A two-day international conference on ‘Immigrant Literature’ kicked off at Gujranwala Guru Nanak Khalsa College in Ludhiana Tuesday with an aim to promote literary works of Punjabis settled abroad. At the conference, the NRI community strongly condemned the ‘ban’ imposed on Indian officials and diplomats by some gurdwaras in US and Canada, and also said that sacred gurdwaras should be kept out of politics. They added that Indian government officials too should refrain from using them as platform to promote government policies.
However, they maintained that no one can be stopped from entering a gurdwara which is against principles of Sikhism. They further expressed that despite various campaigns to make Sikh turban acceptable, racism and discrimination was still deep-rooted in those countries.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Mahinder Deep Grewal, 76, a poet, said that gurdwaras should be kept out of politics and it is not right to ‘ban’ anyone. “Some gurdwaras in US and Canada are indulging in politics and dividing Sikhs. Gurdwaras should be kept out of all this,” he said. Recently, at least 30 gurdwaras from Canada and 96 from US ‘banned’ Indian diplomats and officials saying that they should not interfere in the lives of Sikhs there.
Sukhi Bath, 60, founder of Punjab Bhawan in Surrey (Canada), said that four gates of gurdwaras are always opened for all and it is against teaching of the Sikh Gurus to ‘ban’ anyone. “We live in a very well-mannered country Canada which has multi-culturism as its biggest strength. There can be different opinions which should be respected. Humanity stands supreme and banning someone from gurdwaras is completely against Sikhism. It is high time that this gurdwara politics should stop from both sides.”
The NRI community also opened up on several issues related to Punjabi diaspora including hate crime, racism. Grewal added, “I do not wear turban when I am in the United States. I have started wearing cap. Once I was walking down a street with my family at San Diego and someone shouted ‘Hey, Look Laden is going. They compared me to the terrorist Osama Bin Laden because of the turban. I and my family were in shock for many days. My little granddaughter asked that what if someone kills me. Since then my son has strictly told me not to wear turban there. He too has chopped his beard and doesn’t wear turban. Government there is trying to create awareness saying Sikhs are not terrorists and wearing turban is normal but still many people there think we are terrorists. Pictures of Sikhs serving langar at Golden Temple are also shown to convince them.”
Jarnail Singh Sekha, 84, an eminent Punjabi novelist from Surrey in Canada said that his works got actual recognition after he moved abroad and started writing about problems of immigrants there. “I started writing immigrant literature and got response in Canada. My novel Khet Mazdoor is based on how immigrants work as laborers initially in foreign countries. I myself worked as a laborer first,” he said.
“I do not go to any gurudwara there. Guru is in my heart. It is because both gurdwara managements and Indian officials are indulged in politics. They use place of worship for politics and propagating their own ideologies and dividing Sikhs,” he said.