Sikh Youth UK LOGO

Responses to Independent Sikh Youth UK article

In response to this week’s Independent article on Sikh Youth UK (SYUK), see below for Sikh Press Association concerns about a lack of context, a Sikh Council statement and an interview where SYUK directly address the allegations made at them.


 

The Sikh Press Association is a news agency created to specifically mediate between panthic Sikh organisations/individuals and the media. 

Sikh PA are an apolitical organisation. We never have and never will advocate any Sikh organisation or individual working with Tommy Robinson or any other politically tied figure as a representative of any Sikh issue/ideology. 

We openly welcome any investigations/news reports on Sikh related issues and strive to help provide whatever information or resources are required for coverage. Our only condition is stories are covered accurately and fairly, within the correct context.

Indy syuk headline
Last week the Sikh Press Association were made aware online news outlet the Independent were conducting an investigation on Sikh ethos community group Sikh Youth UK.

As per our role, Sikh PA were asked to liaise between Adam Lusher, the journalist conducting the investigation, and Sikh Youth UK. We also discussed the issue with Sikh Council UK who were another organisation contacted in regards to the story.

In dialogue with all groups, it was collectively decided that SYUK would not be speaking to the journalist directly, nor would they be answering questions sent via email prior to the story being published. The following were deemed areas of concern by Sikh PA:

The Sikh Press Association also wishes to highlight that just last year the BBC gave former leader of the English Defence League (EDL) Tommy Robinson a platform on Radio 4 and online. Talk radio channel LBC, one of the most popular radio stations in Britain, also gave right-wing media personality Katie Hopkins her own radio show, after she infamously suggested guns be used on migrants in her Sun newspaper column. Neither organisation has been accused of “propagating hatred” in the same manner SYUK have been by the Independent.

In regards to the article itself, we would like to point out the following missing context from the Independent article:

  • Tommy Robinson attended a screening of SYUK film Misused Trust as a reporter for Rebel Media. Made in Birmingham TV also covered the film upon its release.
  • SYUK met with Tommy Robinson in Huddersfield nine months ago. The Facebook status about his Sikh Channel appearance was two years ago. These are the only two times SYUK have done anything which can be suggested as advocating Tommy Robinson in at least five years of existence.
  • In regards to questioning the validity of SYUK’s messages on the work of grooming gangs, it must be noted the group not only work with the police and social services on such matters, they also speak to hundreds of Sikhs about the issue on a near weekly basis via their work with Sikh student societies and in Gurdwaras across the UK.
  • SYUK also offer support to various other communities impacted by abuse or addiction, including Muslims, as shown on their social media.
  • SYUK’s community work is based on Sikh advocated practices such as connection with sangat (Sikh congregation), simran (recitation meditation), sports and further education in Sikh history and philosophy.

 

Sikh Council Statement on SYUK

Sexual Grooming and exploitation is an issue of national concern and requires the police, local authorities, educational establishments and communities to work together towards both prevention and bringing the perpetrators to justice.

From our understanding the Sikh Youth UK raise contemporary issues such as substance abuse, domestic violence, bullying and grooming. We understand the dramatised film ‘Misused Trust’ produced by them is an artistic expression of the issue of grooming and needs to be considered within that context.

It is encouraging to see young people becoming actively involved in promotion of active and healthy life styles, self help and community safety towards responsible citizenship.

Hate crimes are unfortunately on the rise and Sikhs have been susceptible to attacks in particular due to their distinct identity. In some cases Sikhs are the victims of hate crimes in sheer ignorance where the perpetrators are motivated by Islamophobia. We would encourage all community groups rightly concerned with issues such as grooming to be mindful of far-right groups who may seek to exploit these issues to demonise and divide communities.

 

Interview with Sikh Youth UK on Independent allegations

The following is an interview with SYUK based on the allegations made by the Independent. The answers were given as a collective.

 

“We have never advocated any of Tommy Robinson’s views on Islam, nor will we”

 

Q) How would Sikh Youth UK characterise its relationship with Tommy Robinson?

A) Nine months ago Tommy Robinson covered a Sikh Youth UK event for news channel Rebel Media. He has also shown an interest in sharing our work in tackling issues around grooming gangs. This is no different from the kind of “relationship” SYUK have established with journalists from the BBC and other news organisations. To be clear, SYUK are not in regular contact with Tommy Robinson and have no connection with any right-wing group.

 

Q) Are SYUK “propagating hatred towards Muslims” as Dr Katy Sian stated?

A) Just last week SYUK shared a post on our social media pages of us working with a young Muslim girl, supporting her on issues of domestic abuse. We have never advocated any of Tommy Robinson’s views on Islam, nor will we.

The fact is that as we saw recently with former Labour MP Sarah Champion when she said the UK has a problem with “Pakistani men raping and exploiting white girls”, anyone who publicly states the commonly (but usually privately) held belief about where many grooming gangs are produced is demonised. SYUK do not believe in sheltering truths of this nature, especially when they only work against tackling this heinous crime. SYUK’s voice will not waiver in the face of allegations of “propagating hatred” or political correctness.

 

“There are dozens of Sikhs in Leicester who will attest to the fact that details of a grooming gang forcing a Sikh girl into prostitution were handed to police in 2013…nothing was done about it”

 

Q) Why did SYUK make a video about the London Mayor?

A) SYUK volunteer Deepa Singh was simply making a factual statement; that a non-Sikh was dictating how to run a Sikh event (Vaisakhi in the Square). As our social media shows, SYUK also openly condemn those of a Sikh background who involve non-Sikh practices in Sikh festivals.

 

Q) What do you say to suggestions your film Misused Trust encourages vigilantism?

A) The film was based on real life events, detailed to us by girls we have supported as victims of sexual grooming. The fact of the matter is that because of self-admitted failures of our authorities to deal with grooming gangs, groups have taken issues into their own hands in the past. This type of vigilantism is part of Midlands Whilst it is something we do not condone, it is part of real life, which was why it was documented in the film.

There are dozens of Sikhs in Leicester who will attest to the fact that details of a grooming gang forcing a Sikh girl into prostitution were handed to the police in 2013. When nothing was done about it, it unfortunately resulted in a clash between members of the Sikh community and a known grooming gang that operated out of a restaurant. This resulted in Sikhs with no prior history of any criminal activity going to jail. This is the last thing we want to happen. The only thing we want is for the activities of sexual grooming gangs to be stopped.

By being vocal about this and working closely with authorities we are able to stem any future instances of vigilantism. This is an important part of our relationship between the Sikh community and West Midlands Police.

 

“If SYUK were a group which worked of “baseless fears”, we would not have the relationship with the authorities that we do. West Midlands Police often take cases directly from us”

 

Q) The Independent article suggested there is “no evidence” that incidents of the kind that Misused Trust depicted actually occur. Is this true?

A) This kind of callous attitude forces victims of grooming into the position of having to do interviews with the media publicly or face allegations of dishonesty. SYUK never ask any of the victims we work with to come forward publicly, just so we can appease doubters.

Those who suggest groomers have not pretended to be Sikh in order to entrap Sikh girls cannot claim to share the level of experience SYUK have in dealing with this issue. Not only do we have a reach across the UK which has seen us support victims from East London to Bradford and further, one of our senior volunteers Deepa Singh is also welfare secretary of Guru Nanak Gurdwara Smethwick, a role which sees him interact with thousands of people at one of the busiest Gurdwaras outside of India. He is an executive member of the Sikh Council. As an ear for the Sikh public he only reiterates the concerns of the sangat (Sikh congregation) he interacts with, which is why he is a respected Sikh community figure.

It must also be noted, if SYUK were a group which worked of “baseless fears”, we would not have the relationship with the authorities that we do. West Midlands Police often take cases directly from us, to ensure a buffer between families and the police. We have and will continue to work with the authorities on these issues.

 

Q) How has Misused Trust been received in general?

A) The film has been seen by thousands across the country and unanimously supported by viewers for breaking barriers in the way Sikh grassroots org spread messages.

 

Q) The Independent article seems to accuse SYUK of spreading unjustified fear. Is this fair? 

A) SYUK do not aim to spread fear, just awareness. There are literally hundreds of girls across the UKthat have been victims of sexual grooming gangs made up of either entirely or predominantly Muslim men. This is an undeniable fact, one which has been highlighted by Lords, MPs and the media regularly. Sikhs have been vocal about members of our community being targeted by such gangs for decades. However, we always openly say in our talks that this is something that shouldn’t stain the entire Muslim community.

AKAAL PUB - Divali Diwali image

Divali – Keeping the flame of freedom alight

The story of Divali for Sikhs includes the tail of Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib Jee’s release from jail, where he was incarcerated as a political prisoner. With political prisoners – including many Sikhs – still languishing in jails across the world, Harjinder Singh of Akaal Publishers shares his thoughts on the political and spiritual meanings behind #TheSikhDiwali.


NOTE – Spellings of Diwali/Divali/Bandi Chor/Shor vary due to individual interpretations of translating the Punjabi alphabet.

 

Sikhs throughout the globe will celebrate Divali on 19th October. Divas/lamps will be alight, a jovial festival atmosphere will prevail. Sweets and samosas will be enjoyed, fireworks will set alight the moonless sky.

But why do we really celebrate? Apart from the annual calendar significance, what does Divali mean for Sikhs?

The sixth Guru, Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib Jee was falsely imprisoned for spurious reasons by the Mughal Emperor Jahangir. After some months it was declared that Guru Jee could walk free. Like Guru Jee, there were other prisoners of conscience in Gwalior Fort (the prison). 52 Hindu Kings were imprisoned and they made a heartfelt plea to Guru Jee begging him to negotiate their release too. The ocean of mercy that is Guru Jee listened attentively to their plea and showered His grace upon them and told them not to worry and that He would negotiate their release.

Guru Jee told the Emperor he would only leave the prison on the condition that the 52 Hindu Kings were freed too. The Emperor, being a man entangled in his own ego and pride of intelligence, replied that Guru Jee could walk free with as many Kings that could hold onto his clothing on the day of His release. Guru Jee, a fountain of knowledge, easily got around this condition by getting a robe tailored with 52 tassels on it. On the day of His release, Guru Jee walked out of Gwalior Fort with all 52 Hindu Kings holding onto one tassel each, this auspicious occasion is referred to as Bandi Shorr Divas – the day of emancipation. Guru Jee did not only free the 52 Hindu Kings from prison, He also showered His grace upon them and freed them from the transmigration of the soul, freeing them from the cycle of birth and death. Each and everyone of us also begs for this freedom:

Forsaking all other doors I have come to your door. Preserve my honour by 
offering the support of your arm, liberate me, I am your humble servant.
(Sri Guru Gobind Singh Jee) 

I have come to the sanctuary of the formless and emancipating Lord, who 
destroys all sufferings. (Sri Guru Arjan Dev Jee, 624 – Sri Guru Granth Sahib Jee) 

May Guru Jee bless us with spiritual and physical liberation also.

Bandhi Shorr Divas was months prior to Divali. Upon release from Gwalior Fort, Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib Jee made a tour of Delhi and other regions, then arrangements to go to Sri Darbar Sahib in Amritsar were made. When He reached Amritsar Sahib it was Divali, and the Sikhs celebrated the release of Guru Jee with fireworks and festivities.

Relevance today

All over the world there are countless prisoners of conscience, held under fabricated charges and/or held for standing up for justice, freedom and righteousness. Please light a candle for these prisoners, non-Sikhs and Sikhs. Don’t forget Guru Jee’s example of freeing Hindu Kings. He was benevolent, humane and had a profound love for one and all. May we develop such divine virtues. May we all endeavour to assist and support such prisoners. At the very least we can all make a heartfelt prayer that Guru Jee blesses all prisoners with Chardi Kala/High Spirits.

One cannot begin to imagine losing freedom of movement and action, we can only try to empathise with such prisoners. Regardless of the regime and its tyranny, no man-made
authority can imprison the Sikh Spirit. Sikhs still happily go to the gallows to stand up for justice, freedom and righteousness. The Sikh Spirit cannot be imprisoned. Prominent
Sikhs currently imprisoned include Dr. Davinderpal Singh Bhullar, Bhai Deya Singh Lahoria, Bhai Balwant Singh Rajoana, Bhai Paramjeet Singh Bheora, Bhai Jagtar Singh Hawara…the list could go on and on.

Imagine being the parent of a child who quite simply ‘disappeared’ (see here for more on fake encounters) in the 80’s and 90’s in Punjab. Many of these parents light a candle at Divali, praying and wishing that the light of hope may still bless them with a vision of a fit and well son or daughter. Or they pray in despair that may God nurture their offspring wherever they may be.

So when you light a candle and eat a sweet at Divali, please spare a thought, that you are free and are not bound by the restraints of prison life. Lest we forget, let us light a lamp to ensure the rays of freedom shine through all of humanity.

Harjinder Singh

More from Akaal Publishers can be found here;

Turban Falklands - Army with kids and signs

Turban Day in Falkland Islands

 

A Sikh in the British Army raised awareness of the Sikh faith in one of the most remote parts of the world, having held a Turban Day event in the Falkland Islands.

Turban Falklands - Manpreet tying on officer

Manpreet Singh tying a dastar on a colleague.

On the 5th October 2017, Lance Corporal (LCpl) Manpreet Singh Lally organised a the event at the Mount Pleasant School, with over 70 personnel taking part. A serving Sikh soldier, LCpl Lally has been part of the British Army for the last four and half years where he serves as a Communication System Engineer in the Royal Signals and is currently posted to the British Forces South Atlantic Islands (BFSAI).

Turban Falklands - Classroom 2
LCpl Lally said of the event, “I organised the Turban Day in order to educate BFSAI personnel and their families about Sikhi, to tell the audience about the importance of the dastar (Sikh turban), and to raise awareness about Sikh history. The event was the first time that a Turban Day has been celebrated in British Army history.”

LCpl Lally, assisted by SAC Sarah McGhin from the Royal Air Force, tied dastars from 10am until 12.30pm. The event has hosted by headmaster Gary Margerison and was attended by the BFSAI Chief of Staff, Group Captain Jim Frampton and BFSAI Padre, Squadron Leader Rebekah Cannon.They were among more than 50 people, including students, teachers and service persons, to wear a dastar, which is a new record for the Falkland Islands. Leaflets from Sikh educational organisation Basics of Sikhi were also distributed to the audience. The material for the dastars and the leaflets were donated by Mr Sarabjit Singh of England, a volunteer of the Guru Nanak Gurdwara of Bradford.

Turban Falklands - Manpreet tying on officer 2
The event concluded with LCpl Lally delivering a presentation about Sikhi which discussed the importance of the dastar, contributions of Sikhs from all across the world and a brief look into Sikh history. Amongst those LCpl Lally talked about were Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the Sikh scriptural Guru, Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan, Fauja Singh the world’s oldest marathon runner and Harman Singh, a New Zealand man saved a child’s life with his dastar.

LCpl Lally also talked about the contribution of Sikh soldiers in both World Wars, in which a staggering 83005 Sikhs lost their lives, and finished by talking about his brother Ajay Singh, the taxi driver who made national headlines for his role in rescuing and transporting people injured people during the Manchester Arena attack.

Turban Falklands - cute kids

Sukhdeep Singh, an educator for Basics of Sikhi said, “It is great to see that in this most remote part of the world this Sikh has spent so much time and effort into ensuring he educates people on his faith.

“Sikhs can stand out so much that our physical identity, which was gifted to us by our Guru, can naturally prompt questions from those unfamiliar with Sikhi. This is why these events are important, so that people understand what the physical identity represents, and thus what they should think of when they see a Sikh.”

JetSingh Gym - Arjan speaking

Sikh UFC Fighter opens up new MMA Centre

A brand new MMA (mixed martial-arts) centre in Wolverhampton funded by the Jet Singh Trust was opened last weekend by UFC star Arjan Singh Bhullar.
JetSingh Gym - cutting ceremony (Credit Punjab2000.com)

Picture courtesy of Punjab2000.com.

The Canadian former Commonwealth Games gold medalist and Olympian wrestler was invited by members of the Sikh ethos charity the Jet Singh Trust to open the centre on Heathmill Road on October 8th before dozens of supporters of the charity. Sikh community figures from across the UK were in attendance.

Arjan Singh Bhullar is the first ever competitor of a south-Asian background to compete in the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championships), the leading MMA organisation and one of the biggest sports brands in the world. As a Sikh, he decided to stop off in Wolverhampton where he has a large fan-base within the heavily Sikh populated city. Currently undefeated in MMA with a 7-0 record, Arjan Singh has often spoken of his Sikh faith helping to inspire him to reach the top level of the sport.
Arjan Singh jab

Arjan Singh in action on his UFC debut, a unanimous decision win.

Arjan Singh said, “I was honoured to be invited to the opening of this new gym. I commend the amazing community work of the Jet Singh Trust and it is because of this I wanted to be here today. MMA, wrestling and sports in general are a great way for children to learn discipline and remain fit and active. Any way we can encourage youngsters of all backgrounds to get involved needs support.
JetSingh Gym - Arjan with children
“Especially for Sikhs, with our Gurus so strongly advocating wrestling, it is important to support groups like the Jet Singh Trust, an organisation named after a great Sikh wrestler.”The Jet Singh Trust was founded after the passing of Wolverhampton local Jet Singh, a former eight-time British wrestling champion. The MMA centre is just one of many community and charitable initiatives the charity have set up. More information on the group can be found here.

JetSingh Gym - gym
Devinder Singh of the Jet Singh Trust said, “We really want to encourage children and even adults of all backgrounds to get into sport. MMA is a route to both health and discipline. Arjan Singh coming down was brilliant. He spent time with the children, teaching them some skills, and he also took a picture with every single person who attended. We hope his presence will serve as an inspiration to people to get involved in MMA.”The creation of this gym is a fitting tribute to the name of Jet Singh, someone who would have loved to be training in such a facility.”

WhatsApp Image 2017-10-14 at 19.00.03

The Journey to Food & Freedom: An update from Zero Hunger with Langar

jag singh

Jagjit Singh

Last year lifelong Birmingham resident Jagjit Singh detailed his charitable work on the ITV website during Langar Week, an international awareness campaign about the practice of langar; free vegetarian food served on the streets and in every Gurdwara by Sikhs all over the world. Jagjit Singh here updates us on how his project Zero Hunger with Langar, which has taken this concept to Malawi, Africa.



Zero Hunger - with kids

Since Langar Week last year, many memorable things have happened during the Zero Hunger with Langar project. Many I have documented many in my daily banter blog.

One of the most memorable things is missing my daughter’s birthday.

 

Zero Hunger for Langar started in 2016 after I watched Sikh community leader Bhai Mohinder Singh’s UN speech on building bridges through religion. In Sikhi (Sikhism) we have a natural bridge builder in langar; a free vegetarian food service, open to all for both consumption and voluntary service.

 

A quick google search showed me langar would be most useful in poverty stricken African nation Malawi. I went to see Bhai Mohinder Singh at Soho Road Gurdwara to humbly suggest something be done to take langar there. He sent me packing. Literally. Within the week I was in Malawi.

langar in malawi

There, in an impoverished village, I met a charming boy called Fraser. In conversation, I learned Fraser didn’t know when his birthday was. I asked him what he would want if he could have anything in the world to celebrate his birthday. “I just want a fanta” he said.

 

That year I went home from Malawi for my daughter’s birthday. I told her about Fraser not having a birthday of his own. “He can have my birthday daddy” she responded.

fraser

So this year I fulfilled her wish by spending her birthday with Fraser. And a can of fanta of course.

 

Just like my daughter did for her 10th birthday, Fauja Singh, the oldest marathon runner in history, pledged his 106th birthday to a Malawian child, raising enough for 75,000 meals. International model Pardeep Singh aka Singh Street Style did the same and raised enough for 26,000 meals. Dozens of others have done the same. You can too. Click here for more information.

exhibition 1

The Journey to Food & Freedom, Custard Factory Exhibition.

The Zero Hunger with Langar project held an exhibition this week in Birmingham’s Custard Factory, letting people know that gestures like the above have contributed to us serving over 1.2million meals in Malawi so far, as well as purchasing a farm there to ensure the langar will be sustainable. The meals are served in schools, helping children stay in school rather than being forced out to work to earn money to eat, ensuring a brighter future for all.

team

But we need more, because they need more. Find out how you can help by clicking here.

SFUK Logo

Sikh group accuse UK government report of discrimination

SFUK state the Prime Minister “gave the green light to discriminate against the Sikh minority community”.


The Sikh Federation UK, a faith based political lobbying group, have accused a recent UK government race disparity audit report of neglecting Sikhs, “despite protection under race laws”.

The audit, a report aimed at exposing inequalities in areas such as policing, housing, education and health, was released two days ago and immediately drew criticism from Sikhs, including Edgbaston MP Preet Kaur who questioned the issue in parliament.

SFUK are an organisation that have long lobbied for separate Sikh government classification. The group cite the fact it was established in the 5:0 ruling in the House of Lords in the Mandla v Dowell-Lee case in 1983 that Sikhs were a legally recognised racial group with respect to ethnic origins. More than 15 years ago following the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 the Commission for Race Equality (CRE) in July 2002 amended its guidance ‘CRE Ethnic Monitoring, A guide for public authorities’ to make specific reference to Sikhs due to the legal position.

Check out the full statement from SFUK here.

france turban ban

British Sikh student refused placement in France due to turban

A Sikh student of Kings College London (KCL) has had his degree put in jeopardy after a French school he was due to work in for an overseas placement refused his position.
On October 3rd M.Singh Pandhal was told that due to strict application of Laicité, the French secularist law, his role as a teaching assistant was rescinded. As a Sikh, M.Singh wears a dastar (Sikh turban). In order to complete a degree in French and Management, KCL students must spend one year studying abroad in a French speaking environment.

“I feel disappointed and frustrated with this situation. French authorities allowed me to settle here, knowing what I came for, without telling me anything until I walked into the school. When I came in the headmaster did not even greet me, he just began questioning me on my dastar. I was later told I would not be allowed to work in any public school in France.”

M.Singh is currently speaking with both the Sikh Federation UK, who have long lobbied the UK government to challenge the discriminatory European law also observed in countries such as Belgium and Turkey, along with the Representative Council of Sikhs of France (RCSF), in order to remedy the situation and allow the British student to complete his degree.

With his application to work abroad as part of his degree going through the British Council, it leaves questions as to how much responsibility the educational institution will take in ensuring all British students – including Sikhs – get a fair chance to use their services.

 

KCL released the following statement to the Sikh Press Association regarding the situation:

All King’s College London students studying or working abroad through our schemes are made aware of legislation in country and of local customs which may affect them.

As an institution the safety and welfare of our 30,000 students and staff is paramount.  King’s is proud of its diverse and inclusive community, which comprises students and staff from more than 150 countries, from all backgrounds and faiths. We are committed to respect for all of our students and staff.

Our procedures are under regular scrutiny and a review of this case with the student involved is already underway.

Ranjit Singh, director of RCSF, who is taking up the issue with French authorities, stated, “Our goal is find an alternative solution with the French academy. We thank KCL for their support during this period. We are seeking support from any organisations that believe in freedom of religion.

“Sikhs once proudly wore their daastars, refusing helmets, to fight for the freedom of France in both World War One and World War Two. It is disappointing it is now seen as a barrier in working for the state, whereas once it symbolised protection of the state.”

Earlier this year, the French turban ban was criticised by newly elected Slough Labour MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, a dastar wearing Sikh, in his maiden speech, calling it a “warped interpretation of secularism”.

For more information on this story or to arrange interview opportunities, please email Media@SikhPA.com.

Grooming headline - INdy

“Grooming gangs are more organised than the Govt understands” – SYUK

Following news of stats showing a 62% rise in cases of child sexual exploitation, social reform community group Sikh Youth UK released a statement on the issue.

The award winning Sikh ethos group regularly tackle cases of sexual grooming and feel the UK Government are unable to deal with the problem because of a lack of understanding about how the gangs operate. See below for the statement in full.

SYUK Statement – 09/10/17.

“The issue of grooming gangs in the UK is worse than even the recent statistics show. The fact is, these gangs are more organised and more strategic than it seems UK government authorities understand. In many situations they are simply able to work within the law, leading to a grey area which has allowed this most callous and seedy of practices to spiral out of control.

“This is why the problem is neglected and this is why we have hundreds of families turn to us to help tackle this issue. Many have seen first hand the devastating impact of a vulnerable young girl becoming the target of a grooming gang; whether it’s to brainwash them into going to join ISIS in Syria or simply coerced into a life of prostitution.

“Sikh Youth UK work with social workers and counsellors within the framework of a Sikh ethos support network to provide the help these girls need to escape the hellish clutches of a grooming gang. We will continue to do so and urge any victims or concerned families to come forward to us.”

LW17 - Saka Panja Sahib

When Sikhs sacrificed their lives for Langar – #LangarWeek

Langar as an institution is so important to Sikhs that they’ve sacrificed their lives in order to maintain it.  – an article by Shamsher Singh of NSYF.


 

On 31st October 1922 as ਸਾਕਾ ਪੰਜਾ ਸਾਹਿਬ (Saka Panja Sahib); ਸਾਕਾ (saka – historic event where rare courage and valour was displayed). This saka (demonstration) displayed the indomitable spirit of the Sikhs in a unique and explicitly Sikh way.

It personified and made tangible the sovereignty of mind and body that was bestowed upon the downtrodden people of Punjab when they became the Sikhs of the Guru; it displayed the transformation of an individual Sikh into a member of the Khalsa Panth and the price we will willingly pay for the love we bear for the Guru and his beloved Sikhs.

When the Sikhs that lived around Panja Sahib heard that the train carrying the prisoners from the morcha (protest) would be passing through the nearby town of Hassan Abdul, they gathered at the station in the early morning with langar. They were told by a colonial station officer that the train would not be stopping and that they were wasting their time. The gathered Sikhs asked the agent of the occupier if the train could be stopped briefly so that they could serve langar to the elders.

As all requests made to the oppressor, this one too fell on deaf ears. Bhai Karam Singh (in his late twenties) sat down on the tracks. It is recorded that Bhai Karam Singh said, “Guru Nanak stopped a boulder with one hand, there’s so many of us here today, we can easily stop the train“. Bhai Partaap Singh (aged 24) sat down next to him.

My parents told me that before long Sikhs were fighting to sit at the front near Bhai Karam Singh and Bhai Partaap Singh. Mothers were sitting down with their children. As the train approached the Sikhs were shouting jaikareh.

Like all machinery of the oppressor, the Train only stopped when it couldn’t get through the mangled bodies of those that resisted.

The word ਲੰਗਰ (langar) has it’s origins in the Punjabi word for anchor. Shaheed Bhai Karam Singh and Shaheed Bhai Partaap Singh realised the significance of langar; it’s what rooted them to the ground in front of that train.

Whether it was in the 18th century when Shaheed Bhai Taru Singh gave langar to Sikh jujaroos and was scalped for it, or the 20th century when Sikh families in Punjab served langar to Khalistani freedom fighters only to become targets of state terror, langar has always gone hand in hand with Sikh revolution and Sikhs have willingly embraced it’s reality as active participants within the sangharsh (struggle for liberation).

Arjan Singh jab

Sikh fighter wins UFC debut & says “I want to bring awareness to what my people are about”

This weekend the first ever South-Asian to compete in the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) won his debut fight and declared his determination to “educate people” on the Sikh faith.

Arjan Singh Bhullar took his MMA (mixed martial-arts) record to 7-0 following a three-round unanimous decision points win against Brazilian contender Luis Henrique at the UFC 215 event in Edmonton, Canada. In a post fight interview (shared below) the former Olympic level wrestler attributed his fighting prowess to his faith.

“The founders of our religion practiced wrestling. Those that know me know my blood burns hot. My lineage comes down from the Sikh warriors…this life (as a professional combat athlete) is a no-brainer for me.”

Arjan Singh also spoke of his desire to create more understanding about the Sikh identity, and plans to do so by wearing a turban during his ring entrances, something he has previously done.

“It (the turban) is symbolic of the Sikh people. You look at our defence minister (Harjit Singh Sajjan of Canada), he wears a turban, that’s what Sikhs are. I want to educate people and bring awareness to what my people are about.

“It is something I am prideful for. When I walked out to the Olympic games (representing Canada in 2012) I was front-row next to our flag bearer and I had my turban on and people around the world recognised, ‘that’s one of our people’.

“The founders of our religion do that (wear turbans) because as a people we standout, we are unique, and that’s something I want to empower people to be. Be unique, standout. You see a guy with a beard and a turban and you know he is a Sikh.”

Check out the full interview here.

NOTE – The term for the Sikh turban is Dastaar. Practicing Sikhs will not remove the Dastaar in public except in extreme circumstances.