In my previous article we got to the point where we left late from St Truiden and arrived late in Ieper on Armistice Day, November 11.
The weather forecast was reasonable and the first part of the day was better than the forecast. In the afternoon it was more cloudy and windy, but at least we did not get soaked like in November 2008.
There were only about 3 Sikhs from the UK (we can and must do better), a few from the USA, including Sardar Gurmit Singh, president of Council of Khalistan, about 10 people from the Netherlands and for the rest Sikhs from St Truiden, Gent and surroundings and from Brussel/Bruxelles (the Gurdwara is in Vilvoorde, a Dutch speaking town just north of Brussel).
We attended the act of remembrance, the one minute silence and the playing of the last post at the Menen Gate, and in spite of a request to have just one wreath from every community, the Sikhs had quite a few.
After the main event we went to the Grote Markt, had tea and biscuits, and then walked back to the Menen Gate where the Sikhs commemorated the events of 1984, the attack on Darbar Sahib and the anti-Sikh pogroms.
Afterwards we went by coach and cars to the Bedford Cemetery, where some soldiers of the British Indian Army are buried, and from there to Hollebeke, where in October 1914 the first Indian soldiers were deployed on the ‘western front’. There is a small monument with text in Sanskrit, Urdu and Gurmukhi which was unveiled in April (Vaisakh) 1999.
We had St Truiden bread parkoré, simple food, not bad, and a cup of tea at the cemetery and later in Hollebeke more bread parkoré and roti and dal. Hollebeke is also a good place to take pictures.
Sardar Gurmit Singh spoke about the efforts to establish Khalistan, he highlighted human rights issues on the subcontinent, and attempts to get the Sikh rights recognised in the countries they live in. Others also made a contribution.
This was not the most successful Ieper Armistice Day commemoration from the Sikh point of view. The numbers were low and it was a pity that there were so few people from outside Belgium and the Netherlands.
We will keep working on it, but in spite of a slight disappointment I was very happy to help the organising of the event and to make a contribution on the day itself. Having an annual event that gets members of the small Sikh communities in the Benelux together is good, remembering our European history is even better.