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Unauthorised printing of ‘birs’ of Guru Granth Sahib in Canada sparks row

The printing of Guru Granth Sahib ‘birs’, allegedly by Canada-based NRIs, has sparked a controversy as it has challenged the Akal Takht’s verdict.

The Akal Takht had authorized the SGPC and DSGMC to have exclusive legal rights to print ‘birs’, in order to prevent “blasphemous” acts by private publishers. The SGPC has its publication wing in Gurdwara Ramsar Sahib in Amritsar while the DSGMC has set up a printing press in Gurdwara Rakabganj Sahib in Delhi.

The SGPC and DSGMC are also the authorized suppliers of ‘birs’ to Sikhs outside of India, through sea or air route, under strict norms of ‘rahat maryada’.

However, reports have surfaced that two NRIs have set up a printing press in British Columbia and as of today, they have supposedly printed over a dozen copies to test their venture. It was alleged that when they were questioned by the local religious organizations and devotees, they were told that it was all done after procuring permission from the SGPC.

Outrightly rejecting it, SGPC’s general secretary Harjinder Singh Dhami said no individual or organization or trust was given the permission to publish ‘birs’ in any part of the world. Only the ones that figured in the Akal Takht’s verdict were authorized.

“There were reports that a representative of Satnam Education Trust in Canada claimed to have got written permission from the SGPC to publish ‘birs’, but it is factually incorrect. All these claims are a ‘white lie’ and they have been misguiding the devotees and defying the Akal Takht edict in this regard,” he said. Though, in 2015, a proposal was mooted by the SGPC, under the leadership of Avtar Singh Makkar, to allow printing facility at British Columbia so as to cater to the increasing demand among the Sikh diaspora, it never fructified.