Punjab bats for gender equality, allows women ragis at Golden Temple

| | Chandigarh
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Punjab bats for gender equality, allows women ragis at Golden Temple

Friday, 08 November 2019 | PNS | Chandigarh

For breaking free from the age-old tradition of not allowing the Sikh women to perform kirtan (public prayer songs) inside the Golden Temple, the Punjab Vidhan Sabha on Thursday “unanimously” passed a resolution to “request” the Akal Takht Jathedar and the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) for the same.

The resolution was moved by the Cabinet Minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa who underlined that the Sikhism founder Guru Nanak Dev fought against caste and gender inequality throughout his life and this discrimination against women should also end.

Sikh women raagis, who sing Sikh hymns (called shabads) or plays musical instruments while reciting or singing kirtan, are allowed to perform kirtan in several gurdwaras across Punjab, but not at the Golden Temple, known as Darbar Sahib, and considered to be the holiest Sikh shrine.

The resolution, collectively passed by a voice vote with the support of all parties, will now be formally sent to the Akal Takht and the SGPC, to take a decision on the same.

The resolution was passed on the second and last day of the special commemorative session to mark the first Sikh guru’s 550th birth anniversary.

Historically speaking, the Sikh rehat maryada (Sikhism customs and traditions) did not allow the Sikh women raagis to perform kirtan inside the Darbar Sahib. However, the demand to allow the women raagis to perform kirtan inside the Golden Temple was raised at various platforms.

SGPC, under the presidentship of Bibi Jagir Kaur, had in August 2005 decided to allow women to perform kirtan at the Golden Temple, but the same was firmly rejected by the Damdami Taksal — a Sikh body considered to be the custodian and protector of Sikh rehat maryada.

The similar demand was made by the Sikh-Americans in 2017 who had then proposed that women should be allowed to sing shabad or hymns at the Golden Temple to recognize the important role played by them in strengthening the Sikh faith.

During discussion on the resolution on Thursday, some of the SAD legislators pointed out that the move is against the Sikh rehat maryada while making it clear that they were not against the women performing kirtan inside the Darbar Shaib.

Countering them, Bajwa brought along the copies of Sikh rehat maryada to point that there was “no mention” that women cannot perform kirtan inside the temple. Even Akali leader Bibi Jagir Kaur had sought permission for Sikh women to perform kirtan sewa at the highest venerated shrine amongst the Sikhs, he said.

“Guru Nanak preached the promotion of an egalitarian society based on democratization of rights and entitlements. This discrimination must be stopped,” he said.

Interrupting Bajwa, SAD MLA Parminder Singh Dhindsa said that through this resolution, efforts were being made to project that the Akal Takht (supreme temporal seat of Sikhs) or the SGPC (apex gurdwara body) are deliberately refusing women to sing hymns at the Golden Temple.

Saying that they agree with the feelings of Bajwa, Dhaindsa said that the Akal Takht was already aware of this issue but taking it to the level of creating doubts on SGPC or Akal Takht is not right.

Disagreeing, Bajwa said that he was not challenging the authority of the Akal Takht but “requesting” the SGPC, and it was up to it to accept or not.

Cabinet Minister Charanjit Singh Channi maintained that the changes and modifications in maryada or rules were made from time to time as per the needs, and there was nothing wrong with it.

He suggested that along with the SGPC, we should also request the Akal Takht Jathedar as he was competent to make the decision.

Intervening in the discussion, AAP MLA Kultar Singh Sandhwan criticized Akali leaders for raising questions over the resolution brought by the government.

SAD MLAs, which earlier objected to the wordings of the resolution, later came out in its support.

The resolution read, “Guru Nanak Dev had visualized a society in which there would be no place for discrimination or distinction on the basis of caste or creed, social status or gender, a society that is to be based upon the principle of egalitarianism and committed to the welfare of all.”

“It is for this reason that there is no instance of discrimination in Gurbani or Sikh Gurus history at any level between man and woman. It is, however, unfortunate that the Sikh women are not allowed to perform ‘Kirtan’ in the sanctum sanctorum of the Darbar Sahib, Amritsar, the most venerated shrine of the Sikhs where there is no space for discrimination.”

“This session of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha appeals to the Jathedar of Akal Takht and the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee to end this discriminatory practice that violates the essence of Gurbani and allow Sikh women to perform Kirtan.”

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