Monday, July 16, 2007

France Gurmat Camp 2007 (Part 1)

Protest at Sri Anandpur Sahib in 2005 against Dastaar ban in French schools

For the past two weeks I've been away in France. As you will all know since September 2004 the French government implemented a law banning religious symbols from state schools as a result of which Sikh students were not allowed to go to school or college wearing a Dastaar (turban) or keeping their head covered. There are approximately 7,000 Sikhs living in France. Despite the challenges they have faced the French Sikh children have risen up and not lost their pride in Sikhi. From Wednesday 4th July to Sunday 15th July, the Dashmesh Sikh Academy Paris held it's annual Gurmat Camp in Paris at Gurdwara Singh Sabha, Bobigny. Around 200 or so children aged from 3 to 20 years old attended the 12 day camp.

There were various classes, which included Gurbaani Santhiyaa (learning correct pronunciation), Sikh History, learning Panjabi, Gurmat Sangeet (Sikh musicology), Gurmat Vichaar (discussions on various issues and topics). The classes were held by Giani Pritam Singh jee from Southall, Bhaji Ranjit Singh jee from Germany and Daas were invited to teach the children, as well local elder sevadaars.

The Sikh youth of France an example of how Sikhi will never finish irrespective of the challenges Sikhs face. They all showed pride, love, and enthusiasm! May Waheguru continue to keep them all in Chardikalaa and bless us all with Sikhi Sidq.

Below are some photos:

Every day campers in the morning recited 5 Banian da Paath (Japji Sahib, Jaap Sahib, Tva Prasaad Svaiye, Chaupayee Sahib and Anand Sahib). A sevadaar would read one line and the children would repeat the same line. Its amazing how children at such a young age who aren't even Amritdhari would sit down for such a long time and recite Baani in the morning.

On Sunday 8th July we were invited to Le Bourget Gurdwara Sahib to do Keertan. The Gurdwara was packed with Sangat. There are around 5 Gurdwara Sahibs in Paris.

The Germany Camp was famous for it's Moolee (i.e. in one day there was Moolee-waale Parothay, Moolee da Achaar, Moolee in Salad, and Moolee dee Sabjee)! At the France camp, the "Matturee" is famous! You will never go short of Matturee at the camp! Bhai Sukha Singh jee, the Laangree (cook) of the Gurdwara is very Chardikalaa Gursikh and is a great cook!

This is photo of my 10-12 year old class. The room was so small but everyone managed to squeeze in! They were a good bunch and had a lot of energy.

This is the 3-5 years old class playing games outside.

Bhaji Ranjit Singh jee with the elder group practicing Keertan. The morning session with the elder children was usually a discussion led by Bhaji Ranjit Singh jee and Daas on different topics and issues.

Boys and girls learned how to tie a Dastaar.

The Langar was Chardikalaa. Bhai Sukha Singh jee, the Laangaree (cook), made different items throughout the day and one day he made Mango Shake! Waheguru!

After Rehraas Sahib Uncle Gurdial Singh jee would ask the children if they had a complaint against anyone. It was so funny! Young children would stand up and come on the stage and point out another boy and say "He stood on my foot" or "He pushed my bag in class." Uncle jee would get them on stage and then ask the child and the Sangat to forgive the accused and not to do it again. It was nice how the idea of forgiveness and living together as a family was shown to the children.

These poor boys were made to stand outside holding their ears because they were talking during Rehraas Sahib. Bechaare!

Bhai Jasveer Singh Khalsa leading Gatka class with the children.

Giani Pritam Singh jee and Bhaji Ramandeep Singh jee from Germany playing Gatka. All the children were cheering "Baba jee, Baba jee, Baba jee!".

Bhaji Ranjeet Singh jee made some videos of the camp with his laptop. Also he made a film with a group of children who enacted a drama about Manmat. The acting was great, especially the acting of 12 year old Jugraj Singh (he could be heading for a career in acting!). Once Bhaji has finished editing it and has added the finish touches he is going to send me the film. So that will be coming soon!

On Saturday 14th July all the campers wore their uniforms and marched in a procession to the new school building bought by Uncle Gurdial Singh jee where the campers were to do their end of camp tests and then enjoy themselves in the nearby park.

To be continued...


Anonymous said...

So what do sikhs with dastaar or are full amritdhari do if they can not attend school with religious symbols on. Do they attent private sikh scohools or what? Its a really sad situation :(

Dhadi Master said...


thos kids look so wicked in their baane. u should have taken me too

its sounds like a wicked camp. may be put those videos on youtube or something.

u forgot to put up the funny situation you was the night b4 u were going to leave for france. lol.

c u at walsall camp. if ur going lol

Manvir Singh Khalsa said...

Anonymous jee - Gursikh children were expelled from school for wearing their Dastaar. They studied from home with private tuition. Some of them were promised places in the examination hall but were not allowed to sit the exams with the other French children and so took their exams separately. Some elder children have left education and started working with their family businesses due to discrimination.

The school building has been bought to open a private Sikh school however the government has to give to the go-ahead for the plans. With Guru Sahib's kirpaa the school should start classes in September. The school will cater for young children to college age students plus university courses in business management and finance. Uncle Gurdial Singh jee has put a lot of effort in the project and seva. If the school goes ahead as it is planned then it will be the first school in France that will have primary to university level education all in one place.

The implementation of the ban depends on individual teachers and principal of the school. I one or two naujawan who said they wore Keski (small turban) to school and the teachers were happy with it and respected the Sikh religion. However, I met some naujawan who said that their schools forced young Sikh girls and boys to go bareheaded to school (no Chunni, Keski, Dastaar, Patka or rumaal over jooraa).

Dhadi Master - I will post the funny situation story later in the week :)

Anonymous said...

This is completely of the subject but does anyone know where and when the next amrit sanchar is in the UK? Does anyone know when soho road will be holding its next one?

Many thanks

Anonymous said...

soho road are holding an amrit sanchar on sunday (they have one every sunday after sangrand)

Anonymous said...

Did france authorities not stop you entering France/Germany then? Would they have not asked you to remove your dastar?

Manvir Singh Khalsa said...

The French authorities didn't stop me from entering France because the law is for French students who are studying in state schools (i.e. you cannot attend school wearing any religious symbols, dastar or keep your head covered).

Hope that helps.