Winnipeg (Canada): The Sikh community in Winnipeg is reacting with shock to news that police have formally charged three Sikh priests with a variety of sexual assault charges.
All three teach at the Gurdwara Nanaksar temple in the St. Vital area.Gurdwara Nanaksar is one of only 17 temples of its kind worldwide - it is affiliated with a specific Sikh sect, Nanaksar Satsang Sabha. Others in the Sikh community worried about the scars the charges may leave on the reputation of the nearly 15,000 Sikhs in Winnipeg.
The priests are alleged to have abused a Winnipeg man when he was a boy, over a period of more than five years from June 1990 to January 1996.
"The community is totally stunned by this," said Tej Bains, a retired social worker and activist."We are still in shock and there's a number of factors. First of all, we just don't talk about sexuality and … we really honour our priests."
Bakhshish Singh, 47, Kuljit Singh, 43, and Dalbag Singh, 37, all face charges of sexual assault, sexual exploitation, sexual interference and invitation to sexual touching.
Some Sikhs have identified the Gurdwara Nanaksar temple as that of a sect outside mainstream Sikhism in which religious leaders remain celibate.The temple is one of three of its kind in Canada -- the others are in Brampton, Ont., and Surrey, B.C. Winnipeg's Gurdwara Nanaksar began in 1982.
"This is very bad... any allegations of this kind reflect bad on the community as a whole," said Mohinder Singh Dhillon, who worships at Singh Sabha, a mainstream Sikh temple on Sturgeon Rd.
The priests were first arrested Dec. 23 and are set to appear in court next month.
They have been ordered to stay away from the alleged victim. They've also been told to hand over their passports and not be in the presence of anyone under 18 years without supervision.
Sheldon Pinx, the lawyer representing all three men, said last month that his clients maintain their innocence and deny all charges. Meanwhile, a police spokesperson says there may be more arrests in the case.
Winnipeg police said two more priests were arrested last weekend and were released on a promise to appear in court.
Sgt. Kelly Dennison added the charges are linked to an alleged kidnapping occurring earlier this month. The Free Press previously reported that on Dec. 14, a man armed with a sword and another man armed with a tire iron allegedly kidnapped two priests from the temple. The men drove them to a residence in the Waverley area where they allegedly physically assaulted the priests.
Jeewan Jyot Kahlon, 24, and Amandeep Singh Chana, 25, both face charges of kidnapping, forcible confinement, assault with a weapon and possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose.
At the time, police said a "personal dispute" was behind the incident and the victims knew their attackers.
While addressing a seminar, organized by the Department of Management and Computer Studies in collaboration with the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication of Mata Gujri College, Fatehgarh Sahib on Wednesday, Dr Swaraj Singh, whose worldwide efforts is lauded for bringing consciousness regarding Eastern spirituality and highlighting the western cultural invasion through articles and books, said that our misery that we used to waste our positive energy in uselessly thinking about past and future.
Dr Swaraj Singh, who is also the Chairman of Washington State Network for Human Rights, said that if we adopted the teaching of our Gurus, channelize all our efforts we could achieve our goal. He said that he we could find our right path in our holy scripture provide a comprehensive philosophy of life.
Dr Swaraj Singh, while providing vital insight into his multi-polar theory said , " We are fortunate that we belong to the land which is the cradle of knowledge as it is the land of Rig Veda and Guru Granth Sahib. Hence we should shun popular view that the west can only lead the world to a better future, the east has played an eminent role in the evolution of man."
Dr Swaraj who has recently been honoured with Bharat Gaurav and has nineteen books to his credit while sharing his views with the students and the faculty of the college he suggested them to be a good human being requires balanced thinking, proper motivation and effective techniques to manage stress.
Dr Gurmohan Singh Walia, Principal, Mata Gujri College, Fatehgarh Sahib said that currently we all lead a life full of stress, we were troubled with all kinds of anxieties and all this takes a toll on our health. The eastern philosophy provides guidelines for lead a life free from stress, anxiety and restlessness" he said, adding that as management was a very demanding profession which calls for long working hours, hectic schedules and constant race against to excel", he added.
Dr Swaraj presented a collection of books as a token of appreciation to the college principal Dr. Gurmohan Singh Walia and he was honoured by Dr Walia.
While presenting the vote of thanks Dr. Dharminder Singh Ubha, Dean Management and Computer Studies, opined, " Stress Management is been looked into a the Global level and the eastern philosophy suggests remedies which provide relief and finally leading us to a life full of serenity, courage and wisdom". Prof Amanpreet Randhawa, Head of Journalism and Mass Communication Department also expressed her views.