The Indian Express – Pink Shirt Day observed: Sikhs in UK, Canada fight bullying, racism; Canadian PM, defence minister back campaign

Gurdwaras also support the campaign to spread message of kindness and tolerance

Divya Goyal

London-UK, 24 February 2017. Fighting against the racism, bullying, hate crimes and discrimination, Sikhs across the United Kingdom and Canada observed ‘Pink Shirt Day’ on Wednesday, coming out in pink shirts and turbans to give message of kindness and tolerance.

The pink shirts and T-shirts with the message ‘Kindness is One Size Fits All’ were distributed in huge numbers and Pink Shirt Day rallies held across Canada, the UK and in some other countries.

The campaign has also found support from Canadian PM Justin Trudeau and National Defence Minister of Canada Harjit Sajjan, a Sikh who too sporting a pink shirt gave out a message Wednesday.

“I’m wearing pink because we should celebrate our differences, stand up for each other, and work together to end bullying and discrimination.

I am wearing my pink shirt today because bullying is never okay,” said Sajjan in his message. “Our caucus is sporting its finest colours for #PinkShirtDay today, let’s stand up to bullying and lift each other up, today & every day,” (sic) said message from Canadian PM Trudeau.

Various Sikh organizations and gurdwaras across Canada and the UK requested people to “practise kindness, and wear a Pink Shirt, button, or pin to symbolise you do not tolerate bullying”. People were also requested to flash message ‘Bullying stops here’ on their T-shirts.

Jagmeet Singh, an engineer settled in Vancouver, told The Indian Express, “This Pink Shirt Day movement basically started from Nova Scotia where two school children were bullied for wearing pink shirts on day one of their school.

Since then, pink shirt has become a symbol against racism, bullying and discrimination. As Sikhs too have been facing these issues and have been victims of hate crimes due to turbans and beard, we decided to observe Pink Shirt Day for cause of Sikhs too.”

The Gurdwara Sahib Sukh Sagar at New Westminster of Canada also observed the day with anti-bullying programme for the youths and requested people to wear pink.

“Bullying is a major problem for students, employees and almost everyone faces it once in life. So Sikh community settled abroad is hugely supporting this campaign,” said Prithpal Sekhon from Toronto.

Pink Shirt Day observed: Sikhs in UK, Canada fight bullying, racism; Canadian PM, defence minister back campaign

Sikh24.com – Sikh Council Issues Statement on “Internal Panthik Issues in UK”

Sikh24 Editors

London, UK, 16 February 2017. In a press statement shared with Sikh24, Sikh Council UK media chair Jagjit Singh has stated that several issues were brought to its attention in the past few weeks, including beadbi at Woolwich, animal slaughter at Singh Sabha London and several other cases in the UK.

Sikh Council has stated that while it was willing to resolve such issues, it cannot mediate as such differences have existed within the community historically. The press release further mentions that mediation is only possible when both sides are willing to come together.

“Taken collectively these are matters of significant concern due to their adverse impact on community cohesion and reputation within the mainstream society,” said Jagjit Singh in the press release.

“There have been reports of violence within Gurdwaras, the police entering Gurdwara premises, contentious programmes, inflammatory speeches, threats of self-immolation, threats of violence, the raising of differences in doctrinal views in provocative terms, fake news social media postings, footage of ritual slaughter of animals and other such matters bringing the community into disrepute, exposing internal differences for others to exploit and endangering community cohesion.”

The Sikh Council stated that the reason behind these issues was differences over Maryada within the Sikh community. “The Sikh Council UK is constitutionally mandated to mediate in cases of disputes where all parties are agreeable to such intervention and we remain willing always to seek to bring parties together.

We are appealing to all Sikhs to resist undertaking those activities or raising those matters of doctrinal difference or dispute in a manner which heighten tensions and lead to divisions and instead to focus on those activities which will lead to unity, progress and the betterment of the community.”

http://www.sikh24.com/2017/02/16/sikh-council-issues-statement-on-internal-panthik-issues-in-uk/#.WKvVBn_RHY8

The Financial Express – Bank of England meets Hindu Council members over beef tallow in 5 pound note

The Bank of England invited members of the Hindu Council UK for a meeting over concerns that the new 5 pound polymer currency note contains traces of beef tallow, an issue that has led to anger among vegans, Hindus, Sikhs and other communities in Britain.

London, 19 February 2017. The Hindu Council UK representatives, Chairman Umesh C Sharma JP, Director of Interfaith Relations, Anil Bhanot OBE and Director of Hindu Temple Engagement, Arun Thakur were personally invited to a meeting with The Chief Cashier of the Bank of England-Victoria Cleland at its headquarters in Threadneedle Street on February 8.

In late November 2016, the Bank of England announced that it had been informed that small traces of animal-derived products were used by a supplier in the manufacture of the new polymer pound 5 notes. Tallow is a hard, fatty substance made from rendered animal fat. It is commonly used to make soap and candle.

The new polymer note uses beef tallow made from suet, which is hard fat found around the animal’s kidneys, stomach and other organs. The new 5 pound notes (and the 10 pound notes) contain animal fat in the form of tallow.

This is unacceptable to millions of vegans, vegetarians, Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and others in the UK, the Hindu Council UK said in a statement.

As soon as this announcement was made, the Hindu Council UK together with a number of individuals and representatives of certain communities and organisations had publically expressed concerns about this.

It said over the last couple of months, the Hindu Council UK has been in communication with the Bank of England and raised the concerns of the Hindu Community, Hindu Temples and Hindu Organisations in the UK over the issue.

It said the Bank of England assured that they were treating those concerns with the utmost seriousness and wanted to understand better what impact the use of small traces of animal-derived products in polymer banknotes may have within the community before making any further statement on the issue.

The Hindu Council UK Representatives had a full and frank discussion with Victoria Cleland and highlighted that many Hindus were concerned due to the animal-derived products in the new notes, because one of the key virtues in the Hindu faith is Ahimsa, which is the practice of non-violence; avoiding harming any living thing, and also avoid the desire to harm any living thing, including protecting animals, which symbolise many of our most important deities, it said in a statement.

The Hindu Council UK representatives informed the Bank of England that it had received many calls from various Temples across the UK who had banned the use of the new 5 pound note as donations and offering to deities within the sanctuary of the temple environment.

Hindus respect, honour and have a special affection for the cow as it represents life and the sustenance of life, the symbol of the earth, the ever giving, undemanding provider for mankind.

As a consequence of not allowing the 5 pound notes in the Temple environment, many of the temples had seen a huge decrease in their Temple economy, which relies totally on donations in order to operate, the statement said.

“The Hindu Council UK is pleased that the Bank of England have listened to our concerns and halted the issuing of the new 20 pound notes until a full consultation has been done. In addition, the Bank of England has assured us that they are working with polymer suppliers to investigate alternatives (including some that are plant-based) for the future,” it said.

The Bank of England said that it will not withdraw the current 5 pound polymer banknotes from circulation and will go ahead with plans to withdraw legal tender status of the 5 pound paper bank notes on May 5, 2017. The Bank will also continue with the proposed launch of the new 10 pound polymer banknotes in September 2017, using the existing polymer substrate.

The new polymer five pound note, which features a portrait of Winston Churchill, is the first of the Bank of England’s notes not to be printed on paper. The new flexible plastic notes are designed to be cleaner, more secure and stronger.

Production of the new 10 pound notes began in August last year and are planned to be released into circulation in September this year. The new 10 pound plastic notes will feature author Jane Austen.

There is nothing either in the Guru Granth Sahib or the Sikh Rehat Maryada that gives a special status to cows, or forbids Sikhs to handle animal products. We should stop slavishly following Hindu notions that have not been supported by our Gurus or have even been explicitly denounced by them.
Man in Blue

http://www.financialexpress.com/industry/banking-finance/bank-of-england-meets-hindu-council-members-over-beef-tallow-in-5-pound-note/557668/

Sikh24.com – Sikh employee granted permission to wear kirpan at work in London

Sikh Council UK

London, UK, 19 February 2017. A Sikh employee has been permitted to wear the Kirpan in the workplace of an international telecommunications company based in the City in London following initially being refused to right to wear it on ostensible security grounds.

The individual had taken the momentous decision to become an Amritdhari (an initiated) Sikh and as such he was following the mandatory Sikh code of conduct requiring him to carry the five articles of Sikh faith on his person at all times.

He informed his employer of the circumstances following which his employer initially refused consent.

Sikh Council UK along with other member organisations intervened and provided details concerning Sikh articles of faith following which the employer conceded and has since adopted a policy permitting the individual to wear his kirpan in the workplace.

This is the second such case recently where the Sikh Council UK has successfully intervened in connection with the wearing the kirpan in the workplace.

The other case involved two Sikhs employees initially being stopped for wearing kirpans at a large international airport based in the South-east.

The airport has now adopted a policy around the wearing of the kirpan by employees in the workplace in consultation with the Sikh Council UK.

Jagtar Singh, Secretary General Elect of Sikh Council UK, said: “It is unfortunate that cases such as these still occur too often for our liking, especially in large multi-national organisations. However, we are pleased with the outcomes in these cases, which has meant these Sikhs are now able to practice their faith whilst at work”.

He added “Casework like this is a regular feature of the work of Sikh Council UK and we frequently receive queries seeking our assistance in such matters.

Subject to capacity we of course seek to assist any Sikh who faces any issues at work or elsewhere in connection with their articles of faith. If any Sikh is facing any such problems they are requested to get in touch with us without delay”.

http://www.sikh24.com/2017/02/19/sikh-employee-granted-permission-to-wear-kirpan-at-work-in-london/#.WKk8An_RHY8

Dawn – Members of UK ‘sex gang’ face deportation to Pakistan

London, 10 February 2017. Four men convicted of grooming girls for sex in a case that fuelled racial tensions in Britain face deportation to Pakistan after a judge upheld a government decision on Thursday to strip them of British citizenship.

The ruling by an immigration tribunal clears the way for the men, all of Pakistani nationality, to be removed from Britain. They acquired British citizenship by naturalisation.

They were among nine men of Pakistani and Afghan descent convicted of luring girls as young as 13 into sexual encounters using alcohol and drugs. They were based in Rochdale, in northern England.

Among the four facing deportation is ringleader Shabir Ahmed, sentenced in 2012 to 22 years in jail. The other three are Adil Khan, Qari Abdul Rauf and Abdul Aziz.

Ahmed, who was convicted of rape as well as other charges, remains in custody, while the other three men have been released on licence.

Khan, Rauf and Aziz were convicted of conspiracy and trafficking for sexual exploitation charges. Aziz was not convicted of having sexual intercourse with any child.

The judge at the hearing in the upper tribunal of the Immigration and Asylum Chamber, Mr Justice McClosky, described their crimes as “shocking, brutal and repulsive”.

His decision rejected claims concerning human rights laws and a complaint of “disproportionate interference” with their rights.

The case centres on a decision by Prime Minister Theresa May, when she was home secretary, to strip the men’s citizenship “for the public good”.

The five victims of the gang who gave evidence in the 2012 trial were all white, and spoke of being raped, assaulted and traded for sex, being passed from man to man, and sometimes being too drunk to stop the abuses.

The men, ranging in age from 22 to 59, used various defences, including claiming the girls were prostitutes.

Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk said the four men who appeared at the tribunal on Thursday should be deported “as soon as possible” saying “foreign-born criminals should not be able to hide behind human rights laws to avoid deportation”.

http://www.dawn.com/news/1313930/members-of-uk-sex-gang-face-deportation-to-pakistan

Hindustan Times – Amritsar-London direct flight from April 2017

Amritsar, Panjab, 5 November 2016. Beginning April 2017, direct flights will connect the holy city of Amritsar with London thrice a week.

With the aim to serve the Sikh community globally and promote tourism, UK-based People Over Profit (POP), a new low-cost, long-haul airline, will be launching its operations in April 2017. At present, there is no direct flight between the two cities.

“We thought of exploring this market as there is a huge demand (for travel to Amritsar) due to high Sikh population in (UK). We only have economy class to begin with, and the prices are very cheap,” said POP chairman Navdip Singh Judge.

The airline will run flights with seating capacity of up to 400 between Amritsar and the UK capital thrice a week. While a one-way ticket will cost £176 (around Rs 15,000), including taxes, the round trip will cost £350 (Rs 30,000).

The flight will take off from London at 7pm every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and reach Sri Guru Ram Dass Jee International Airport, Amritsar, at 6am the next day. It will return to UK the same day at noon.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/punjab/amritsar-london-direct-flight-from-april-2017/story-5fY4NbBmuhhtPEYtsJVO7N.html

BBC News – Man in court over Derby Sikh temple [Gurdwara] murder

Derby, 31 January 2017. An elderly man found dead near a Sikh temple [Gurdwara] had been beaten so badly police believed he had been hit by a car, a court heard.

Sukhraj Singh Atwal has gone on trial for the murder of Satnam Singh, 74, the father of his mother’s ex-husband, in Derby in July 2015.

The prosecution at Nottingham Crown Court alleged he repeatedly stamped and jumped on Mr Singh.

The 29-year-old, of Pear Tree Crescent, Derby, denies murder.

Mr Singh had been walking to the temple where he volunteered in the early hours of 23 July when he was attacked on the corner of Coronation Street.

He was found with 41 fractures to his ribs, lacerations to his heart and blunt force injuries to his head and face.

Mr Atwal’s car appeared several times on local CCTV at the time of the attack.

The beating itself was not caught on camera but the vehicle was seen entering the spot where Mr Singh died immediately before the attack and leaving four minutes later.

Disposed of trousers

Footage from a garage forecourt showed Mr Atwal appearing to inspect his light-coloured trousers.

He also returned to the scene several times “to observe what was happening”, the prosecution alleged, wearing different trousers.

Mr Atwal was arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving four days later, giving no comment at interview, save that police should “check the forensics” on his car.

He was arrested in April 2016 on suspicion of murder after tests determined Mr Singh had not been hit by a car.

Examination of Mr Atwal’s phone revealed he had travelled to a remote location near Carsington Water, near the Peak District, later that day where the prosecution alleges he disposed of his trousers.

A text message on his phone said he had not hit Mr Singh “with my car” and he even taunted police in a letter from custody saying they “couldn’t even get the cause of death right”.

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-derbyshire-38809440

Southall, Middlesex, UK – Sikhi Camp – Gent Gurdwara

Southall
23 and 24 December

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Havelock Road Singh Sabha
Bhai Ghanaya

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Havelock Road Singh Sabha
Bhai Taru Singh

Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha
Havelock Rd, Southall UB2 4NP

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Havelock Estate – Jasbir Singh in front of 4 Hillary Road

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Havelock Estate – Hunt Road
The Jeep fully loaded with my belongings and Jasbir Singh’s shoppings

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Havelock Estate – Hunt Road
Ready for departure

Sikhi Camp – Gent Gurdwara
26 December 2016

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Maha Singh’s Gatka class

Mata Sahib Kaur Gurdwara
Kortrijksepoortstraat 49
B-9000 Gent – Oost-Vlaanderen

To see all my pictures:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/12445197@N05/

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

The Guardian – Man pleads not guilty over Sikh temple [gurdwara] protest

Kulvinder Bir Singh, 37, accused of religiously aggravated criminal damage over protest against interfaith marriage in Leamington Spa

A man has appeared in court over a protest against an interfaith marriage at a Sikh temple in Warwickshire.

Kulvinder Bir Singh, 37, is accused of destroying signs relating to a marriage that was due to take place in the Gurdwara Sahib temple in Leamington Spa in September last year.

At the magistrates court in the Warwick Justice Centre on Wednesday, Singh pleaded not guilty to religiously aggravated criminal damage. He asked for the matter to be sent to the crown court for trial.

Singh, of Coventry, is one of two people charged with a criminal offence over the protest. On the day of the protest the police arrested more than 55 people.

Singh is accused of breaking into the temple in the early hours as part of a mass demonstration and pulling down signs relating to an interfaith marriage that was meant to take place on 11 September 2016.

Earlier this month a 33-year-old man was accused of committing a religiously aggravated assault during the same protest, and he also opted to be tried by a jury. It has not been decided whether the two men will be tried together.

Gursharan Singh is alleged to have assaulted an official at the temple. Gursharan Singh, who gave his address to the court as that of a Coventry law firm, indicated a not guilty plea during a brief appearance at Leamington Spa magistrates court.

Magistrates granted Gursharan Singh conditional bail to appear at Warwick crown court for a further hearing on 10 February.

Those who run the temple say protests have become an unfortunate recurrence during the wedding season. Eventually the disrupted wedding did take place the following Monday, but the protest sent shockwaves through the close-knit community.

Warwickshire police said no further action would be taken against 50 of the 55 people arrested. A 28-year-old man from Coventry was given a caution for religiously aggravated criminal damage. No further action was taken against a 31-year-old from Oldbury, and a 39-year-old man from Birmingham has been rebailed.

The protests were organised by a group called Sikh Youth UK, part of an increasingly active youth movement within the community.

Deepa Singh, who describes himself as a Sikh Youth UK coordinator, previously told the Guardian that the group had thousands of members including teachers, barristers and accountants. Others estimate membership to be in the low hundreds.

Another member, Shamsher Singh, said: “More and more young people are becoming interested in the true interpretation of what it means to be Sikh.

“The elder generation arrived [in the UK] and fitted their faith round the need to assimilate, survive and to get work. This led to a stripping back of the spiritual nature of what it means to be a Sikh to a series of symbols.

“Now younger people want to reclaim Sikhism as a deeply spiritual, peaceful and encompassing religion.”

Sikhi is not a religion but a way of life. Disrupting weddings is not part of any spiritual path. Of course those that want to marry in the Gurdwara need proper instruction about that way of life. The problem is that many Gurdwaras are neither interested nor able to do this.
Man in Blue

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jan/25/man-pleads-not-guilty-over-sikh-temple-protest

The Tribune – Khalistan leader potential flashpoint in India-UK ties

Dabinderjit Singh is not a terrorist nor a supporter of terrorism. It is perfectly legitimate to campaign for the right of self-determination, it is not a crime to campaign for an independent Sikh homeland. The ISYF has been un-proscribed by the conservative government simply because there is no evidence that it is/was involved in terrorism.

India is not a real democracy. Those who in Jammu & Kashmir, Panjab and in some of the North-Eastern states campaigned for more autonomy were branded as terrorists by successive Indian governments and treated as such, which led state violence against these activists and counter-violence by the pro-autonomy or pro independence groups. I am not a man of violence but I fully support and am part of the campaign for the right of self-determination, which is a human right not recognised by ‘democratic’ India.
Man in Blue

Ashis Ray

London, 24 January 2016. India and Britain could be heading for a flashpoint in bilateral relations over alleged anti-India activities of a pro-Khalistan leader in the United Kingdom, Dabinderjit Singh Sidhu.

Sidhu, an executive at the National Audit Office (NAO), which equates to India’s C&AG, demands a separate homeland for Sikhs carved out of Punjab and was reportedly an activist with the International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF), which was banned by the British government until un-proscribed by Theresa May as Home Secretary last year.

The ISYF, after being outlawed, created a successor organisation called Sikh Federation UK (SFUK). London’s widely distributed Standard newspaper maintained Sidhu continued to be associated with it.

Sidhu, though, told the paper: “I was a sympathiser of the ISYF.” He also argued: “When an organisation is proscribed, it’s the organisation, not individuals, that is banned.”

However, Indian intelligence not only brands Sidhu as a hardcore member of the ISYF and now SFUK, but as one of its spearheads. Videos on the Internet reveal he delivers passionate speeches in favour of Sikh rights, which he suggests are denied in India.

A few years ago, he addressed a major rally at Trafalgar Square. Adrian Hunt, an expert on counter-terrorism law at Birmingham University, told The Tribune statements made there constituted “an offence under section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2006”.

In other words, he explained, “making a statement that is likely to be understood by some or all members of the public to whom it is published as a direct or indirect encouragement or other inducement to them to the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism”.

At least one of the Sikh Federation UK’s calendars glorified assassins of Indira Gandhi and one of the masterminds of the 1985 mid-air bombing of an Air India flight, which killed 329 people. They are hailed as “martyrs”.

In 2000, Sidhu was conferred the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his work for the NAO. An acceptance message attributed to him said: “It is perfectly legitimate and a duty upon every Sikh to peacefully work towards the establishment of an independent Sikh state.” He wore the ISYF insignia at the investiture.

When asked about his views on violence, he told the press: “If someone has had their mother and father killed and they decide to take up arms because they feel there is no justice for them, it’s very difficult to condemn them.”

In 2008, London’s mayor, Ken Livingstone, appointed him as a director on the city’s board of transport. The ISYF had by this stage been banned for alleged involvement in terrorism.

The Standard story, headlined “Ken’s adviser is linked to terror group”, went on to quote a British minister, Lord Bassam, who said ISYF was a group which had carried out “assassinations, bombings and kidnappings”. The Home Office believed the body channeled money and arms to Punjab.

Historically, the ISYF or the SFUK has enjoyed limited support in the London area. Its base is really in the West Midlands of England, where it controls half a dozen or more gurdwaras.

An intelligence source disclosed, Indian security agencies have raised the matter of Sidhu several times with their British counterparts, including MI5, which is responsible for domestic intelligence gathering in the United Kingdom. The same source said there have been no positive results.

It is a moot point whether Sidhu is protected by a technicality, that of working for the NAO. The British cabinet office said an NAO employee is an officer of the House of Commons, therefore answerable to the legislature, not the executive, and not required to observe the civil service code.

But the NAO has its own “code of conduct”. Under this code, an official is restricted from engaging in political activities pertaining to Britain and Europe, but not beyond. In effect, being part of a political movement relating to India is not restrained.

Unsurprisingly, Stephen Luxford, spokesman for the NAO, stated: “We are satisfied that Mr Sidhu has met and continues to meet the NAO’s Code of Conduct.”

Peerage for Sidhu?

The British Labour Party has always been close to the Sikh community in the UK and vice versa. Even in the 2015 general election, while other sections of Indian-origin people in Britain largely voted for the Conservative Party, Sikhs remained loyal to Labour.

The ultra-left of the Labour has, of course, tended to fish in troubled waters on Punjab. Presently, its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, like Livingstone, is of this persuasion.

Besides, the revelation that Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher offered assistance to the Indian government in respect of Operation Bluestar has veered Sikhs supportive of Khalistan further away from the Conservatives.

Amid shrinking support from the British electorate in general, Labour is desperate to retain Sikh votes. It is, therefore, susceptible to pressure, a party MP disclosed, to nominate a Sikh to the House of Lords. Indeed, there is speculation Corbyn could be considering recommending Sidhu for a peerage to appease the community. Such a move is likely to be seen by India as highly provocative.

Corbyn’s spokesperson, Sian Jones, when asked to react, did not issue a denial. She said: “We don’t comment on Labour Party nominations to public bodies or recommendations for political appointments”.

A British Foreign Office official, when asked about Sidhu, seemed to be unaware of him. A diplomatic source, however, asserted “ISYF and SFUK have been taken up” with Whitehall. The same source underlined “intelligence has also been exchanged by India with Britain about individuals”.

The Indian argument is if Britain deems India to be a friendly country, then it should be discouraging forces inimical to India on its soil. London’s defence is it cannot prevent peaceful activities. New Delhi says there is evidence of violation of Britain’s counter-terrorism laws.

Hunt is of the view: “Membership of and directing a proscribed organisation is an offence. As is seeking support for and giving support to such an organisation”.

http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/nation/khalistan-leader-potential-flashpoint-in-india-uk-ties/354976.html