This is Unacceptable Behaviour, Teji BindraT. SHER SINGH
Monday, October 15, 2012
The Sikh Art & Film Foundation, New York, USA, has announced that it is holding what it calls the “Sikh Heritage Awards Gala 2012” on November 2, 2012.
It’s an annual event and a good event, held nowadays in the heart of the city with much fanfare. It is the kind of event that every community should have, at least once a year, in every town and city in the diaspora.
I do wish and expect that it will, as in the past, enjoy the support of the community across the board.
But I have one concern this year.
A serious one.
It is not mine alone. It is causing a lot of distress around the world in Sikhdom and here at sikhchic.com -- a sort of Sikh News Central, if you will -- we have received intimations of concern from many.
This time around, it is not a fake or drummed-up issue, the kind we have come to expect from time to time from India … a la the kerfuffle over Rowling’s new book, for example.
Though, this too relates to India.
The powers that be at the “Sikh Art & Film Foundation” have seen it fit to invite the Indian Ambassador to the United States as its Chief Guest this year, along with a whole contingent of Indian bureaucrats, including India’s Consul General to New York … as “Guests of Honour“!
Sikh events everywhere are -- and always should be -- open to one and all, regardless of religion, nationality, etc. There is nothing wrong in welcoming all who wish to buy tickets to such events. There is also nothing wrong in welcoming special guests and recognizing their presence in the audience.
As long as they are not hostile to Sikh interests, or representing those who are considered hostile, and seen as nursing an antipathy, to our community.
The Indian Ambassador as Chief Guest? At a SIKH event?
ON THE VERY DAY OF THE 28th ANNIVERSARY OF THE ANTI-SIKH POGROM IN WHICH THOUSANDS OF INNOCENT SIKHS WERE MURDERED IN BROAD DAYLIGHT ON THE STREETS OF INDIA'S CAPITAL AND ALL OVER THE COUNTRY?
A Sikh event to honour India and its Ambassador on that day?
The Indian Consul General and other Indian government employees -- whose job it is to further only Indian interests which, more often than not, have been demonstrated as being harmful to the Sikh community not only in India but worldwide -- as Guests of Honour? At a SIKH event?
A Sikh event honouring them on the anniversary of the November pogrom?
I don’t think I need to prove to you that India and its government have behaved badly towards Sikhs -- in 1984 or since -- and that there is ample proof that their policy has been openly antagonistic towards Sikhs everywhere. This has been the pattern for several decades now, and it has not improved to any degree to date.
I am not talking of minor disputes or differences or transgressions. I am talking about the murder of tens of thousands of innocent men, women and children. And the 28-year long government cover-up.
And I haven’t even touched the tip of the iceberg.
The dust hasn't settled, the blood hasn't dried from 1984 and the wholesale murder of Sikh youth during the decade that followed.
Don't we owe justice to them and their grieving families?
No doubt, not everybody, including Sikhs, will agree with this assessment. Even with those who agree, there will also be a variation in opinions as to how we, the Sikhs, should deal with this situation.
But it is an incontrovertible fact that by far the majority of the Sikhs in New York, in America, in the diaspora and in India believe -- based on clear evidence -- that the Indian government has chosen to be on a collision course with the Sikhs. Not just its own Sikh citizens but meddling with Sikhs living anywhere, everywhere.
The concern I raise is not unanimous -- nothing in life is -- but it is widely held and deeply felt within the community.
The question, then, is why -- in today’s environment -- one of our own organizations is going rogue on us and honouring our detractors?
The Sikh Art & Film Foundation is headed by Tejinder Singh Bindra -- he is popularly known as Teji Bindra. He has been at its helm from its very inception, even when it was called The Spinning Wheel Film Festival - New York Chapter. He runs it like a personal fiefdom, through a whole slew of family and close friends.
Though now a non-profit entity, the control has never been allowed to slip out of his personal fingers.
From day one, it has operated out of his personal business premises on 1410 Broadway in Manhattan, New York and his home in Long Island, New York. As if it is a mere extension of his business enterprise.
Before I go any further, I should make my personal relationship with Teji quite clear. He is a friend. We are family friends -- I have visited and stayed with him several times, and vice versa.
He has honoured me several times by having me officiate at or be the main speaker at his events. He has even awarded me with public honours in New York.
So have we him in Toronto.
The only difference I’ve had with him to date is over his kowtowing, in the context of any venture he conducts publicly in the name of or on behalf of the Sikh community, to Indian government lackeys who operate out of the local Indian government apparatuses.
Based on that difference and his refusal to follow our long-established policy of keeping our projects non-political, we prohibited him from henceforth using the name “Spinning Wheel” in New York.
When he balked at following this directive, we obtained a Court Order, forcing him to remove all references to the "Spinning Wheel".
Hence the New York chapter is now called the Sikh Art & Film Foundation, though the local players remain the same.
I remain friends with Teji and the Bindra family, and particularly hold the elders of the family, Sardar Ishar Singh and Sardarni Kuljit Kaur, in the highest regard.
But the issue today is of serious import and needs to be addressed by the community as a whole. Hence I’m raising it so publicly.
As long as Teji Bindra labels the event “Sikh” and purports to be a leader of the community and represent it in the public arena, he cannot then treat it as an extension of his business venture.
I see no reason why he cannot work hard at furthering his business interests in India by massaging Indian bureaucrats and kowtowing to them.
But he must do it on his own time.
And, he’ll have to do it on his own dime.
Certainly not by selling the community out.
Yes, this is a free country. He can invite the Indian lackeys home if he wants, or to his business, and honour them all the way to kingdom come.
But not at a Sikh function at a time when the mere act of honouring them on a Sikh stage is loaded with innuendo and political ramifications, at the expense of Sikhs.
Sure, call it the Bindra Art & Film Foundation, or whatever, but not “Sikh” if you want to demean yourself and sell your soul.
What you’re proposing to do, Teji, on November 2, is selfish.
It is cheap.
It is foolish.
It reeks of betrayal.
It displays a lack of integrity.
It is bad behaviour.
As long as you do it in the name of the community, or on behalf of the community, it is unacceptable behaviour. You do not have the right to sell your community.
Conversation about this article
1: Jaswinder Singh (Brier, WA, U.S.A.), October 15, 2012, 11:07 AM.
Thank you for pouring your heart out for the Sikh interest ... not just Sikh interest, but righteousness! Too many people keep quiet and maintain the attitude of, as long as it's not hurting me or my interest, I can stay neutral or it's none of my business. So I am glad and grateful for this article. I am glad to see my brethren speaking against injustice and the use of a community platform for personal gain. What a shame.
2: Preet Kaur (New Jersey, USA), October 15, 2012, 12:00 PM.
On the one hand, we have Sikh advocacy groups - at great expense and peril - pursuing Indian entities in American courts in order to get justice over 1984, and then, we have this ...!?
3: Baljit Singh (San Jose, California, USA), October 15, 2012, 12:04 PM.
Why would any Sikh with any degree of self-respect want to attend any function where an Indian 'diplomat' is being honoured? I simply can't think of a single intelligent, rational, logical justification that can hold any water.
4: Karam Singh (Chandigarh, Punjab), October 15, 2012, 12:39 PM.
If Sikh-Americans start selling us out, then what can we expect from those amongst us here in India who are cowered down by the suffocating majority? Why do you in the U.S. need to do chaploosi with our beggars?
5: Parmjit Singh (Canada), October 15, 2012, 12:49 PM.
T. Sher Singh ji, thank you! This article is 'truthful living', written with the courage of a lion. I am sure it is written at some personal expense, but you are stronger for it. I hope we all learn from this. In this world, 'truthful living' will often be outside the norms of comfort zones. We must calmly make it our own comfort zone and lead others from all walks of life to do the same as T. Sher Singh Ji has done here. I note that the website references as 'partners' the Sikh Coalition, SALDEF, and United Sikhs. Are they aware of this? They have been pulled in. Will they speak out? Also, please make a note of other partners and sponsors at http://www.sikharts.com/index.php so you can educate yourself as to who to engage in dialogue about this.
6: H.S. Vachoa (USA), October 15, 2012, 1:59 PM.
India has attacked the collective dignity of Sikhs by labeling them as part of Hinduism in its Constitution. What is then the point of honouring these Indian minions who represent the very constitution that imposes the 'Hindu' slur on us as part of the country's law?
7: Harmeet Singh (USA), October 15, 2012, 2:07 PM.
So, let me get this clear ... while India is still deftly covering up its mass-murders of Sikhs and anti-Sikh pogroms, this Teji Bindra is inviting Indian Ambassadors and her team of cronies to celebrate Sikh arts on the anniversary of those murders?
8: Birinder Singh (New Delhi, India), October 15, 2012, 2:41 PM.
A pox on the house of any man or woman who celebrates India and its representatives on the anniversary of the mass-murders of innocent Sikhs at the hands of the masters of those very honorees!
9: Dayal Kaur (Missouri, USA), October 15, 2012, 2:51 PM.
I wonder how much more business, how many more licenses and permits, how many open doors, how much more money will be generated by this sell-out. The Dogras got the kingdom of Kashmir for their betrayal of the Sikhs. Mr Bindra, I hope you've negotiated a good deal for yourself ... because, remember, every ghost from 1984 will be there with you on November 2. You betray the Sikhs of '84 and they will follow you thereafter, wherever you go. And anyone else who tries to ingest and digest those profits and benefits you receive. I promise you this ...
10: Dr.Birinder Singh Ahluwalia (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), October 15, 2012, 3:00 PM.
The entire humanity is welcome to enjoy our heritage and culture and religion and celebrations with us, just as we do the same whole-heartedly with the world. The only ones who are not welcome are those who undermine humanity through their nefarious, draconian and destructive deeds. We must all remain vigilant against such elements, while upholding our high values.
11: Onkar Kaur ("Widow Colony", Delhi, India), October 15, 2012, 3:01 PM.
Lukh laahnataa(n), Teji ji, tuhaanu tey tuhaadeyaa(n) nu!
12: R.S..Minhas (Millburn, New Jersey, USA), October 15, 2012, 3:27 PM.
This only highlights the devotion of the poor Sikh who took his offering away from Emperor Jahangir when he realized that the Sacha Patshah was Guru Hargobind - the One and Only!
13: K. Kaur (Canada), October 15, 2012, 3:27 PM.
I don't understand why people like Teji Bindra don't just convert to Hinduism instead of dragging us all down like this. As a Hindu he would be free to kowtow to his heart's content. Although as a Hindu, he would be of limited use to his masters and just another piece to add to their scrap pile of worthless Indians.
14: Dave Singh (Surrey, British Columbia, Canada), October 15, 2012, 4:51 PM.
Completely agree with Sher Singh here.
15: G C Singh (USA), October 15, 2012, 5:10 PM.
Instead of taking it personally and sitting on his ego, I hope Teji Bindra thanks you for warning him and hopefully preventing him from jumping into a deep ditch of shame, betrayal and treachery from which there is no return. The Sikh nation must thank Sardar T Sher Singh who has earned my love and respect for speaking a inconvenient and blunt truth to a friend and for becoming a much needed moral force in the community.
16: Baljit (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), October 15, 2012, 5:11 PM.
Why are the Sikh Coalition, United Sikhs and SALDEF all partners in this event?
17: N. Singh (Canada), October 15, 2012, 7:52 PM.
If you take a look at their website you will see a film called "Injustice 84" being shown. Seems bizarre to show this movie in front of these Indian delegates ... a contradiction in terms. Doesn't Teji Bindra see the irony in all this. It has taken us 28 long years to make the small strides that we have taken to restore our pride and to build our reputation and all it takes is a few men like Bindra and KS Brar to bring it all down! What a shame ...
18: Rashmi Kaur (Long Island, New York, USA), October 15, 2012, 8:41 PM.
Re N. Singh (# 17): These "special guests" don't get to see the films, which are shown elsewhere and on another day. At the gala, these guests from India usually say goofy and inane things. So do the organizers. There's usually a Bhangra performer ... in the meantime, everyone gets stupidly drunk and staggers and stumbles around, before their wives take them home. That's about the routine every year. So much for "Sikh', 'Heritage' and 'Gala'! I've been dragged there twice by my parents. Now that I'm working and on my own, I'm not going there as long as these bloody Indians are going to be touted around as pseudo-VIPs. And you can bet that I'll make sure no one from my family is stepping foot in there.
19: Gurteg Singh (New York, USA), October 15, 2012, 9:24 PM.
Over the last three centuries, in all our struggles, wars, protests, trials and tribulations by fire, it is largely the poor and, to a much lesser extent, middle class Sikhs, who have sacrificed with their blood, sweat and tears for the Khalsa Panth. The well-off Sikhs have mostly been either aloof, or have acted as collaborators who have assisted the ruling class in the genocide of their own brethren in return for a few titles and crumbs from the rulers. If Bindra and company have no time for the history of the young Sahibzaadas of Guru Gobind Singh, let them quickly watch the movie "Braveheart" and introspect on their own actions of honoring our sworn enemies and addressing them as "His" and "Her excellencies".
20: Jaspreet (Surrey, British Columbia, Canada), October 16, 2012, 12:23 AM.
I think I have seen this man Teji Bindra. I saw him in a film called "Holy Kitchens: The True Business" by Vikas Khanna. The objection I have to it is the presence of some big Sikh sant guy always in front of an idol. I don't know if it is a Hindu idol or just a statue of some kind. It can give the message though that Sikhs are idol worshippers too, like Hindus, a message India wants to falsely create and for Sikhs especially to start believing. Gandhi's concern was that unless Sikhs can be persuaded they are Hindus, the Dalits converting to Sikhsim would be dangerous for India. Everyone has some limits. For me it is idols. If Sikhs here were ever to accept idols in the gurdwaras, that would be a true black day for Sikhi.
21: Jasneet (Long Island, New York, USA), October 16, 2012, 1:28 AM.
In my view: We have a problem with the Nazi regime of Congress from 1984, not from the entire Indian system. Why do we forget that the majority of our religious assets are in India, and post Operation Bluestar there is no direct harm from Indian Governmental system made to us. Decades have change, times have changed, and people have changed. We have an option to fight our battle in the international arena ... e.g., the Jews recently prosecuted the last Nazi after 50 Years. It's time to fight strategically. In my view we should fight against specific people, fight against the Congress party, let's not generalize the Indian masses. Don't demonize the whole Indian picture.
22: N. Singh (Canada), October 16, 2012, 1:56 AM.
Firstly, the civilized thing to do would be for everyone to boycott this festival. Ask yourself, do you really need to be associated with something like this? Perhaps now is the right time to stand up and be counted. Secondly, I would go so far as to say that anyone doing business with such people should take their money elsewhere. It is always harder to make money than spend money so I am sure you will find many other places or services you can use instead. Thirdly organizations such as the Sikh Coalition, United Sikhs and SALDEF need to issue statements distancing themselves from these events and people who are not working in the best interests of the Panth. Are they even aware how their logo, branding and goodwill is being used? Fourthly we need to commend T.Sher Singh ji for taking a stand and take a leaf out of his book. The time has come to re-define the concept of 'saint-soldier'. The pen is mightier than the sword and we must have the courage and ability to use it. Just my thoughts ...
23: Labh Singh (New Delhi, India), October 16, 2012, 4:42 AM.
Dear Jasneet ji (Long Island, #21): I know you mean well but I'm afraid you haven't taken your thoughts to their logical conclusions. Please let me point out some of the loose ends in your comment. True, it was the Congress Party behind the massacres in 1984, but aren't they still controlling the government today and aren't they the employers and directing minds of the lackeys being paraded by Mr Bindra in New York? Some of the very same people who directed the mobs in 1984 are now key part of the government today. Moreover, the government and its entire machinery has been involved not only in the cover-up of 1984 - which continues till today - but in also creating a smoke-screen by maligning Sikhs worldwide, so that the crimes of 1984 are buried in a cloud of obfuscation. The current Indian Ambassador to the US and the Consul General to New York are both directly active in all of the nefarious activities, and are actually directing the mischief in the US arena. It's their job and their mandate. But why are we, the Sikhs, then honouring them? Jasneet ji: your analogy with the Nazis is most appropriate. It appears you have studied history. Then, you must know how the people of Germany either knew of the crimes of the Jewish holocaust or turned a wilful blind eye to it. Either way, they were complicit in the Nazi crimes. So are the people of India today ... Yes, of course, there are always a few who have raised their voices against the wrongs, both in India and in Germany. But, so few that it is not unfair to generalize and say that the two populations have let humanity down. I also agree that we should act strategically. But surely, it would not be strategic for Jews today to bring out the Nazis sitting in their prisons (if any are left) and honour them as chief guests at their prime Jewish events, say during the celebration of Chanukkah? Sorry, Harneet ji, but you need to think this one out a bit more. The only strategy behind Teji Bindra's sell-out is that he and his businesses hope to gain from it personally. The sad part is that, I'm told, he is already very rich and that all of his family is very well taken care of. So, with even more profits, what will he do with them? Looking at all the curses coming his way, I fear he may some difficulty in digesting the spoils ... and that will cover anyone else in his perihhery who also dips into the same loot.
24: M. Kaur (New Delhi, India), October 16, 2012, 8:26 AM.
Teji beta ji, kujj sharam karo. Saarey ghar da naam na badnaam karo ji.
25: Jaidev Singh Anand (New York, USA), October 16, 2012, 9:15 AM.
I feel T. Sher Singh has become braver with time. He was Master of Ceremonies at one of Teji Bindra's festival when the Consul General of India turned up and labelled Vaisakhi as, inter alia, nothing new, nothing different, just an old Indian festival. T. Sher Singh's corrected her from the podium, and chided her for the misdescription. Nevertheless, he was polite to her because she was a guest.
26: Gurmeet Kaur (Atlanta, Georgia, USA), October 16, 2012, 9:54 AM.
The very fact that Sikhs will get drunk and dance the night out on the eve of November 2 (the second day of the 3 day All India Holocaust anniversary), makes me sad. And that too, after sucking up to the Indian government representatives ... makes me really-really sad.
27: Manpreet Singh (Hyderabad, India), October 16, 2012, 11:12 AM.
Jado(n) aapne hi dhokha den ge, oopre bandey to(n) koi umeed nahin kiti ja sakdi ... Thank you, Sher Sahib ji, for being so brave and coming out to defend the quom by putting things on the anvil.
28: Gurteg Singh (Long Island, New York, USA), October 16, 2012, 11:41 AM.
Dear Jasneet ji (Long Island #21): Remember what happened when Rajiv Gandhi and Arun Nehru killed tens of thousands of innocent Sikhs in New Delhi in 1984 and immediately announced early elections? Rajiv Gandhi- an apprentice politician with ZERO experience or qualifications won the elections with overwhelming support from all Hindus. They even awarded him Bharat Ratna posthumously for all his "heroic" deeds. When Indra Gandhi planed the attack on Harmandar Sahib by spreading lies, disinformation and hatred against Sikhs, the ENTIRE Indian media, opposition parties and Hindu population was solidly behind her and hailed her as a Durga Mata (a Hindu deity). Have you ever read the the unadulterated venom that is spewed against Sikhs by Indian agencies and Indian media since the early eighties or even just last fortnight when Gen Brar was allegedly attacked in London and the large scale arrests, torture and detention of Sikh youth in Punjab just a couple of weeks ago? Have you forgotten that just a fortnight ago S M Krishna met Canadian Foreign Minister in New Delhi and admonished him for not acting against non-existent so-called "Sikh terrorism" in Canada? Then this same man had the gall to travel all the way to Wisconson to enquire about six Sikh families when thousands of Sikh families killed by his own party goons and living in his neighborhood are still fighting for justice. Nothing has changed and in fact it has gotten worst. The Indian government and its agents who will be honored by Teji Bindra are hell bent upon evil deeds against Sikhs because they consider you as enemies who must be subjugated and trampled and your identity merged into the larger Hindutava family.
29: Harry (Willowbrook, Illinois, USA), October 16, 2012, 11:45 AM.
I would like to correct Mr. T Sher Singh that the massacres of Sikhs by India were not just carried out in India's capital but all over India. It was a genocide and was not confined to one city only. Innocent Sikh men, women and children were murdered in broad daylight in every major town and city across the country, as well as in remote villages -- as disclosed recently vis-a-vis Haryana, for example.
30: Ravinder Singh Khalsa (USA), October 16, 2012, 12:11 PM.
If they invite Indian politicians there should be a protest organized by all Gurudwaras and Sikhs in New York against Teji Bindra and his cohorts. It is a disgrace! I commend you T Sher Singh Ji for taking a principled stand ...
31: Jasneet Singh (Long Island, New York, USA), October 16, 2012, 2:01 PM.
Thank you very much for putting all the different perspectives online.
32: Parmjit Singh (Canada), October 17, 2012, 12:44 AM.
I see that SALDEF, Sikh Coalition, and United Sikhs are no longer listed as partners on the website. However, given the fact that they were listed, they need to make it clear on their websites as to what their position is in relation to this event. Otherwise, it leaves the public to ask if the quiet removal of their names is PR damage control in cooperation with the organizers. Are they not perceptive enough to figure that out on their own?
33: H. Singh (United Kingdom), October 17, 2012, 5:34 AM.
I commend Sher Singh for this article and for making us aware of this. It should also be noted that Lord Indarjit Singh is attending from UK and picking up an award.
34: Morrisssey (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), October 17, 2012, 11:46 AM.
i had no idea who Teji Bindra was, so a quick google search revealed an ultra successful family who've done yeoman service over the past three decades for the Sikh community. Sadly for all his good work he'll always be remembered for this fiasco. We should help him with an exit strategy to get out of this mess.
35: Sarjit Kaur (Bethel Park, PA, USA), October 17, 2012, 5:28 PM.
I agree with K. Kaur.
36: Hardeep Kaur (Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada), October 18, 2012, 4:49 AM.
This is just so hurtful! Mr. Teji Bindra, I hope you have read each one of these comments and feel the pain your actions are causing the community. Thank you, Sher Singh, I admire your courage.
37: Guneet Singh (Dallas,Texas, USA), October 18, 2012, 8:09 PM.
The event should have posters of 84. Demanding justice. Demanding answers.
38: Harpal Singh (Sydney, Australia), October 18, 2012, 8:18 PM.
Whilst T. Sher Singh ji is to be commended for his timely and open warning to Teji Bindra for his planned misdeed ... I am a little surprised and concerned at the absence of any other prominent Sikh community representative from your part of the world in joining T Singh Singh ji on this issue and condemning Teji Bindra's upcoming transgression.
39: Ranbir Singh Bhalla (Pine Brook, New Jersey, USA), October 20, 2012, 11:35 AM.
T. Sher Singh ji, count me in as one of those distressed by this event and by the insensitivity of the organizers. This is not the first time these organizers have done this. A few years ago, there was a very similar Sikh Art event and the Indian Consul General was the chief guest! I politely protested by calling one of the organizers. I am dismayed at this complete lack of sensitivity and fail to understand why this organization can't find more qualified guests of honor.
40: Parminder Kaur (Raleigh, North Carolina, United States), October 26, 2012, 9:05 PM.
Paramjit Singh ji (#5): The United Sikhs is not in anyway associated with this event. The wounds of the community have not yet healed, the perpetrators roam free, they must be punished for their crimes. Let us not behave like all is well!
41: Gurpreet Singh (Chandigarh, Punjab), October 28, 2012, 7:06 AM.
Could not agree more with the article by T.Sher Singh ji. I sincerely hope that better sense prevails on Mr. Bindra, and he refrains from honouring these Indian Government appointees at a Sikh function, that too on the anniversary of the 1984 pogrom. I request all right thinking Sikhs to boycott this function if it continues on the prescribed lines.