Sikh leader ex-communicated, misbehaviour in Canada cited

The controversial leader of a wealthy Sikh sect, who defeated an attempt in court to oust him, has been ex-communicated for allegedly drinking liquor and participating in objectionable activities in Canada.

The ex-communication of Harnek Singh Grewal means control of the Nanaksar movement and its assets of $20 million is up for grabs.

The Ludhiana Tribune newspaper in India reported on Sunday that the Body of Sikh Holy Men in Punjab had ex-communicated Grewal, revered by thousands globally as Maharaj Ji, or Prince.

In B.C., Grewal is based at the Nanaksar Gurdwara-Gursikh Temple in Richmond. The sect also has temples in Edmonton and Toronto, and congregations in the U.S., England and India.

Grewal, 65, who was convicted in Edmonton of impaired driving in May 2000, was the spiritual head of the Nanaksar movement, known for its strict tenets, including celibacy for its holy men and abstinence from alcohol.

Since the weekend decree, communal violence has erupted in the Punjab village of Siahar where Grewal was the reigning saint at the local temple. One policeman was killed and at least eight injured.

A police contingent has been deployed in the village, and Grewal plans to officiate at a function in the area on Jan. 13.

The sect’s assets include 2,800 hectares of land in B.C., Alberta and Ontario, $1.2 million annually in temple donations, an estimated $15 million in temple members’ equity, hundreds of thousands of dollars in farming income and a mansion in Richmond.

Last year, dissident members of the Nanaksar Gurdwara-Gursikh Temple Society in Richmond tried but failed to oust Grewal.

They claimed that Grewal used temple funds to build a large house for himself and a young woman from India, promoted free sex as a path to enlightenment, drank alcohol on temple grounds and lost $45,000 of temple money gambling in Las Vegas.

But B.C. Supreme Court Justice Laura Gerow said the dissident members were merely challenging the succession of Grewal to the position of high priest of the sect in 1994 and that the religious issue could not be resolved in the court.

The dissidents then took their complaints to the Body of Sikh Holy Men.

A spokesman for Grewal told the Ludhiana Tribune that the ex-communication decree was invalid because Grewal was not a member of the Body of Sikh Holy Men.

He said Grewal refused to join because saints should concentrate on religious activities.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog)
The Province, Canada
Jan. 6, 2004
Fabian Dawson

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