manded to see their supervisor. He was told that if he had a complaint, he should contact customer service.

The agents not only searched his turban in full view of other passengers, they searched his unshorn hair—required by his religion—as well. Mr. Kohli said that ‘‘In my whole life I have never been humiliated like this.’’ The agents had only told him that they wanted to search his bag, not his turban or hair. Yet they never checked his bag.

Last Saturday, Tejinder Singh Kahlon, a sit- ting judge in New York, was asked to remove his turban at a New York airport. He refused. He was not allowed to board his plane. He called the media to report his harassment by the airport security personnel.

The turban is a symbol of the Sikh religion, to which Mr. Kohli and Judge Kahlon belong. It is religiously mandated. They are required to carry five symbols. Unshorn hair covered by a turban is one of these. More than 99 percent of the people in this country who wear turbans are Sikhs. Turbans should not be removed and searched.

Linda Rutherford, a spokeswoman for Southwest Airlines, admitted that the incident had to do with ‘‘passenger profiling’’ and claimed that the rules had to do either with what a passenger wears or what he looks like, but she blamed the Federal Aviation Adminis- tration for these new rules. If that is true, the FAA should be ashamed of themselves. They have institutionalized racial profiling as a part of their antiterrorism policy. If it is the airline’s own policy, then decent Americans should flood Southwest Airlines’ headquarters with protests.

We must not allow racial, religious, or ethnic profiling. The airport ground crews should be prohibited from stopping Sikh passengers and searching their religiously-mandated turbans. This kind of discrimination is never acceptable. I ask Attorney General Ashcroft and Secretary of Transportation Mineta to look into this mat- ter and stop this harassment of Sikh Ameri- cans immediately.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to place an India- West article on the Kohli incident into the RECORD for the information of my colleagues.

[From India-West, Oct. 26, 2001]
(By Viji Sundaram)

Satpal Singh Kohli was about to board a Southwest Airlines flight from Albuquerque, N.M., to Los Angeles Oct. 22, when ground crew at the security gate demanded that he hand over his turban to them before he en- planed. When Kohli protested, telling them that as a Sikh his religion forbade him from baring his head in public, the agents insisted that he do as he was told. Kohli said that they told him that he would have to fly minus his turban, which would be returned to him at the Los Angeles airport. Kohli said he told them that he had flown Southwest from Los Angeles to Albuquerque just two days earlier and ‘‘my turban wasn’t an issue then.’’ He also told them that he had to make that flight because his elderly father, who was home alone in Los Angeles, needed to be given medication and may even need to be hospitalized.

When Kohli realized he was getting no- where with the agents, he asked to see their supervisor. He said he was told that if he had a complaint, he should call customer service, Kohli said in a e-mail he sent to India-West. The agents told him that if he wanted to make that flight, he would have to submit to a complete turban and hair search.

Because of his father’s medical condition, Kohli said he reluctantly agreed, but re- quested that it be done in a private area, out of view of the other passengers. Kohli said the agents told him there was no private area and that the search would be done at the security area behind the counter.

He said an agent not only searched his tur- ban thoroughly in full view of the other pas- sengers and ground staff, she also searched his hair, before allowing him to board the plane.

‘‘My sentiments were hurt,’’ Kohli said. ‘‘In my whole life I have never been humili- ated like this.’’

Kohli said that in pulling him over for a check, the agent had told him he needed to have his bag searched, not his turban or his hair. Yet, after searching his turban and hair, they waved him through, without checking his carry-on bag, according to Kohli, who works as a travel agent.

When he arrived in Los Angeles, Kohli said he went to Southwest’s customer service center and told the two men there—the cus- tomer service supervisor and station man- ager—about what he had been put through. Both men, as well as the captain of the plane who happened to stop by, agreed that turban searches were not a part of the new security requirements, Kohli said. He said they apolo- gized for what had happened.

Called for a comment, Linda Rutherford, a Southwest Airlines spokeswoman in its cor- porate headquarters in Dallas, Texas, told India-West that following the Sept. 11 ter- rorist attacks on America, there has been some new Federal Aviation Administration- mandated procedures ‘‘regarding passenger profiling.’’ She said she was not aware of the Kohli incident, but noted that ‘‘if a pas-

senger had been flagged as a selectee, there would have been additional security checks.’’ She said she was not sure if those additional checks are triggered by what a passenger wears or what he or she looks like.

‘‘Certainly, it could be a bit awkward for passengers to have their personal belongings searched in front of other passengers,’’ Ruth- erford acknowledged, adding: ‘‘It is certainly not our intent to embarrass our passengers.’’ Manjit Singh, executive director of the Maryland-based Sikh Media Watch and Re- source Task Force, told India-West that since the Sept. 11 attacks, his organization has received at least a dozen complaints similar to Kohli’s. ‘‘We are very disturbed by what’s happening,’’ Singh said.

He said his group plans to meet with Norm Mineta, Secretary of Transportation, as well as with FAA officials to make them aware of what was happening. ‘‘A Sikh should never be forced to remove his turban,’’ Singh said. ‘‘It’s a religiously mandated headdress.’’

He said turban searches should only be done if the metal detector beeps. Security agents, he said, should first do an electronic check, then pat down the turban if they sus- pect something, and only as a last resort should they ask the passenger to remove his turban.

Since Sept. 11, Sikhs nationwide have be- come targets of hate crimes in the U.S., as people misidentify them as Taliban sup- porters because of their beards and turbans. A number of them have in recent weeks re- portedly set aside their turbans and con- cealed their tresses under baseball caps.