Punjab: House resolves to allow Sikh women to perform kirtan at Golden Temple

Kanchan Vasdev
A lightning bolt is seen in the sky above Harmandir Sahib during rain and thunderstorm, in Amritsar, Thursday. (PTI)

The Punjab Assembly Thursday unanimously passed a resolution urging the Akal Takht and the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) to allow Sikh women to perform kirtan sewa at the Golden Temple in Amritsar even. Only Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) opposed the resolution saying it cast aspersions on the temporal seat of the Sikhs.

Moving the resolution during the special session of the Vidhan Sabha, Cabinet minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa said Guru Nanak Dev fought against caste and gender inequality throughout his life and this discrimination against women should also end on his 550th Parkash Purab. He said the resolution was aimed at the ‘baani siddhant virodh’ that led to gender discrimination.

Only Sikh men perform kirtan at the Golden Temple as of now.

The resolution, which was was endorsed by Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Lok Insaaf Party (LIP) members, was passed by the Assembly passed by voice vote. The SAD, which earlier objected to the wording of the resolution, later came out in support.

The resolution would now be sent formally to the Akal Takht and the SGPC.

Earlier, ejected an Akali leader’s claim that according to Sikh ‘rehat maryada’ (religious code of conduct), Sikh women are not allowed to perform ‘kirtan sewa’ at the ‘Darbar Sahib’. He pointed out that even Akali leader and former SGPC chief Jagir Kaur too had sought permission for Sikh women to perform kirtan sewa at the shrine.

“There was no mention in the Sikh history of any discrimination against women,” he said ruing that Sikh women were not allowed to perform Kirtan Sewa till now.

SAD leader of House Parminder Singh Dhindsa intervened, saying that through the resolution efforts were being made to depict that the Akal Takht or the SGPC are deliberately refusing women to sing hymns at the Golden Temple.

He further said he agreed with the feelings of Bajwa, but asserted the Akal Takht was already aware of this issue.

To this, Bajwa said he was not challenging the authority of the Akal Takht but just requesting it and the SGPC to allow Sikh women to perform ‘kirtan sewa’. To this, Dhindsa asked if it was a government resolution or individual resolution.

Meanwhile, AAP members Kultar Singh Sandhwan criticised Akali leaders for raising questions over the resolution. LIP legislator Simarjeet Singh Bains thanked Bajwa for bringing this resolution.

The issue was raised at various platforms in the past. The Sikh leadership of the state usually gets questioned on the issue during political meetings abroad. Jagir Kaur, a former Akali MLA, after taking over as SGPC chief in 1999 had announced to treat baptised women on par with men for discharging religious duties at the Golden Temple.

The resolution

Guru Nanak Dev had visualised 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 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.”