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.


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 !


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.


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.”


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.


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.”


The Tribune – UK gurdwara vandalised, Takht wants action

Akal Takht and the SGPC have condemned the vandalism of Guru Arjan Dev Jee Gurdwara in Derby, UK, on Monday a day before the martyrdom day of the Guru.

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 26 May 2020. The UK police have arrested a man believed to be a Pakistani. It has been learnt that the man had posted a message seeking support on the Kashmir issue and caused damage worth thousands of pounds.

Akal Takht officiating Jathedar Giani Hapreet Singh demanded the UK Government to ensure the safety of gurdwaras and Sikh citizens. “Like other gurdwaras across the world, the one in Derby is providing the needy with langar and other relief material in times of the Covid pandemic.

It is beyond my understanding why Sikhs are being targeted,” he said.


Sikh Federation UK – Sikhs give ministers two-week warning of census legal action

Posted to Sikh News Discussion by Sikh Federation UK

The Times, 20 April 2020. Sikhs have given Scottish ministers two weeks to confirm they will be recognised as a distinct ethnic group on the next census before launching legal action.

The Sikh Federation has posted a “pre-action letter” to the Scottish government saying that ministers’ plan to exclude them from the ethnicity tick-box list is illegal under equalities law.

The federation said its community had been recognised as an ethnic group in the UK since 1983 and expressed “disbelief” that it would not be identified as such on the census.

Pagans will be an accepted religion for the first time but there is no room for Episcopalians, who outnumber Sikhs, Jews and pagans combined in Scotland.

Fiona Hyslop, the culture secretary, warned that an amendment or legal action would delay the implementation of the whole census as she would be forced to do a complete redraft.

She offered Sikhs a compromise where they would be given advice in the explanatory notes to declare their ethnicity in the “Other” section beneath the tick boxes.

The federation said in February that this was a step in the right direction but did not go far enough and refused to withdraw its threat of legal action.

Scottish ministers have now been informed by Balfour and Manson LLP that legal action will commence in two weeks unless a change is put into action.

The federation said: “The ethnic groups specified in the census are used by public bodies in Scotland for resource allocation, to inform policy development and make service planning decisions.

“It also helps public bodies meet and monitor their statutory obligations arising from equalities legislation.”

The federation said that Sikhs in Scotland “are consistently being overlooked and discriminated against by public bodies in deciding policies that impact on them”, in contravention of EU equalities law and the Equality Act 2010.

It added: “Scottish ministers have been asked to confirm they will therefore lay an amended Census Order in the Scottish parliament with a Sikh ethnic tick box response option or they could find themselves in the Court of Session in Edinburgh accused of discrimination.”

A meeting to discuss the amendment on 25 March was postponed due to “urgent parliamentary business” and the rearranged meeting on 02 April was cancelled as the corona-virus crisis escalated.

The Scottish government, health bodies and National Records of Scotland have been unable to provide data on the number of Sikhs testing positive for Covid-19 or on the number of Sikh deaths occurring from the disease in Scotland.

The federation hopes the pause in parliamentary legislation will give Scottish ministers time to reflect on their decision to exclude them from the census.

The legal challenge is also expected to resonate in England and Wales, where the Sikh Federation (UK) has launched a second judicial review against a similar omission there.

In the first judicial review challenge that took seven months in the courts on an expedited timetable, the High Court ruled on 12 December last year that the claim was too early as the Cabinet Office minister had not yet laid the draft Census Order before parliament.

A Scottish government spokesman said: “National Records of Scotland continues to plan for Scotland’s census in March 2021 and is committed to delivering a set of questions and associated guidance which enables everyone in Scotland to access, understand and complete the census.

“Following engagement with stakeholders, National Records of Scotland is proposing that the question on ethnic group will include a prompt to highlight the opportunity to write in ‘Sikh’ as a response.”

Sikhs give ministers two-week warning of census legal action

Sikh24.com – Muslims should know Sikhs have always stood against the oppression of Kashmiris

Sikh24 Editors

New York – New York State – USA, 26 May 2020. On 25 May, a Muslim man of Pakistani origin attacked Gurdwara Guru Arjan Dev in Britain’s Derby. This attack occurred exactly on the day when the entire Muslim community was celebrating Eid-ul-Fitr and the worldwide Sikhs were greeting our Muslim brothers on this auspicious day.

Interestingly, this attack also occurred exactly a day before the 414th martyrdom anniversary of Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji.

After smashing the property of Gurdwara premises worth thousands of pounds, the attacker left a handwritten note behind, in which he clearly revealed his disturbed mindset due to the ongoing oppression of Kashmiris by India.

It clearly shows that a religious place of Sikhs got attacked because the attacker mistook Sikhs as supporters of the Indian government which is continuously oppressing Kashmiris.

This attack occurred because the Sikhs lack their distinct identity as nationhood and for being a stateless community. The Sikhs got targeted for the excesses being committed by the Indian government on Kashmiris.

Initially, the Indian media didn’t pay heed towards this attack, but as soon as it came to the fore that the attacker was a Muslim man of Pakistani origin, the Indian media outlets started airing this news considering it a golden opportunity to infuse hate in Sikhs against Muslims.

Sikhs have always stood against the oppression of Kashmiris.

In August last year, SGPC appointed Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh had openly opposed the abrogation of Article 370 by the BJP led Indian government in Jammu & Kashmir.

In Canada, the National Democratic Party’s head Jagmeet Singh had strongly condemned the oppression of Kashmiri people by India.

Similarly, the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) and Dal Khalsa had also condemned the abrogation of Article 370 by terming it a murder of democracy.

Muslims should know Sikhs have always stood against the oppression of Kashmiris

How-it-works-daily – Heroes of history – Sophia Duleep Singh

Far more worthy of respect than her useless father

This princess of a stolen empire became one of Britain’s most high-profile women’s rights activists

Scott Dutfield

London – UK, 22 May 2020. Born and raised in England, Sophia was the daughter of Maharaja Duleep Singh, the exiled Emperor of the Sikh Empire and a favourite courtier of her godmother, Queen Victoria.

She was brought up among the British aristocracy and enjoyed all the luxuries of royalty, wearing the latest fashionable dresses to all the exclusive parties.

After the death of their parents Sophia and her sisters were granted apartments at Hampton Court Palace by the queen, as well as an annual income of £25,000. However, this pampered princess was soon to encounter severe inequality and discrimination on account of her gender and race.

In 1903, Sophia visited India to attend celebrations for Edward VII’s coronation as king and emperor.

It was during this and subsequent trips that she became more aware not only of her own heritage and ancestry but also of Britain’s oppressive colonial rule. She and her sisters also experienced racist and prejudiced attitudes that were prevalent at the time.

Despite their royal status, they found themselves snubbed and shunned at social events, or even ridiculed and criticised for wearing traditional Indian dress. She may have been the descendant of maharajas and Queen Victoria’s goddaughter, but Sophia was made to feel like an outsider in the very region her family had once ruled.

After her return to England, Sophia became heavily involved in the women’s suffrage movement. She supported the campaign to gain women the vote, donating money to the cause and even selling copies of The Suffragette newspaper outside her residence at Hampton Court.

On 18 November 1910 she joined hundreds of other protestors in a march on Parliament, demanding that a law be passed granting women the vote. The day was later referred to as ‘Black Friday’ after scores of marchers were violently assaulted by police, scenes to which Sophia was an appalled witness.

Despite alienating some of her aristocratic friends, Sophia continued her activism, supporting the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) and its leader Emmeline Pankhurst. Although many fellow suffragettes were sent to jail for their activities, Sophia’s status meant the authorities were reluctant to imprison her.

Sophia continued her work with the movement until the outbreak of WWI in 1914, when the WSPU suspended its activities to support the war effort. After the war she maintained her fight for women’s rights, claiming in a 1934 article that her sole interest was “the advancement of women”.

After largely retiring from public life she remained unmarried and without children. The revolutionary royal who had fought so hard for the betterment of those less fortunate than herself died of cardiac arrest at her home in Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, in August 1948.

As part of her activism, the princess joined the Women’s Tax Resistance League

The Women’s Tax Resistance League (WTRL) was a protest group that refused to pay taxes while women were not allowed to vote. Their message was simple: ‘No Vote, No Tax’.

Several members of the group were prosecuted as a result, including Princess Sophia, who was one of the group’s high-profile members from 1909. In 1911 she was brought before a court and fined. Several pieces of her jewellery were confiscated and sold to pay for the debt. However, Sophia’s fellow WTRL members purchased the jewellery and returned them to the princess.

Heroes of History: Sophia Duleep Singh




Kent-Online – Plane circles above Gravesend town centre in funeral-day tribute to late father

Megan Carr

Gravesend – Kent – UK, 21 May 2020. A plane has been spotted circling a town centre in memory of a late father and prominent member of the Sikh community. Just after midday, an aircraft displaying a touching banner was seen flying over Gravesend.

It has now emerged the touching tribute was to honour Makhan Singh Johal, who recently died, as his funeral was held at the Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara in Khalsa Avenue. Mr Johal who arrived in Gravesend from India in 1975, died last week after a long battle with cancer.

Gurvinder Sandher, chief executive of The Kent Equality Cohesion Council, said: “Today was Makhan’s funeral, in other circumstances around 1,000 people would have came to pay their respects but due to social distancing Makhan’s family wanted to offer another way for people to pay their respects.”

The banner read: “RIP DAD, 1955-2020, Chardi Kala, miss you. MSJ.”

Chardi Kala is a Punjabi phrase which encourages Sikhs to maintain a mental state of optimism and joy. It is often said and intended to demonstrate the belief of being content with the will of God even during harder times or in adversity.

Megan Carr mcarr@thekmgroup.co.uk