‘Excellence Among Sikhs’ stars of the Sikh community honored in Punjab, India

  

  

  (This report captures the details of the program which took place last year)


   Chandigarh : A galaxy of eminent Sikh men and women were honored for their contribution to society in general and Sikh community in particular by the Sikh Council on Religion and Education ( SCORE), a U. S. based NGO for the promotion and preservation of Sikh culture recently in Chandigarh. 250 prominent guests from all over Punjab and Delhi participated in this lunch event titled, ‘Excellence Among Sikhs’ at the Taj Hotel.

Those honored included Rabbi Shergill, a well known singer, an environmentalist and a social activist; Saran Singh , Editor of “ The Sikh Review” from Kolkata, Baba Balbir Singh Seechewal, who cleaned the Bein river associated with Guru Nanak in Sultanpur Lodhi; Ranjodh Singh, head of Gurmukh Singh and Sons, one of the largest business houses in Punjab based in Ludhiana, Arpana Caur, an international renowned artist and the daughter of famous writer Ajit Kaur; Dr Inderjit Kaur, head of the Pingalwara Institution in Amritsar; the Nishkam Sikh Welfare Council, a Delhi-based NGO which has done humanitarian service since 1984, and young innovative entrepreneur Harinder Singh for establishing an enterprise ‘1469’ in New Delhi.

The program started with a spiritual song in the Sufi style by none other than Dolly Guleria, daughter of Surinder Kaur, the famous Punjabi singer who had passed last year. Dolly’s singing created an atmosphere of serenity and set the tone of the event. She sang Punjabi songs in the Sufi style reflecting the theme of love and devotion.

  

  Dolly Guleria singing at the event


  ant Balbir Singh Seechewal is a renowned environmentalist, who spearheaded the efforts to clean Kali Bein associated with Guru Nanak, the Founder of Sikhism, in the Kapurthala district. Guru Nanak is said to have revelatory experience in the river. Baba ji mobilized masses to help clean the 160 KM long River Bein. This river was polluted with raw sewage from the city and agriculture and industrial waste from all around area.
This effort has even been appreciated by Dr APJ Kalam, the President of India. Sant Balbir Singh's work on the river Holy Kali Bein has extended the environmental awareness throughout the world.
Sant Balbit Singh Seechewal, who had spearheaded the campaign of cleansing ‘Kali Bein’ rivulet in the recent years, said, ‘Gurbani’ has a lot of material for us to learn the laws of nature and to understand the human beings relationship with the environment. He challenged the audience to work for the betterment of the natural environment as part of Sikhi.

  

  Baba Balbir Singh Seechewal being honored by Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, Akali Dal member of Parliament and Former Union Minister.


  Dr. Inderjit Kaur, who inherited the mission to serve through ‘Pingalwara Trust’ one of the largest humanitarian project in Punjab from Bhagat Puran Singh, said the path that Bhagat Puran Singh had chosen to serve the needy with a total selfless approach was very difficult for a common man. “Bhagat Puran Singh, who created the rooms for poor and sick patients, had no room of his own.” Dr. Inderjit Kaur said. She remarked that this event certainly would give a boost to NGOs and self help groups and will hopefully facilitate funding for noble causes. Dr. Inderjit Kaur is the now President of the society is continuing the task started by Bhagat Ji. She works selflessly day and night for the welfare of the mentally sick, poor, helpless and sick people.

Currently Pingalwara has facilities for 1080 "patients" who are fed, housed and looked after. Under her leadership, Pingalwara operates a free drug dispensary, a blood bank, a shelter for intellectually disabled children and a free primary school in a slum area in Amritsar city. Poor and abandoned children raised by Pingalwara are helped re-establish themselves in society at completion of their school education. An ambulance and a basic operation room is available for trauma care of accident victims.

  

  Dr. Inderjit Kaur being honored by Tarlochan Singh, Member of Indian Parliament.


  Famous industrialist Ranjodh Singh of ‘Gurmukh Singh and Sons’, who was honored for running educational and social institutions in Punjab said it was important for the Sikh community to promote education among our youth so that they can excel in various fields. Ranjodh Singh is one of the top industrialists in the Ludhiana area.

  

  Ranjodh Singh(left) accepting an award from Inderbir Singh Kang, President of All India Youth Akali Dal.


  Harbahajan Singh of Nishkam Sikh Welfare Council, a social organization that had adopted the children and widows of the 1984 Anti-Sikh violence in India, said, “ the real service that the Sikhs could do to the mankind was to create resources for the poor and the needy and generate opportunities for the children of the poor and the deprived families.” He also reminded the audience about the opportunity to serve the Sikligars and Vanjara Sikhs who are not well versed in Sikh principles and yet are waiting from the mainstream Sikh community for help.

Nishkam initially focused on providing relief to the Sikh widows and orphans after the violence on November 1984. It provided means of support to the distraught families, food and shelter to thousands of families in the affected areas and whose houses were burnt by the rioters. Later it provided the vocational training to widows and helped educate the Sikh orphans. Nishkam has grown into a multi-dimensional welfare organization which provides educational assistance to youth, housing to disaster affected areas in India, job training to poor in Delhi and Sikligar tribes in Western and Central India, shelter for elderly, and medicinal assistance to many patients through its centers. It has recently built houses for tsunami victims in Tamil Nadu and earthquake victims in Gujarat.

  

  Dr Inderjit Kaur, Former Vice-Chancellor of Punjabi University ( first women ever to hold that position) giving an award to Harbhajan Singh of Nishkam Sikh Welfare Council and Sarbjit Singh, Central Co-ordinator of the Sukrit organization in Punjab, a body dedicated to youth development in Punjab.


  

  some 250 prominent Sikh leaders and academicians from all over Punjab joined in the program
Dr Inderjit Kaur, Former Vice-Chancellor of Punjabi University ( first women ever to hold that position) giving an award to Harbhajan Singh of Nishkam Sikh Welfare Council and Sarbjit Singh, Central Co-ordinator of the Sukrit organization in Punjab, a body dedicated to youth development in Punjab.


  Arpana Caur remained very humble in her acceptance speech. She shared as to how she is inspired by Guru Nanak in her artistic impressions. She thanked SCORE and the audience for the honor. She said that her way of paying homage to Guru Nanak, the Founder of Sikhism, is to immerse in her art and use her brush to express love towards this great personality. Dr. Rajwant Singh particularly mentioned her famous painting of Bhai Mardana being cremated by Guru Nanak and also Guru Nanak immersing in the River Bein. She said that she is thrilled that Sikhs recognize her work.

  

  Arpana Caur being honored by Bhai Sikander Singh Bagrian, descendent of Bagrian familywhose ancestors served Guru Hargobind Sahib ji. Dr. Rajwant Singh is in the middle.


  Rabbi Shergill electrified the audience with his frank talk and challenged the Sikh youth to feel proud of the Sikh heritage. He sang his famous song ‘ Bulla kee jaane main kaun’ which generated heavy clapping from the attendees. He said, “I am proud to be a Sikhs and such awards will motivate other Sikh youths to stick to the principles of Sikhism and work for the welfare of the community.”

  

  Rabbi Shergill accepting the award from Former Mayor of Chandigarh, Harjinder Kaur, a devoted public servant. Dr. Balvinder Kaur, Gurpreet Singh and Dr. Deepinder Singh in the background.


  He further stated that if Sikh youth is familiar with his or her heritage than there will be less reason to feel down or feel inferior and they will be proud of their full fledged Sikh identity. He extended an offer that he is available to assist in any project to reach out to youth to motivate them in the right direction. He was introduced by Dr. Balvinder Kaur.

The name Rabbi means God-facing and originates from the Punjabi word Rabb (God). Born in 1975 Raabi’s music has been described variously as rock, Sufiana and “semi-Sufi semi-folksy kind of music with a lot of Western arrangements.” Rabbi himself has been called “Punjabi Music’s true urban balladeer.
His self-titled first album Rabbi, released in 2005 was very successful and its title track “Bulla Ki Jaana Main Kaun” (Bulla, I know not who I am!), become an instant hit. Rabbi writes in Punjabi, for “It is my pride”, he says.

  

  Rabbi has since worked as a music director and lyricist for the hindi movie, Delhi Heights. He has also performed at the World Social Forum in Brazil, played at the inauguration of the Tri-Continental Film Festival in New Delhi and various other Live Shows.

  

  Sardar Saran Singh I.A.S, former Chief Secretary to Bihar Government and Secretary to Government of India, was presented ‘Lifetime Service Award’ in abstention for publishing the “Sikh Review” after retirement.


  

  

  

  Amarjit Singh, Director of Dagshai Public School, Massouri, accepted the award on behalf of Saran Singh from Makhan Singh, former Managing Director of Punjab & Sind Bank and prominent Sikh personality of New Delhi. Saran Singh on the right. He could not travel from Kolkata due to health reasons.


  Saran Singh has a brilliant academic record. Out of all the students in Punjab University in 1945, he stood first in MA English. In 1947, he joined IAS Bihar cadre, and in 1976, he became the Secretary to Government of India and Secretary to Textiles, Social Welfare and Steel. After retirement, he was appointed as an advisor to the Governor of Assam from 1982 - 1984. In 1984, he settled in Calcutta and became the chairman of the Sikh Cultural Center and the editor of the Sikh Review, the only Sikh magazine in English which has been published for the last 5 decades.

A surprise award of excellence was presented to an enthusiastic young entrepreneur Harinder Singh for establishing an imaginative enterprise named “1469”for creating in distinct style art and other objects highlighting verses from Gurbani and popularizing and preserving traditional heritage. “ 1469” is the birth year of the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak.

  

  Harinder Singh of '1469' was given an award for his dedication to bring Sikh and punjabi icons in the everyday popular fashion. His T-shirts depicting various themes from Sikh and Punjabi culture and punjabi languagehave become popular among youth all around the world.


  Dr. Rajwant Singh, Chairman of SCORE, said, “ This event is an opportunity to recognize those individuals who have contributed to society in general and also who have become role models for our youth. This would highlight the contributions of the Sikhs in strengthening the nation. We are very proud in honoring these distinguished personalities who have presented the Sikhs in a very positive manner in various fields.” He said the personalities who were honored today have created and spread a positive image of the Sikh community worldwide.

Tarlochan Singh, member Parliament and former chairman, National Commission for Minorities, presided over the function. Former Union Cabinet Minister Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa was the chief guest.

  

  All the honorees and guests at the event.


  In his presidential address, Tarlochan Singh said this is a new and admirable initiative of recognizing and honoring those persons and organizations which are selflessly doing good constructive work for the betterment of the Sikh community.

Rapping up the program, Sardar Dhindsa said by honoring some praiseworthy personalities and institutions, this has elevated the entire Sikh community.

  

  Gurpreet Singh, former executive of American Express in India and now venturing in opening luxury hotel chain in Northern India and also opening higher standard schools in Punjab, was the master of ceremonies at the event.


  

  Dr. Prabjot Kaur, principal of Gurmat College, Patiala sitting with other guests.


  The other guests included Makhan Singh, Chairman Guru Arjan Dev Institute of Technology and Management, Dr. Inderjit Kaur , former Vice Chancellor of the Punjab University, Patiala, Bhayee Sikander Singh Bagrian, former Chandhigarh mayor Harjinder Kaur, Vice Chancellor of Guru Granth Sahib University, Dr. Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia, Youth Akali Dal President, Kiranbir Singh Kang, Rana Inderjit Singh of Gurmat Gian Missionary College, Balvinderpal Singh of Guru Gobind Singh Study Circle, Sukhwinder Singh of Vismaad Group, Man Mohan Singh Kohli of Aroma Hotel in Chandigarh, Baltej Singh Mann of Punjabi University, Roopinder Singh, Assistant Editor of the Tribune, Bijay Singh of SGPC, Mr. Kohli from London and Sarabjit Singh of Sukrit organization and a prominent Lawyer Gur Rattan Pal Singh. Dr. Deepinder Singh and Jaswinder Singh Chhabra helped in the organization of this program.

  

  Officials of Gurmat Gian Trust in Ludhiana.


  SCORE has organized similar events in Washington to highlight the contributions of Sikhs in America, and to create a presence of the community in the American political system. It had 300 distinguished guests from all over America attend this year’s annual event in June and over 20 elected leaders of United States Congress attended the event. In previous years, keynote speeches from congressional leadership at SCORE’s Capitol Hill Dinner have included prominent leaders like Senators Hillary Clinton, Richard Lugar, and Charles Schumer.

  

  An Andhra Scholar who has studied Punjabi and is writing on Sikhism was also recognized in the program. Jaswinder Singh Chhabra in the back.


  SCORE has worked closely with the White House and U. S. Congress on Sikh issues in America.

  


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