BBC News – The unspoken alcohol problem among UK Punjabis

By Anusha Kumar, Aidan Castelli & Chayya Syal

UK, 4 April 2018. For many British Punjabis, alcohol abuse is an open secret. Alcohol consumption is glamorised across different aspects of Punjabi culture and shame stops many seeking the help that they need.

Harjinder read her daughter Jaspreet one last bedtime story, then kissed her goodnight. She was exhausted after a long day, and drifted off next to her daughter. Her toddler son was already asleep in the next room.

The next thing she remembers is her husband yelling. He was drunk and furious that when he returned from the pub she wasn’t in their marital bed.

In a rage, he flipped the child’s bed throwing his wife and daughter to the floor. Harjinder hit the radiator hard with Jaspreet landing on top of her.

Incidents like this were a regular feature of Jaspreet and her brother Hardeep’s childhood. “It was heartbreaking,” Jaspreet says.

So when Harjinder found Hardeep, now aged 16, drinking whisky in his room after an argument with his alcoholic dad, she was terrified that he was following in his father’s footsteps.

There are around 430,000 Sikhs in the UK, making up a significant proportion of the British Punjabi population. Harjinder herself is Sikh and amongst her community her experience isn’t unique.

A new survey, commissioned by the BBC to investigate attitudes to alcohol among British Sikhs, found that, although drinking alcohol is forbidden in Sikhism, 27% of British Sikhs report having someone in their family with an alcohol problem. It’s a problem which is rarely talked about openly in the community.

Harjinder moved in with her husband’s family after their arranged marriage, both common practices within Punjabi and wider South Asian communities. She was shocked to find out how much her newly acquired family’s social life centred around the men’s excessive drinking.

The family, along with young children, would go to a friend’s house and would stay there until two or three o’clock in the morning waiting for the men, and she started to feel increasingly isolated.

Rav Sekhon, a British Punjabi psychotherapist who works with ethnic minority communities, says: “There is really strong pride and honour for the family name. They don’t want anyone to perceive them as having something wrong with them or any form of weakness.”

Sanjay Bhandari is from a Hindu Punjabi family, a partner at a multinational city firm in London and a recovering alcoholic. After his father died when he was 15, he says he started drinking and never really stopped.

By his mid 30s, he realised that he hadn’t been a single day without a drink for over seven years, and he’d been dependent on alcohol for much longer. He says his Punjabi background played a big part in discouraging him from admitting he had a problem.

Sanjay, who has been sober for 16 years, says he didn’t feel that he could admit he had a weakness, nor that he was feeling lonely and self-medicating with alcohol. He didn’t look to the Punjabi community for help, but eventually found Alcoholics Anonymous.

“It would never have occurred to me to go to the community for help with drinking. It was almost the last place I would have gone.”

When the first immigrants, who were mostly men, came to the UK from Punjab in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, many found themselves struggling to assimilate being in a new country, often working long hours to send money home to their families.

The stresses of moving to a new culture, the associated language barriers and the racism they faced meant many of these men turned to alcohol to cope. This reliance on alcohol has had generational repercussions.

Jennifer Shergill, an alcohol practitioner from the West Midlands, works with Sikh men and women to manage and overcome addiction. She points to the combination of British binge drinking and the culture of drinking in Punjab, which together create a perfect storm for some of the people accessing support services.

For Harjinder, her husband’s heavy drinking had worsening consequences. Although he was becoming increasingly violent towards her, she was still reluctant to seek help.

She says his behaviour was normalised by his family, leaving her feeling almost brainwashed by them into hopelessly accepting the situation. It wasn’t until she went to her GP with injuries from the abuse that she realised that what she was experiencing wasn’t normal.

Eventually Harjinder called the police and she and her children moved out of the family home to stay with her parents. Even then her husband didn’t acknowledge the impact that his drinking was having.

“I think [my husband] knew deep down that what he was doing was wrong but it was almost as if his male pride couldn’t admit it.”

Jennifer Shergill thinks one of the barriers for people seeking help is the fear of someone finding out. “There is stigma associated with chronic alcohol misuse and they don’t want their reputation to be tainted… if there is a dependent drinker in the family what might people think of our family?”

The Shanti Project, where Jennifer works, is just one scheme working to tackle this stigma and to provide culturally appropriate services for the Punjabi community in Birmingham.

Others include a volunteer-led Sikh Helpline, the Derby Recovery Network, BAC-IN, and First Step Foundation, which are all doing their part to help tackle alcoholism in a culturally sensitive way.

The Crown Prosecution Service decided not to prosecute Harjinder’s husband due to a lack of evidence and, six weeks later, Harjinder and her children returned to the home she shared with her husband.

Her husband’s family had visited her to assure her he had stopped drinking and things would be different, so feeling the pressure from both his family and her own, she and her children returned home.

But Harjinder struggled with depression. Her husband hadn’t stopped drinking. It was at this point that, prompted by a community psychiatric nurse, she started talking to a counsellor. “I felt quite desperate at times,” she says, “but the counselling really helped, I felt that I could carry on.”

Harjinder is still living with her husband after more than 20 years of marriage, but their lives are very separate now. Her daughter, now in her 20s, constantly urges her to leave him.

“I’ve thought about it a lot. A part of me thinks, why bother at this age? But then another part of me thinks: well, if I’ve got another 20 years of this, that’s not good. I think it could happen.”

Harjinder and her family members’ names have been changed

The Tribune – Ex-gangster, Dal Khalsa leader booked for defacing signboards

Tribune News Service

Bathinda – Panjab – India, 04 April 2018. The Bathinda police on Wednesday booked former gangster Lakhbir Singh, alias Lakha Sidana, and Dal Khalsa leader Baba Hardeep Singh Khalsa in four cases regarding smudging English and Hindi signboards.

They had allegedly blackened signboards in English and Hindi outside the district administrative complex, income tax office, PNB and the post office situated in the Civil Lines area.

Three cases were registered under Section 3 of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 1984, and Section 5 of the Punjab Defacement of Property Ordinance Act, 1997, against unidentified persons on the complaints of the Income Tax Department, head post master of the local post office and branch manager of Punjab National Bank.

One case was already registered under same sections.

On the other hand, two teams of the Bathinda police on Wednesday conducted raids for the arrest of Sidana at his native village and Hardeep Singh Khalsa at his Gurusar Mehraj village. However, both managed to escape before the raid.

Earlier too, the police had arrested Sidana and Hardeep Singh along with their aides under same charges for smudging signboards in Hindi and English on the Bathinda-Faridkot national highway. They had said their drive was to ensure that Punjabi language gets its due and is placed on top in all signboards.

Buurtcentrum Macharius – Heirnis – Scheldeoord

Ferdinand Lousbergskaai
Forelstraat – Buurtcentrum
04 February 2018

Ferdinand Lousbergskaai

Ferdinand Lousbergskaai

On my way to the buurtcentrum

Forelstraat – Almost there

Buurtcentrum Macharius – Heirnis – Scheldeoord

Buurtcentrum Macharius – Heirnis – Scheldeoord

To see all my pictures:

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

The Economic Times – PM Narendra Modi may ask British PM Theresa May to stop rising Sikh radicalism in UK

Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury

New Delhi – India, 05 April 2018. India is likely to seek strong action over reported growth in Sikh extremism in the United Kingdom, just as in Canada and Australia, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets his British counterpart Theresa May in London on April 18-19.

The issue of revival of Sikh extremism will figure high on the agenda of Modi-May dialogue, people aware of the matter told ET.

They said that the Indian security establishment believes that the rising volume of Sikh extremist voices in the UK, Canada, Australia and even Italy may be a sign of revival of Sikh terrorist groups backed by Pakistan, adding that India is of the view that the UK is not doing enough to contain Sikh radicalism.

The issue may emerge as a major irritant in Indo-British ties as members of the Sikh community in UK are getting increasingly drawn into the extremist fold, said one of the persons, who did not wish to be identified.

Meanwhile, there are reports of major protests being planned by Sikh extremists and radicals in London during Modi’s visit.

Coinciding with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s trip to India in February, an umbrella body of Sikh groups in Britain had announced that 225 of the 270 Sikh gurdwaras in the UK were barring entry of Indian officials on political grounds. Earlier, in Australia, the Indian High Commissioner was not allowed entry into a gurdwara.

Sikh lobby groups active in the UK are influencing the decision-makers, the person cited earlier said.

In September last year, sections of the community had launched a major campaign urging the UK government to stop identifying them as ‘Indians’ in the UK Census and to create a separate ‘Sikh’ ethnic category for them. The campaign had snowballed into a major issue, securing the backing of more than 140 British MPs.

The Sikh community in the UK numbers around 430,000 and some Sikh groups have allegedly opposed the return of Kohinoor diamond to India by the UK. There are reports that younger Sikhs have been increasingly taking to extremism.

A British tribunal could rule soon on a plea on declassifying files which contain details of the UK government’s role in Operation Blue Star carried out by the Indian Army in June 1984 to drive out militants from the Golden Temple in Amritsar. The UK government has so far opposed such pleas to safeguard its relationship with India.

Everybody is welcome in a Gurdwara, but Indian officials are not allowed to speak from the Gurdwara stage. If or when Hindu radicalism is brought under control in India and Sikhs get justice over the many killed by security forces and during the anti-Sikh pogroms during the 1980s, this will change.
Man in Blue

Dawn – Pakistan approaches World Bank after India builds Kishanganga on Neelum

Khaleeq Kiani

Islamabad Capital Territory – Pakistan, 05 April 2018. Having confirmed that India has completed the controversial Kishanganga hydropower project, Pakistan has asked the World Bank to recognise its responsibility under the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960 to address its concerns over two disputed projects.

A government official told Dawn that power division of the energy ministry sent a fresh communiqué early this week to the bank’s vice president urging the international organisation to “recognise its responsibility” and play its role to ensure that India abided by the provisions of the 1960 treaty while building the projects.

The official said there was no doubt that India had completed the 330 MW Kishanganga project during the period the World Bank “paused” the process for constitution of a Court of Arbitration (COA) as requested by Pakistan in early 2016. The Pakistani request was countered by India by calling for a neutral expert.

Pakistan had called for resolution of disputes over Kishanganga project on the Neelum river and 850 MW Ratle hydropower project on the Chenab.

The official said the letter had reached the bank’s head office in Washington and had been delivered to its vice president concerned as confirmed by Pakistan’s director to the bank.

When asked what the government expected now that India had completed the Kishanganga project, the official said the authorities could not just sit back and had to take the matter to its logical conclusion.

Islamabad had received reports in August of 2017 that New Delhi had completed the Kishanganga project as per the design that had been objected to by the former.

The new letter was sent to the World Bank after a Pakistani delegation of the Indus Waters Commission was not allowed to visit various controversial projects in India, including Kishanganga and Ratle schemes.

In December 2016, the bank had announced that it had “paused” the process for either appointing a COA or a neutral expert and started mediation between the two countries on how to advance and develop consensus in the light of the treaty on the mechanism for resolution of faulty designs of the two projects.

Since then the bank has arranged two rounds of talks between the two sides but the Indians kept on building the project. On completion of the scheme, Pakistan proposed some modifications to partially address its concerns over the Kishanganga project’s design for water storage without affecting its power generation capacity, but in vain.

The last round of bank-facilitated and secretary-level talks between India and Pakistan were held in Washington in September that ended in disappointment for the latter.

In view of the inability of the parties to agree on whether a COA or a neutral expert is the way forward, the World Bank is reported to have called another round of discussions to minimise the differences but failed to bring New Delhi to the negotiating table.

Pakistan had raised a number of objections over the design of the two projects at the level of Permanent Indus Waters Commission almost eight years ago followed by secretary-level talks and then requests for arbitration through the World Bank.

Under the treaty, in case the parties fail to resolve disputes through bilateral means the aggrieved party has the option to invoke the jurisdiction of the International Court of Arbitration or the neutral expert under the auspices of the World Bank.

The jurisdiction of the court could be invoked either jointly by the two parties or by any party as envisaged under Article IX (5), (b) or (c) of the treaty for constitution of a seven-member arbitration panel.

Pakistan’s experience with both the international forums, neutral expert and CoA, has not been satisfactory for varying reasons and outcomes, partially due to domestic weaknesses including delayed decision-making.

Pakistan first challenged the Baglihar hydroelectric project before the neutral expert and then the Kishanganga and Wuller Barrage projects before the CoA.

Islamabad has been under criticism at home for losing its rights through legal battles instead of building diplomatic pressure in world capitals to stop India from carrying out “water aggression”.

Pakistan felt its water rights were being violated by India on two rivers, the Chenab and Jhelum, through faulty designs of Ratle and Kishanganga projects, respectively.

An official said the government had originally decided to take up the matter at the international forums provided for in the 1960 treaty back in December 2015 but the process was delayed for unknown reasons.

Pakistan believed that Kishanganga’s pondage should be a maximum of one million cubic metres instead of 7.5 million cubic metres, intake should be up to four metres and spillways should be raised to nine metres.

About the Ratle project, Pakistan had four objections. Freeboard should be one metre instead of two metres, pondage should be a maximum of eight million cubic metres instead of 24 million, intake level should be at 8.8 metres and spillways at the height of 20 metres.

It believes the Indian design of Ratle project would reduce Chenab flows by 40 per cent at Head Marala and cause considerable irrigation loss to crops. The Ratle dam is believed to be three times larger than the Baglihar dam.

Under the provisions of the Indus Water Treaty, the waters of the eastern rivers, the Sutlej, Beas and Ravi, had been allocated to India and that of the western rivers, the Indus, Jhelum and Chenab, to Pakistan except for certain non-consumptive uses.