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Why for Sikhs, every wedding is a royal wedding

Here we share an article by Basics of Sikhi parcharak Sukhdeep Singh, looking at today’s royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle and how it relates to the Sikh Anand Karaj.


This weekend, the eyes of the world will be on Windsor for the royal wedding. There is no doubt that it will be a spectacle of pomp, pageantry, and glamour. But as a royal wedding, the religious dimension of it carries great importance both to the Royal family and the Church of England.

This is because the Monarch is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. They are the titular head of the Church, which itself was established by a British monarch. That is why religious protocol is strict within the Royal family. The Monarch’s family cannot (be seen to) compromise the Church they are the titular head of. The Sikh wedding ceremony – the Anand Karaj – is held in the darbaar (the court) of the Sikh scriptural Guru, Guru Granth Sahib Ji. The Guru is not just royalty in the way we think of worldly rulers. Instead, the Guru is divine. The very essence of Guru is their divinity – the fact that they are the complete and perfect light of the One.

The Anand Karaj is more than just the marriage between the bride and groom. It is the couple’s collective union with The One via the Guru. It is their embrace of not just the Guru’s teachings but the Guru as SatGur Gur Poora – the perfectly/completely True Guru (fourth line of the first verse of the Laavan – the Sikh marriage hymns).

Hence, the Anand Karaj is only for the marriage of two Sikhs. A Sikh is defined by the Rehat Maryada, which binds all Sikhs and Sikh institutions by a common code of conduct, as somebody who faithfully believes in:
i) One Immortal Being
ii) The ten Gurus, from Guru Nanak to Dev Ji to Guru Gobind Singh Ji
iii) The Guru Granth Sahib
iv) The utterances and teachings of the ten Gurus
v) The baptism bequeathed by Guru Gobind Singh Ji (the Amrit Sanchar ceremony)
And who does not owe allegiance to any other religion.

Even a prima facie reading of the Laavan is enough to understand that somebody cannot accept and partake in it unless they are a Sikh. In any case, the Rehat Maryada states that the Anand Karaj ceremony can only be conducted between two Sikhs.

Despite this obvious and intuitive condition, there has been outrage at people protesting such abuses of the ceremony when they do occur. Gurdwaras breaking Sikh protocol, going against the declaration of the highest Sikh seat of authority – the Akal Takht – by commodifying the ceremony and allowing anyone to take part, led to such protests.

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An article on the anand karaj protests.

The media treatment of this stance has been harsh to say the least. Those wishing to uphold the sanctity of the Anand Karaj ceremony (simply by requiring that you believe in the ceremony you are partaking in) have been branded fundamentalists and extremists.

Once the royal wedding was announced, Meghan Markle was baptised and confirmed into the Church of England out of respect to both the Church and the Queen. This is no different from what the Anand Karaj demands, a commitment to the Sikh Sovereign: The Guru. For today’s wedding, Markle’s formal acceptance of the Church was considered inevitable and logical. When Sikhs demand a similar commitment for their marriage ceremony they face calls of religious bigotry and accusations of fundamentalism.

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How many people know that the current Duchess of Cambridge, having been christened as a child, was then confirmed before she married the future king? Royal history is of full of examples where adherence to the faith, when it comes to marriage, is non-negotiable. As any viewer of The Crown on Netflix knows, The Queen’s own sister was denied the love of her life because at the time the Church did not permit the remarriage of divorcees.

And even when that specific ruling was relaxed, it was still not enough for the heir to the throne to remarry in a church. If anything is astonishing, it is the fact that the future Monarch did not marry in the church that he will one day be the Supreme Governor of.

Instead, in 2005, he and Camilla had a civil wedding followed by a Church of England Service of Prayer and Dedication, which, by the way, included an act of penitence as a nod to the fact that their relationship began as adultery. Edward VIII abdicated altogether to avoid breaking the rules of his Church.

The Anand Karaj has been gifted to Sikhs by the Guru, for those who truly believe in and accept the Guru. The royalty and divinity of the Guru is encapsulated in their description as Sache Patshaah (True Sovereign King). Nothing – including the participants – should undermine that fact during the Anand Karaj in the Guru’s own darbaar. Otherwise it is a
sham ceremony. The defence of this is treated more harshly by both general society and the media than the practices of the Royal family. Nevertheless, the sentiment is the same.

If royal weddings tell us anything, it’s that not even their (worldly) status excuses them from undermining the Church of England. In fact, it is the royal status which confers the responsibility of upholding the teachings of the Church; a subsidiary title of the Monarch is ‘Defender of the Faith’. The divinity of the Guru confers a similar obligation on their Sikhs
and especially when it comes to activities within the Guru’s darbaar including the Anand Karaj. That is how for Sikhs, every wedding is a royal wedding.

Learn more about Sikh educational organisation Basics of Sikhi here.

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Sikh Education Council announce Guru Nanak Social Mobility Scholarship

The Sikh Education Council have partnered with barrister Mukhtiar Singh to launch the Guru Nanak Social Mobility Scholarship.

Consisting of a £4,000 prize in a Bar scholarship and mentoring, the scheme would help improve access to the legal profession for financially and social disadvantaged students, and to promote discourse on Sikh jurisprudence.

Sikh Education Council Chairperson Dr Pargat Singh stated, “We are so delighted to work with barrister Mukhtiar Singh on this project. He is a diligent professional who continues to make a difference every day with his work, and the founding of this scholarship does just that too. It pleases us immensely to know that the topic of Sikh jurisprudence will be researched and deliberated over through the application essays; we thoroughly look forward to receiving them and encourage anybody interested in a career at the Bar to consider applying.”

Applicants need to demonstrate a strong commitment to the Bar and be from a socially or financially disadvantaged background. They would need to complete an application form, covering letter and a 2,500 – 3,5000 word essay answering: ‘Was Theresa May right when she said that Sikh values are “values we need more than ever as we forge a new ambitious role for Britain in the world”?’.

It is anticipated that the scholarships will extend to other professions perceived to be out of reach by the financial and socially disadvantaged in the future, such as solicitors, politicians and doctors.

Alongside Sikh jurisprudence, a direct aim of the scholarship is to improve social mobility, something aligned with the ethos of the Sikh faith, which saw the Sikh Gurus challenge the hierarchical caste-system of India which still to this day leaves tens-of-millions stuck in poverty.

Click here to apply for the scholarship.

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Couple shocked after Danish govt reject Sikh name for not being ‘female’

A couple have been left ‘disappointed’ after Danish authorities refused to register their daughter’s name because it was not ‘female’.

Sukhraj Singh Randhawa and his partner Mette Edith named their daughter Jhelum Kaur, a name of Punjabi origin. Sikh Punjabi names are not gender specific, making it very normal for Sikh men and women to have the same name, in alignment with the Sikh ethos of gender equality.

Danish law only allows unisex names on a conditional basis, with most names needing to be gender specific to be approved for national registration.

Father of Jhelum Kaur, 26-year-old British citizen Sukhraj Singh Randhawa, a respected social commentator known for his Sikh Talk social media accounts, moved to Denmark last year, where two month old Jhelum was born. He said of the rejection, ‘Mette and I feel both disappointed and agitated by this unnecessary administrative hurdle that is brought about by a gendered discourse and legislative framework.’

Whilst other Sikh families in Denmark have registered traditional Sikh-Punjabi names under specific genders, Sukhraj Singh and Mette wish to pursue the right to register Jhelum as a non-gender specific name, in accordance with the nature of Sikh-Punjabi names.

Regarding the rejection Sukhraj Singh added, ‘We intend to go forward and appeal the name Jhelum as a gender neutral Panjabi name alongside the other 965 legally unisex names in Denmark.’

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Why Sikhs invited the First Nation to open a Nagar Kirtan

On 21 April 2018, minority communities of Canada connected as never before, when the Kwantlen First Nation were invited to open the Surrey, British Columbia Nagar Kirtan (Sikh religious procession), known as the Khalsa Day Parade, which takes place on First Nation land. Sikh activist and community figure Moninder Singh was instrumental in this historic show of unity. Below he details just why he helped arrange it all.


 

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Moninder Singh, one of the key figures involved in organising First Nation involvement in the Nagar Kirtan.

 Not even two weeks before the Nagar Kirtan (Sikh street procession known as the Khalsa  Day Parade) in Surrey, I picked up my keys off the kitchen counter in my home and took a   deep breath. 

  Looking up I saw my wife Dalvinder Kaur staring at me, then asking if something was   wrong. I shook my head no, but explained that for months I had been involved in and     pushing conversations in the Gurdwara and organizing circles for the Nagar Kirtan to begin   communication with various First Nations (native Canadians) on whose traditional lands   we have settled on and carry out such a large and significant event. I explained I was   apprehensive as I was sensitive to the issue, wanting to ensure it was genuine and not an   act of “tokenism”, where we were using it as an opportunity to further our own agenda in   some way. 

  I struggled with my definition of solidarity and whether my experience in regards to the       occupation and colonization (and its after-effects) of Punjab by the British and later by India, was the wrong reason to make this connection, as regardless of my personal experiences and political position, I am still carrying out a settler history here on their lands. At the same time, for true solidarity to exist, there must be an exchange of respect and acceptance to ideas, aspirations and movements. It is a reason for me, as the issue of occupation and resistance resonates with me personally and many others, to take this first step in its attempt to build relationships and solidarity moving forward.

All of this was going on internally within myself and others involved in the organization of the Nagar Kirtan and in the meantime, a friend and fellow Sikh activist Satnam Singh Sangra had already reached out and started the process of communication and dialogue with First Nation communities. In truth, it is Satnam Singh who worked tirelessly to ensure that this bond of friendship and solidarity was built between our communities. His sole focus during the entire process was to ensure a respectful dialogue and he left no stone unturned to ensure our conversations and interactions were done in-line with First Nation traditions.

In carrying out this momentous ceremony, the bond between us as friends has grown deeper, through how deeply we both care about this issue. Satnam Singh’s persistence and coordination of the conversations and ceremony were instrumental in ensuring our two communities came together in the celebration of a pivotal moment in Sikh history. 

The welcoming ceremony occurring on a day where celebrations center around the creation of the Khalsa could not have been more appropriate. The Khalsa is a collection of Sikhs committed to the Guru, and in turn, to the needs of the downtrodden and oppressed. Using the teachings of the Gurus as its guidance, the Khalsa was created to ensure social justice was delivered, the innocent were protected, and tyranny was uprooted. While the qualities of the Khalsa are rooted in the adherence to Gurus teachings and Sikh Rehat Maryada, the definition of the term Khalsa is captured beautifully as follows:

“Khalsa, is an Arabic word. The meaning of which is – ‘The land of the Emperor, That land that cannot be taxed’. Meaning derived from this is that the free individual who is free from all forms of subservience, is Khalsa.”

Piara Singh Padam, ‘Gobind Sagar’, Pg.107.

The Nagar Kirtan in Surrey has become many things to many different people. We celebrate the Khalsa on this day as a community and not a “harvest festival” or the coming of a “new year” as is often depicted in mainstream media. The Khalsa is timeless and relentless in its pursuit of justice and patshahi (sovereignty; both spiritual and physical). 

The Khalsa exists within the moral and ethical codes of the Guru Sahiban (masters); it is the Guru Panth (path) being led by the Guru Granth (scriptural Guru). The Khalsa was delivered to the world on the edge of the sword by Guru Gobind Singh, after Guru Amar Das had already declared that the path they were leading us down was sharper than the edge of that same sword. Not all can tread this path, but the more worrisome issue is that more and more of us are not even able to properly define this path in our diaspora existence. When we have to pick and choose words, dilute our conversations, and justify our existence at every turn because the “societal norms” of these countries don’t align with the instruction of our Guru Sahibans, we ourselves are slowly becoming a part of the same cultural genocide and degradation of identity that we fear so much at the hands of others.

“The main substance of this doctrine is that any sovereign state, which includes Sikh populations and groups as citizens, must never make the paranoiac pretentions of almighty absolutism, entailing the concept to total power, entitled to rule over the bodies and minds of men in utter exclusiveness. Any state, which lays such claims, qua the Sikhs, shall automatically forfeit its moral right to demand allegiance of the Sikhs, and there is thus, an eternal antagonism between such a state and the collective community of the Sikhs, represented by the order of the Khalsa, and in this deadly duel the state shall never emerge out as finally victorious, for self-destruction is the fruit of the seed of non-limitation and the status and the prerogatives of the Khalsa are imprescriptible.”

Sardar Kapur Singh, Sikh Historian.

I took all this with me when I got in my car and drove to Walnut Grove in Langley BC and into the traditional territories of the Kwantlen First Nation to meet Chief Marilyn Gabriel. I arrived early and found that Satnam Singh, being ever so diligent, was already present and waiting for the Chief and her husband to arrive. We didn’t have to wait long as a few minutes later. Smiling brightly, they arrived. After we made our greetings and sat across from each other, it suddenly became very real to me what was actually happening. Looking at Chief Marilyn Gabriel, all I could see was glimpses of a deep struggle on a dignified face of resistance. I understood in that moment that I wasn’t speaking to just anyone. In her rightful position, Chief Marilyn Gabriel carries a lineage thousands of years old that she is responsible for maintaining and taking forward. I felt humbled and privileged to be speaking to her on her peoples’ land.

I felt the need to acknowledge why it took so long for this conversation to happen, a need to recognize their rightful place on this land, and a need to apologize for something I felt I should have recognized as a sevadaar (selfless volunteer)/organizer of the Nagar Kirtan for the last decade: “I wish…we could have done this sooner and we should have done this much sooner as organizers of this event on your traditional territories. I would like to sincerely apologize for my oversight and …” was all I got out before Chief Marilyn very diplomatically cut me off with a smile.

Chief Marilyn responded, “Let me stop you right there. We were supposed to meet right now. Not yesterday and not tomorrow. Right now. This is how it was meant to be and we accept that. You never need to apologize ever again to us. Now is the time for us to work together.”

As I continued to listen more than talk, Chief Marilyn took me through how her once powerful people numbered in the tens of thousands and by the time she became Chief their numbers had dwindled to barely 60 individuals. We speak regularly in the Sikh community of genocide and the extinction of our people through linguistic, cultural and religious subjugation by the Indian state. The physical and cultural genocide of a people able to trace their lineage back thousands of years resulting in only 60 individuals remaining, the reality of genocide and extinction in the face sitting across from me made me lower my eyes for a moment. We cannot compare suffering or genocide amongst communities and rather our focus should be on the resiliency of those who suffer and continue to fight for their existence.

At one point, during a brief moment of silence, I asked how she became Chief and of her impact on her people. Chief Marilyn’s determination in her response was nothing short of stunning: “We used to be called the Langley Indian Band. All three words are foreign to my people, yet somehow, this is how we were defined. The first thing I moved to do after the passing of my father was to take our name back. It’s not just a name…it’s our identity. Our language, culture, and every part of us…it is tied to our name. We are Kwantlen…there is no Langley Indian Band.”

The erasure of a nation’s identity by the colonizer/oppressor using governmental agency and documentation, such as the constitution, to re-define their existence (i.e. name) is something the Sikh community knows all too well. We are classified as Hindu through Article 25 of the Indian constitution. Occupation, colonization, genocide, and stripping away of identity are all common points of understanding between Sikhs and the First Nation, and the foundation for true solidarity to be built.

Never did I feel helpless, hopeless or alone while I spoke with Chief Marilyn about our communities. I have much to learn, but meeting with Chief Marilyn and her husband provided a glimpse into a way of life and existence that mirrored my own in many ways. I saw in my conversations with Chief Marilyn an unapologetic warrior and leader of the Kwantlen and it truly gave me inspiration to further push these conversations within Sikh circles, with no fear and plenty of love for my people who are all shaped through various experiences and therefore, carry various perspectives.

ਕਬੀਰ ਜਉ ਤੁਹਿ ਸਾਧ ਪਿਰੰਮ ਕੀ ਸੀਸੁ ਕਾਟਿ ਕਰਿ ਗੋਇ ॥

Kabeer, if you desire to play the game of love with Akal Purakh, then

cut off your head (ego, desire, etc.), and make it into a ball.

ਖੇਲਤ ਖੇਲਤ ਹਾਲ ਕਰਿ ਜੋ ਕਿਛੁ ਹੋਇ ਤ ਹੋਇ ॥੨੩੯॥

Lose yourself in the play of it, and then whatever will be, will be. ||239||

 

Although everything is already provided to a Sikh by the Guru Sahiban, there are many like us scattered throughout the world that are raising their heads and eyes to the oppressor and that is where solidarity can be built. Our struggles have intersecting points and where our political ideology may not align, our commonality in resistance provides other opportunities. For Sikhs to exist as Sikhs and not a by-product of colonialism and its effects, as a Panth we have to start by reverting to a very simple type of existence, where the Gurus word is final and absolute and it is expressed with clarity and no dilution:

ਕਹਿਯੋ ਪ੍ਰਭੂ ਸੋ ਭਾਖ ਹੋ ॥

ਕਿਸੂ ਨਾ ਕਾਨ ਰਾਖ ਹੋ ॥

I speak and act only to which Akal Purakh has instructed,

I don’t yield to anything or anyone else.

KHALISTAN ZINDABAD

Moninder Singh – Sikh Liberation Front (SLF)

 

 

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£2.1million’s worth of positive news gained by Sikh PA from 2017-2018

Sikh PA recently revealed the news agency working between the Sikh community and the media accumulated positive news coverage to the figure of £2.1million from March 2017-March 2018. This was done on a budget of approximately £60k. Learn how this was done through our annual review summary below.


The Sikh Press Association is a project powered by Everythings 13. Other projects of Everythings 13 include Basics of Sikhi, Mighty Khalsa and Kiddie Sangat. Donations towards the work of Sikh PA can be made here – http://www.everythings13.org/make-a-donation

 

On 16 April, the Sikh Press Association held its annual review. Graciously hosted by the RBS Sikh Network in Bishopsgate, the public were invited to learn about the achievements of the organisation over the past year and hear from Panthic figures that we have worked with.

The event opened with an overview of the Sikh PA structure, which included introducing the newest employee Sukh Singh Sodhi and presenting the advisory board. The presentation of Sikh PA’s work over the year was interspersed with figures which provide an approximate sum of the PR (public relations) value of specific campaigns.

The PR value is based on the amount of TV/radio airtime, news column inches and social media traction gained on Sikh stories which the Sikh PA worked on over the last 12 months, since the last annual review in March 2017. This is then converted into a monetary figure based upon how much it would cost to get this kind of coverage through advertising/marketing. Using conservative estimates, Sikh PA have been advised to value half a page column inches at £1000-£5000, TV airtime at £25,000 per 30 seconds, and £2000-£8000 per minute of radio airtime. The PR value will also include the cost of arranging internationally coordinated events, which are a feature of Langar Week and Chabeel Day.

This monetary value is only based on positive news facilitated through Sikh PA, and does not cover the work done behind the scenes working on media and public image issues relating to the Sikh community. For example, this includes the work on the #FreeJaggiNow campaign, which was not included in our overall PR value.

The expenditure of Sikh PA is estimated at £60k, which includes both annual salaries for Sikh PA’s full-time employees, part-time working costs based on time of employees of Everythings 13 (video editors/designers) and expenses (resources such as handouts, travel costs).

 

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Examples of #FreeJaggiNow coverage

The presentation by Jasveer Singh and Sukh Singh Sodhi opened with an explanation of Sikh PA’s role in the #FreeJaggiNow campaign. This included over 24,000 words of authoritative ‘latest updates’, helping us to become a reliable source of information.

Shamsher Singh, from the National Sikh Youth Federation and part of the #FreeJaggiNow campaign, praised Sikh PA’s role in the #FreeJaggiNow campaign, saying: ‘Sikh PA has been instrumental with the #FreeJaggiNow campaign in allowing us to amplify our voice as a community; to challenge oppressive state narratives; to challenge state propaganda.’ 

He stressed the importance of Sikh PA, saying that it ‘represents Sikh voices authentically. It connects with us as a community, at a grassroots level and helps amplify our voices and bring our voices to a larger audience.’

Watch Shamsher Singh speak in full at Sikh PA’s annual review here.

 

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Examples of 2017 Vaisakhi coverage via Sikh PA.

Next came a presentation on Vaisakhi 2017. Sikh PA secured coverage for this across a range of media outlets including newspapers, radio and TV, with an estimated PR value of £200,000. This did not include correcting factual inaccuracies calling Vaisakhi the Sikh new year or the impact of guidelines sent en mass to media helping to ensure accurate coverage of the festival.

 

 

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Sikh PA revealed Langar Week 2017 generated an estimated PR value of £500,000. As the fourth year of the campaign, targets for this coverage were more specific, focusing on publications that had previously not covered the campaign did this time, such as Manchester Evening News and BBC East Midlands TV, which did cover local events this time. Langar Week was once again an international campaign with events held in locations as varied as India, Canada and Spain.

 

 

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A few examples of Chabeel Day coverage collated.

Chabeel Day 2017 was another success, again with coverage across a dozen media outlets including multiple regional BBC radio shows. As with Langar Week, this campaign had a thoroughly international dimension with events in India, Australia, Denmark as well as closer to home. Standout coverage included sangat (Sikh congregation) events in Cyprus and Kashmir receiving national coverage. Chabeel Day is a great example of a Sikh PA campaign that not just generates media coverage of Sikhi but also facilitates the engagement of sangat at a grassroots level in Sikh activities. The estimated PR value of Chabeel Day was £400,000.

 

Aside from public campaigns, Sikh PA also engages in behind-the- scenes work. This was explained to sangat as including monitoring coverage of Sikhs and Sikhi, intervening in cases of inaccuracy, and also supporting sangat internally, as well as academics with their research on Sikhs.

Mankamal Singh was invited to elaborate on how Sikh PA had worked behind the scenes to provide a more effective community response to issues in the media. He said: ‘We needed an organisation that joined the dots. We needed an organisation that spoke on our behalf […] there was nothing that was coordinating the voice, and that’s what Sikh PA brought.’

 He remarked on the progress that Sikh PA had made in the three years since its launch in 2015, referring to a private situation which Sikh PA’s advice helped resolve before it became a public issue, saying: ‘That’s the clout that Sikh PA has now. It has clout. It has the ability to intervene and stop a situation from becoming a situation.’

 Watch Mankamal Singh speak in full at Sikh PA’s annual review here.

 

Speaking more about how Sikh PA had helped empower Sikhs with media skills, Jasveer Singh ran through the events that the organisation had been involved in over the past year. These included a media workshop for sangat in Canada, media training at the Sikh Youth UK sevadaar training day, and more general one-to- one advice as well as statement writing and editing for Panthic organisations.

 

Furthermore, Sikh PA have over the past year hosted four community events to increase participation and discussion within the Panth. The first of these were hustings just before the 2017 general election, asking who Sikhs should vote for or whether they should vote at all. The feedback from these gave rise to the start of a series of open forum discussions featuring expert panellists from the Sikh community. The first of these was on mental health, and the second was on the portrayal of Khalistan in the media.

A notable Sikh PA event was the presentation by Dr Jasjit Singh in Southall on his Sikh ‘radicalisation research’. Dr Jasjit Singh spoke at the annual review about how Sikh PA had helped to facilitate community feedback for his research, which became an integral part of. He said: ‘The role of Sikh PA was key as part of this project […] lots of people say they’ll do stuff but Sukh and Jasveer actually did put on an event in Southall.’

Referencing the recent media furore regarding Sikhs and Khalistan in Canada, he said: ‘The media in the UK no longer have an excuse; they can’t say ‘Who do we go and ask? Where do we go? Because it’s here. Sikh PA is here. You go talk to the Sikh Press Association and they’ll forward you on to a relevant speaker.’

Watch Dr Jasjit Singh speak in full at Sikh PA’s annual review here.

 

Following Dr Jasjit Singh’s presentation, Sukh and Jasveer outlined some of the more notable invidual (non-campaign) projects and stories that Sikh PA had been involved in over the past year. This included an article for Indy100 that Sukh wrote on behalf of Kanwar Singh at Khalsa Aid, an interview Jasveer did with Manpreet Kaur of charity Hope and Compassion for The Metro, and facilitating a response by Ranveer Singh of NSYF in the Huffington Post, responding to an article that compared Sant Jarnail Singh Khalsa Bhindranwale to the criminal Ram Rahim.

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Both were excellently received, with Ranveer Singh’s article becoming vastly more popular than the one it rebutted. However, it was noted that feature writing is something that current capacity pressures on Sikh PA restrict and is an area earmarked for future development. A more comprehensive list of Sikh PA facilitated positive news stories can be found below.

 

A key target of Sikh PA is to increase female media appearances and empowerment so that Sikh women constitute 50% of all Sikh media appearances. The challenges that Sikh PA faced with this were outlined, and a further call was put out for Sikh women to become speakers that we can suggest for media appearances.

TOI Sikh women article

Times of India article which came via a Sikh PA-Binti collaborated article.

Manjit Kaur Gill, CEO and founder of Binti, spoke how Sikh PA have helped her as a female Sikh and with pushing a female issue in the media. She said: ‘The relationship that we’ve had with Sikh PA from the beginning has been one that has been very supportive […] Sikh PA have helped tremendously all the way through – whenever we need to articulate something – they’re there.’

Watch Manjit Kaur speak in full at Sikh PA’s annual review here.

 

The annual review ended with a presentation of ‘What’s next’ which included a revamp of the Sikh PA website, the 5th anniversary of Langar Week (1-6 Oct 2018), bringing in interns and providing work experience, alongside a greater focus on feature articles and columns for Sikh writers.

Jasveer Singh explained how he would be spending three months in Canada over the summer, exploring the potential for a Sikh PA there and laying the foundations for such an organisation to also become established in the North American country.

Not shown during the presentation but subsequently shared after were videos from Neelam Kaur Heera, who Sikh PA have supported in her efforts for social reform in regards to the taboo subject of female gynaecological health, and Gurpreet Singh, brother of Jagtar Singh and head of the #FreeJaggiNow campaign. Both explained how Sikh PA have supported their panthic endeavours through the media.

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During the event, Sikh PA also paid tribute to co-founder Jagraj Singh, who passed away in July 2017. Jagraj Singh’s message from the 2017 annual review was shared, which emphasised the need for Sikh PA to grow.

In summary, based on the figures estimated for the campaign work and individual news stories, Sikh PA presented to sangat that its work earned a positive PR value of £2.1m from an expenditure of approximately £60,000, alongside some of the less tangible work of the news agency, highlighting the impact of Sikh PA from 2017-2018.

Watch the full annual review here.

The Sikh Press Association is a project powered by Everythings 13. Other projects of Everythings 13 include Basics of Sikhi, Mighty Khalsa and Kiddie Sangat. Donations towards the work of Sikh PA can be made here – http://www.everythings13.org/make-a-donation

 

Positive news stories gallery

Note – this is just a small sample of the work Sikh PA did from 2017 March-2018 March. Please check out www.YouTube.com/SikhPA where you will find much of the radio/TV coverage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Canada News Council uphold Sikh PA complaint against Toronto Sun Shaheed claim

Canada’s National News Media Council (NNC) has upheld a complaint from the Sikh Press Association that the Toronto Sun published a factual inaccuracy regarding the Sikh concept of a Shaheed (Sikh martyr).

In the article published on 16 March 2018, which STILL has not been amended by the Toronto Sun, Candice Malcolm wrote: ‘A Shaheed is an Islamic or Sikh martyr who died fulfilling a religious commandment and is promised a place in paradise.’

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This article came at the height of a right-wing- driven media frenzy in Canada which exploited Justin Trudeau’s visit to India to unleash a barrage of allegations of so-called Canadian Sikh extremism.

In response to Malcolm’s article, the Sikh Press Association submitted a complaint to the NNC. The complaint explained that the concept of ‘paradise’ as a reward for martyrdom did not exist in the Sikh tradition, in contrast to Abrahamic faiths, which include Islam. The complaint said that Malcolm’s statement ‘borders on prejudice’ because of her assumption that Shaheed refers to the same thing for both Sikhs and Muslims.

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The article in the Toronto Sun, written by Candice Malcolm

Respected academic and Sikh Press Association recommended speaker Dr Jasjit Singh is a research fellow at the University of Leeds who has conducted research into so-called Sikh ‘radicalisation’ in the UK. Sikh PA recommended his research, which included an explanation of the concept of Shaheed, to the Toronto Sun and the NNC. Dr Jasjit Singh was recently in Canada, where his research was used to analyse the Canadian media onslaught which attempted to portray the nation as having a problem of Sikh extremism, something widely disputed by most Sikh organisations.

Speaking of the NNC decision, Dr Jasjit Singh said, ‘This decision highlights the need for journalists and those commenting on Sikh issues to undertake a sufficient level of research when discussing Sikh concepts. I am pleased my research on Sikh narratives and issues has provided clarity on the use of the term Shaheed in a Sikh context.’

Jasveer Singh, Sikh Press Association senior press officer, said in response to the NNC’s finding: ‘It is great to see the NNC recognise this inaccuracy in the Toronto Sun. It took more than a month for this decision to come-about, involving lots of dialogue between all involved. We now hope Candice Malcolm and the Toronto Sun will publicly apologise for misportraying what it means to be a Sikh Shaheed. Sikhs are more than capable of defining our own concepts. This finding confirms that it is dangerous when others do so for the purpose of lumping Sikhs with Jihadis to further their own scaremongering narratives.

‘Revering our Shaheeds is a big part of the Sikh faith. However, they are not revered for doing something to get into ‘paradise’. They are revered for standing up to injustice and fighting oppression, and giving their lives to do so. The Sikh Press Association thank all of our supporters in Canada for helping us to tackle media misrepresentation of our community. We will continue to do all we can to grow and become established in Canada and North America as a whole.’

Now that the NNC has ruled on this, it expects the Toronto Sun to publish a fair report of its decision, which can be found in full here.

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#FreeJaggiNow campaign exclusive statement: ‘Jaggi is NOT being charged with murder’

The Sikh Press Association team spoke directly with the #FreeJaggiNow team who clarified the situation around Jagtar Singh Johal, in accordance with the Scotsman’s legal team, following the submittal of a charge-sheet by the NIA (National Investigation Agency). Read about what Jagtar Singh’s current situation is below.


 

The #FreeJaggiNow team, via Jagtar Singh’s legal team, have stated the Scotsman is accused of “financing the targeted killings of RSS leaders”, countering claims from some news outlets claiming he is being charged with murder.

In an exclusive statement made to the Sikh Press Association, the #FreeJaggiNow campaign team clarified the situation around the 31 year old Scotsman, who has mistakenly been said to have been charged with murder by Indian media, a claim which was picked up by UK media too.

The 2148 page charge-sheet submitted to Jagtar Singh’s legal team has one reference outlining Jagtar’s alleged crime:

“Jagtar Singh Johal, a U.K. National had been sent to France from the U.K. to deliver GBP 3000 to Harminder Singh.”

This allegedly involved Harminder Singh Mintoo, the leader of the Khalistan Liberation Force, who recently died whilst in imprisoned in India, in what his lawyer has described as a government conspiracy.

The charges fall under various sections of the UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act) and the Arms Act. As per Indian law, once these charges are officially brought forward during trial, they will be subject to debate and negotiation with state agencies and the state prosecution, as per Indian law allows.

In the statement to the Sikh Press Association, the #FreeJaggiNow team categorically clarified that;

• Jagtar Singh is NOT being charged with murder
• He is being charged with “financing targeted killings of RSS leaders” which breaks Indian law and various sections of the UAPA and Arms Act of India
• As per the Indian judicial process, charges may be altered once the case goes to trial

Shamsher Singh, National Sikh Youth Federation advisor , who is part of the #FreeJaggiNow campaign team, said of the charge-sheet, “It’s shocking that this is the basis upon which Jagtar has been subjected to torture and detained without charge for six months. The lack of response and action by the UK government is deeply disappointing. The position taken by REDRESS, that any proceedings would be invalidated due to the torture, should also be taken by the British government. The silence of the UK government in condemning India only feeds the culture of impunity.”

The charge-sheet will be presented to Punjab courts on May 10th, at Bagha Purana court, and May 21st, in Mohali.

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Slough Gurdwara to host adoption event

Guru Maneyo Granth Gurdwara to host Slough’s Children Services to encourage adoption from local Sikh community.


Friday 4 th May 2018 –
One of the largest gurdwaras in Britain will host an event with their local children’s services to encourage child fostering and adoption within the Sikh community of Slough.

Details of the event can be found below.

On Wednesday 9th May, the Guru Maneyo Granth Gurdwara in Slough will host Slough Children’s Services Trust (SCST) for an evening of information where attendees can learn more about the adoption and fostering process and even sign-up. The SCST is looking for people of all cultural and religious backgrounds to be aware of the opportunity to give disadvantaged children a loving home by fostering and adopting them.

In a statement about the event, management at the Slough Gurdwara said: ‘For children who find themselves without a stable and safe home, through no fault of their own, finding a loving family within their own culture is life changing. Fostering or adopting a child in need is a true act of compassion enshrined in the spirit of Sikhi. Guru Maneyo Granth Gurdwara is delighted to partner with Slough Children’s Trust to host this event to help Sikh families understand and participate in, the adoption and fostering process.’

Slough Children Services Trust (SCST), a not-for-profit organisation providing social care and support services in Slough, and has called on Sikh families in the town to provide a loving and nurturing home for Sikh children in care. The Trust has said that there are a number of Sikh children who find themselves in need of fostering, and due to a lack of Sikh parents they are often fostered by parents from other faiths. This lack of consistency in the child’s upbringing is seen as unconducive to creating the stable home environment a child needs to flourish.

Helping those in need is a key tenet of Sikhi. The first Guru of the Sikh faith, Guru Nanak Dev Ji Maharaj, instructed all Sikhs: ‘Vand ke chakna’ meaning the material possessions that one has must be shared first with the community, particularly with those in vulnerable circumstances. The Sikh concept of seva (selfless service) encourages Sikhs to help those in need, by providing time, energy and finances to help the vulnerable.

Learn more on Sikh ethos and history advocating adoption by watching this video by educational org Basics of Sikhi.

Event details
Date: Wednesday 9th May 2018
Time: 5.30pm – 7.30pm

Address: Guru Maneyo Granth Gurdwara, 221 Bath Road, Slough, SL1 4BA

 

 

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2018 British Sikh Report launched

The sixth edition of the British Sikh Report was launched in Parliament yesterday.

Hosted by Jasvir Singh in Portcullis House, the launch featured contributions from MPs including Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, Adam Holloway and Seema Malhotra.

The report was the result of over 2,000 survey responses from members of the British Sikh community. It featured an article on mental health by Dr Jagbir Jhutti-Johal, senior lecturer at the University of Birmingham. Dr Jhutti-Johal invited key mental health Sikh community activists to talk about their activities. These included Kal Singh Dhindsa, author of ‘My Father & The Lost Legend of Pear Tree’, Shuranjeet Singh Takhar, who founded tarakī, and Neelam Heera from Cysters.

The executive summary listed the following key findings of the report:

  • 10% of Sikh women have been diagnosed with mental health issues compared to 5% of Sikh men
  • 80% of Sikh women and 68% of Sikh men know someone who has experienced poor mental health in the past year
  • 77% of Sikhs find their lives stressful
  • 35% of Sikhs said their job was the major cause of stress, and a further 27% said it was due to family responsibilities
  • 61% of Sikh men and 52% of Sikh women expect to live with extended family in their old age
  • 27% of Sikhs hope to live in a retirement village in their old age
  • Only 2% of Sikhs have elderly family members who currently live in a care home.

You can find the report here: http://www.britishsikhreport.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/British-Sikh-Report-2018.pdf

Corbyn meeting Modi in 2015

Labour Party confirm #FreeJaggiNow case was NOT ‘brought up directly with Modi’

The Sikh Press Association spoke with Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell at the launch of the 2018 British Sikh Report. Hear what he had to say on Labour support for the #FreeJaggiNow case and support for an independent inquiry into British involvement in the Amritsar massacre of 1984.


 

The Labour Party did not bring up the case of Jagtar Singh Johal, Scottish Sikh detained in India for 173 days without charge, with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to the UK last week.

The news, confirmed by John McDonnell directly to the Sikh Press Association, will be a great disappointment to #FreeJaggiNow campaign supporters across the world, who pushed for the issue to be address directly with Modi by the UK government. This follows Jagtar Singh’s brother accusing the UK government of a ‘lack of transparency’ in reference to Prime Minister Theresa May claiming she did bring up the case directly with Modi.

McDonnell said on Labour’s involvement on the issue, ‘The case has not been brought up direct with Modi and the conversation has now taken place but it will be one of those issues we are raising more formally.

‘There have been a number of Labour MPs and part of our movement overall who have been concerned about the case and the need for justice and the need for fair treatment, so that will be an issue we take up.’

The MP for Hayes and Harlington also spoke on Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn reaffirming a commitment to have an independent inquiry into UK government involvement in the Indian state perpetrated Amritsar Massacre of 1984, which was officially titled Operation Blue Star.

McDonnell stated on this; ‘Jeremy and I have been campaigning on this issue for over a decade and a half at least and the reason for that is because it is a matter of justice.

‘There will not be justice until we know specifically the role of the British state in what happened. Although there was a commitment from the last government about publishing all documentation we know that didn’t happen, we know things were held back.

‘This will be a stain on this country and the history of India until we get the full truth. There needs to be recognition from both the Indian and UK government about how deeply felt this is not just by the Sikh and wider Punjabi community, but also with all those people concerned about honesty truth openness and transparency.’