Prabhjot Singh, Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, February 18. Nearly half a million strong Sikh community in the UK, 56 per cent of which has British birth, hopes that Prime Minister David Cameron would regret the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, where hundreds of peacefully protesting Sikhs, including women and children, were done to death by British troops, during his visit to Amritsar on February 20.
Representatives of Sikh community in Great Britain have over the weeks submitted memoranda and held meetings with the ruling Conservatives with a hope that the British Prime Minister would also take up the issue of abolition of death penalty as India has witnessed two hangings in the past three months.
The Sikhs also want the British Prime Minister to reflect on the Operation Bluestar and the killing of innocent Sikhs in many parts of India in November 1984 as a fallout of the assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. A section of the Sikh community believes that to avoid embarrassment to the hosts, he may take up some of these issues privately with the Indian Prime Minister than making any public statements.
All these issues have been raised in a memorandum the Sikh Federation of the UK sent to David Cameron before he left for India on a three-day official tour.
The Conservatives are keen to win over the British Sikh community over its side.
Traditionally majority of Sikhs had been supporters of the Labour Party that was voted out of power in the last General Election.
The Sikh Federation has reminded Cameron that when in Opposition, the Conservatives had raised two separate Early Day Motions on the 25th anniversary of both the 1984 Operation Bluestar and the Sikh massacre of November 1984.
Going by reports in the British media, there is a strong feeling that Cameron during his visit to Jallianwala Bagh may convey British regret for what had been described as one of the major massacres of innocent people that took place on the Baisakhi Day of 1919.
Even Canada regretted the Kama Gata Maru episode in which a large number of Indians, mostly Sikhs, were killed.
The Canadian Government has also now raised even Kama Gata Maru memorials. Incidentally, both Canada and Great Britain have Conservatives in power.
Both the Canadian and British Governments, recognising great contribution of Sikh immigrants towards nation building, have been bowing backwards to appease them and win them over.
Of late while the Sikh community in Canada has won a foothold in federal politics by returning eight to nine Members of Parliament, their counterparts in England, however, are yet to become a strong political identity.
Early this month, large number of British MPs had gathered in the House of Commons to pay tributes to Lord Tarsem Singh King, the first Sikh to be honoured as a Lord in 1999.
India in Test cricket. [something seems to be missing from the article Harjinder Singh]
A couple of other Sikhs, including Ravi Bopara, have also played for England.
In Hockey, a number of Sikhs, including Sutinder and Kulbir, played for both England and Great Britain, in major hockey tournaments, including World Cup and Olympics. Though the first wave of Sikh immigrants to Great Britain were those who fought for the British in the first World War, most of the Sikhs who made Britain their home came from India while the rest moved from Africa (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania) and Hong Kong.
Maharaja Duleep Singh still holds the official record of first Sikh settler in Great Britain in 1846. His statue in Butten Island is a major attraction for tourists in general and Sikhs in particular. The statue was unveiled in 1999.
The first Sikh Gurdwara in Britain came up at Putney in London in 1911. Now there are hundreds of gurdwaras, including one of the biggest at Southall.
A recent survey conducted by a British newspaper about different ethnicities and communities to have made Britain their home placed the Sikhs at number one, above Jews and Christians. Sikhs have the highest percentage, 82, for owning houses among all communities.