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Guru Granth Sahib Ji In Prison Chaplaincy? Satkaar?


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Some members of the sikhsangat.com may already be aware of this.

HM Prison Ford (informally known as Ford Open Prison) is a Category D men's prison, located in West Sussex, England.

Within the prison is a Chaplaincy which is used by all faith groups. Within the prison chaplaincy is a section where the permanent parkash of Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji Maharaj is kept. The section is set up with a tabya, cushions, rummala, canopy as you would expect.

However, the sewa only takes place once a week on Thursdays, when the actual parkash of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji’s Saroop is carried out. The rest of the week Maharaj’s saroop is in Sukhasan.

It is evident to many of us that there are massive concerns of Satkaar around this whole set up, not just around the issue of weekly parkash, but whether Maharaj’s saroop needs to actually be there.

The Sikh Chaplaincy Service (SCS) part of the NSO (http://www.nsouk.co.uk/members.htm) do a great seva in ensuring the UK Prison service have Sikh support across the country. HM Prison Ford is just one of the many prisons SCS provide Chaplin seva to. The Granthi Singh comes from Gurdwara Nanaksar in Portsmouth every Thursday to the prison to carry out the weekly Sikh service during when prakash of Guru Granth Sahib Ji Maharaj is carried out.

The issue here is about whether it is acceptable or unacceptable to have Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji Maharaj’s Saroop in UK prisons, particularly around the issue of Satkaar. Firstly, we are not sure on the consumption of meat, alcohol, tobacco, drugs on the complex. Secondly, the parkash sewa is not carried out on a daily basis, so the question arises whether Maharaj’s saroop needs to be there. The number of Sikh inmates in Ford prison is not clear.

The above issue has been known to many members of the sangat for over a month now, but the issue has received mixed opinions to the extent that it now seems to have become a “non-issue”. There have been a number of formal dialogues between different members of the Sangat (including Satkaar Campaign) with Sikh Chaplaincy Service, the Granthi, prominent Sikhs, various Prabhandaks around the country, Sikh Council UK and even the Governor of the Prison. But nothing has really materialised.

Now it’s time to ask the aam Sangat of what their opinion is? To many of us the set up does not seem right and it feels a beadbi is taking place. However to others, particularly some “influential” Sikhs, there seems to be no issue or the issue is too high profile to tackle as it involves the HM Prison Service and Lord Inderjit Singh, Chairman of the NSO (who run the Sikh Chaplaincy Service).

What’s the Sangat’s opinion? Please give some input as the elders and jathebhandis aren’t really providing any direct guidance? Below are some exerts from SGPC Rehit Maryada and other Akal Takht directives:

Aadesh from Sri Akal Takth Sahib on protocol from Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji, letter reference 3/12/3609 dated 24th January 2012:

“…The Guru Granth Sahib should be opened, read and closed ceremonially with reverence in in order to prevent any disrespect…”

Sikh Rehit Maryada, Section Three, Chapter IV, Article V.

“.... The place where it is installed should be absolutely clean. An awning should be erected above. The Guru Granth Sahib should be placed on a cot measuring up to its size and overlaid with absolutely clean mattress and sheets. For proper installation and opening of the Guru Granth Sahib , there should be cushions/pillows appropriate kind etc. and, for covering it, romalas (sheet covers of appropriate size). When the Guru Granth Sahib is not being read, it should remain covered with a romala. A whisk too, should be there…”

Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji must not be taken into any environment where alcohol, meat and tobacco will be consumed or served. This Hukamnama Religious Order) was issued in 1998 and specifically states:

“...This Hukamanama instructs that Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji (Sikh Holy Scriptures treated as the living Guru) must not be taken to a hotel, banqueting suite, club, pub, bar etc as this is direct abuse to Sikh Principles. Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji must not be present where alcohol, meat or tobacco is served or consumed…”
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If it gives prisoners a bit of faith, a bit of hope, then what's wrong with it? Of course, they committed a crime to be in there in the first place, but crimes range from murders to someone just being in the country illegally. The focus should be on how we can arrange more satkaar for Sri Guru Granth Sahib Jee.

Reading this, it kinda made me think something - that if the presence of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Jee there gives someone hope and helps them get through the experience of being in prison (rather than hanging themselves with a rope), then what's the harm? Guru Sahib is immortal and eternal. If the embodiment of Guru Sahib was human, would He have an issue going into a prison EVEN if there was a chance of someone eating meat or drink there? Is it not true that our Gurus went into places such as brothels to help people?

I'm not questioning the Rehat Maryadha(s) and yes, we should do our utmost to make sure that Guru Sahib is taken care of in the best possible way.

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It would be best if Parkaash and Sukhasan took place each day at the relevant times. Or is the issue Guru Granth Sahib being in a prison (in terms of the non-veg food served)?

It's both Parkash/Sukhasan and Meat, Intoxicants etc issue. However, the main question really is, if there is only a weekly Sikh service at the Prison then should Guru Granth Sahib Ji's Saroop be kept permanently on the complex?

As far as I know this is the only set up in HM Prisons in the UK where Maharaj's Saroop is kept. Perhaps someone who has spent time in Prison (or knows someone who has) can comment?

I know a Singh who spent time in Rye Hill prison, Warwickshire he told me that there was a weekly visit from a Granthi who would hold an hour long diwan where they read Japji Sahib, did Kirtan and Kathan...but they never brought Maharaj's Saroop to that Prison.

NamoSarab has some valid points above and I agree with the core of what NamoSarab has outlined. However, in my over-simplistic mind, unless there is daily sewa, parchaar and vichaar of Gurmat then the presence of Maharaj's Saroop is no different from mere idol worshiping...apologies if this offends anyone, this is just my personal view.

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better if there was daily seva maybe some singhs/singhni from that region can help out.

I agee with the above posters if it even brings hope to one inmate then its a good idea. i dont think the setup they have at the minute is the worst definetly wouldnt class it beadbi

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As Sikhs we must always be concerned where ever Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji saroop is. Whether this be at someone's home, Gurdwara, Mandir or even library. The issue we fight against on a daily basis is those situations which reduce the statue of Guruji to an idol or mere reference book. This is one of those situations, Guruji's saroop right now is nothing but a mere idol and Gursikhs cannot let that happen.

The issue is about Satkaar of Guruji's saroop. This cannot be maintained at the prison currently

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Also, bear in mind Ford Prison is an Open prison and also has a previous history of poor management and a high profile riot in 2011 which lead to enquires about drug/alcohol abuse.

http://www.bbc.co.uk...sussex-12914495

http://www.bbc.co.uk...sussex-14161070

I am not sensationalising the issue, but want to point out why there are concerns about whether Satkaar can be or will be maintained in a UK prison environment... I am fully aware Sikhs have a strong relationship with prisons as it plays a big part in our history, but this is not Patiala, Amritsar or even Tihar Jail where Satkaar can be maintained.

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Also, bear in mind Ford Prison is an Open prison and also has a previous history of poor management and a high profile riot in 2011 which lead to enquires about drug/alcohol abuse.

http://www.bbc.co.uk...sussex-12914495

http://www.bbc.co.uk...sussex-14161070

I am not sensationalising the issue, but want to point out why there are concerns about whether Satkaar can be or will be maintained in a UK prison environment... I am fully aware Sikhs have a strong relationship with prisons as it plays a big part in our history, but this is not Patiala, Amritsar or even Tihar Jail where Satkaar can be maintained.

Important point to note, this is an open prison. So the inmates only stay at the jail during the evenings and are subject to much less intense jail environment.

Also Guruji has given the role of parchar to the Gursikh. we are not doing parchar by leaving a saroop of Guruji at the jail. Thats shear laziness and leaving the problem to Guruji. Its about the sangat stepping up with the parchar in the jails, that will create an impact and change lives.

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Ever thought of providing sri guru granth sahib ji in english in prison?..that should take care of beadhi aspect as well as providing sikh spiritual assistance via chaplain in prisons.

I believe english copy of sri guru granth sahib ji available in 3ho gurdwaras..!

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Ever thought of providing sri guru granth sahib ji in english in prison?..that should take care of beadhi aspect as well as providing sikh spiritual assistance via chaplain in prisons.

I believe english copy of sri guru granth sahib ji available in 3ho gurdwaras..!

Or perhaps audio so they can listen to Gurbani whenever in both English/Punjabi and that way they can listen to katha as well.

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i cant see how a prison can be fully equipped in regards to keeping full maryada in have guruji's saroop there ( i would know as I know 2 people who have spent time there) because of that reason the saroop should me moved . its hard as it is with regards keeping gutka sahibs so how do you think maharaj is there .. in closet, suitcase? who knows

however i feel there is a lack of parchar in jails and maybe some of the english talkers should start visiting.

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Fateh Jio,

I've spent some time in jail before I became gursikh and from my point of view there is no need to have maharaj in the jail. The jail i was in was cat B and as this is a cat d (open jail) then it is guaranteed to be flooded with drugs. Looking back now I remember how the granthi singh used to give everyone a gutka sahib with english translations to take back to the cell with you. He never told anyone how to keep satkaar of the gutka sahib. Also quite alot of the people that went sikh service used to smoke so they would have been smoking in the same cell with the gutka sahib.( maybe this is another issue that needs to be resolved.) But for the keeping of maharaj in jail is definitely not a suitable place. We need to work on getting Maharaj out of there a.s.a.p.

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