The News – Sajid Javid refuses to criticise Boris Johnson for attacking Muslim women

Murtaza Ali Shah

Sajid Javid refuses to criticise Boris Johnson for attacking Muslim women

London – UK, 27 November 2019. British government’s Chancellor Sajid Javid has refused to criticise Prime Minister Boris Johnson for his use of Islamophobic language to describe Muslim women.

Speaking on the campaign trail, British-Pakistani Javid struggled to explain Boris Johnson’s use of words like “letterboxes” and “bank robbers” to describe Muslim women wearing a veil. Johnson described Muslim women in derogative manner a column for The Telegraph newspaper last year.

It follows criticism of the Conservatives by the Muslim Council of Britain, which accused the party of “denial, dismissal and deceit” with regards to Islamophobia on the day that the UK’s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis warned Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to tackle anti-Semitism made him unfit to be prime minister.

Speaking to reporters, Mr Javid said the Prime Minister had “explained why he’s used that language” adding the article “was to defend the rights of women, whether Muslim women and others to wear what they like, so he’s explained that and I think he’s given a perfectly valid explanation”.

He added: “Whenever this issue has come about (for) the Conservative Party, no-one has ever credibly suggested that it’s an issue with the leadership of the party, whether that’s the leader of the party of the day or the chancellor or other senior figures, no-one’s suggested that.”

Later, Boris Johnson dismissed criticism by the Muslim Council of Britain of the Conservative Party’s handling of Islamophobia within its ranks.

The Prime Minister told reporters that he did not agree with the claim that his party had approached Islamophobia with “denial, dismissal and deceit”.

He added: “What we do in the Tory Party is when anybody is guilty of any kind of prejudice or discrimination against another group then they’re out first bounce,” he said.

Mr Johnson said his party would hold an inquiry into “all forms of prejudice” starting before the end of the year, despite having previously pledged to hold one specifically on Islamophobia.

In Tuesday’s edition of The Times, Rabbi Mirvis said Labour’s handling of the issue, which has dogged the party under Mr Corbyn’s leadership, was “incompatible” with British values.

Responding, the Labour leader insisted anti-Jewish racism was “vile and wrong” and that the party had a “rapid and effective system” for dealing with complaints.

Mr Corbyn called on the Conservatives to “address the issues of Islamophobia that appear to be a problem within their party”.

In response to the Chief Rabbi’s comments, a spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain said: “As a faith community, we commonly are threatened by Islamophobia. This is an issue that is particularly acute in the Conservative Party, who have approached Islamophobia with denial, dismissal and deceit.

“It is abundantly clear to many Muslims that the Conservative Party tolerate Islamophobia, allow it to fester in society and fail to put in place the measures necessary to root out this type of racism. It is as if the Conservative Party has a blind spot for this type of racism.”

Here is the relevant section of Mr Johnson’s Telegraph column.

“If you tell me that the burka is oppressive, then I am with you. If you say that it is weird and bullying to expect women to cover their faces, then I totally agree, and I would add that I can find no scriptural authority for the practice in the Koran.

I would go further and say that it is absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes; and I thoroughly dislike any attempt by any, invariably male, government to encourage such demonstrations of “modesty”, notably the extraordinary exhortations of President Ramzan Kadyrov of Chechnya, who has told the men of his country to splat their women with paintballs if they fail to cover their heads.

“If a constituent came to my MP’s surgery with her face obscured, I should feel fully entitled, like Jack Straw, to ask her to remove it so that I could talk to her properly. If a female student turned up at school or at a university lecture looking like a bank robber then ditto: those in authority should be allowed to converse openly with those that they are being asked to instruct.

As for individual businesses or branches of government, they should of course be able to enforce a dress code that enables their employees to interact with customers; and that means human beings must be able to see each other’s faces and read their expressions. It’s how we work.

“All that seems to me to be sensible. But such restrictions are not quite the same as telling a free-born adult woman what she may or may not wear, in a public place, when she is simply minding her own business.”

Remember how Tamanjit Singh, MP for Slough, attacked Boris Johnson for the same reason
Man in Blue

Sikh Federation UK – Sikh Manifesto 2020-2025 gives notice to political parties and to those wanting to be elected as MPs

London – UK,  21 November 2019. “Millions of Sikhs across the world have in the last few weeks marked Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s 550th Parkash, the birth anniversary of the founder and first Sikh Guru.

He rejected all forms of discrimination and exploitation under any pretext and founded a new egalitarian social order. Equality for women, rejection of the caste system, respect for diversity while seeing God in all.”

These are the opening words of the Sikh Manifesto 2020-2025 that has been developed by Sikh activists while living out what Guru Nanak Dev Ji taught us about achieving a fair, just and thriving society for all.

The Sikh Manifesto sets out critical issues raised by members of the British Sikh community that will help raise awareness with political parties and those hoping to be elected as MPs on 12 December 2019.

It is an invaluable reference document that will be used not only in the next few weeks, but over the next five years to monitor progress and judge the performance of MPs and the next UK Government.

The Sikh Manifesto is about empowering the UK Sikh community to engage with the UK political system.

The Sikh Network will continue to monitor progress against the Sikh Manifesto over the next five years and discuss and agree changes in strategy and approach to help deliver against the issues set out.

The Sikh Federation (UK) will lead on lobbying and engagement with the mainstream media and government on many of these issues. The Sikh Manifesto will test the commitment of the main political parties and individual politicians to the British Sikh community.

The ten-point Sikh Manifesto is unlike the manifestos of the political parties. All Sikh organisations can relate to all or part of the Sikh Manifesto as a briefing document. It is based on the widest possible consensus and collates the most important areas in which challenges remain for British Sikhs and where progress is required.

The first Sikh Manifesto 2015-2020 was widely viewed as a crucial development reflecting the political maturity of British Sikhs.

This second Sikh Manifesto demonstrates a broadening of our reach, in terms of the influencing and lobbying of those in power and a deepening of our roots, in terms of coverage of the grassroot issues of importance to Sikhs.

Much progress has been achieved since the publication of the first Sikh Manifesto. The manifesto reflects issues of importance to the Sikh community that politicians need to understand and act upon.

Three new sections have been introduced in the refreshed Sikh Manifesto – Sections 4, 6 and 7 that expose hate crime, discrimination and human rights violations. Seven of the ten sections in the first Sikh Manifesto have been refreshed to reflect developments in the last five years and continue to be priorities to achieve or work towards.

Individual Sikhs, Gurdwara management committees and Sikh organisation representatives are encouraged to read and understand the Sikh Manifesto. The aim should be to discuss each of the sections directly with their Prospective Parliamentary Candidates (PPCs) from each of the main political parties.

PPCs are being asked to confirm in writing, public statements and video messages on social media their commitment to support the Sikh Manifesto in general and specific sections if they wish to secure Sikh votes. This will allow progress to be discussed and tracked with those elected as MPs.

The Electoral Commission has highlighted that Sikhs participate in the British voting process more than most other communities.

However, to make the Sikh vote count Sikh voters are being encouraged to bear in mind the prior commitment of the party or the candidate to the issues and concerns raised by the Sikh community through the Sikh Manifesto.

150 constituencies that have 1,000 or more Sikh constituents have been pinpointed. Those elected in these constituencies are expected to ensure all issues important to the British Sikh community, as set out in this Sikh Manifesto, are raised and acted upon.

A balanced scorecard has been developed and will be used to objectively judge the performance of MPs elected in each of these constituencies.

Harnek Singh
National Press Secretary
Sikh Federation (UK)

Jas Singh
The Sikh Network Press Office

Posted by: sikh federation <>

Sikh Federation – Sikhs mark 550th Guru Nanak Dev Ji gurpurb event in City Hall

London – UK, 20 November 2019. The 550th Gurpurb, birth anniversary, of the founder of the Sikh faith, Guru Nanak Dev Ji was marked with great accolade at City Hall overlooking the spectacular London skyline during the evening of Tuesday 19th November 2019.

The event was co-hosted by the Sikh Network, Sikh Federation (UK) and Dr Onkar Sahota, member of the London Assembly in close collaboration with the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. It was sponsored by Bond Wolfe Charitable Trust, Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara, Southall and London’s Punjab Restaurant.

The event celebrated the life and teachings of Guru Nanak Dev Ji focusing on his universal message of wellbeing “Sarbat da Bhalaa”, as well as providing some much-deserved recognition for individuals who have carried out great work on behalf of the Sikh community.

Opening and welcome speeches were delivered by a distinguished panel of speakers including Preet Kaur Gill, whom Sadiq Khan described as a true role model to many Sikh and non Sikh women.

Preet was followed by the host for the evening Dr Onkar Sahota, who gave the floor to Deputy Mayor, Debbie Weekes-Bernard. In introducing Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, Debbie congratulated the diverse audience congregated within the City Hall, Living Room on the Gurpurb of Guru Nanak Dev Ji.

Sadiq Khan acknowledged the diversity of the audience gathered by saying it was the most diverse audience he had ever seen in his time at City Hall. He highlighted the great achievements and contributions of Sikhs in the UK and expressed admiration for the Sikh community that truly embodied the teachings of their Gurus, striving for equality, acceptance and oneness.

Satpal Singh, founder of Nanak Naam, keynote speaker for the evening implored the audience to dig deep inside themselves to question the true meaning of oneness, of equality, of Sikh politics, unearthing popular, calming and peaceful depictions of Guru Nanak Dev Ji and shining light on the actual struggle Guru Ji faced in his lifetime whilst working to spread the message of Sikhi.

Satpal Singh’s connection with the audience was clear from the awe-struck silence within the packed room.

Jas Singh, founding member of the Sikh Network and co-author of the Sikh Manifesto and UK Sikh Survey encouraged audience members to come forward to become ‘activists’ and adopt Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s teachings shared by Satpal Singh.

“Sikhi is not a spectator sport,” he cited and urged Sikhs to pursue the truth and engage on issues important to the community, issues clearly outlined in the Sikh Manifesto 2020-2025.

Jas Singh was followed by beautiful kirtan (Sikh hymns) by international devotional singer, songwriter and philanthropist, Manika Kaur accompanied by leading, global violinist Jyotsna, Giuliano on guitar and Gurdain on tabla. The atmosphere created brought goosebumps to the entranced audience.

Canon Mark Poulson, Canon for inter-faith relations at St Paul’s Cathedral and for the Diocese of London spoke eloquently on the role of Sikhs as a bridge between societies and the need for their true values to shine through particularly now, at a time of social unrest and changing political climate.

Dabinderjit Singh, OBE, long serving director at the National Audit Office and principal adviser to the Sikh Federation (UK), emphasised the evening was about celebration, inspiration and recognition, but this year it was also about appreciation.

He highlighted the importance of Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s message that those who choose the Guru’s Path should not listen to what others say and never flinch from performing righteous deeds. He revealed to guests the specially commissioned 550th Guru Nanak Dev Ji Parkash Gurpurb gold coin that everyone was given to take away and treasure.

Also tucked in their goodie bags was a donation pledge card to allow guests to show their appreciation for the Kartarpur Sahib Yatra Committee who are undertaking a significant accommodation building project to provide UK pilgrims with first class facilities.

Guests were also given a glimpse of the Sikh Manifesto 2020-2025 that will be formally launched at Guru Nanak Gurdwara, Smethwick on Saturday 23 November and in Glasgow on Sunday 24 November.

In line with previous events, a small award ceremony was held to provide recognition to various individuals and organisations who have gone above and beyond in the last year in their work for the Sikh community. The following were awarded for their contribution in their own fields of work.

– Contribution to Politics – Martin Docherty-Hughes

– Contribution to Sports – Kirenjit Kaur Bains, Powerlifter

– Contribution to Education – Munsimar Kaur

– Contribution to Business – Paul Bassi CBE

– Contribution to Media – KTV

– Contributions in Charity Selfless Seva – Khalsa Aid, Ravi Singh

– Contribution to Human rights – Redress

– Recognised Organisation – Tribute 1984

– Recognised International Contribution – Jaskaran Kaur, Ensaaf

– Recognised Lifetime achievement – PM Imran Khan

Sahibzada Jahangir, spokesman for Prime Minister of Pakistan for Trade & Investment in UK & Europe, graciously received the Lifetime achievement award on behalf of Imran Khan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan.

He suggested the Kartarpur Corridor reinforced the idea of Sikhs as a bridge between cultures and countries. He went on to express how honoured the PM would be to receive this recognition and how keen he was to support Sikhs visiting Pakistan.

The event concluded with remarks from two of the event’s Sponsors, Harmeet Singh, youngest ever General Secretary of the most iconic Gurdwaras in London, Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Southall, and Amarpal Singh, owner of Punjab Restaurant.

Manchandan Kaur from the Sikh Network commented on the event:

“This truly was a remarkable event; the best turnout we have had in the five years we have held this event. The move from Parliament to City Hall to mark the 550th anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s Gurpurb was positively received by our esteemed guests.

It is our hope that each of our guests left the evening with a glimmer of Guru Ji’s message inside them. The universal message of wellbeing “Sarbat da Bhalaa”. Guru Nanak Dev Ji explained the importance of equality of all human beings, regardless of gender, birth or creed.

He stressed the need for social responsibility and an active concern for others. We are blessed today to have an incredible array of male and female Sikh role models to inspire us too, many of whom joined us to mark this once in a lifetime occasion.”

The event was recorded by KTV (Sky770) and will be broadcast in the coming days via TV and social media pages. Once again, the Sikh Network and Sikh Federation (UK) would like to thank everyone who supported this remarkable event the sponsors and media partners.

The Sikh Network
Press Office

Sikh Federation (UK)
Harnek Singh – National Press Secretary
Posted by: Sikh Federation <>

The Hindustan Times – Will apologise for Jallianwala Bagh massacre if voted to power: Labour Party’s manifesto

Labour party’s manifesto promises that besides the apology, the party’s government would hold a ‘public review’ into “Britain’s role in the Amritsar massacre”, referring to Operation Bluestar in Amritsar.

Prasun Sonwalkar

London – UK, 21 November 2019. The Labour Party has promised to tender a ‘formal apology’ on behalf of the British government for the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre, and hold a ‘public review’ into the UK’s role in the 1984 Operation Bluestar if it is voted to power in the December 12 elections.

Releasing the party’s manifesto on Thursday, party leader Jeremy Corbyn set out an ambitious plan to shake-up the status quo that, according to him, benefits the rich and wealthy, and bring about real change for the common people.

In the centenary year of the massacre, the British government confined itself to expressing ‘deep regret’, despite facing many calls for a formal apology, but senior functionaries have since insisted that the issue is ‘work in progress’ and may well happen before the year ends.

The manifesto promises that besides the apology, the party’s government would hold a ‘public review’ into “Britain’s role in the Amritsar massacre”, referring to Operation Bluestar in Amritsar. In the 2017 manifesto, it had promised an ‘independent inquiry’ into the role.

The issue blew up in 2014 when declassified files suggested that the Margaret Thatcher government provided advice to the Indira Gandhi government before the operation. A section of the Sikh community in the UK has since been demanding an independent inquiry into Britain’s role.

The 107-page manifesto alleged that the Conservative party had failed to play a constructive role in resolving what it called “the world’s most pressing humanitarian crises, including Kashmir”. However, the manifesto did not elaborate on its perspective on Kashmir.

An emergency resolution passed at Labour’s annual conference in September had called for international intervention in Kashmir, which riled New Delhi and the increasingly assertive 1.5 million-strong Indian community in the UK.

The party has since faced a backlash from the community, with sections campaigning in social networks against voting for Labour, which has long been the natural party of preference for the community, but has been haemorrhaging support to the Conservatives in recent elections.

The British Indian vote is estimated to be significant in 15 constituencies in which Asians, including Indians, constitute over 40 per cent of the population, 46 constituencies in which they constitute over 20 per cent, and 122 constituencies where they number over 10%.

The manifesto also promised a full apology to black and Asian soldiers who fought in Britain’s colonial armies and explore ways to compensate them for the discriminatory demobilisation payments they received compared to their white counterparts serving at the same rank in the same regiments.

The manifesto adds: “We will work through the UN and the Commonwealth to insist on the protection of human rights for Sri Lanka’s minority Tamil and Muslim populations…Internationalism is at the core of the Labour movement. We recognise our responsibility to confront injustices we see today and to correct the injustices of the past”.

The Belfast Telegraph – Prince Charles praises contribution of Sikhs to life in UK

The Prince of Wales will visit a Sikh temple [Gurdwara] in New Delhi. He praised the contribution Sikhs have made to life in the UK on the eve of a two-day visit to India.

Tony Jones, PA Court Correspondent

London – UK, 12 November 2019. Charles will commemorate the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, when he visits a major temple [Gurdwara] in the capital New Delhi on Wednesday.

His comments are likely to be interpreted as further evidence of his reported desire to take the title defender of faith, rather than “the faith” when he becomes king, to reflect multi-cultural Britain.

In a message to Britain’s Sikh community, and others in the Commonwealth, to mark the 550th anniversary of the birth of the religion’s founder, Charles said: “The principles on which Guru Nanak founded the Sikh religion, and which guide your lives to this day, are ones which can inspire us all, hard work, fairness, respect and selfless service to others.”

Charles added in the message, posted on his official Twitter account: “In embodying these values, Sikhs have made the most profound contribution to the life of this country, and continue to do so.

“This week, as Sikhs everywhere honour the founder of your faith, my wife and I wanted you to know just how much your community is valued and admired by us all, and that our thoughts are with you at this very special time.”

In the UK the prince has visited the places of worship of many faiths and religions, from Hinduism and Judaism to Orthodox Christians and Middle East Catholics, and regularly holds interfaith dialogue events when on official overseas trips.

He recently attended the canonisation of Saint John Henry Newman, the 19th century Catholic cardinal, at the Vatican, where he met Pope Francis before the ceremony.

Charles has a busy schedule in the Indian capital on Wednesday and will sit down for bilateral talks with India’s President Ram Nath Kovind.

The British High Commission in New Delhi said Charles’ 10th official visit to the country would “celebrate enduring British-Indian ties, with a focus on shared global challenges such as sustainability and climate change”.

Charles will also take part in a discussion on how to strengthen disaster resilience and tackle the effects of climate change at the Indian Meteorological Department.

He will later attend a military service to commemorate the sacrifices of soldiers from India, the UK and across the Commonwealth in the two World Wars.

British High Commissioner to India, Sir Dominic Asquith, said about the prince: “His many visits to India and his enduring interest in promoting our common interests is another example of the living bridge between the United Kingdom and India.

“His Royal Highness will witness how India makes use of innovation to respond to natural disasters and how its clean technology is helping deal with the challenges of climate change.

“He will celebrate our strong cultural links and experience the warm hospitality that diverse religious communities in India have to offer.”

During the day Charles will also present a Commonwealth Points of Light award to an Indian woman for her exemplary contribution to the field of social development.

The prince will celebrate his 71st birthday on Thursday, and will be in Mumbai for a meeting about sustainability.

From Sunday, Charles will begin a tour of the South Pacific, lasting more than a week, and will spend the majority of his time in New Zealand with wife Camilla before making solo trips to the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.

The Asian Image – Sikh Federation (UK) granted permission for judicial review hearing on census ethnic tick box option

London – UK, 11 September 2019. A High Court judge has granted permission to the Sikh Federation (UK) for a judicial review hearing to decide whether the decision not to include a Sikh ethnic tick box option for Census 2021 was unlawful

A High Court judge had considered the written submissions by the Sikh Federation (UK) and the counter arguments of the Cabinet Office and has granted permission for a judicial review hearing.

Bhai Amrik Singh, the Chair of the Sikh Federation (UK) said, “This decision by Mrs Justice Thornton sends a clear message to the Cabinet Office that our claim has legal merit.”

“Obtaining permission to proceed and a hearing date should focus the mind of those at the Cabinet Office on the need to intervene.”

“The Cabinet Office must now review the evidence available surrounding the decision-making process, including the new evidence we uncovered in the 6-month period between the White Paper and launching the legal challenge.”

“The Cabinet Office will also want to look at how the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has retrospectively tried to justify its decision by raising certain matters and arguments in the legal exchanges that were non-existent in the 5-year period leading up to the Census White Paper proposals.”

“We are extremely confident our claim will succeed in court and it would be better all round for the Cabinet Office to concede on the need for a Sikh ethnic tick box in the Census 2021.”

The organisation had argued that it would be unlawful to exclude a Sikh ethnic group tick box from the 2021 Census, on the basis of the reasoning in the White Paper, which is procedurally flawed.

Rosa Curling, of Leigh Day solicitors said, “Our clients are delighted the court has confirmed their legal challenge needs to be considered. The allocation of public funds is determined, in part, by census information. Our clients believe their community has been unfairly neglected as a result.

Ensuring a Sikh ethnic tick box is included in the next census is crucial to addressing this ongoing discrimination.”

Preet Kaur Gill MP, the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for British Sikhs reacting to news of the High Court Order said: “The ONS left the Sikh community no option but to take the Cabinet Office to the High Court with a judicial review claim to ensure it is fairly treated and bring an end to institutional racism by public bodies as a direct result of ONS decisions with respect to the census.”

“MPs are very clear from direct interactions with the former National Statistician who has now retired, his Deputy and senior ONS officials over the last two years, including since the Census White Paper was issued last December that ONS to keep its reputation intact must ensure there is the option of a Sikh ethnic tick box in the Census Order to be presented to Parliament.”

“This is not just about the legal recognition of Sikhs as an ethnic group since the landmark ruling in the House of Lords in 1983 but also the wide-ranging evidence ONS has collected that has now come to light.”

The Telegraph – Very sorry: Archbishop of Canterbury

He prostrated himself before the Jallianwala Bagh memorial and uttered the words “very sorry” for the massacre of 1919

Amit Roy

London – UK, 11 September 2019. The Most Reverend Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, prostrated himself before the Jallianwala Bagh memorial in Amritsar on Tuesday and uttered the words “very sorry” .

Welby prayed at the site of the massacre and went further than the Queen, David Cameron or Theresa May with his carefully constructed choice of words.

“I have no status to apologise on behalf of the UK, its government or its history. But I am personally very sorry for this terrible atrocity,” the Archbishop said in his pastoral address.

He began his address by saying: “I feel a deep sense of grief, having visited the site of the horrific Jallianwala Bagh Massacre today in Amritsar, where a great number of Sikhs, as well as Hindus, Muslims and Christians, were shot dead by British troops in 1919.”

The full text of Welby’s statement has been put out by Lambeth Palace, the official London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Archbishop’s note in the visitor’s book in Amritsar had also been well thought-out: “It is deeply humbling and provokes feelings of profound shame to visit this place that witnessed such atrocities hundred years ago.

“My first response is to pray for healing of relatives, of descendants, of our relationships with India and its wonderful people. But, that prayer renews in me a desire to pray and act so that together we may learn from history, root out hatred, promote reconciliation and globally seek the common good.”

Reaction in the UK, where many campaigners have been pushing for a full apology, was immediately generous.

An assessment that a kind of Rubicon had been crossed came from Dr Kim Wagner, senior lecturer in British Imperial History at Queen Mary University of London and the author of Amritsar 1919: An Empire of Fear and the Making of a Massacre.

“This is quite an amazing gesture,” Wagner told The Telegraph. “Although Welby makes it clear that he is not acting in an official political capacity, his position does mean that this apology and public act of penitence carries real weight. I suspect this will have a significant impact and be well-received by many people, both in India and in the UK.”

His book reveals that Welby is following in the footsteps of the missionary C F Andrews, Mahatma Gandhi’s close friend, who was “one of the first Englishmen to apologise while he was gathering information on the massacre and oppression in Punjab for the Congress inquiry in 1919”.

But that was then and this is now when a number of MPs, not all Indian-origin, are pressing the British government for a full apology.

Tory peer Jitesh Gadhia said: “The Archbishop has shown considerable humility and contrition in visiting Amritsar and prostrating in front of the Jallianwala Bagh memorial, expressing his regret and seeking forgiveness as a religious leader.

“Whilst the Archbishop does not represent the UK government, it is welcome that a national figure of his stature has stated how ashamed and sorry he is for the heinous crime committed 100 years ago.

“I would welcome the opportunity to discuss with the Archbishop how the UK schools’ curriculum can reflect upon and draw lessons from such historic events, particularly as we are now both vibrant multicultural democracies.”

The Church Times has spoken to Preet Kaur Gill, Labour MP for Birmingham Edgbaston and the first female Sikh MP, who told the paper she had been “very moved” by the Archbishop’s words.

She said: “The Archbishop’s message, that an apology alone is not enough to reckon with the deep scars riven by Britain’s colonial past, is welcome. This acknowledgement of the need for contrition is especially powerful in the context of the UK government’s refusal to formally apologise for Colonel Dyer’s actions last year.”

She added she was “very grateful for his leadership, in asking that we learn from one another and find commonality between faiths in an era of division”.

Virendra Sharma, Labour MP for Ealing Southall who secured a parliamentary debate on Jallianwala Bagh in the summer, said that it was “heartening” to see the Archbishop “uttering such words of humility and humanity. The Jallianwala Bagh massacre represented the turning point in India. From then on, the Empire was seen only as harsh, brutal and repressive”.

He called for “an official government apology which sets the tone for a UK that understands our responsibilities stemming from empire and colonialism”, and a memorial in London, “not just to the victims of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, but to all the victims of colonialism, and one that teaches future generations about the horrors of empire”.

The only discordant note was struck by historian Zareer Masani: “Rank hypocrisy and opportunism, pandering to Indian chauvinism, without a word about India’s record trampling human rights today….”

As Prime Ministers, Theresa May had expressed “deep regret” while David Cameron called the massacre a “deeply shameful event”.

In 1997, the Queen had described the massacre as “a distressing example” and added “but history cannot be rewritten…”.

The British Foreign Office will probably be secretly glad that Welby has used the words, “very sorry”, which the government has been wary of uttering for fear they might encourage claims for compensation.

BBC News – Kashmir: A priority for British [South] Asians?

Hazel Shearing & Francesca Gillett

Among the thousands of people gathered outside the Indian High Commission in London on Thursday, a woman stood with tears in her eyes as she joined in the chants: “What do we want? Freedom.”

London – UK, 20 August 2019. Part of the city was brought to a standstill as crowds of anti-Indian government demonstrators flooded the road, protesting against the country’s decision to place part of Kashmir under lock down.

Police had to keep them apart from a separate group who had gathered to celebrate India’s Independence Day.

But for the protesters, passing around black strips of cloth which they tied to their arms and waving photographs from Kashmir, it was a “black day”.

The protest came as Indian PM Narendra Modi said his decision to strip Indian-administered Kashmir of its special status, which gave it significant autonomy from the rest of India, would restore the region to its “past glory”.

But how much of a priority is the issue for British South Asians?

Riz Ali, 34, travelled for about three hours from Peterborough to be at the protest. He calls what is happening in Kashmir, the birthplace of his grandparents, “disgusting”.

“It’s another version of what Hitler did,” he says.

However, the tensions don’t affect his everyday social life, or relations with British Asians of Indian descent. “We’re Muslim and our religion teaches us to show peace,” he says.

Razaq Raj, a lecturer from Leeds, whose parents are from the Pakistan-administered Kashmir, says the political crisis is not divisive in his daily life, but is adamant that he will not buy Indian products.

“We are all Asian, our heritage is Asian,” he says. “Indians are as good as anybody to me. It’s not the Indian people, it’s the Indian government.”

‘They’ve got other concerns’

But away from the protests, South Asian activists in the charity sector tell BBC News that combating social injustices unite communities regardless of their faith or ethnicity, and suggest that younger generations are more likely to be divided over tensions between India and Pakistan.

Neelam Heera, 30, from Huddersfield, is of Indian Sikh descent. She says her family’s ethnicity never comes up in conversation – except on social media “where people find it easy to argue with each other”.

She founded Cysters, a charity that combats misconceptions around reproductive health, and works extensively with women from a range of South Asian communities.

“These health conditions and medical conditions don’t discriminate, so why should we?” she asks.

She says that tensions between Pakistan and India have never been raised in the meetings or online communities.

“For these women there are far bigger things to think about. They’re living in chronic pain, so dealing with Kashmir, and which side you’re on, isn’t something that is going to come across [their minds]. It’s not their priority, they’ve got other concerns,” she adds.

‘Really inclusive’

Like Heera, Khakan Qureshi, an LGBT activist from Birmingham, says common goals unite people from all faiths and nationalities.

Mr Qureshi, 49, also works with people from a broad range of backgrounds as part of BirminghamAsianLGBT, a voluntary-led organisation for LGBT South Asians in the UK.

“Everybody tries to be really inclusive of one another, that’s what makes us bond together and connect. If I connect with somebody I don’t really consider their faith or religion, it’s their personality,” he says.

But he is concerned that is not always the case for younger generations.

“Now people are trying to be much more specific when it comes to identity, when it comes to identity politics.” he says.

“Myself and all my peers we’re trying to support commonality, in that we’re looking at building bridges, friendships, regardless of whether we identify as Pakistani, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh or Indian.

“I feel that the younger generation are looking at identity and are wanting to be much more separated, in some cases, not always.”

‘More divided’

Pragna Patel founded Southall Sisters, a secular organisation made up of black and minority women which challenges gender-based violence. She says she has fostered an ethos that aims to unite people against inequality.

“But outside of our centre, of course the currents are swimming against us,” she says.

“People are divided more and more, it’s harder to forge solidarity among South Asians, let alone among all minority groups. That is because religion has become too politicised as an identity.”

She says younger people are more likely to “think of themselves in opposition to others” because they have no memory of Partition – in which up to 1 million people died and millions more were displaced when British-ruled India became the two new nations of India and Pakistan in 1947, and have grown up amid increasingly polarised politics.

What is going on in Kashmir?

Kashmir was plunged into an unprecedented lock-down this month, following the revocation of Article 370, the constitutional provision which gave the state of Jammu and Kashmir special dispensation to make its own laws on everything apart from matters of foreign affairs, defence and communications.

Telecommunications were cut off and local leaders were detained as tens of thousands of troops were deployed to patrol the streets.

The UN said the restrictions are deeply concerning and “will exacerbate the human rights situation”.

Last week the BBC witnessed police opening fire and using tear gas to disperse thousands of people who took to the streets to protest. The Indian government denied the protest took place.

The Himalayan region of Kashmir is claimed in its entirety by both India and Pakistan, but they each control only parts of it.

There is a long-running separatist insurgency on the Indian side, which has led to thousands of deaths over three decades. India accuses Pakistan of supporting insurgents but its neighbour denies this, saying it only gives moral and diplomatic support to Kashmiris who want self-determination.

Mr Modi defended his highly controversial decision to remove the special status accorded to Kashmir, calling it a “new era” for the Indian-administered part of the region, while large numbers of Indians celebrated the move.