523. The Man in Blue – Lieutenant General (retired) Kuldip Singh Brar

As I am now in the Amsterdam Guru Nanak Gurdwara and am not rushing from one meeting to the other, I have time to write a Man in Blue Column about the ‘assault’ on Lieutenant General (retired) Kuldip Singh Brar.

In writing this I have put myself in the position of one of the accused and assumed that this person was both guilty and intelligent.

“I stand here accused of assaulting lieutenant general (retired) Kuldip Singh Brar and I admit that I am guilty and should undergo the appropriate punishment.

This statement explains why I assaulted an old man on holiday in the UK. It is not a plea for clemency, which would be unworthy for a Sikh.

In June 1984 the general was ordered by the Indira Gandhi government to attack the Harmandr Sahib complex. I do not know the specifics of his order but the explanation given at the time was that there were about 50 terrorists in the complex. Whether his orders were to eliminate these terrorists, or whether he had to try and arrest them and bring them to justice I do not know.

The known fact is that the Harmandr Sahib complex was attacked on the day when many Sikhs went there from the early morning to commemorate the martyrdom of Guru Arjan on the 30th of May 1606. The result was that at least 1000 people were killed and not just the 50 alleged terrorists.

I am willing to concede that there were not 50 but maybe up to 100 alleged terrorists in the Harmandr Sahib complex. I also understand that during an operation on this scale some civilians are bound to find themselves in the line of fire, and become what are sometimes called collateral victims.

But the general and his men killed at least one thousand people during the operation, and he was never held responsible for killing 900 innocent visitors to Harmandr Sahib on the 6th of June 1984.

The general said that he acted on orders, but if you carry out criminal orders you are a criminal yourself, as the post World War II Nurnberg trials made clear.

The general is guilty of ‘war crimes’, but he never appeared in court. The Indira Gandhi government ordered the general to commit ‘war crimes’ and did not appear in court either.

Those that were responsible for the mass killings of Sikhs at the end of October and beginning of November 1984 are still walking free, and some of these are even part of the present Indian government, which has a Sikh prime minister.

But I will be tried and receive my due punishment, as I should.

A statement like this would make headlines. But will these assaulters of the retired lieutenant general be mice or men ? Will they be ruled by anger or by wisdom ?

436.The Man in Blue – SRM, Redbridge, UK

The SRM about which I write this week is the Sikh Relay Marathon, which took place 29 September in Redbridge, North East of London. The route of the relay marathon is the training ground of Fauja Singh, the veteran Sikh marathon runner who is now 99 years old.

This year is the third time that I participated in the SRM, which allows both more professional runners and indifferent ones like me to take part. As I was one of the five members of our Interfaith Team I only had to do a bit more than one fifth of 42 km. The other benefit of a relay marathon is that you do not have to run the distance in one go, you do a lap, rest, do another lap and rest again etc.

I will publish pictures of the participants both on my blog and on my Flickr  account, so that everybody can see me and my colleagues and also teams like the Barking Road Runners and the Baba Fateh Singh Gatka Akhara, whose members are fitter and younger than me.

The most amazing participants are the Sikh veteran runners in their eighties and nineties, with Fauja Singh as their best known member. The veterans do not run very fast, but they go at a steady pace and keep going.

Our team of five had an Irish and a Luxemburg female member, two local male members, one of whom was a Hindu, and a tall skinny Dutchman who lives in Belgium and is a Sikh. Even the Gatka Akara has non-Sikh members. Although it is the Sikh Relay Marathon there is plenty of opportunity to talk to and to run together with people of non-Sikh background.

Every year the Mayor of Redbridge has to get up early on a Sunday morning to address the runners. His (or her) motivation to do this is that £ 1000 of the revenue of the event goes to the Mayor’s charity fund. The revenue consists of sponsor money from local businesses and Gurdwaré and the £ 20 registration fee that all but the foreign participants have to pay.

We missed the Scottish team that was present at previous events, but in spite of their absence we had an excellent time on the day, and badly aching leg muscles on the Monday.

Last year I had done a lot of walking and a bit of running as preparation, this year I had been out on my wonderful new bike a lot, walked some but did not run at all before the race. Cycling is an excellent way to keep fit, but you use quite different muscle groups on your bike than when running.

Please come and join us next year, God usually blesses us with reasonable weather and there is always good company, you contribute to community cohesion and to charity. And you’ll get a medal and a T-shirt !

424.The Man in Blue – London Ieper Sint Truiden

I am writing this article in my room in Gurdwara Sangat Sahib on the 22nd of June 2010. Yesterday was the first day that I had access to the internet since my departure from Southall on the 17th. After clearing the backlog of hundreds of unread emails I am now writing the column that should have appeared on my blog during the last weekend. Later I will again visit the local library and post ‘news-clippings’ and pictures.

I travelled from London with Amrik Singh (Airport), his wife Jaswinder Kaur and his son Dildip Singh and we crossed to France via the Channel tunnel. Amazingly our passports were not checked at all !

From Calais we drove to Ieper, and visited the Menen Gate and Hollebeke.  From Ieper we went via Kortrijk, Gent, Brussel, Leuven and Tienen to St Truiden. We did not rush but due to an early start we were still well in time for Rahiras, Katha and langar.

I was very happy that the Kathavachak was Giani Iqbal Singh (Rajpura Wala), who I met last year during my August visit to Belgium. He does not tell stories, respects the Sikh Rehat Maryada and firmly believes in the Guru Granth Sahib as the eternal Guru of the Sikhs.

Amrik Singh and family stayed in the Gurdwara for two nights and did a tour of Sint Truiden on Friday. I went to Hasselt, the capital of Limburg, for a meeting with a local politician. The main theme of the meeting was the problems that young Sikhs experience because Belgian schools have the right to refuse students who wear any kind of patka, turban, hijab or niqab.

It was a good meeting, the politician was well briefed and he did not just listen but also asked us questions. The youngsters made a very good contribution by talking about their experiences. The grey beards were in the minority but there was the usual minimal presence of female Sikhs.

Belgium is less liberal than the UK or the Netherlands. There are rules on becoming a recognised religion, and these rules are written with the Roman Catholic Church model of organisation in mind. Every resident has to register with the local authorities but if you live in a bedsit or in the Gurdwara where there are more than a certain number of people in a building you cannot register.

If you are not registered it is difficult to open a bank account, to get a contract with a mobile phone company or to join the local library. There are good people here who work hard to support the minorities, and together with them we will work hard for the welfare of all communities. After the recent national elections there is no federal government as yet, but the Flemish government is in place and the work goes on.

Published in: on June 22, 2010 at 1:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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