Sikh24.com – French national Pal Singh granted full release from Punjab jail

Sikh24 Editors

Patiala-Panjab-India, 19 August 2017. Prisoner welfare organization, Sikh Relief, have announced that Bhai Pal Singh, a French national, has been granted a full release after being incarcerated for seven years in jail, where he endured much physical and mental pain.

Bhai Pal Singh was arrested when he was conducting humanitarian work in villages across Punjab, trying to raise awareness against drugs and promoting Sikh principles.

With Bhai Pal Singh’s dedicated and determined work, many of Punjab’s youth that he came in contact with gave up drugs. He was dedicated to helping a new generation of Sikhs in Punjab. This reportedly upset the Punjab Government and led to the unwarranted arrest and detainment of Bhai Pal Singh.

The Sikh Relief organization (formerly SOPW – Sikh Organization for Prisoner Welfare), were instrumental in funding Pal Singh’s defense attorneys and fighting his case through court. They made the announcement regarding his release on bail earlier today.

In a press release from Sikh Relief, chairman Balbir Singh Bains said, “It has taken years for the justice system to acknowledge the right to liberty of those who are demonstrably innocent, even if only granting bail, pending an appeal.

The Indian justice system would benefit society greatly if it worked with an organisations like ours and helped heal the mistrust of the Sikh community that feels oppressed by the judiciary and political classes.”

http://www.sikh24.com/2017/08/19/breaking-french-national-pal-singh-granted-full-release-from-punjab-jail/#.WZpkIdFLfIU

The Times of India – Doklam standoff: Chinese clip mocks Sikhs, called racist

I P Singh

Jalandhar, 19 August 2017. Amid the Doklam stand-off on the Bhutanese border, the state owned Chinese news agency Xinhua has put out a three-minute video in which an actor mocks India by dressing up as a Sikh soldier.

The actor in a Sikh turban and a shabby beard clowns around on screen while the anchor attacks India in the clip titled “7 sins of India”.

The video has been uploaded on Xinhua’s site and Twitter handle at a time when India has posted burly Sikh and Jat soldiers at the Doklam tri-junction in a bid to intimidate Chinese soldiers.

The anchor in the clip starts by saying that it has been two months since Indian troops illegally crossed into China.
“The whole world is trying to wake India up but China has realized that it is impossible to awaken a guy who is pretending to be asleep,” she says and shows a man with the ill-fitting turban saying in a mock Indian accent: “Nobody’s blaming me because I’m asleep.” He then snores amid canned laughter.

UK-based Sikh Press Association called the clip, “blatant mockery of the Sikh identity”. UK-based Sikh Press Association said, “It is sad to see just how low Chinese media have stooped in using the Sikh identity as a pawn in their state propaganda against India.

Sikhs make up less than 2% of India’s population, so to use a mocked-up image of a Sikh as the face of propaganda targeted against India shows just how ill-informed Xinhua is.” Akal Takht Jathedar Gurbachan Singh said, “It is racist and reflects poorly on the Chinese state-owned media. Despite the stand-off India should raise the issue with China.”

The anchor in the clip also calls Doklam undisputed Chinese territory and alleges that India is trampling on international law. She mockingly asks, “Didn’t your mama tell you never break the law?”

The clown also says, “He is building a path in his garden, I am in danger,” which is followed by another bout of laughter.The clip claims that India is holding a small neighbour like Bhutan to ransom in the name of protecting it.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chandigarh/doklam-standoff-chinese-clip-mocks-sikhs-called-racist/articleshow/60130823.cms

Sikh24.com – Sikhs in Canada host successful leadership event

Balpreet Singh

Ottawa, 18 August 2017. The World Sikh Organization of Canada held its third annual Sikh Youth Leadership Institute (SYLI) in Ottawa this past weekend. After taking part in a rigorous application process, twenty Sikh youth between the ages of 18-25 were selected to take part in the program.

The attendees came from coast to coast, including Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. More than half of this year’s participants were Sikh women.

Participants gathered in Ottawa from August 11-14 to receive leadership training in emotional intelligence, advocacy, community building, and social justice. Attendees also brainstormed social initiatives for their communities, and created plans for their implementation.

On the first day, Puneet Mann, VP of Customer Experience at Scotiabank helped students understand and analyze different leadership styles. Workshops helped students develop their emotional intelligence and grow their self-awareness.

The second day of the program consisted of workshops and panel discussions featuring prominent Sikhs who are leaders in their fields.

The business panel composed of Suneet Singh Tuli, CEO of DataWind Inc; Karan Walia, the co-founder and CEO of Cluep and Parveen Kaur, consultant for the Public and Professional Affairs Department at the Canadian Pharmacists Association, spoke to students about their experiences as successful Sikhs in the corporate world.

Bhupinder Singh Hundal, media consultant and commentator on Hockey Night in Canada-Punjabi Edition lead a workshop on media engagement.

The Sikh Youth Leadership Institute also hosted a multi-partisan political panel which included MP Ruby Sahota, Brampton City Councilor Gurpreet Dhillon and former Minister of State-Multiculturalism, Honarable Tim Uppal.

The event was concluded by a Sikhi and leadership workshop lead by WSO’s legal counsel Balpreet Singh.

An attendee from Calgary, Simona Kaur said, “I honestly don’t know where to begin. This past week has been nothing short of life changing for me. Huge thank you to the organizers for putting together a seamless agenda for us…

The workshops turned out to be full of insights and wisdom drops and with a wonderful blend of Sikhi in them. Also, thank you for pushing the importance of powerful women in the community.”

WSO President, Mukhbir Singh said, “the Sikh Youth Leadership Institute has been one of our most successful initiatives and has resulted in the empowerment of young Sikhs from across Canada and has helped bring together a network of young activists who are making a difference in their communities.

We are proud of the work of our past years’ graduates and are look forward to the contributions of this years’ cohort.”

The WSO is a charity organization with a mandate to promote and protect the interests of Canadian Sikhs, as well as to promote and advocate for the protection of human rights for all individuals, irrespective of race, religion, gender, ethnicity, and social and economic status.

The donations page for the WSO provides a wonderful way of supporting this high profile Sikh organization that requires much input from the Sikh community.

http://www.sikh24.com/2017/08/18/sikhs-in-canada-host-successful-leadership-event/#.WZfNSdFLfIU

The Times of India – Doklam standoff fails to affect services at Shanghai gurdwara

Yudhvir Rana

19 August 2017. Amritsar: The Doklam standoff between India and China has failed to affect the only gurdwara in Shanghai, which continues to hold weekly darbar and perform other religious services as usual.

“There is no war mongering or even any such hype here among the locals. Whatever we hear is largely from the Indian media,” said Satbir Singh while speaking to TOI over phone from Shanghai on Friday.

Satbir has converted a portion of his house in Shanghai into a gurdwara, where saroop of Guru Granth Sahib is installed and a weekly darbar held. Devotees comprising Sikhs and Hindu, including Sindhis, come to the gurdwara frequently. According to Satbir, there are only eight Sikh families, besides Hindu and Sindhi, in Shanghai.

The other two gurdwaras in China are at Keqiao and Yiwu in Zhejiang province.

While denying that Indo-China standoff was a topic of discussion among locals, he said the Chinese locals had very cordial relations with the Indians in Shanghai. “Many a times, some of them even accompany their Hindu, Sikh or Sindhi friends to the gurdwara and feel blessed,” he said.

Satbir’s father had worked for about 30 years in China and shifted to Shanghai from Hong Kong about 12 years ago. On an average, the weekly gurdwara darbar has a gathering of around 60 people. “There are other people who visit the gurdwara daily,” he said.

Sushil Balani, who has business ties with China, said there was more of media hype than anything on ground. “Till now, business is as usual with China. All the transactions are normal, many businessmen are still in China and none of them have returned,” he said.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chandigarh/doklam-standoff-fails-to-affect-services-at-shanghai-gurdwara/articleshow/60126778.cms

ANI – Barcelona terror attack: Sikh Gurdwaras in Barcelona lend helping hand

Barcelona-Catalunya-Spain, 18 August 2017. Sikh Gurdwaras in Barcelona are lending helping hand at the time of crisis after at least 13 persons have been killed and more than 50 injured in a terrorist attack in Las Ramblas district.

A Sikh man, Harjinder Singh Kukreja from Punjab took to Twitter to inform people that Gurdwaras in Barcelona are offering help to those who are in need.

“If anyone needs shelter, food, Sikh houses of worship in the Spanish city are open for all,” Kukreja tweeted.

In his tweet, Kukreja has posted information of two Gurdwaras in Barcelona: Gurdwara Nanaksar Sahib located at 08903, Carrer Rafael Campalans, 23, 08903 L’Hospitalet de Llobregat and can be contacted at +34 666 11 25 45, while Sikh Gurudwara Gurdarshan Sahib Ji located at Carrer de l’Hospital and can be reached at +34 934 43 88 82.

Earlier, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj confirmed that there is no report of any Indian casualty in the attack. Indians, who are in an emergency, can contact the Indian embassy in Spain at +34-608769335.

“I am in constant touch with Indian Embassy in Spain. As of now, there is no report of an Indian casualty,” Swaraj tweeted.

Police in Barcelona have asked people around that region to stay indoors. They have urged those concerned about friends and family to use social media, rather than cellphone calls to avoid overloading phone networks.

Facebook also activated its safety check mechanism, allowing users near #Barcelona attack to mark themselves as safe.

http://www.aninews.in/newsdetail-NA/MzMwMjQw/barcelona-terror-attack-sikh-039-gurdwaras-039-in-barcelona-lend-helping-hand.html

Sikh Federation UK – 18 July conference in EU parliament

During the conference problems around wearing turban and 5 K’s in various EU countries were discussed. Belgium and France are two countries where Sikhs face very serious challenges. Underneath a write up I produced after the conference. 

The part about Belgium is going to be the basis of a position paper on the Belgian situation, France of course has to be dealt with by the French Sikhs.

Any comments and suggestions are more than welcome !
Man in Blue

Belgium – France: Fundamentalist Secularists

I expect we will get further input from people like Ranjit Singh and Gurdial Singh. We must not forget that in France it is not just in education that Sikhs face very serious challenges, but also in the workplace, about pictures on driving licences, ID cards and passports and even when entering town halls and other public places.

In Dutch speaking Belgium the community (GO) schools have banned all religious symbols, some municipal schools allow turbans patkas, and there is a lot of hesitation and fear of the unknown in the Catholic schools in spite of its coordinating director being in favour of dialogue between Christians and people of other faith and beliefs.

Here in Gent I have been successful helping parents to find a place in some schools, but nothing is easy. The situation in Antwerp, which has a big Afghan Sikh community, is dire, as the three main networks (Community, Municipal and Catholic schools) have agreed to follow the bad example of the Community schools and ban all religious symbols.

Throughout Dutch speaking Belgium there are some Muslim schools, mainly of the Gülen movement and an independent one in Antwerpen. They would accept Sikh students, but they do not cover the full range of secondary school studies offered in this country.

Anybody with a Sikh, Muslim or other ‘exotic’ first and/or last name will have difficulty to find employment and to rent an apartment. I could only find an apartment in Sint-Truiden and Gent through Sikh house owners, not through the normal channels.

When speaking by phone with my nice Netherlands accent and presenting myself as C H S Heule the estate agents were happy to deal with me, once they saw me and my full name on my ID card there were no apartments available.

With a letter from a Gurdwara stating that you are a member of the Sikh community you are allowed to have a picture with turban/patka on your passport, driving licence and ID card.

Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue
harjindersingh_amritsar@yahoo.com

The Indian Express – A day in the life of Golden Temple Langar: Free for all

Around 80,000 devotees, 65 quintals of flour, 16 quintals of pulses, 14 quintals of rice, 7 quintals of ghee daily. What lies behind SGPC’s claim that GST is pinching its Rs 1,106-crore budget

Kamaldeep Singh Brar

Amritsar, 13 August 2017. It’s 5 am, and the langar at Golden Temple in Amritsar is ready to serve its first meal of the day, tea and snacks. Devotees sleeping on the premises are stirring awake and making their way to the two spartan halls at the Guru Ramdas Community Kitchen building.

The community kitchen, having taken a break for 30 minutes, from 4.30 am to 5 am, its only break in a 24X7 operation, is now ready to serve an estimated 50,000 cups of tea and biscuits or bread, over the next two and a half hours.

On a regular day, at least 50,000-80,000 eat at the kitchen, which was started by the fourth Sikh saint, Guru Ramdas, in 1577. This rises to above a lakh on weekends. The idea behind the langar, as per the Sikh faith, is for people of all castes and religions to eat together before visiting the Guru.

Since its inception, the langar at the Golden Temple has only been interrupted when the then Sikh Confederacy lost Amritsar to a host of invaders in the 18th century, and during Operation Blue Star in 1984.

These days, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), which runs the community kitchen, has more contemporary issues to contend with.

After the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax, the SGPC expects the budget to run its three prominent community kitchens, at Golden Temple, the Takht Sri Keshgarh Sahib in Anandpur and the Takht Damdama Sahib Talwandi Sabo in Bathinda, to go up by Rs 10 crore.

The committee spends Rs 30 crore every year on running the langar at Golden Temple from its annual budget, which was Rs 1,106 crore in 2017-18.

“Our purchases were out of the tax system before the GST. We want this back,” says SGPC president Kirpal Singh Badungar.

Over at the langar halls, the sewadars (working in the kitchen) are catering to people sitting in rows along the floor, from a steel container that is pushed along on wheels. They open a spigot at the bottom of the container to let out the tea into steel bowls.

At the kitchen, stock-taking is on, to ensure there is enough material for the day, as cooking must begin immediately. Nearly a quarter of the material is given as offering by devotees; the rest is bought in bulk, for which Golden Temple has a manager and a team.

The material is transported to the kitchen on trolleys and mini-trucks, from trucks that halt outside the Walled City, as the lanes leading to Golden Temple are narrow. The vehicles move almost constantly.

A total of 495 SGPC employees work at the kitchen in three shifts, apart from 150 sewadars and 250 volunteers at a time. Volunteers are allowed to perform all the tasks except cooking, for which there are 13 cooks, four of whom are working today.

The menu for the day is dal, lauki (bottle-gourd), rice and kheer, along with chappatis. It changes every day and sometimes has to be changed at the last minute if a devotee offers, for example, a lot of vegetables, or for a certain dish to be served.

The first meal has to be ready by 8 am when the devotees start streaming in. “The langar is cooked in three spells. We cook in advance so as to avoid any mess,” says Bhupinder Singh, who has been a ground manager with the kitchen for 17 years.

When he first joined the Golden Temple community kitchen in 2001, Singh says, 30-35 quintals of flour would be consumed for chappatis daily. “Now we consume around 65 quintals daily.”

The kitchen also uses up around 16 quintals of pulses, 16 quintals of vegetables and 14 quintals of rice on a routine basis. Kheer takes up at least 7.50 quintals of dry milk powder in a day.

“The per day budget of running the community kitchen is around Rs 11 lakh, going up to Rs 16 lakh on weekends and special occasions. We have dal, a vegetable, rice, salad, a sweet dish and chappatis. There may be extra items on special occasions such as Gurupurab and Diwali,” Singh says.

The kitchen, spread across an acre, has three machines to make chappatis, each churning out around 4,000 an hour. Besides, women volunteers make chappatis, around 2,000 an hour. Each chappati gets a dab of desi ghee, applied with a cloth tied to a stick.

The ghee, in fact, is one of the commodities that will cost the SGPC dear after the GST, inviting a tax of 12 per cent. The Temple uses around 7 quintals daily and expects an increase of Rs 50,000 on its daily budget of Rs 4 lakh for ghee.

Wazir Singh, also a ‘ground manager’, says there is no alternative. “Desi ghee is also the identity of Punjab. It makes food more healthy and tasty.”

Bhupinder Singh says Guru Amardas, who formalised the idea of the langar, would have been happy at the diversity of those eating together at the community kitchen now. “Earlier mostly Sikhs would come. Now people come from across the world.”

Sandeep Singh Teja, a government teacher and volunteer, says the GST on the langar is unfair. “The SGPC is caught up in a lot of politics. I also condemn it. But this is not about the SGPC alone. You will find Hindus and even Muslims serving as volunteers. Such a service should be above any kind of tax,” he says.

Says Wazir Singh, “We try to make the food tasty, but it is not our cooks but God Himself who makes this food.”

A day in the life of Golden Temple Langar: Free for all

The Sacramento Bee – Slaying of Sikh gas station employee shocks community accustomed to tragedy

Laura Sussman

Sacramento, 10 August 2017. When Harfateh Singh first heard about the July 25 murder of Simranjit Singh at a south Sacramento gas station, the former president of the Sikh Cultural Association at UC Davis thought immediately of the tragedies that already have struck his community.

Closest to home was an attack from 2011, when two men from the Sikh religious minority, Surinder Singh, 65, and Gurmej Singh Atwal, 78, were gunned down while taking their afternoon stroll in Elk Grove. That apparent hate crime remains unsolved.

More recently, Subag Singh was found dead in a canal in Fresno the day before Simranjit Singh’s murder. The 68-year-old Sikh man’s death is being investigated as a homicide but as yet not a hate crime, according to the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office.

Last month’s killing of 20-year-old Simranjit Singh, who had come to the USA less than two years ago, hasn’t been linked to his ethnicity or religion, but that violence nonetheless has shocked Northern California’s enormous but tight-knit Sikh community.

“While trying to process the event, I also learned about the older Sikh gentleman who went missing in Fresno, and his body was found in a canal with trauma marks,” Harfateh Singh said.

“Maybe they were both at a wrong place at a wrong time, but what if they were not? I wondered if I will be the next headline or statistic, but I also felt a renewed determination to not stop being who I am.”

Sikh men, in particular, have had to confront more prejudice and violence in the USA, especially after the 11 September 2001, attacks, according to a book by Dawinder Singh Sidhu, a law professor at the University of New Mexico and Neha Singh Gohil, the former Western region director of the Sikh Coalition, a civil rights group.

Sikh men often are confused for Muslims because of the turban and long beard many of them wear for religious reasons. In fact, the first revenge killing in the USA after September 11 was against a Sikh man thought to be a Muslim.

More than 15 years later, Sikhs still face similar problems, even in communities such as Yuba City and Elk Grove, which are part of one of the biggest Sikh populations outside of India.

Some successful Sikhs go on to buying their own gas stations or convenience stores, which often employ more recently arrived Sikhs. Friends of Simranjit Singh said the young man had hoped to buy his own gas station after earning enough money at the station owned by his brother-in-law.

He was also taking an introductory calculus class at American River College to prepare for a possible career in computer engineering.

Singh did not experience episodes of discrimination while in the United States, said his sister, Dimpy Kaur. As for themselves, she and her husband have mostly encountered interest in their customs but “never faced any problems related to religion,” she said.

She added that she did not know whether her brother was killed because of his appearance.

Since moving to the USA in 2007, Harfateh Singh said, he has learned to use his religion to endure the discrimination he’s encountered. He remembered one incident in particular, in his third month after coming to the USA, when a stranger approached him while he was sitting in a San Jose library and asked if he was going to bomb the place.

His reaction, he said, has been to “say a prayer, take a deep breath and remember what’s good in this world.”

Singh said he also has tried to teach people locally and nationally about the Sikh religion, in the hope that through education people will stop mistreating his community.

Rajan Gill, who was born and raised in Yuba City, said Sikhs “mostly face micro-aggressions, such as snide comments or rude stares. They make you feel like the place where you live, where you were born isn’t welcoming and isn’t your home.”

Still, the community has won victories. Rajan’s father, Kash Gill, was elected Yuba City’s mayor in 2009, becoming the first Sikh to head a USA city. Kash Gill insisted that his religion did not play a role in the election. Still, he described the event as a “huge accomplishment for our entire community at large.”

Killings like that of Simranjit Singh, however, quickly dispel that feeling of safety.

The shooting occurred at about 10:30 pm 25 July as Singh and a co-worker were cleaning the Chevron gas station’s parking lot, said Sacramento County Sheriff’s Sergent Tony Turnbull. The suspects began hassling Singh’s co-worker, who went inside to call 911. The men approached Singh, and one of them shot him.

Turnbull said the shooting appears to be the result of the argument rather than a hate crime against Singh.

Two men, Rodolfo Zavala, 23, and his 15-year-old brother, Ramon Zavala, are being sought on murder charges in connection with Singh’s killing. One suspect, Alexander Lopez, 40, of Sacramento, was arrested.

Similar sad news has been a regular occurrence. A 2012 shooting at a Sikh temple [gurdwara] in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, by a white supremacist left six dead. On September 21, 2013, a Sikh professor walking in Harlem was beaten by 20 to 30 men as they screamed “Osama” and “terrorist.”

Also in 2013, an elderly Sikh man in Fresno was beaten with an iron bar in what was possibly a hate crime. In December 2015, Amrik Singh Bal, 68, was beaten and then purposely hit by a car in what Fresno police have identified as a hate crime.

A few days later, a Sikh convenience store clerk was stabbed to death in the same city. In September 2016, two men in Richmond ripped the turban off the head of Maan Singh Khalsa and cut his previously unshorn hair.

“The possibility of hate crime extremely worries me because folks like Simranjit, like me, like my relatives and friends who wear a turban and do not cut their hair or shave their beard, may have to be extra cautious,” Harfateh Singh said.

“But we should not and will not let this dampen our spirits, and we will continue to actively work with allies in combating hate and phobia of any sort.”

Laura Sussman
<lsussman@sacbee.com>

http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/crime/article166530492.html

The Tribune – SGPC forms panel to probe non-veg served in university

Tribune News Service

Amritsar, 9 August 2017. The SGPC today constituted a four-member committee to look into the serving of non-vegetarian food in its Sri Guru Ram Das University of Health Sciences here.

Mandeep Singh Manna, former spokesperson for Congress, yesterday submitted a complaint to Akal Takht in this connection.

Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh has assured that the matter would be taken up in the next meeting of five high priests*.

The committee comprises SGPC executive members Surjit Singh Bhittewad and Harjap Singh Sultanwind, secretary Roop Singh, and additional secretary Harbhajan Singh Manawa.

Kirpal Singh Badungar, SGPC president, said the panel would submit its report to Akal Takht in 15 days.

A restaurant, “Café Green”, on the university campus was allegedly serving non-veg dishes. “The cafe is jointly owned by a SGPC member, a SAD leader and a publisher of Sikh religious books.

It is objectionable to prepare and serve non-veg food at a place owned by an SGPC member and on land belonging to the SGPC. A gurdwara is located nearby,” Manna said.

* There are no Sikh priests ! The paper should have written: the ‘five jathedars without jathas’.

http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab/sgpc-forms-panel-to-probe-non-veg-served-in-university/449793.html

New Indian Express – 195 years on, Assamese Sikhs continue to help flood displaced with ‘langars’

Aishik Chanda

Hojai-Assam-India, 10 August 2017. Emperor Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Sikh kingdom might have never imagined that descendants of 500 Sikh soldiers whom he had sent to Assam to fight Burmese invaders in 1822 would mitigate recurring annual floods 195 years later with Sikhism’s essential free kitchen or ‘langar’ at Barkola village in central Assam’s Nagaon district.

“Barkola village is situated a bit upland because of which it becomes an island every year during floods. When neighbouring villages get inundated, residents come in boats to seek shelter in the four gurdwaras and schools of Barkola.

We provide free food to the victims in the langars of the four gurdwaras of the village. As government relief comes late and in scant amount, we villagers ourselves share whatever food we have. We survive because of this cooperation,” said Kartara Singh, president of Nanak Sahi gurdwara in the village.

Located some 15 km south of Nagaon town, Barkola boasts 10,000 residents out of which 2,000 are Sikhs, mostly Dalit Mazhabis. Tiwa and Koch tribals, Assamese Dalit communities such as Hiras and Kaibartyas and OBC Nath Jugis make up rest of the population.

Prolonged isolation from Punjab has made the Sikhs closer to Assamese communities that with other Sikhs.

“We speak Assamese, call ourselves Assamese Sikhs and intermarry with Assamese Hindus. The then Punjab chief minister Giani Jail Singh along with Surjit Singh Barnala had visited Assam in 1975 to meet us.

Learning that we can’t speak Punjabi, he had requisitioned Siromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) of Amritsar and sent one Giani Bhajan Singh of Anandpur Sahib to teach us Gurumukhi script in 1979.

He married a local Assamese Sikh woman, lived with us for 30 years and died recently after retirement,” Kartara Singh added. However, since then the SGPC has not assisted the Assamese Sikhs in the maintenance of gurdwaras or development of the community kitchens.

Narrating the history of the Assamese Sikhs, Assamese Sikh Association general secretary and principal of the lone higher secondary school in Barkola, Pratap Singh said: “Ahom king Swargadeo Chandrakanta Singha requested help from Maharaja Ranjit Singh to fight Burmese invaders in Assam.

Some 500 Sikh soldiers fought the Burmese in Hadirasokhi in Goalpara out of which only a dozen survived. They sailed across Brahmaputra in a boat through its tributary Kopili to Chaparmukh in Nagaon district.

Of the survivors, one Subedar Ram Singh left Chaparmukh for Barkola, married a local Assamese woman and established our roots. From Barkola, few families established communities in Helem in Sonitpur district, Hathipara in Nagaon district and Lanka in Hojai district.”

Over the years, the Assamese Sikhs have assimilated into the Assamese identity so much so that till 1980s, they used to call the gurdwaras as ‘naamghar’ or traditional Assamese temple. The village also has its share into Assamese nationalism.

“Three sons of Barkola, Chandan Singh, Karam Singh and Banindra Mazumdar laid down their lives during 1983 Assam agitation. All of us took out silent marches during that period. The men were all geared up to fight against illegal immigration of Bangladeshis. They were all agitated. We spent sleepless nights,” Harbansh Kaur added.

However, the village still feels neglected despite contributing top police officials, army officers and Assamese language literatures.

“We have been demanding construction of embankment along the Kopili river as permanent solution to provide relief to us from recurring floods. Work began but has remained incomplete for the past 30 years,” Pratap Singh added.

Facing inundation of agricultural fields every year, the village has lost its expertise in making the famous ‘Barkola jaggery’.

“Sugarcane cultivation has massively reduced due to recurring floods. Our jaggery was famous throughout Northeast. Now, most people are indulged only in rice and vegetable cultivation. Some 80% of Barkola residents are cultivators and the remaining 20% have government jobs,” said Dakhinpat Gaon panchayat president Tutumoni Saikia Laskar.

Though the Assamese Sikhs have been included in the minority board and get some benefit of government schemes, their demand for Assamese Sikh Development Council for the past 20 years has been ignored.

“We are too scattered and too divided politically to matter as an electorate,” Pratap Singh added.

http://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2017/aug/10/195-years-on-assamese-sikhs-continue-to-help-flood-displaced-with-langars-1640894.html