– 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.”

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




The Guardian – British government ‘covered up’ its role in Amritsar massacre in India

This article is more than 2 years old and also appeared on my blog at that time

A Sikh group is demanding an inquiry into the SAS’s involvement in the storming of Harmandr Sahib [Golden Temple] in 1984

Jamie Doward

London – UK, 29 October 2017. The government has been accused of covering up the full extent of the UK’s support for India’s bloody crackdown on Sikhs in 1984.

A new report calls for a full inquiry into the role played by Margaret Thatcher’s government in the events leading up to a massacre in which hundreds, possibly thousands, of Sikhs and Indian soldiers died.

In 2014 David Cameron ordered a review after the accidental release of secret documents revealed that a British SAS officer had been drafted in to advise the Indian authorities on removing armed Sikh militants from Harmandr Sahib, Sikhism’s holiest shrine.

The documents said the plan, known as Operation Blue Star, was carried out with the full knowledge of the Thatcher government.

A report, Sacrificing Sikhs, published by the Sikh Federation UK, described Cameron’s review, conducted by Sir Jeremy Heywood, as a “whitewash”.

It claims that attempts to expose the full facts have been thwarted by government secrecy rules and conflicts of interest. More than half of the Foreign Office’s files on India from 1984 have been censored in whole or in part.

Some documents suggest the Foreign Office was aware of what was at stake when the Indian authorities approached the UK for help.

A week before the Golden Temple assault, Bruce Cleghorn, a diplomat, wrote that “it would be dangerous” for the UK government “to be identified” with “any attempt to storm Harmandr Sahib in Amritsar”. He was also named in correspondence discussing possible SAS assistance to India immediately after the massacre.

In 2015, Cleghorn became a Foreign Office “sensitivity reviewer” whose job involved censoring documents about the Amritsar massacre before they were released to the National Archives.

Sir John Ramsden, a member of the Advisory Council on National Records and Archives, which adjudicates on government censorship applications, was a member of the Foreign Office’s south Asia department in 1984.

Ramsden wrote a letter advocating further SAS assistance for India immediately after Operation Blue Star and also argued in favour of equipping India’s paramilitary forces.

The role of the SAS officer in the days before Operation Blue Star are shrouded in secrecy as are the full extent of the fatalities. The Indian government puts the figure at about 400. Sikh groups say it was in the thousands.

According to the Sikh Federation’s report, immediately after the SAS officer carried out his reconnaissance with an Indian special forces unit, the Sikhs pulled out of peace talks believing they had seen a commando unit move into the city.

The negotiations never recovered and eventually the Indian army stormed Harmandr Sahib in June 1984. Four months later, India’s prime minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by one of her Sikh bodyguards, prompting reprisals that led to the deaths of more than 3,000 Sikhs.

The report suggests the UK was keen to help India because the country was one of its biggest purchasers of military equipment between 1981 and 1990. It also claims that repressive measures against Sikhs were carried out in the UK to appease the Indian government and secure arms deals.

“The government needs to finally come clean about Thatcher’s role in the Amritsar massacre and India’s crackdown on Sikhs,” said the report’s author, Phil Miller.

“Whitehall censorship of historical files is like an old boys’ club that prevents the public from ever knowing how taxpayers’ money was spent. This culture of secrecy around Britain’s special forces and intelligence agencies is undemocratic and unsustainable.”

Bhai Amrik Singh, chair of the Sikh Federation (UK) said: “This report casts serious doubts on the adequacy and integrity of the in-house Heywood review commissioned by Cameron. There has been a massive cover-up and parliament and the public have been disturbingly misled. An independent public inquiry to get to the truth is the only way forward.”

My London News – The history making London Underground train guard from Southall who fought to wear his turban

“London Transport seem to be trying to starve me into submission”

By Qasim Peracha

London UK – 25 February 2020.One of London’s greatest strengths is its multiculturalism.

It is estimated that a third of Londoners were born outside the UK, while walking on the streets of London, you can hear around 200 languages being spoken.

This hasn’t just enriched the capital economically but also culturally and gastronomically, elevating its status as the best city ever.

But things have not always been easy for those who have come to call London their home. Balancing one’s faith, beliefs and practices with life in London may seem easy now but this is only thanks to the sacrifices and struggles of heroes before us.

One such hero was Southall man Amar Singh, who worked on the London Underground. Amar Singh, from India, started working as a train guard on board Central line trains in 1962.

At the time, he lived in Hambrough Road, just off Southall Broadway at a time the Ealing town was becoming known as “Little India”.

Train guards used to operate doors, patrol trains and could be called on in case the driver fell ill or could not continue his route. A clean-shaven Amar Singh wore his flat-peaked cap to work from the Acton depot for two years.

But when Amar decided he wanted to be more in touch with his religion, transport officials suspended him without pay.

Under the Sikh religion, cutting of the hair and beard is forbidden and men are encouraged to wear a turban, an incredibly strong symbol of spirituality and devotion.

While working as a train guard, Amar decided to grow out his hair and beard. During the swinging 60s in London, this was hardly a rarity but when Amar decided to swap his guard’s cap for a turban he was told not to come in to work.

Amar Singh smiling after the London Transport decision to allow him to return to work with his turban

His black turban was chosen to coordinate with the uniform and he took the London Transport badge from his cap and pinned it to the centre of his turban. But officials at London Transport, the predecessor to Transport for London, were unimpressed with the change in uniform and said Amar would have to wear the standard uniform.

For three weeks, Amar wore his new uniform with turban to work and every single day he was marked as being absent and turned away as the bosses would not change their mind or bend the rules. Across England, prayer meetings were held in Sikh communities for Amar to get his job back.

The story made the national and local newspapers at the time, bringing awareness of the issue to more communities than ever before.

He told the Mirror during the battle: “I wore a peaked cap for more than two years. I had my hair cut and I shaved like an Englishman.

“But I could not go on – my conscience was tormenting me. I decided to let my hair and beard grow again. “When my hair looked like a Beatle’s I put it in a turban. But at work I was told this was not allowed.”

He told a news agency he “was surprised at this religious discrimination”.

“London Transport seem to be trying to starve me into submission, because they haven’t sacked me and will not release me,” he added after losing £30 in wages. That is more than £500 in today’s money.

London Transport replied that “the case has been presented the wrong way around”. “We are not interested in religion or colour. Singh has worn his uniform for two years. We simply told him he cannot wear a turban on duty,” they added.

However just days later, the bosses acquiesced and said he would be allowed to wear the black turban as long as it bore the London Transport badge.

A spokesman even told the Mirror “we won’t be unsympathetic towards a request by him for the his pay for the time he has been absent”.

World Sikh Parliament to alert world leaders amid exposure of Indian intelligence operations

London – UK, 29 April 2020. The humiliating exposure this week of a long-running major Indian intelligence operation in Canada will embarrass India’s spy agencies but, according to leading Sikh organisations, this should serve as another reminder to countries across the world that host Sikh diaspora communities to beware such unscrupulous activities.

Bribing foreign government officials to toe the Indian government line, infiltrating Sikh organisations (including Gurdwara management committees), and using paid media organisations to put out propaganda has long been the modus operandi of agencies such as India’s Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) and Intelligence Bureau (IB), in their unrelenting effort to counter the Sikh struggle for self-determination.

Similar methods have been used to silence the Kashmiri freedom struggle. However, a number of high-profile cases have shone a spotlight on these activities and, now that the targeting of government officials has been proven, it is time the international community took action to protect their own governmental systems as well as Sikhs residing in the affected countries.

Canadian Newspaper “Global News” has published the article by journalist Steward Bell highlighting Federal immigration proceedings in which an Indian, who has admitted he was “asked by the IB and RAW to perform various functions”.

He allegedly met Indian intelligence more than 25 times over six years, most recently in May 2015, a month after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Canada.

A Canadian official wrote to him saying “You stated that you were asked by RAW to covertly influence Canadian government representatives and agencies on behalf of the Indian government”.

The letter continues “You stated that the guidance from RAW included that you were to provide financial assistance and propaganda material to politicians in order to exert influence over them”.

The article notes that India has long sought to pressure Ottawa over the activism of Sikhs in Canada in advocating independence for India’s Sikh minority.

It also points out that, whilst the Canadian government was not providing direct comment on that specific case, the Public Safety Minister Bill Blair’s office said the government was “concerned when any country shows destabilizing behavior, including interference in other countries’ democratic systems.”

In a separate case Canada also reportedly recently banned an Ottawa company, with strong Indian links, from work related to the military or national security.

Official documents show that that Canadian officials wrote to the company’s president saying: “This investigation has determined that since approximately 2000, you have had consistent contact with the Indian High Commission in Ottawa, including elements of the Indian government involved in information and intelligence collection activities in Canada”

These cases follow closely on the heels of the conviction of two Indians by a German court earlier this year for spying on Sikh and Kashmiri groups in return for substantial payments by RAW. Further details of that case were published by the BBC.

Swaranjit Singh Khalsa, Coordinator of UN-NGO Council of World Sikh Parliament said “I have myself seen many incidents of Indian agencies interfering in America’s democratic process.

He gave examples of emails sent by Indian organizations against the raising of the Sikh national flag, efforts by the Indian Consulate in New York calling library in Norwich, Connecticut to remove a Sikh Genocide Memorial, Indian government agents emailing senators not to pass Bill in Connecticut for recognition of “Sikh Genocide Remembrance Day” and their attempts to intervene in our Gurdwaras (Sikh place of worship).

Khalsa said “Due to the unacceptable and persistent interference in Sikh affairs by Indian officials, their entry (in an official capacity) in to Gurdwaras throughout the Diaspora has been banned.” That ban hit India’s underhand activities hard.

Ranjit Singh Srai, Coordinator of Sikh Self Determination Council of World Sikh Parliament, shared the Sikh experience in United Kingdom: “There have been decades of nefarious clandestine activity of this kind by Indian agencies and their paid stooges in the UK, but these recent official cases go beyond anecdotal significance.

Aside from the more recent Canadian and German cases, a 2018 Ofcom ruling in the UK showed how blatant propaganda, against those advocating Sikh independence, by a broadcaster with strong Indian connections broke UK broadcasting rules”.

Ranjit Singh adds: “The Indian lobby has been hard at work in the UK to interfere in the UK Sikh community’s determined campaign for separate recognition and monitoring of Sikhs here as an ethnic group, for the specific purposes of relevant UK law and practice, even though India as no conceivable legitimacy to do so.

Further, India has, especially since 2018, been actively putting pressure on UK authorities to ban Sikh protests outside the Indian High Commission in London, seemingly ignorant of the fact that the right to protest is a fundamental aspect of the democratic framework in this country”.

Sikh organisations worldwide have welcomed the exposure of such Indian interference in Sikh affairs and are following up by issuing advisories to governments requesting that they take effective measures to stamp out this unprincipled and unacceptable practice.

Issued By:
Manpreet Singh
Hardyal Singh
General secretaries World Sikh Parliament

The Telegraph – Indians among worst affected UK groups

Indian ethnicity made up the largest chunk under the ethnicity breakdown of data, at around 3% of overall death toll

London – UK, 24 April 2020. People of Indian origin in the UK have emerged as being among the worst affected minority groups in the coronavirus pandemic, according to a snapshot of official data on the Covid-19 deaths in hospitals across England.

Figures released this week by the National Health Service (NHS) show that out of the 13,918 patients who died in hospitals till April 17 after testing positive for the novel coronavirus, 16.2 per cent were of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) background, with the number of deaths under the category at 2,252.

Those identifying with Indian ethnicity made up the largest chunk under the ethnicity breakdown of data, at around 3 per cent of the overall death toll, adding up to 420 deaths.

This was followed by Caribbeans as the second-largest ethnic group affected in the Covid-19 death toll at 2.9 per cent (407 death), followed by Pakistanis at 2.1 per cent (287 deaths).

The data, only a limited snapshot of the UK-wide Covid-19 fatalities from the deadly virus, follows the British government’s announcement of a review into the coronavirus death toll disparity among the BAME population.

“We have seen, both across the population as a whole but in those who work in the NHS, a much higher proportion who’ve died from minority backgrounds and that really worries me,” said UK health secretary Matt Hancock while launching the review last week.

The proportion of deaths among BAME groups is much higher compared to their roughly 13 per cent make-up of the total population.

A further breakdown shows Covid-19 deaths among those identifying with white ethnicity at 73.6 per cent (10,244 deaths) and mixed ethnicity at 0.7 per cent (97 deaths).

Of the 16.2 per cent BAME figures, those of Bangladeshi ethnicity are at 0.6 per cent (89 deaths), any other Asian background 1.6 per cent (217 deaths), African 1.9 per cent (263 deaths), any other black background 0.9 per cent (131 deaths), Chinese 0.4 per cent (50 deaths) and any other ethnic group 2.8 per cent (388 deaths).

“The government must take every necessary step to address this devastating disparity and protect all sectors of the population equally and now,” said Dr Chaand Nagpaul, Council Chair of the British Medical Association (BMA), the doctors’ union lobbying for the review.

“It also means taking vital steps now to protect our BAME communities until we can develop a detailed understanding of the threats they face. This could include that those at greatest risk, including older and retired doctors, are not working in potentially infectious settings,” he said.

Meanwhile, an analysis of the Covid-19 death toll data for NHS workers, which stands at 69, also reveals a higher proportion of BAME casualties, including the death of Dr Manjeet Singh Riyat, the UK’s first Sikh emergency medicine consultant, this week.

The British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO) recently announced a new academic tie-up with the Imperial College London to set up a research forum to delve deeper into this disparity within the medical profession in the UK.

“This research has the potential to give data required to delineate vulnerable groups in the pandemic and give clear advice on how to reduce the impact on the BAME population,” BAPIO president Dr Ramesh Mehta said.

The new study also aims at establishing a new research database as a national resource for the scientific communities to support other studies to improve the future wellbeing of NHS staff.

Sikh Federation – Labour leader hosts roundtable of experts on why BAME communities have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19

London – UK – 24 April 2020. The Labour Leader, Keir Starmer along with the Deputy Leader, Angela Rayner, the Shadow Secretary of State at the Cabinet Office, Rachel Reeves, the Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, Marsha De Cordova and Baroness Doreen Lawrence this morning hosted a virtual roundtable discussion of experts on why BAME communities have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19 and what measures need to be put in place.

Dabinderjit Singh OBE, the principal adviser to the Sikh Federation (UK) and Jaswinder Singh, a Board Member of the Sikh Network represented the Sikh community.

Others taking part were senior figures from the British Medical Association, Runneymede Trust, Operation Black Vote, Muslim Council of Britain, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and various other specialists and experts.

The Sikh Network disclosed the latest data they have been collecting from funeral directors that shows in the last three weeks over 60% of all Sikh deaths are linked to Covid-19. A week earlier the figure was just under 50%. This is around twice the national average.

An image showing some of the Sikh victims of Covid-19, including two NHS workers was released coinciding with the roundtable meeting.

The Sikh representatives explained one of the reasons why elders in the Sikh community have been affected is in part due to known underlying health conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease.

They also suggested the extended family system with several generations living under the same roof would have presented a challenge in terms of effective isolation.

Sikh representatives however totally dismissed the suggestion by some in the medical profession that deprivation rather than ethnicity is a more important factor.

They categorically stated based on their first-hand knowledge of those from the Sikh community who have sadly lost their lives to Covid-19 that deprivation is clearly not relevant for the hard working and affluent Sikh community.

Deprivation can also almost certainly be dismissed by the Jewish community. The Jewish community is around 40% smaller than the Sikh community but has seen nearly 350 deaths related to Covid-19. Sikhs are an ethnic minority and constitute around 1% of the UK population.

The Sikh representatives told those gathered that the rest is pure speculation. However, they are strongly of the view that lives of those most vulnerable could have been saved if the government had acted more quickly and decisively to protect those most vulnerable.

If specific advice and guidance had been provided on a timely basis to the most vulnerable so they had gone into isolation much earlier, the risk of exposure to Covid-19 would have been significantly reduced saving thousands of lives.

In terms of what measures need to be put in place the key concern Sikh representatives raised was the total lack of data on Sikhs although they are a legally recognised ethnic group and a religion. This includes data from the health sector and reported by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) from the registration of deaths.

They stated the Covid-19 crisis has exposed a massive problem in that public bodies are systematically failing to meet statutory obligations arising from equalities legislation.

To make matters worse they have been unwilling to recognise and record the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on ethnic minorities that was in front of their eyes. It is only the stark impact on BAME NHS and social care workers that has forced them to look at this issue.

Public bodies must not only collect relevant data, but in this pandemic, they should have been duty bound to identify those at most risk and should have taken timely decisions to safeguard those most vulnerable.

Harnek Singh
National Press Secretary
Sikh Federation (UK)

Daily Telegraph – Why are so many black and ethnic minority people dying from corona-virus?

Gabriella Swerling, Social and Religious Affairs Editor

London – UK, 21 April 2020. A review into why people from ethnic minorities are “disturbingly” and disproportionately affected by corona-virus has been launched by the Government.

The inquiry comes after weeks of pressure on ministers to launch an investigation into the issue. 50 BAME front-line health staff have now died of coronavirus.

Downing Street confirmed the NHS and Public Health England will lead the review of evidence concerning the impact on people black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds.

How many BAME people have died?

Despite only accounting for 13 per cent of the population in England and Wales, 44 per cent of all NHS doctors and 24 per cent of nurses are from a BAME background. Of the 82 front-line health and social care workers in England and Wales that have died because of Covid-19, 61 per cent of them were black or from an ethnic minority.

Among them was Abdul Mabud Chowdhury, a 53-year-old consultant who warned the Prime Minister about the need for more personal protective equipment (PPE) to support NHS staff during the pandemic. In a Facebook post last month, he warned Boris Johnson to “ensure urgently personal protective equipment for each and every NHS worker”.

Mr Chowdhury, who worked as a consultant urologist at Homerton Hospital in east London, said in his post: “People appreciate us and salute us for our rewarding job which are very inspirational but I would like to say we have to protect ourselves and our families/kids in this global disaster/crisis by using appropriate PPE and remedies.”

Manjeet Singh Riyat, who was the United Kingdom’s first Sikh A&E consultant, died on 20 April. Mr Riyat was described as “instrumental” in building emergency services in Derbyshire over the last two decades, and was widely respected across the NHS.

Bhai Amrik Singh, the Chair of the Sikh Federation (UK) said: “Manjeet had spent most of his life helping others as an A&E consultant, from treating the sick to training junior doctors. Something very much in line with his faith principles of being a devout Sikh.”

“This is a true tragedy, as another frontline NHS worker falls victim to this deadly virus. His death comes as a huge loss to the Derby & Burton hospital, wider NHS family and to the whole Sikh community.”

“The limited data available and images of those who have passed away suggests Covid-19 is disproportionally impacting on Sikhs and wider BAME communities.”

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, British Medical Association (BMA) council chair, welcomed the review into BAME deaths, but stressed it must be informed by real-time data to understand why the virus appears to be disproportionately affecting BAME communities and healthcare workers.

“This must include daily updates on ethnicity, circumstance and all protected characteristics of all patients in hospital as well as levels of illness in the community which is not currently recorded,” Dr Nagpaul said.

“The government must send a directive to every hospital telling them to record the ethnicity of patients who are admitted and succumb to COVID immediately.”

Why are there more BAME corona-virus patients?

Black, Asian and minority ethnic patients are shown by new data to face a disproportionately high risk of death from corona-virus. Of the 13,918 victims who tested positive in hospital up to 17 April, 16.2 per cent of these were of BAME background. BAME communities make up around 13 per cent of the total population.

Last week, data on patients with confirmed Covid-19 from the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre (ICNARC) also suggested ethnic minorities are over-represented compared with the general population.

Around 7.5 per cent of the population were Asian and 3.3 per cent black in the 2011 UK census.

The first 10 doctors named as having died from Covid-19 in the UK were from BAME communities, a figure that the Labour Party described as “deeply disturbing”.

Some analysts have suggested that the burden of corona-virus falls on poorer communities, in which BAME people are over-represented.

Are BAME communities more vulnerable?

Marsha de Cordova, the shadow equalities secretary, called for the Government to “urgently investigate why BAME communities are more vulnerable to this virus”.

Her call came after the chairman of the BMA, Dr Nagpaul, said it could not be random that the first 10 doctors named as having died from the virus were all from BAME communities.

Those doctors have ancestry in regions including Asia, the Middle East and Africa. However, the BMA chair said that even allowing for the over-representation of BAME staff in the NHS the fact that they were all from ethnic minorities was “extremely disturbing and worrying”.

England’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, said it was critical to find out which groups are most at risk. He said it remains unclear why some ethnic groups appear to be more vulnerable. “I’ve had discussions with scientists about this in terms of trying to tease this apart today,” he said.

What about BAME patients outside of the UK?

It is not just in the UK that the number of BAME people affected by corona-virus has caused alarm.

In the United States there has been growing concern over the rising number of corona-virus deaths among African-American communities.

The latest data suggests that people who are black or Hispanic in the US are twice as likely to die from Covid-19.

In states reporting fatalities by race, 34 per cent of American victims were black, according to research from John Hopkins University, and black Americans also represent 33 per cent of corona-virus hospital admissions. – The ethnic cleansing of Afghan Sikhs

ISIS’s bombing of a gurdwara is the final straw for a minority long persecuted by Islamists.

Hardeep Singh

London – UK, 20 April 2020. We are living through a global crisis, a silent killer that does not discriminate against colour, background or belief. Meanwhile, another a killer that discriminates with glee has seized the global pandemic as an opportunity to commit murder and incite mayhem.

While some ISIS commanders have issued warnings to their fighters to avoid Europe due to corona-virus, others absurdly suggest that carrying out jihad will give them immunity to Covid-19.

Even amid the pandemic, ISIS’s primary purpose of killing infidels continues unabated around the world. Sikhs worldwide are coming to terms with the cold-blooded murder of 25 worshippers, including a child, in a gurdwara in Kabul, Afghanistan on 25 March.

Even in death, ISIS has shown no mercy. The day after the killings, terrorists set off a bomb at the cremation site. Sikhs in Afghanistan are hiding in their homes in fear of another imminent attack.

The Islamist persecution of Sikhs is sadly nothing new. It even made its mark on Europe when, in 2016, ISIS-influenced teenagers bombed a Sikh gurdwara in Essen, Germany.

No minority is spared from ISIS, and sectarianism is rife in Afghanistan. For instance, on 6 March an ISIS gunman attacked a gathering of minority Shiite Muslims in Kabul, killing 32. But what is happening to Sikhs is nothing short of ethnic cleansing.

Sikhs had flourished for centuries in Afghanistan and were known for their contributions to the country’s textile, pharmaceutical and banking sectors.

Though exact numbers are hard to find, a recent UK Home Office report estimates that, prior to 1992, there might have been as many as 220,000 Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan (though another account puts that number as low as 50,000).

Since then, a significant number have left. According to the BBC, around a hundred Sikh families remain.

Sikhs and Hindus have both historically faced harassment for cremating their dead, a practice frowned upon in Islam. Under Taliban rule, between 1996 and 2001, Sikhs were forced to wear yellow patches to identify themselves in public. They and other non-Muslims were forced to pay a special tax, called jizya.

The dehumanisation of the kaffir has outlasted the Taliban’s rule and it extends to everyday life. Afghan Sikhs face prejudice in the labour market. Women are often forced to wear burqas. Hospitals deny blood to Sikhs as they are told that Muslims can’t give blood to infidels.

Security has had to be beefed up to guard Sikh children in a school in Kabul. There are around 65 gurdwaras in Afghanistan, though most of them are in derelict condition, some have been turned into rubble by rocket attacks.

Last month’s gurdwara bombing was the final straw. Many of the few remaining Sikhs in Afghanistan have made clear to the Sikh diaspora that they want to get out. Canadian Sikhs have led the way in helping.

The Manmeet Singh Bhullar Foundation managed to relocate 20 Afghan Sikh families to Canada last year. The foundation has also helped 65 families relocate to India.

Some Sikh politicians in the West are raising the alarm. Labour MP for Slough, Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, raised the attack in parliament, though he declined to mention its Islamist motivations (despite it being crystal clear to both the terrorists and their victims).

Canadian politicians such as defence minister Harjit Singh Sajjan and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh have also condemned the attack.

Lord Singh, director of the Network of Sikh Organisations (the charity I represent), has long called on the British government to intervene with diplomatic efforts and by granting asylum rights to persecuted Sikhs.

However, there is growing disquiet in some sections of the British Sikh community over the limited response from prominent politicians, religious figures and commentators in the West.

Many of those who rightly condemned the appalling New Zealand mosque massacre and the devastating Sri Lankan Easter church bombings have allowed the killing of Sikhs in the Kabul gurdwara to fall off the radar.

There was a similar silence in response to the 2018 suicide bombings in Jalalabad, which killed 19 people, including the only Sikh candidate running in that year’s Afghan elections.

In response to Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi’s question concerning asylum rights for victims in the wake of last week’s attack, Conservative minister Jesse Norman admitted that he was ‘not aware of the attack’ at all.

‘I am afraid I have been focusing on our response to the corona-virus’, he said, ‘but of course I share [Dhesi’s] concern and send our deep sympathy and condolences to the families of those involved’. At least he was honest.

Canadian poet Rupi Kaur recently expressed her frustration at the West’s indifference by tweeting: ‘Nobody is going to speak for us. We need to gather. We need to organize. We need to get to work for our Sikh community.’

It is tragic that a community which prides itself in helping others in deed and not just word, in living by the teaching of sarbat da bhala (goodness for the whole of humanity), feels so alone in the West right now.

I do hope Rupi Kaur is wrong, and that others do start speaking up for Sikhs. After all, it is at times like this that you realise who your friends really are: those who stand with you shoulder-to-shoulder in your darkest hour. And right now, Sikhs need friends more than ever before.

Regrettably, it is also true that today, we bear witness to the final days of a minority community which has resided in Afghanistan for centuries. This time will be remembered for years to come as a dark chapter in Sikh history. And the rest of the world will be remembered for how we respond to the brutal slaughter of innocent people by murderous fanatics.

Hardeep Singh is a writer based in London – UK.
Follow him on Twitter: @singhtwo2