Hansard – Lord Singh of Wimbledon

Speech made in the House of Lords

My Lords, the first week of June will mark the 30th anniversary of the Indian Government’s attack on the Golden Temple [Harmandr Sahib], the Vatican of the Sikhs.

The attack was deliberately timed to coincide with the martyrdom anniversary of the temple’s [Gurdwara’s] founder Guru Arjan, when the huge complex would be full to overflowing with pilgrims. Tanks and armoured vehicles were used.

On conservative estimates, well over 2,000 pilgrims were killed. Eye-witnesses told of how some who surrendered were tied up in their own turbans and shot.

Other eye-witnesses outside the temple complex, including my own in-laws, described with horror how they saw groups of pilgrims being herded together and then dispatched with hand grenades.

Many of the atrocities were reported in the British and world press. The President of India at the time, Zail Singh, a Sikh, who was the nominal head of India’s armed services, was not even consulted.

Every June Sikhs remember the huge loss of life and the mindless damage to the Golden Temple, the historic centre of the Sikh faith. The question arises: why did Indira Gandhi resort to such brute force against the Sikhs?

The Indian government version, unquestioningly accepted by our Government, and I speak as a British Sikh, was that there were 17 wanted ​separatists “holed-up”, to use the Indian Government’s jargon, in the Golden Temple [Harmandr Sahib].

They were a threat to a country of 1 billion people. The absurdity is obvious. In addition, this version does not explain why 40 other historic gurdwaras in Punjab were attacked at the same time.

Sikh gurdwaras are open to all. Why were the so-called separatists not simply arrested by the hundreds of soldiers and police who daily entered the gurdwara for the traditional free food?

What Sikhs were demanding at the time was a fair share of Punjab’s river waters to irrigate their fields, and, more importantly, fair treatment for all India’s minorities against growing evidence of majority bigotry.

Earlier in the same year hundreds of Muslims in Mumbai were massacred, with the mob carrying barriers proclaiming: “Majorities have their rights”.

The true reason for Mrs Gandhi’s vindictive attitude to Sikhs stemmed from her prison conviction for electoral fraud in the election of 1975 and her seizing power and imposing dictatorial rule. Her son Sanjay had married a Sikh and she turned to Sikhs for support.

Sikhs, although less than 2% of the population, were at the forefront of the opposition to dictatorial rule, in which the poor, particularly Muslims, were forcibly sterilised and others dumped in the wilderness to make Delhi a tidier place for the Asian Games.

Maneka Gandhi, Sanjay’s wife, true to Sikh democratic traditions, openly opposed the dictatorship.

Sikhs were never forgiven by Mrs Gandhi. When she returned to office, she cynically decided to play to majority religious bigotry, first against the Muslims and then even more vindictively against Sikhs.

The June 1984 carnage in the Golden Temple far exceeded in numbers and barbarity the 1919 massacre led by General Dyer at the nearby Jallianwala Bagh. Even worse was to come.

The widespread killing of thousands of Sikhs following Mrs Gandhi’s assassination was blamed on spontaneous mob violence.

All the evidence is that it was pre-planned for the anniversary of Guru Nanak’s birthday and was simply brought forward, with the government-controlled All India Radio constantly inciting the killers with the words “Khoon ka badla khoon”, meaning “Take blood for blood”.

The army was confined to barracks for three full days to allow free rein to organised gangs carrying Sikh voter lists, armed with identical steel rods and an unusually plentiful supply of kerosene, to go around the capital in municipal buses beating and burning male Sikhs and gang-raping women and young girls.

Prominent Hindus and Sikhs begged the new Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, to order troops to restore order. His chilling response was: “When a big tree falls, the ground is bound to shake”. The same scenes were enacted throughout the country.

We know all about the disappearances and killings in General Pinochet’s Chile, but a WikiLeaks document carrying a signed report from the American embassy in India shows that more Sikhs were brutally murdered in just three days in 1984 than those killed in Pinochet’s 17-year rule.

I turn to our Government’s involvement, as revealed in documents that have now come to light.

In their initial reaction, the present Government said that support for Mrs Gandhi was “minimal”. I beg them to ​think again in the light of the evidence of persecution of Sikhs that was freely known at the time.

A Government committed to human rights must question the morality of “minimal” involvement in the persecution of minorities. The released documents praise Mrs Gandhi and cast aspersions on UK Sikhs, with not one word of concern over the murder of thousands of Sikhs.

I was not in the least surprised to read of SAS involvement; I wrote about it at the time in the summer 1984 issue of the Sikh Messenger.

Nor was I surprised by evidence linking British support for Mrs Gandhi to a £5 billion arms contract and the need to “keep Mrs Gandhi happy”.

In November 1984 I went to see a senior Cabinet Minister to seek government support to end the pogrom against Sikhs.

I received the reply: “Indarjit, we know exactly what is going on but we’re walking on a tightrope; we’ve already lost one important contract”.

At the time I was a member of the UNA, where we discussed the killings. The director, Malcolm Harper, formally raised evidence-based concerns with the Government, asking them to support a UN inquiry into the killings.

I made a presentation to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Human Rights, then chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury.

The APPG decided to send two parliamentarians to investigate but the High Commission refused them visas. They appealed, saying that the visit would help to improve Hindu/Sikh relations. They were again refused.

Sikhs accept that today’s Government are in no way responsible for the mistakes of the past. However, they can and must help to heal wounds. I was in Westminster Abbey this morning and heard Archbishop Desmond Tutu quote the words:

“The time for the healing of the wounds has come”.

This is true for the wounds in the Sikh community, opened further by the new revelations.

I take this opportunity to thank many in the Hindu community who hid and sheltered Sikhs at the time of the killings.

Others risked their lives carefully documenting the names of Congress Party leaders inciting mobs to kill. Sikhs owe them a great debt.

Two of the three main political parties in India have declared their support for an open inquiry. Even Rahul Gandhi, leader of the Congress Party, has admitted that some Congress officials were involved in the killings.

Speaking in the Indian Parliament in 2005 Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made the revealing comment:

“Twenty-one years have passed, and yet the feeling persists that somehow the truth has not come out”.

I urge the Government to add their support for an open, independent inquiry into the massacre or genocide of Sikhs in 1984 in the same way that they are backing a UN-led inquiry into the killing of Tamils in Sri Lanka.

Against this, all offers of government assistance and offers to talk to Sikhs pale into an unnecessary distraction.

Eighty-three thousand Sikhs gave their lives supporting Britain in the two world wars. In comparison, giving public support for an open, UN inquiry is a small ask.

Not to do so will give a clear message to Britain’s half a million Sikhs and others concerned with human rights that the UK Government are ambivalent and selective on issues of human rights.

As director of the ​Network of Sikh Organisations, the oldest and largest grouping of Sikhs in the UK, and of the more recently formed Sikh Council UK, I offer my full and unconditional support to the Government to help end the 30-year nightmare suffered by Sikhs.

We are confident that our Government will not let us down.

https://hansard.parliament.uk/lords/2014-03-03/debates/14030340000202/SikhCommunity

Sikh24.com – Akal Takht directs SGPC to install Bhai Waryam Singh’s portrait in Central Sikh Museum

Sikh24 Editors

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 01 June 2020. In a press note shared with Sikh24, the SGPC appointed officiating Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh has informed that the portrait of political Sikh prisoner Bhai Waryam Singh will be installed in the Central Sikh Museum.

Giani Harpreet Singh has made this announcement a day before Bhai Waryam Singh’s Antim Ardas to be held at his village in Uttar Pradesh.

“Bhai Waryam Singh spent his whole life in jail while adhering to Sikh principles. Keeping in view his sacrifice, I have directed SGPC to install Bhai Waryam Singh’s portrait in the central Sikh museum,” said Giani Harpreet Singh.

It may be recalled here that 69 years old political Sikh prisoner Bhai Waryam Singh had passed away on 24 May. Following 26 years of imprisonment, he was released in 2016 considering his good conduct during imprisonment.

Also read :Political Sikh prisoner Bhai Waryam Singh passes away [
https://www.sikh24.com/2020/05/25/political-sikh-prisoner-bhai-waryam-singh-passes-away/#.XtZizMBS_IU

The Tribune – Sikh doctor dies due to coronavirus in northwest Pakistan

Dr Phag Chand Singh retired as deputy medical superintendent four years ago

Peshawar – Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa – Pakistan, 01 June 2020. A Sikh doctor, who was tested positive for the novel coronavirus, died at a hospital in northwest Pakistan on Monday, officials said.

Dr Phag Chand Singh was on ventilator at a private hospital in the provincial capital Peshawar since last four days, they said. He was cremated on Monday.

Dr Singh had obtained the MBBS degree from the Khyber Medical College in 1980 and was decorated with a gold medal by former president Zia-ul Haq.

He started his career as a medical officer in the Nowshera district hospital in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and stayed in the district for three decades. He retired as a deputy medical superintendent four years ago.

His ancestral village was Pirbaba Badshah Kalay in Buner district.

Dr Singh was famous for his honesty and he used to provide free treatment to poor patients. He is survived by his wife, two sons, Dr Gurmeet Kumar and Dr Jaitan Kumar, and daughter Dr Sweety.

Deputy Commissioner Nowshera Shahid Ali Khan said Singh’s son Dr Jaitan Kumar was the head of the district corona cubic response team.

Dr Kumar was tested positive for coronavirus and officials believe Dr Singh might have contracted the disease from his son or during interaction with patients at his private clinic.

Leaders of the minority Sikh community, Suresh Kumar and Ashok Kumar, paid rich tributes to Dr Singh and praised his services to society.

The nationwide tally of COVID-19 patients rose to 73,868 with 10,027 cases in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab/sikh-doctor-dies-due-to-coronavirus-in-northwest-pakistan-92962

The Hindustan Times – Sikh community in J&K demands six assembly seats, implementation of minority commission

The community migrated from Pakistan in 1947 and was settled in Nowshera, Udhampur, Kathua, Rajouri and Poonch districts.

HT Correspondent

Jammu – Jammu & Kashmir – India, 31 May 2020. Sikh organisations, including the state Gurdwara Prabhandak Committee and Jammu district Prabhandak Committee, on Sunday demanded six assembly seats and implementation of minority commission to ensure political reservation and benefits to the community in Jammu and Kashmir.

While addressing mediapersons here, National Conference leader T S Wazir said, “Since the Delimitation Commission has set the process into motion, we demand that the Sikh community must get political representation.

The community migrated from Pakistan in 1947 and was settled in Nowshera, Udhampur, Kathua, Rajouri and Poonch districts but we have not been given any political representation.”

“We have no political voice. We had a MLA in 1987 from Gandhi Nagar assembly constituency and since then there has been no representation.

We request Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Delimitation Commission to do justice with us.”

Wazir also demanded a minority commission in Jammu and Kashmir. “Why is the Centre reluctant in setting up a Delimitation Commission? Why minorities are being deprived of the benefits in J&K,” he said.

While Muslims constitute 68.31% of the total population of erstwhile J&K state as per Census 2011, Hindus comprise 28.44%, Christian 0.28%, Sikh 1.87%, Buddhist 0.90% and Jain 0.02 %.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/sikh-community-in-j-k-demands-six-assembly-seats-implementation-of-minority-commission/story-L8Ne8urFCZKTvUV2nJRDYN.html

Sikh24.com – World Sikh Parliament issue advice on practical steps for Gurdwaras to reopen

Sikh24 UK Bureau

Santokh Singh

London – UK, 27 May 2020. The World Sikh Parliament (WSP) on 26 May released two videos, one in English and one in Punjabi, with advice for Gurdwaras around the world on considerations they should take when reopening their doors to the Sangat after lock-down.

The videos cover topics from protecting the elderly members of the Sangat to the distribution of degh. The content highlights the dangers of a second and third wave of Corona-virus which may cost many more lives to the deadly disease.

Sangat is encouraged to conduct TV shows to engage with the Sangat and let them know about the changes they will need to bring in. WSP also ask Gurdwaras to put up signing, markings on the floor and potentially introducing a one way system if possible in the Gurdwara.

It is also highlighted that many Gurdwara granthis have also passed away due to the virus and the Sangat are encouraged to keep social distancing to protect the most vulnerable in the community and the Divans being extended in order to cater for the Sangat having Darshan of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji.

To see the videos click on the below link !

https://www.sikh24.com/2020/05/27/world-sikh-parliament-issue-advice-on-practical-steps-for-gurdwaras-to-reopen/#.XtJducBS_IU

I-News – Sikh frontline workers having to choose ‘between faith and safety’ because corona-virus masks do not fit around their beards, warns MP.

No one should be made to choose between breaking their faith and compromising their safety’

Serina Sandhu

London – UK, 29 May 2020. Sikh workers on the front-line of the corona-virus pandemic are having to choose between their faith and their safety because some of the face masks to protect them against Covid-19 do not properly fit due to their beards, an MP has warned.

Leaving bodily hair uncut is one of the central tenets of Sikhism, meaning that some men have large beards.

But Labour MP for Birmingham Edgbaston, Preet Kaur Gill, who herself is a Sikh, said some frontline healthcare workers with beards were not passing “fit tests” to ensure their respirator masks properly fitted their face, according to British Asian newspaper, Eastern Eye.

‘Take action’

Some had been asked to shave their beards in order to properly wear the mask as part of their personal protective equipment (PPE).

“No one should be made to choose between breaking their faith and compromising their safety or commitment to the frontline,” Ms Gill told i.

“Everyone should be supported to practise their religion safely and free from discrimination, and the fundamental tenets of Sikhism, like the proscription of cutting bodily hair, must not be an exception.”

She urged the Government to address concerns among members of the Sikh community “and take action to protect those working on the frontline as a matter of urgency”.

Ms Gill said it was important the Government acted on the matter because people from ethnic minority backgrounds were disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Public Health England is carrying out a review into the issue.

‘Concerned’

Ms Gill’s warning comes after a Sikh consultant anaesthesist was moved from the front-line because he refused to shave his beard to ensure he could wear a respirator mask, according to The Telegraph.

The Sikh Doctors Association said “concerned” Sikh health professionals had told the group they had been put in a difficult position of having to shave their beard to pass the fit test for certain masks. It called for workers with beards to be “equipped with the right PPE to carry out their duties safely”.

Janet Daby, the Labour MP for Lewisham East, tweeted: “I’ve heard numerous concerns and the choice being forced on Sikh frontline workers is absolutely devastating.”

‘Safety of staff is paramount’

According to the Health and Safety Executive, the Government body responsible for workplace safety, people undergo “fit testing” to ensure that face masks have “a good seal with the wearer’s face”.

“A face fit test should be carried out to ensure the respiratory protective equipment (RPE) can protect the wearer,” it says.

The Department of Health and Social Care said: “The safety of our staff is paramount, and all healthcare professionals must have a mask fit-test carried out before using any masks to ensure they are fit for purpose.

“During this global pandemic, we have been working around the clock to ensure PPE is delivered as quickly as possible to those on the front-line and we have delivered more than 1.51 billion pieces items since the outbreak began.”

https://inews.co.uk/news/sikh-frontline-workers-choose-between-faith-and-safety-coronavirus-masks-do-not-fit-around-beards-2869207

The Indian Express – For Afghan Sikhs, fear of another terror attack bigger than fear of corona-virus

Divya Goyal

Ludhiana – Panjab – India, 29 May 2020. While the world is in the throes of a pandemic, 29-year-old Inderjit Kaur has another worry gnawing at her soul. Two months after she lost her husband and two brothers in an Islamic State (IS) sponsored terror attack at Gurdwara Har Rai Sahib in Kabul, Inderjit lives in constant fear of another attack.

Huddled inside a tiny room along with her three children, Harjot (11 months), Simarjit (6), Arveen (3), her mother-in-law and two brothers-in-law, at Gurdwara Dashmesh Pita Sri Guru Gobind Singh ji Singh Sabha Karte Parwan, she says: Coronavirus ton zyada darr taan attack ton lagda hai.. assi haley vi darre hoye haan (More than coronavirus, we are fearful of another attack on us. We are still very scared).”

Speaking to The Indian Express over the phone from Kabul, she added: “Majboori hai saadi gurdware ch rehna, hor kithey jaaiye…I just want a safe life for my children. We want to move to India as soon as possible. Please take us out of here,” she cries.

It was on 25 March that the Sikh community in strife-torn Afghanistan lost 25 people in a ghastly terror attack at Gurdwara Har Rai Sahib in Shor Bazar of Kabul.

As Covid-19 infections surged world over, the pandemic hit the Sikhs in Afghanistan, just a little over 600 left in the country, by causing delay in visa approvals for which they had sent written appeals to the Indian Embassy.

Further, they are at a higher risk of corona-virus infection as the families, which lost one or more members in the 25 March attack, are now living together in gurdwara rooms in cramped conditions. Anywhere between 9 to 14 Sikh community members have been living in each gurdwara room in the aftermath of the attack.

While most Sikh families in Afghanistan were rendered ‘homeless’ after the Mujahideen took over in 1992 and have been sheltered by gurdwaras since long, the situation worsened after 25 March attack as families at Gurdwara Har Rai Sahib were forced to move to small rooms at other gurdwaras.

Gurdwara Har Rai Sahab has not opened since the attack, forcing these Sikh families to live cheek by jowl, sleep on floor and share washrooms with several others.

With more than 12,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 227 deaths, Afghanistan, meanwhile, has been grappling with problem of low-testing and inadequate health infrastructure to tackle coronavirus and experts feel most cases there are going ‘undetected’.

Paramjit Kaur (30), who lost her mother-in-law and sister in the attack, now lives at Karte Parwan gurdwara. She says that she along with her husband, three children of her own and four of her deceased sister, are living in one small room.

“It is always crowded here. Other visitors also keep visiting. We sleep on floor, all nine of us in the same room. At least fifty people use same washroom. Saadi taan zindagi barbaad ho gai, hun bacheyan di sanwar jaaye kisi tarah.

We know that coronavirus can spread here anytime and if one gets it, all will infected because we are together almost entire day but we do not have any option. We cannot afford to pay rent for rooms outside.

We do not have our own house. We are scared of another attack and coronavirus both, but fear of another attack is always bigger,” she said.

“Sangat ke liye coronavirus se bhi bada khatra aatank hai.. (For the Sikh community here, another attack is a bigger fear than coronavirus),” added Daljit Kaur (25), whose husband had died in the attack.

Now, she along with her brother-in-law and four children (aged 14, 10, 3 and 2) live in a single gurdwara room. “Five, six, eight, ten….persons are living in one small room here.

We cannot move out as we are still getting threats. It is not hygienic here. Coronavirus has already delayed the entire visa process. Be it India or any other country, just take us out of this hell,” said Daljit.

Community leaders in Afghanistan said that were just waiting for lock-down to end in India.

Chhabol Singh, member, managing committee, Gurdwara Karte Parwan said, “We have already given in writing to the Indian Embassy to rescue us. We need evacuation from here as soon as possible.

There are just around 650 Sikh community members left here and we have already submitted the list to Embassy.

But corona-virus has delayed everything. It has been decided that in the first batch, shaheed parivar (families which lost members in March 25 attack) and those who have someone living in India already, will be sent.”

On the Covid-19 threat, he added: “Yahaan na rehne ki jagah hai, na sone ki (Here families do not have place to live, to sleep). We are trying our best to maintain social distancing, but how do we do it?”

“(After the attack) around fifty persons were adjusted at Karte Parwan gurdwara, six families are living at Khalsa Sahib ji gurdwara, four at Gurdwara Baba Sri Chand ji and remaining at Baba Almas ji gurdwara and Mansa Singh ji gurdwara, all in Kabul.

But their earning family members are dead, they have no source of livelihood plus there is always a fear of another attack. We keep asking them to wash their hands and sit at distance of at least 2 metres in gurdwara halls but risk is always there.

Ek ko bhi virus ne pakda to sab jayenge hum (If even one among us gets infected, then we are all in trouble),” he said.

https://indianexpress.com/article/world/for-afghan-sikhs-fear-of-another-terror-attack-bigger-than-corona-6432872/

Sikh24.com – Hurriyat Conference strongly condemns attack on Derby Gurdwara

Sikh24 Editors

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 27 May 2020. Strongly condemning the recent attack on Gurdwara Guru Arjan Dev in Derby (UK), the All Parties Hurriyat Conference has expressed solidarity with the Sikh community. The APHC asked the British government to take stern action against the attacker so that no one could dare to commit such a heinous act in the future.

All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) is an alliance of 26 political, social and religious organizations formed on 9 March 1993, as a united political front to raise the cause of Kashmir.

In a press note shared with Sikh24, All Parties Hurriyat Conference’s spokesperson Muhammad Ashraf Sehrai has said that this attack was extremely painful as Sikhs have always stood for the cause of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

Smelling Indian agencies’ hand behind this attack, Muhammad Ashraf Sehrai said that Sikhs have always supported the Kashmiris.

“When the innocent Kashmiris were being assaulted by Hindu extremists in all parts of India in August last year, the Sikhs opened the doors of their Gurdwaras for the oppressed Kashmiri Muslims and provided them food and shelter,” Sehrai said while adding that the Kashmiris can’t even think of attacking Gurdwara.

He expressed hope that the Indian agencies will not succeed in its nefarious design focused on creating discord between Muslims and the Sikhs.

Muhammad Ashraf Sehrai’s son Junaid Sehrai was an active Kashmiri militant who recently lost his life in an encounter with the Indian forces in Srinagar’s Nawakadal area on May 19.

On 25 May a Muslim man of Pakistani origin named Mohammed Ibrar had attacked Gurdwara Guru Arjan Dev in Derby. He smashed the Gurdwara property causing damage worth thousands of pounds.

After the attack, he had left a written note in Gurdwara Sahib in which he had tried to depict that he launched this attack out of anger against the Indian government for oppressing Kashmiris.

https://www.sikh24.com/2020/05/27/hurriyat-conference-strongly-condemns-attack-on-derby-gurdwara/#.Xs_EqsBS_IU

Huffington Post – Sikh front-line workers make enough sacrifices. Their beards shouldn’t be one.

Religiously worn beards have been subtly framed as an obstacle to the safety of COVID-19 patients.

Harman Singh

Op/Ed, 27 May 2020. When the COVID-19 pandemic started, the Sikh community did what we always do. We mobilized. We served free communal meals in the tradition of langar, we provided aid, we even offered up our own spaces for the benefit of public health.

This is the practice of “Sikh seva, or selfless service,” in action. Canada is familiar with this type of mobilization from its Sikh community. It is widely recognized and respected, perhaps even expected.

This history of Sikhs serving our nation makes it even harder to watch Canadians praise the erasure of an important facet of the Sikh faith. The Sikh religious practice of keeping kesh means that hair or beards must be kept uncut.

It has long been suggested that masks required for medical staff, including the popular N95 model, do not fit bearded individuals. This has been repeated in news coverage of the pandemic, subtly framing the Sikh religious practice of keeping kesh (unshorn hair and beards) as an obstacle to saving lives.

One such example is the story of a Sikh doctor in Montreal who made the personal choice to shave his beard, which must be kept uncut in accordance with his Sikh faith, to wear a face mask required for work with COVID-19 patients.

While the Sikh community decried this as an example of the state failing to provide front-line workers with appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment), media paraded Dr Sanjeet Singh Saluja’s choice as a “sacrifice.”

But he never should have had to make the choice between keeping his faith and serving fellow Canadians.

Focusing on beards as a problem forces a spotlight on Sikh health-care workers. Praising the shaving of Sikh beards draws on the “model minority” label to pressure Sikhs into conforming to Western ideals of what is deemed normal. The discrimination in this should not be understated.

This harmful perception overlooks the fact that there are Sikh health-care workers who have passed “fit tests” wearing masks with beards, and ignores that other factors can determine the fit of a mask, such as the shape of one’s face.

Nevertheless, if a beard is an issue when it comes to medical masks, technology provides answers. Our own Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan has led changes in this area, having invented a gas mask compatible with beards.

I myself benefited from this innovation over three years of service with the Canadian Armed Reserve Forces as a combat engineer.

In the medical world, any bearded doctors that have issues with masks are usually directed towards using a powered air-purifying respirator, which is readily available online.

Why his employer was unable to help Dr Saluja acquire one, I do not know, especially when groups like the World Sikh Organization of Canada have been helping Sikh doctors source such equipment.

Support for Sikh health-care workers like Dr Saluja is available. What I do know is that the resulting public relations campaign and YouTube videos glamorizing his decision reveal large sections of Canada are still ignorant about the Sikh faith.

Educating Canadians about kesh

When non-Sikhs ask us about our faith, their questions most commonly concern Dastaar (Sikh turbans) and our unshorn beards. Some of our most recognized names have even gone out of their way to educate Canadians on the subject.

It is important for all Canadians to remember that it is not the job of every Sikh to explain why kesh is so important in our faith, however, as an educator of the Sikh faith, it literally is mine. So let me try.

Kesh is the insignia of the Sikh. Sure, not everyone that identifies as Sikh maintains unshorn hair. However, it should be understood by all that at some point on the path of Sikhi, keeping kesh is mandatory.

For a Sikh, refraining from cutting hair is submission to our most natural state of being, a connection to the divinity of creation. Kesh is the most visible part of the Sikh uniform, which bestows upon us an inescapable responsibility to live up to Sikh ideals.

That is part of what drives the community into the incredible acts of seva we see across the world. I cannot stand by and allow such a key aspect of the Sikh faith to be reduced to some aesthetic decision.

Kesh is so important in the faith that there are countless stories of Sikhs choosing death before having hair removed. The tale of Bhai Taru Singh comes to mind.

This revered Sikh figure was serving langar to his community at a time when it was outlawed by the tyrannical Mughal in charge at the time. He was caught and sentenced to having his hair cut off. Bhai Taru Singh prayed that he would not be separated from his kesh.

As the story goes, the punisher found it impossible to cut his hair, and had to scalp Bhai Taru Singh instead, a fate he readily chose before losing his sacred kesh.

My emphasis on the importance of kesh is not to judge Dr Saluja’s decision. But as an educator on the Sikh faith, I cannot stand by and allow such a key aspect of the Sikh faith to be reduced to some aesthetic decision playing second fiddle to selfless service.

It is an insult to the faith to suggest that Dr. Saluja’s actions fit with Sikhi’s deep-rooted teachings around social reform, especially whilst Canadian health-care workers of all backgrounds are being forced to risk their lives due to a lack of investment in PPE.

Guru Nanak Dev Ji showed the importance of challenging governments that discriminate against minorities, rather than asking minorities to conform to avoid problems. This trend was carried on by all the Sikh Gurus, because they recognized that, just like the process of growing a beard, equality requires long-term discipline and cultivation.

Despite inferences to the opposite, the Sikh spirit of seva is not separate from the physical identity of a Sikh. It is this identity which means that a Sikh cannot hide from also standing up for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, or Canada’s indigenous community, or any marginalized people, just like Canadian Sikhs will now support health-care workers’ rights in obtaining appropriate PPE.

It is this spirit of justice and service that will benefit Canada more than any short-term “sacrifice” which covers up bigger issues of governance. Canada must embrace the Sikh faith, hairs and all.

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/sikh-front-line-workers-make-enough-sacrifices-their-beards-shouldnt-be-one_n_5ece6717c5b691b74ddc314a?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cDovL2MubmV3c25vdy5jby51ay9BLzEwMzMyMDY1OTY_LTI4MjE6MTAzNTptb3N0X3JlYWRfdG9w&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAFNL1AVIsuBU7NWAvGwBwrLfmLaaEnJfsJuSpr-ebsxYQP-SlKuJ7-oR4wd1PPAWWtR5S8PRg1r6twAdqSdN3xE8yVntBaR67GjergNKPVPzUebXVTc6YlNs9uWDe8d1XGCDfKzT4r_pXf7rtk5PBK5c-9C1AJ3xb7TXNoX0IDPl

Derby Telegraph – Police link attack on Sikh temple (Gurdwara) to Derby shop stabbing

A door was smashed in the early hours of this morning

Martin Naylor & Tom Bokros

Derby – Derbyshire – UK, 26 May 2020. An attack on a Sikh temple (Gurdwara) in Normanton has been linked to a nearby shop stabbing.

Guru Arjan Dev Gurdwara in Stanhope Street had its front doors smashed in the early hours of this morning.

The break-in was reported to police at 8.40am.

Now, police believe that this break-in is linked to a stabbing in Normanton Road nearby.

In that incident, a 41-year-old man was found unconscious and with stab wounds after he was attacked in Polanica Polish delicatessen this morning.

A man was arrested in relation to the shop incident.

Now, that same man has also been arrested on suspicion of burglary in relation to the temple break-in.

Police have also said that they do not believe anyone else was involved in the incidents, but they will continue to investigate.

Superintendent Gareth Meadows said: “I would like to thank the Sikh community and the local people in Normanton for their assistance with our enquiries.

“Our officers remain in the area.

“If you have any information in relation to these two incidents please speak to the officers or contact us using the methods stated.”

Guru Arjan Dev Gurdwara said on its Facebook page: “From the evidence obtained thus far, the male’s attire and the note which was left, appears that he is of Muslim background.

“This is an area with a multi-cultural community, where all have lived and worked together for many years.

“Especially during these times, faith-based charities have been at the forefront.

“This incident nor this message will create any tension between communities, but how you react to this will.

“We acknowledge this maybe an individual or a small group however we should not malign the whole Muslim community and therefore request people to refrain from such posts.”

Derby city councillor Baggy Shanker, who is a member of Guru Arjan Dev Gurdwara, said: “Any attack of this nature on any place of worship is cowardly.

“The police need to act promptly to deal with this individual and bring him to justice.

“Derby’s communities have a very long and good understanding of each other’s values and share the utmost respect for people’s beliefs.

“This isolated issue is not any reflection on that and must be treated with firmly and quickly.”

https://www.derbytelegraph.co.uk/news/derby-news/attack-sikh-temple-linked-derby-4162913