Et tu Brutus -The Tribune Editor Khare; Sikhs will take it no more

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WSN Editor writes an open letter to the editor of The Tribune for his absolutely unnecessary remark taunting the Sikhs to keep GST golaks in response to the SGPC seeking refund of heavy Goods and Sales taxes, as has been happening in the past for Gurdwaras and other religious institutions. Harish Khare has gone too far. WSN challenges The Tribune and urges the community to rise to the occasion.

Not so dear Mr. Khare:
Sometime in history, Sikhs used to consider The Tribune as their “own” newspaper. Over a period of time, editors like you have perfected the art of rubbing the Sikhs the wrong way -whether it is the question of human rights in Punjab, the 1984 pogrom or the demand for GST exemption.

In your 22 July column, you made a silly comment suggesting that the Sikh community, currently seeking exemption from the GST, may place “separate GST golaks” in gurdwaras instead of asking for relief from the Centre.

In your column, Kaffeeklatsch, you wrote that since the “government cannot possibly make an exception in the case of one religious institution instead there can be a separate ‘golak’ for GST?”

With all humility at my command but nevertheless seething with anger, I ask of you, “Do you know what is a golak in a Gurdwara? Do you know what is a Sikh Gurdwara? Figuratively, it is said that the mouth of the poor is the contribution box of the Guru. The metaphor essentially urges the devout to contribute for the poor and the needy. With your absolutely needless remark, you have mocked the poor.

With all humility at my command but nevertheless seething with anger, I ask of you, “Do you know what is a golak in a Gurdwara? Do you know what is a Sikh Gurdwara? Figuratively, it is said that the mouth of the poor is the contribution box of the Guru –Gharib ka moonh, Guru ki golak (you are clearly neither acquainted with Punjabi idiom, nor with Sikh ethos, but can very well ask some colleague in the Punjabi Tribune to bring you up to speed). The metaphor essentially urges the devout to contribute for the poor and the needy. With your absolutely needless remark, you have mocked the poor.

guru ki golak

To most people, the golak is only a collection box invariably kept in front of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, and devotees are free to deposit any amount they can afford – from an amount that may seem ridiculously small to you to one that may shock any editor unable to understand why a devout would open his heart and pockets before the Guru.

Unlike at some other shrines, the Sikhs are particular when it comes to ensuring that no devotee feels forced, directly or even indirectly, to make an offering. And you suggest a GST golak? The resources of the community, pooled by the Sangat, are meant to feed the poor, nurse the sick, house the roofless and take care of guests and visitors, editors included. It is certainly not meant to pay taxes to an inept government which is being propped by writers like you.

Your off-the-cuff remark is not an “out-of-the-box idea,” it is unbecoming of an editor. It does not “call for coffee”; instead, it is a clarion call for the Sikh community to come knocking at your door and to initiate a campaign to ask the Tribune’s management to shunt you out of Punjab for continuously playing with the sentiments of the Sikhs.

Your idea is not only preposterous but borders on a social experiment to test the patience of the Sikhs, coming on the heels of your earlier coffee idea of seeking a closure to 1984.  It is my firm opinion that you are doing this with the grand design of taking a temperature of the community’s sensitivities as you speak on behalf of the government by saying that the government cannot possibly single out any community for such relief.

Your off-the-cuff remark is not an “out-of-the-box idea,” it is unbecoming of an editor. It does not “call for coffee”; instead, it is a clarion call for the Sikh community to come knocking at your door and to initiate a campaign to ask the Tribune’s management to shunt you out of Punjab for continuously playing with the sentiments of the Sikhs.

Pujabi edition of The Tribune

In the Monday edition of Punjabi Tribune, the translation of your snobbishly titled “Kaffeeklatsch,” you compounded your sin in the vernacular too.  Clearly you have a problem with the demand for a GST exemption for Langar. I grant that as an independent commentator, you have a right to your view, but then state it explicitly like any other columnist instead of using the position of editor-in-chief as the bully pulpit to suggest that Sikhs should put up a GST golak in the gurdwaras.

Read your lines once again, in Punjabi, but this time with a modicum of shame:

“ਇਸ ਦੀ ਬਜਾਏ ਇਹ ਸਲਾਹ ਦਿੱਤੀ ਗਈ ਹੈ: ਸ਼ਰਧਾਲੂਆਂ ਨੂੰ 17 ਫੀ ਸਦੀ ਵਧੇਰੇ ਦਾਨ ਕਰਨ ਲਈ ਕਿਓਂ ਨਾ ਕਿਹਾ ਜਾਵੇ? ਸ਼ਾਇਦ, ਜੀਐੱਸਟੀ ਲਈ ਵੱਖਰੀ ‘ਗੋਲਕ’ ਵੀ ਲਾਈ ਜਾ ਸਕਦੀ ਹੈ! ਇਹ ਤਾਂ ਇਕਦਮ ਵਿਲੱਖਣ ਵਿਚਾਰ ਹੈ ਅਤੇ ਇਸ ਤੇ ਤਾਂ ਕੌਫ਼ੀ ਪੀਣੀ ਬਣਦੀ ਹੈ। ਆ ਜਾਓ, ਮੇਰੇ ਨਾਲ ਕੌਫ਼ੀ ਦਾ ਪਿਆਲਾ ਸਾਂਝਾ ਕਰੋ!”

Are you serious? Or coffee has hit you too hard?

Do you to know what the GST law says? The Ministry of Finance notification no. 2/2017-Central Tax Rate, dated 28 June 2017, at serial number 98 mentions that “Prasadam supplied by religious places like temples, mosques, churches, gurdwaras, etc.” is wholly exempt from Centre GST.  What do you say to that? Thank God, the government did not seek your opinion on this, and you were eased out of the PMO in less than ideal circumstances. With someone like you in any position of influence, the notification would have read different.

Prasadam can be exempt, but may be technically, for practical reasons, Central GST or State GST cannot be exempted but the government in its wisdom, like the various reliefs to NGOs under the Income Tax Act, can give refunds to all religious institutions – bi-annually or annually – and not just for the Sikh Gurdwaras which apparently seem to be give you a little too much pain.

I am waiting with fingers crossed to see how many of the mainstream and other Sikh leaders bear with such remarks as you have made how many will devour your caffeine.

Earlier, apart from Simranjit Singh Mann and Kanwarpal Singh, no one took you to task for your column’s devious thought that the Sikhs should “permit” a closure on the issue of 1984 massacres. Arguing that “on the eve of every Lok Sabha election, a few ‘investigative’ journalists come up with ‘new evidence’,” you had ridiculed the heroic efforts of respectable men and women by calling them “the Phoolkas of this world who have made a career — and, now an electoral career” out of pursuing 1984 cases.

Do you to know what the GST law says? The Ministry of Finance notification no. 2/2017-Central Tax Rate, dated 28 June 2017, at serial number 98 mentions that “Prasadam supplied by religious places like temples, mosques, churches, gurdwaras, etc.” is wholly exempt from Centre GST. What do you say to that? Thank God, the government did not seek your opinion on this, and you were eased out of the PMO in less than ideal circumstances. With someone like you in any position of influence, the notification would have read different.

Now we know whose side were you on when you were officiating as media advisor to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. And you were tasked to manage the image perception of Manmohan Singh!!! The Congress party has something to think about.

Those members of my community who think they need The Tribune and The Hindustan Times (defaming the Sikhs by committing blasphemy) for their media coverage and would continue to give you leverage and freedom to exercise editorial license and interfere in Sikh affairs in the manner that you are doing, I want to say that cowardice does not help. They should see through the blackmail that you hold out.  They should rise out of such apprehensions and rather black you out than to inculcate the fear that mass circulation papers like yours can black them out.

Having “successfully” taunted the Moslems and interfered with their social customs and religious rites, you and others are like you seem to be aiming at the Sikhs. Historically, we have never taken lightly people who taunt us.

True to the Sikh faith

Jagmohan Singh
Editor, The World Sikh News

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