London, Friday 12 April 2013. Lord Singh of Wimbledon, The Director of the Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO) has expressed both disappointment and concern, following a debate on a community channel regarding proposed anti-caste legislation currently passing through Parliament.
Lord Singh said: “I am saddened and at a loss to understand why Dr Jasdev Singh Rai goes around trying to muddy the waters of clear Sikh teachings. I am even more saddened that some of our gurdwaras and Sikh television aid and abet him in this by giving him a platform to do so.
There have been historical concerns. It was at a function organised by the Department of Communities and Local Government for which we were asked to provide literature about the Sikh faith He declared his inability to do this because he had to get agreement of certain groups in India. On another occasion when a Sikh lady asked for non-halal food at a Basakhi function, Dr Rai advised her to be more accommodating.
On Wednesday night he was inexplicably provided a platform on Sikh TV to oppose government legislation banning discrimination on grounds of caste. He then launched into pseudo social science gibberish about ‘caste’ being an invention of the British.
Has this learned doctor never read the Guru Granth Sahib written centuries before British arrival in India? Is he unaware of numerous gurbani quotations like ‘ask not a persons caste but look to the inner light within’, or the Guru reminding us that the evil of caste in Hindu society was so strong that even the shadow of a lower caste was said to pollute the food of a person of higher caste.
Sikh teachings remind us about how we should treat others and condemn caste and other forms of discrimination. The law in Britain seeks to do the same and all who call themselves Sikhs should support it. Unfortunately, some naively argue that legislation is not necessary, and caste discrimination will go away simply by talking about it. Precisely the same arguments were used again and again against legislation to prohibit discrimination against colour or national origin but it continued unabated until the passing of the 1976 Race Relations Act.
Sadly there are also some who call themselves Sikhs, who seek to preserve the remnants of caste that despite the Gurus teachings still linger in Sikh society. Jasvinder Singh Nagra, a close ally of Dr Rai, absurdly urges Sikhs to join a petition opposing the proposed law banning discrimination on grounds of caste because different jattis in Luton Gurdwara ‘get on with each other’.”
He added: “We are now gearing up to the celebration of Baisakhi when Guru Gobind Singh finally freed Sikhs from the shackles of caste like distinctions; shame on those who wish to hang on to them. To Dr Rai and his supporters I ask why? To those who accept the message of Baisakhi I say beware of those who deliberately distort Sikh teachings.”
Hardeep Singh, Press Secretary
The Network of Sikh Organisations