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India Fight For Respect To Sikh Symbols May Suffer: Experts

Jan 6, 2005
Metro-Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Fight for respect to Sikh symbols may suffer: Experts

Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, June 30

Even as the Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak committee (SGPC) has ordered a probe into the assault on senior IAS officer Kahan Singh Pannu and “violation of Sikh maryada,” there is a feeling in Sikh circles that such instances adversely hit the community's fight for upholding the honour of its religious symbols (turban and kirpan) in foreign countries.

Talking to The Tribune, Sikh scholar Ashok Singh Bagarian said: "If the Sikhs themselves don't show respect to the turban, with what face can they ask foreigners to do so?."

He said Akal Takht should take note of the assault on Pannu and act tough instead of waiting for the state government to complete its probe into the matter.

He said the 'complete silence” by the ruling SAD on the issue was jarring.

Dr Rajwant Singh, chairman of the US-based Sikh Council on Religion and Education (SCORE), said even as Sikhs abroad were trying to convince the authorities abroad that the turban was a religious symbol and Sikh passengers should not be asked to remove their turban during frisking at airports, some Sikhs had not only removed Pannu’s turban but also uploaded the video footage of the incident on the Internet to portray him in a poor light. This was deplorable.

"Whatever may be the provocation, what these Sikh yoths did with Pannu is totally unacceptable," he observed.

Dal Khalsa leader Kanwarpal Singh said the state government could not be trusted on the matter and that Akal Takht should act on its own without waiting for the Punjab Government to conclude its inquiry.

"It is for the Sikhs to understand that removing the turban portrays them in a bad light.

“Even if Pannu had said something objectionable, instead of correcting him on the matter, removing his turban has sent a negative signal worldwide."

Karnail Singh Peermohammed, All-India Sikh Students’ Federation (AISSF) chief, said the incident was a major setback to the community's fight for ensuring respect to its religious symbols, including the kirpan and turban, by governments of various countries.

Kiranjot Kaur, SGPC member, however, was of the opinion that the Pannu incident was not likely to have any ramifications for the Sikhs living abroad.

“It is, however, unfortunate that the Sikhs themselves are showing disrespect to the turban,” she added.



1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Soul_jyot ji

Only confusion reigns in my mind with this story. It reminds me of a shaggy dog story. A shaggy dog story so fuzzy one can't find the head or the tail, the beginning or the end; it starts in the middle and goes on and on. What really happened?

Here is all I can make of it. Mr. Pannu was sent as a senior Punjab IAS representative - an investigator to see what help could be offered to stranded Sikh pilgrims in Utaaraakhand. BTW the story of Mr.Pannu runs parallel with related stories that the Punjab government had not done enough for stranded Sikh pilgrims. When Mr. Pannu reached his destination he was assaulted by some individuals, characterized as "hooligans" by Dal Khalsa and other Sikh activists. These hooligans beat him up and removed his turban in a rage. That is the story.

The assault is reported as if it came out of the blue.

What kind of interactions preceded the assault? Was there a confrontation that led to the assault of Mr. Pannu's who was also beaten? Where the assailants merely mindless thugs? Or were they so angered and frustrated that the mere appearance of Mr. Pannu triggered anger and an irrational response. In other words, was Mr. Pannu the unwitting recipient of accumulated frustration at that moment. Or was he on the other hand a convenient target? Pannu is reported by Jago Punjab to 'hint" there was a hidden agenda behind the attack? Did he really say that?

Punjab Newsline tells a different story, even more suggestive in the details. Mr. Pannu was overseeing a rescue operation. He was heard to say something "objectionable" about Sikhism. We don't know what it was he said. However, according to the story, a group of unruly pilgrims, including some "Nihangs," objected when he tried to stop them from moving ahead in a rescue queue ahead of elderly and infirm pilgrims.

So once again we have a story without any clear sense of who said what and when they said it and who they said it to; or why they said it and whether there is more than meets the eye. On one side there is a lot of hinting around and the call that Akal Takht should not take this incident lightly. A different wing of the dispute says Badal should launch an investigation.

In all of this how do "experts" end up with the idea that there will be less respect for the turban? I don't get it! Thugs will be thugs and desperate people do desperate things. There have already been plenty of YouTube videos where turbaned Sikhs pull turbans off of other Sikhs out of rage, because of gurdwara election outcomes or because a segment of the sangat doesn't like a katha.

The importance of the turban is proved by these stories because it is an act of ultimate humiliation. Is this story different? Mr. Pannu's story is important enough to cover, day by day, and chapter by chapter for reasons that may have nothing to do with his turban, most chapters consisting of someone blaming someone else who let something get out of hand. It is all very fuzzy.
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1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Here is what I am talking about. There is the Akali Dal side of the story and there is this side of the story.


The wake-up call is stern in its assessment of the problem and the strict measures that must be taken to bring miscreants to justice. Bad blood, even worse motivations, politics that is rotten to the core.

Both sides are outraged, as am I, about what happened to Mr. Pannu. But...

What happened?


May 10, 2010
Ancient Greece
The news story regarding Mr. Pannu has more to do with inefficiency of the Government machinery and its abject failure in providing timely relief to the stranded Hemkunt pilgrims than its connectiin with the respect of Sikh symbols.
What could have been more frustrating for the pilgrims to learn that the Punjab govt was making claims of rescuing over800 pilgrims on the first day even when its helicopter had failed to make a single sortie on day one, or that Mr
Khubi Ram, an official accompanting Mr.Pannu went missing for a couple of days before being found in a hotel with certain women he was not supposed to be with. On the top of all this, Mr.Pannu had confessed to have mentioned Guru Gobind Singh Sahib's name in bad humour.
What I believe is that the news story of alleged thrashing of Mr.Pannu is an attempt to gain front page space and eyewash the public from the utter failure of the govt. machinery to provide relief to the victims. The Sikh circles should not read much into this political backgammon.



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