Claims of 'guru' enrage Sikhs

Faith insulted, elders believe

Toronto Star/June 18, 2003
By Raju Mudhar

Narinder Singh Grewal, alleged leader of a Sikh-based cult, is seated in his car at an apple farm outside of Acton.

He chose this place to meet with a reporter as he's been on the move since members of the Sikh community invaded his Palgrave home last weekend. Grewal, in his 50s, is wearing a black turban, tinted glasses and short-sleeved shirt.

Shortly after 7 p.m. on Saturday, he was in his home outside Caledon, near Highways 50 and 9, with about 20 relatives and friends. He says he received a telephone call warning him a procession of people was on their way. Someone in the house immediately phoned the police.

"We sent the kids to the basement, and everybody sat normally in the house." Suddenly, he says, "There must be 100 people at the front door, and people are gawking in - like when people go to a zoo and look at the animals in the cages ... from every window. Twenty at one, the next window 20, and so on. And then they started breaking the door," said Grewal.

He says some of the men were brandishing kirpans, ceremonial daggers that baptized Sikhs are required to wear.

"They started pounding. They broke every window. They threw a rock through the window ... They brought their own baseball bats. The bolt locks weren't open, so they broke all the glass. They started yelling, animal behaviour, grunting and swearing. They broke all the pictures, family pictures, kids' pictures, and (those of) people in meditation. They were all saying, 'Where is the guru, where is the divine book?'"

One man was treated for minor injuries. Grewal says his insurance company estimates the damage at $50,000.

Grewal has been under scrutiny in Toronto's Punjabi language media because he has made statements that have disturbed fundamentalist Sikhs. He believes he is on his own path to cosmic consciousness and has said he is above the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy book. His congregation - he is careful never to use the word followers - is about 40 or 50 people, half of them relatives.

He believes he is a Sant, or enlightened being, and must share his wisdom.

"I am the only path for me for now, do you understand what I'm saying?" he asks. "The others that are in my company have experienced these exalted states where they see the heavens above and even talk to the saints and prophets of before."

These are the types of statements that have enraged the Sikh community. Grewal's actions conflict with one of the core strictures of the faith.

"He is breaching one of the fundamental tenets of Sikhism because the last Guru, just before his death, ordained the Guru Granth Sahib as the final and the only Guru - partly for this very reason, so there would not be any confusion as to the divine message and you get away from the practice of all kinds of people propping themselves up as the appointed Gurus," said Satwinder Singh Gosal, a lawyer and founding member of the Centennial Foundation, an organization dedicated to promoting knowledge about Sikhism.

"There were only 10 living Gurus and the final Guru, the Guru Granth Sahib," Gosal said.

Much of Grewal's problems arise from a videotape of a radio interview transcribed in Sanjh Savera, a Punjabi-language newspaper. During the interview, Grewal was asked if he did his daily prayers, which meant reading the holy book. He answered to the effect that he had closed it up, put it away and didn't need it any more.

This added fuel to a fire that has been burning for some time.

Gurdish Singh Mangat, a real estate agent who volunteers at the Ontario Khalsa Darbar, a temple on Dixie Road in Mississauga, helped organize a meeting at the temple at 4 p.m. Saturday to look into ways of discouraging Grewal. The interview was shown at the meeting.

"On the video he is openly saying that Guru Nanak, Guru Gobind Singh Ji (the first and last Gurus, who are considered the most important), that he is their father. And considers them so low, he calls them kanjar (which literally means adulterer, but is considered a slur). He is calling the Guru Granth Sahib gadha, which means donkey. So people are trying to ride this donkey to heaven or whatever. He calls (our faith) 'idiot's Khalsa'," said Mangat. "It's totally hateful and I don't even have the words."

Khalsa means 'belonging to the divine' but in usage describes the Sikh faith.

Mangat says the group resolved to seek a legal recourse and then many of them left.

However, a group of religious elders took Grewal's words to heart and, since he had said he didn't need the book, they decided to go to his house to get it.

Mangat says when he got to Grewal's house, the book was already in the hands of the elders and a procession of people chanting Sikh religious sayings were leaving the area. He says he did not see any violence.

When police arrived, most of the crowd scattered.

"The investigation is ongoing, and as you can imagine, the investigators have quite a chore taking endless statements trying to figure out what the heck happened," said Sergeant Bob Patterson of the OPP.

At this point, Grewal wants to cut all ties with all religion. A recent statement ends in this line, in capital letters: WE DO NOT BELONG TO SIKHISM.

Mangat is not impressed. "That is not going to stop us from pressing charges or holding him responsible for whatever he has said previously."

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