The Guardian – British Sikh couple take legal action after being advised not to adopt

Sandeep and Reena Mander say they were told they were unlikely to succeed as the only children in need were white

Kevin Rawlinson

Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead-Berkshire-UK, 27 June 2017. A British Sikh couple are bringing a legal case, claiming they were advised by an adoption agency not to apply because of their “cultural heritage”.

Sandeep and Reena Mander said they had wanted to adopt a child of any ethnic background.

But they were told that, as only white children were in need, white British or European applicants would be given preference, meaning they were unlikely to be selected.

Instead, the Berkshire-based couple allege, they were advised to try to adopt from India, a country with which they have no close links.

“Giving an adopted child, no matter what race, the security of a loving home was all we wanted to do,” Sandeep Mander said.

“What we didn’t expect was a refusal for us to even apply for adoption, not because of our incapability to adopt, but because our cultural heritage was defined as ‘Indian/Pakistani’,” he told the Times.

Adoption agencies are allowed to prioritise on the basis of race in order to match children to prospective parents of the same ethnic background. But the government has also said that a child’s ethnicity should not be a barrier to adoption.

In 2012, the then education secretary, Michael Gove, told an audience in London: “One particularly sensitive element of the matching process is, as you all know, matching by ethnicity. Which is much more complex than simply race.

“I won’t deny that an ethnic match between adopters and child can be a bonus. But it is outrageous to deny a child the chance of adoption because of a misguided belief that race is more important than any other factor.

“And it is simply disgraceful that a black child is three times less likely to be adopted from care than a white child.”

The Manders are applying to Slough county court, seeking a declaration that the policy should allow them to adopt. They are being represented by the law firm McAllister Olivarius and their case is supported by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

On Monday, the law firm’s senior partner, Ann Olivarius, told the Guardian that too little attention had been paid to the best interests of children in need of adoption.

“It is very odd when you have children in great need and who are desperate for a home. This couple seem the best candidates for parenthood you would want to know.

“They do not see racial divides, they just have so much love in their hearts and want to raise a family.”

To place them lower on the list than another family because of their background suggested that the authorities had “lost the plot, we have lost what is important”, she said.

David Isaac, chair of the EHRC, said: “There are many children who are waiting for a loving family like Sandeep and Reena to help give them a better life. To be denied this because of so-called cultural heritage is wrong.”

The Manders said they had been trying to conceive for about seven years, and had gone through 16 IVF sessions, before deciding to try to adopt.

They attended introductory workshops organised by their local authority, the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead and its adoption agency, Adopt Berkshire.

They said their case was first taken up by Theresa May, who is their local MP, during her time as home secretary.

“Mrs May was shocked and was very helpful. Her office wrote letters but nothing happened,” Sandeep Mander said.

“When prime minister, she sent further letters and involved the then minister for children and he suggested we take legal advice.”

The couple have been approved to adopt from the US, which is expected to cost them about £60,000.

Adopt Berkshire’s website says children in need of adoption “will reflect the racial, cultural and religious backgrounds of the populations within the areas from which they originate”.

It adds that the authority will seek prospective parents of a similar background to the child, though they would not keep children waiting to “achieve a direct match”.

The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead did not respond to a request for comment.

The East London & West Sussex Guardian – Interfaith vigil shows ‘Redbridge will not be cowed by terrorism’

Lara Keay

Redbridge, 23 June 2017. Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and Hindus came together for a candlelit peace vigil to show “Redbridge will not be cowed by terrorism”.

People of all and no faiths gathered outside the town hall last night (June 22) in a display of unity and condemnation of the recent terror attacks in Westminster, London Bridge, and Finsbury Park.

The borough is among several in east London targeted by police as part of the investigation into the London Bridge and Borough Market attacks on June 3.

After residents witnessed armed officers storm several addresses in Ilford, chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) Wilson Chowdhry decided to organise the interfaith event to bring people together.

He said: “It is hard to believe the violence of recent months has occurred in our beautiful city where most people hold very cosmopolitan views.

“But it has and the people of Redbridge have come out fighting and will continue to show solidarity.

“We simply will not be cowed by extremists.”

Imam of the Al Bayan Welfare Centre in Ilford Sheikh Khalid said: “To eradicate hate in the world we must show love.

“Our vigil sent out a clear message that you can have different cultures and faiths, but they all share something – humanity.”

Chairman of the Vishwa Parishad Temple said Redbridge Hindus “stand united with our brothers and sisters of all faiths”.

Ilford Asian Church’s leader Shaheen Zar added: “The vibrant multi-faith and multicultural communities of Redbridge have lived in harmony for so long – nobody can change that.

“Together we can defy any attempt to shatter our peace with events like this.”

After lighting candles and holding a minute’s silence to remember those affected by the terror attacks, faith leaders and community members linked arms in front of a sign saying “Together we are stronger”.

The event was also supported by the Redbridge Faith Forum, who’s next interfaith meeting will be held at Redbridge Central Library in Clements Road on July 25.

The Scotsman – William Dalrymple on the Koh-i-Noor diamond, colonialism and Brexit

Is the Union of India the successor state to the Sikh Kingdom ? Which present-day country has a valid claim on the Koh-i-Noor : Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan or India ? Or does it belong to the descendants of  the Moghul emperors,  Nadir shah, Shah Shujah or Ranjit Singh ?
Man in Blue

William Dalrymple

On 29 March 1849, the ten-year year-old Maharaja of the Punjab, Duleep Singh, was ushered into the magnificent Shish Mahal, the Mirrored Hall throne room at the centre of the great Fort of Lahore.

The boy’s father, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, was long dead, and his mother, Rani Jindan, had been forcibly removed and incarcerated in a palace outside the city. Now Duleep Singh found himself surrounded by a group of grave-looking men wearing red coats and plumed hats, who talked among themselves in an unfamiliar language.

In the terrors of the minutes that followed, the frightened but dignified child finally yielded to months of pressure. In a public ceremony in front of what was left of the nobility of his court, he signed a formal Act of Submission. Within minutes, the flag of the Sikh Khalsa was lowered and the Union flag run up above the Fort.

The document signed by the young maharaja handed over to a private corporation, the East India Company, great swathes of the richest land in India, land which until that moment had formed the independent Sikh kingdom of the Punjab.

At the same time Duleep Singh was induced to hand over to Queen Victoria personally the single most valuable object not just in the Punjab but in the entire subcontinent: the celebrated Koh-i-Noor diamond, or Mountain of Light.

When he heard that Duleep Singh had finally signed the document, the Scottish Governor General, James Broun-Ramsay, Lord Dalhousie, was triumphant. “I have caught my hare,” he wrote. He later added: “The Koh-i-Noor has become in the lapse of ages a sort of historical emblem of the conquest of India. It has now found its proper resting place.”

The East India Company, the world’s first really global multinational, had grown over the course of a century from an operation employing only 35 permanent staff, headquartered in one small office in London, into the most powerful and heavily militarised corporation in history: its army by 1800 was twice the size of that of Britain.

It had had its eyes on both the Punjab and the diamond for many years. Its chance finally came in 1839, at the death of Ranjit Singh, when the Punjab had quickly descended into anarchy.

A violent power struggle, a suspected poisoning, several assassinations, a civil war and two British invasions later, the Company’s army finally defeated the Sikh Khalsa at the bloody battle of Gujrat on 21 February 1849.

At the end of the same year, on a cold, bleak day in December, Dalhousie arrived in person in Lahore to take formal delivery of his prize from the hands of Duleep Singh and his Scottish guardian, Dr Login.

Still set in the armlet which Maharaja Ranjit Singh had worn, the Koh-i-Noor was removed from the safe of the Lahore Toshakhana, or Treasury, by Dr Login, and placed in a small bag which had been specially made by Lady Dalhousie.

Broun-Ramsay wrote out a receipt: “I have received this day the Koh-i-Noor diamond.” In Scotland we are good at remembering all we have suffered at the hands of English aggression and colonialism, but often forget all we contributed to British colonialism elsewhere, and nowhere more than in India.

It is true that the Scots were slow starters in the field of Empire building. Early attempts to set up a Scottish East India Company in 1695 and found a colony at Darien three years later both proved humiliating failures. But by the end of the 18th century, the Scots were making up for lost time.

If the Scots diaspora played a major role in Imperial projects from Vancouver to Mandalay, it was particularly in South Asia that they came to prominence. “It was India,” writes Linda Colley in Britons, “that the Scots made their own.”

Well connected but financially embarrassed Scots gentry queued up to take their chance in the great Indian lottery, flooding first into the East India Company, then into the successor institutions of the Victorian Raj and the wider Empire.

“Would you suppose it?” wrote Aleck Fraser of Inverness from Delhi in 1811. “We usually sit down 16 or 18 at the Residency table, of whom nearly half, sometimes more, are always Scotchmen, about a quarter Irish, the rest English. The Irish do not always maintain their proportion, the Scotch seldom fail.”

As the 19th century progressed, the Scots diaspora filled a disproportionate and ever-growing number of imperial positions across the globe. For better or worse, the British Empire was the most important thing the Scottish ever did. It altered the course of international history, and shaped the modern world.

It also led to the huge enrichment of Scotland, just as, conversely, it led to the impoverishment of much of the rest of the non-European world. Yet much of the story of the Empire is still absent from our history curriculum.

This means that most people who go through the current education system are wholly ill-equipped to judge either the good or the bad in what we Scots did to the rest of the world. This matters.

Over and again, we see our diplomats, businessmen and politicians wrong-footed as they constantly underestimate the degree to which we are distrusted across the breadth of the globe, and in a few places actively disliked.

Because of the wrong-headedly positive spin we tend to put on our Imperial past, we often misjudge how others see us, and habitually overplay our hand.

For the fact is that the legacy of the Raj is something millions of Indians are still deeply uncomfortable about. This was demonstrated most recently, and most humiliatingly, to Theresa May when she went to India with a delegation of businessmen this winter.

Having fallen out with Europe over Brexit, she seemed to believe that she would be welcomed in India with open arms.
Indeed the Prime Minister seemed to be under the arrogant impression that she could just kick-start the Empire, as if it was some sort of old motorbike which had been left in a garage for a few years and which now, given the breakdown of Britain’s European limousine, she could merrily mount and ride off into the sunset.

But her strategy of trying to strike trade deals with Commonwealth countries, dubbed Empire 2.0 by some in the Civil Service, certainly turned out be difficult to sell in this former colony, which now casts much more loving looks towards America than it does towards us. In the end, May’s visit to India was a humiliating failure.

For the truth is that Indians have very bitter memories of British rule. Today it is believed in India, whether rightly or wrongly, that the British came as looters and plunderers, and subjected the country to centuries of humiliation.

And it is certainly true that for all the irrigation projects and new railways, the Raj presided over the destruction of Indian political institutions and cultural self-confidence, while the economic figures speak for themselves.

In 1600, when the East India Company was founded, Britain was generating 1.8 percent of the world’s GDP while India was producing 22.5 percent. By 1870, at the peak of the Raj, Britain was generating 9.1 percent, while India had been reduced to a poor third-world nation with just 12.2 percent, a symbol across the globe of famine and deprivation.

Last year a video went viral in India of the eloquent Congress politician, Shashi Tharoor, arguing at the Oxford Union that Britain owed India reparations for the damage inflicted by the Empire: at last count, the YouTube video of his speech had five million views.

It was instructive to watch the surprised reaction in Britain: hadn’t we given the Indians railways, cricket and democracy? On a Sunday morning BBC talk show it was even claimed that, unlike the Belgians, the British never committed any atrocities in the course of their Empire building.

Tharoor was forced to remind his interlocutor of the Amritsar Massacre, where in the space of a single hour, according to official British figures, 379 civilians were killed and 1,200 injured when General Dyer’s troops opened fire on a crowd of unarmed protestors.

Tharoor could have come up with many much worse examples, for example the massive bloodshed in the aftermath of the Great Uprising of 1857, when the British army, including several Highland regiments, massacred many tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of innocents.

Yet in Britain we remain largely ignorant of the blackest side of the imperial experience, and are still taught in school that it was only our German enemies who turned racism into an ideology that justified mass murder.

In contrast the Raj, we like to believe, was like some enormous Merchant Ivory film writ large over the plains of Hindustan, all parasols and Simla tea parties, friendly elephants and handsome maharajahs.

The story of the Koh-i-Noor, a symbol of the sovereignty of India, taken from South Asia by force under the watch of a Scottish Governor General, raises not only important historical issues, but contemporary ones too, being in many ways a touchstone and lightning rod for attitudes towards colonialism and posing the question: what is the proper response to imperial looting?

Do we simply shrug it off as part of the rough-and-tumble of history or should we attempt to right the wrongs of the past? It is certainly something we all should think over carefully, not least given the importance of good relations with India, arguably among the most important trading partners that Scotland has in a post-Brexit world, in the coming Asian century.

Koh-i-Noor: The History Of The World’s Most Infamous Diamond by William Dalrymple and Anita Anand is published this week by Bloomsbury, £14.99

ITV News – Bradford Sikh Temple [Gurdwara] overwhelmed by Grenfell Tower donations

Bradford, 18 June 2017.

A Sikh Temple [Gurdwara] in Bradford says it is overwhelmed by the number of donations it has received following an appeal for the victims and survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire.

At least 58 people are now confirmed or presumed dead after the devastating fire last Wednesday.

The Guru Gobind Singh Gurdwara only started collecting on Thursday but has taken hundreds of bags of clothes and toiletries, as well as cash donations from the whole community.

The Hindu – One arrested after vehicle rams worshippers near London mosque

Van “intentionally” runs over people leaving night prayers for the holy month of Ramadan, according to head of Muslim Council of Britain

London, 19 June 2017.

One person has been arrested after a vehicle hit pedestrians in north London, injuring several people, police said on Monday. Muslim leaders said worshippers were mown down after leaving a mosque.

Police said in a statement that there were “a number of casualties”, and added that they were called to reports of “a vehicle in collision with pedestrians” at 00:20 am (4.50 am IST).

“We have been informed that a van has run over worshippers as they left Finsbury Park Mosque. Our prayers are with the victims,” the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), an umbrella body, said on Twitter.

Harun Khan, the head of the MCB, said the van had “intentionally” run over people leaving night prayers for the holy month of Ramadan.

An AFP reporter could see a helicopter and many emergency vehicles at the scene, which was closed off by a large police cordon.

Traffic was shut down on a section of Seven Sisters Road, where the incident happened.

“We saw lots of people shouting and lots of people injured,” David Robinson, 41, who arrived just after the accident, told AFP.

The London Ambulance Service said it had sent “a number of resources” to the scene.

The mosque is near Seven Sisters Road and was once a notorious hub for radical Islamists but has entirely changed under new management.

Its former imam Abu Hamza was jailed for life in New York on terrorism charges in 2015. He preached there from 1997 to 2003 before being jailed for inciting violence. He was later extradited to the United States.

In 2015, the mosque was one of around 20 that took part in an open day organised by the MCB to promote better understanding of Islam following Islamist-inspired attacks in Paris.

Despite the change in leadership and new focus on community relations, the mosque received a string of threatening emails and letters in the wake of the Paris attacks.

BBC News – Sikh community urged to face ‘taboo’ issue of addiction

Derby-Derbyshire-East Midlands-UK, 17 June 2017. Sikhs needs to start talking openly about addiction to tackle the problems of “shame” and “stigma”, a recovering alcoholic has said.

Jaz Rai, who runs the Sikh Recovery Network, said there was a growing problem with all kinds of addiction within his community and people were not getting the help they needed.

He said addiction was “condemned” in their faith.

Mr Rai is holding several events at Derby Gurdwara to help rid the “taboo”.

He said he wanted to help people “get out of the misery” he had suffered.

A study found alcohol-related hospital admissions in the Punjabi community had risen and it noted a loss of status was feared more than health issues.

Lakhwinder Chahal, who attends the same Gurdwara, said: “When I was growing up we had some family members who were alcoholic.

“It was so hard at times, when they didn’t know what they were doing… the whole family suffered because there was some violence as well.

“I know of so many people who have suffered because of alcohol, with domestic violence. The people get hurt, the children are scared.”

At one point Mr Rai was drinking a litre of vodka a day, which put his job at risk and saw him convicted of drink driving.


He quit when given an ultimatum by his wife to choose their family or alcohol.

Mr Rai said: “Drug and alcohol addiction is a problem in every community, but in the Sikh community it is taboo.

“There is a lot of stigma attached to it and addicts are quickly labelled and ostracised by our community.

“It’s condemned in our faith and in our holy scriptures.”

He added: “I am willing to do anything to get people out of that misery and give them the chance of having what I have.”

The weekend Derby programme will consist of talks, workshops and open sessions where people of any background or faith can discuss their issues.

The Hindu – How genetics is settling the Aryan migration debate

New DNA evidence is solving the most fought-over question in Indian history. And you will be surprised at how sure-footed the answer is.

Tony Joseph

June 16, 2017. The thorniest, most fought-over question in Indian history is slowly but surely getting answered: did Indo-European language speakers, who called themselves Aryans, stream into India sometime around 2,000 BC – 1,500 BC when the Indus Valley civilisation came to an end, bringing with them Sanskrit and a distinctive set of cultural practices?

Genetic research based on an avalanche of new DNA evidence is making scientists around the world converge on an unambiguous answer: yes, they did.

This may come as a surprise to many, and a shock to some, because the dominant narrative in recent years has been that genetics research had thoroughly disproved the Aryan migration theory.

This interpretation was always a bit of a stretch as anyone who read the nuanced scientific papers in the original knew. But now it has broken apart altogether under a flood of new data on Y-chromosomes (or chromosomes that are transmitted through the male parental line, from father to son).

Lines of descent

Until recently, only data on mtDNA (or matrilineal DNA, transmitted only from mother to daughter) were available and that seemed to suggest there was little external infusion into the Indian gene pool over the last 12,500 years or so.

New Y-DNA data has turned that conclusion upside down, with strong evidence of external infusion of genes into the Indian male lineage during the period in question.

The reason for the difference in mtDNA and Y-DNA data is obvious in hindsight: there was a strong sex bias in Bronze Age migrations. In other words, those who migrated were predominantly male and, therefore, those gene flows do not really show up in the mtDNA data.

On the other hand, they do show up in the Y-DNA data: specifically, about 17.5% of Indian male lineage has been found to belong to haplogroup R1a (haplogroups identify a single line of descent), which is today spread across Central Asia, Europe and South Asia.

The Pontic-Caspian Steppe is seen as the region from where R1a spread both west and east, splitting into different sub-branches along the way.

The paper that put all of the recent discoveries together into a tight and coherent history of migrations into India was published just three months ago in a peer-reviewed journal called ‘BMC Evolutionary Biology’.

In that paper, titled “A Genetic Chronology for the Indian Subcontinent Points to Heavily Sex-biased Dispersals”, 16 scientists led by Professor Martin P Richards of the University of Huddersfield, UK, concluded: “Genetic influx from Central Asia in the Bronze Age was strongly male-driven, consistent with the patriarchal, patrilocal and patrilineal social structure attributed to the inferred pastoralist early Indo-European society.

This was part of a much wider process of Indo-European expansion, with an ultimate source in the Pontic-Caspian region, which carried closely related Y-chromosome lineages… across a vast swathe of Eurasia between 5,000 and 3,500 years ago”.

In an email exchange, Professor Richards said the prevalence of R1a in India was “very powerful evidence for a substantial Bronze Age migration from central Asia that most likely brought Indo-European speakers to India.”

The robust conclusions of Professor Richards and his team rest on their own substantive research as well as a vast trove of new data and findings that have become available in recent years, through the work of genetic scientists around the world. – UK Sikhs continue relief efforts for London fire victims at Grenfell Tower

Sikh24 Editors

London-UK, 15 June 2017. Sikh volunteers, charities, businesses and Gurdwaras spent yesterday assisting the victims and families of the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in Kensington.

Volunteers from Sikh Welfare & Awareness Team (SWAT), Khalsa Aid, Midlands Langar Seva Society, United Sikhs, Punjab Restaurant Slough and Central Gurdwara Shepherds Bush and others took part in the relief efforts providing food, drink, clothing and utilities during the course of day.

It is believed the fire started on the fourth floor and spread quickly. Forty fire engines and more than 200 firefighters went to tackle the blaze.

The fire affected all floors of the building, from the second floor up. Firefighters worked with the gas authority to isolate a ruptured gas main in the block.

Once it was completed, they were able to extinguish the fire with the help of a 40 metre aerial appliance.

Seventeen people have died, according to police, with the number expected to rise.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said fire crews only managed to reach the 12th floor at the height of the fire.

The flats were home to between 400 and 600 people, community leaders said.

Smoke continued to rise from the shell of the tower on Thursday morning, more than a day after fire engulfed the building in the early hours and turned it into an inferno.

Firefighters rescued 65 people from the building.

More than £1 million has been raised to help those affected by the fire, while volunteers and charities helped feed and shelter people who could not return to their homes overnight.

A wall of condolence was put up near the scene, with photographs showing dozens of messages left for loved ones.

Outlook India – Far-Right protesters ‘abuse’ Sikh volunteers feeding homeless people in Manchester

London, 14 June 2017. Sikh volunteers providing meals for the homeless in Manchester were allegedly abused by far-right activists after getting caught in a demonstration against Sharia laws.

Members of the Sikh Sewa Organisation (SSO) said they had to flee from Piccadilly Gardens for “their own safety” after “EDL (English Defence League) members” became “abusive” towards them.

The SSO provide meals for the homeless every Sunday in the same spot but were forced to move on to Stevenson Square after thousands reportedly descended on the area in a protest against Sharia law, The Independent reported.

“As per every Sunday our team went to feed the homeless in Manchester. Sadly, our usual spot in Piccadilly Gardens was over run by the EDL mindless thugs and we had to scarper for our own safety, as they were becoming abusive to the volunteers. It became really scary for us,” the SSO wrote on its Facebook page.

“Our usual homeless crowd came to us saying they were starving so the volunteers decided to move to Stevenson Square. They continued there tirelessly serving food despite their own safety,” it said.

Eight people were arrested when demonstrators with UK Against Hate, headed by former EDL leader Tommy Robinson, clashed with counter-protesters.

Greater Manchester police advised residents to avoid the area after the protest turned “nasty”.

Manchester’s Mayor Andy Burnham said the “EDL-types” needed to take a “long hard look at themselves”.

Robinson refuted the claims that EDL was in attendance as “lies”.

He wrote on Facebook, “Looks like the police have joined the newspapers in their #fakenews propaganda.”

“This was not an EDL demo it was UK Against Hate demonstration against terrorism and hate being inflicted on our communities! The actions of the police yesterday and the disgraceful fake news reporting by the media since is a depressing example of the mess our once great country is in,” he said.

Network of Sikh Organisations – Sikhs in Parliament: Election victories for Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi and Preet Kaur Gill

The Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO) extends its heartiest congratulations to both Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi and Preet Kaur Gill for making political history by becoming the first turbaned Sikh and first Sikh woman respectively to enter the House of Commons.

Reflecting on their success, NSO Director Lord Singh said, “I’m looking forward in working with them both, we can do much together to add value to society if we remain true to Sikh principles”.

Network of Sikh Organisations
London, Wimbledon SW19
United Kingdom