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Spanish Sikhs speak on Barcelona terror attack

Sikh español habla sobre el ataque terrorista de Barcelona. Vídeo aquí:

A native Spaniard and Amritdhari (initiated) Sikh today called for unity between the Spanish and Sikh communities, in the wake of yesterday’s terror attack in Barcelona.

Partapdev Kaur, who works as head of translations for Sikh educational organisation Basics of Sikhi, spoke out in condemnation of the attack, whilst also dispelling the commonly made mistaken association between the Sikh identity and terrorism. See the video above for her full statement. Learn more about the Sikh faith in Spanish here.

The sangat (congregation) of Barcelona Sikh Gurudwara Gurdarshan Sahib Ji (Sikh place of education and worship) also came together to condemn the attacks and offer their support to locals, stating “for anyone who is having a hard time, the Guru’s house is open to come to at any time”, offering food, water and shelter. Barcelona’s Sikh Gurudwara Gurdarshan Sahib Ji is adjacent to where the terror attacks took place, with the Carrer de l’Hospital road it is on being cordoned off by the police straight after the attacks.

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Sikhs of Barcelona went out today to show solidarity with the local community, following yesterday’s terror attack.

Respected Sikh community figure of Barcelona Gagandeep Singh also addressed the people of Catalan in their native tongue, condemning the attack and again offering support from the local Sikh community. Both videos can be seen below.

For more information, images, quotes or interview opportunities, email Media@SikhPA.com.

Sikh speaks in Catalan on Barcelona terror attack

Statement in Punjabi by Sikh Gurudwara Gurdarshan Sahib Ji sangat

 

free sikh political prisoners

Sikh Political Prisoner Released

A Sikh political prisoner from France has been released on bail after seven years in a prison in India thanks to the work of UK based humanitarian charity Sikh Relief.

Pal Singh, a French citizen and well-known human rights campaigner in Europe and America, was working in his native Punjab state in India, helping those suffering from drug and alcohol addiction. It was during this work that Pal Singh was arrested by the Punjab Police which was reported by the Punjabi newspaper Daily Ajit to have been on 22nd July 2010.

Chairman of Sikh Relief, Balbir Singh Bains said: “It has taken years for the justice system to acknowledge the right to liberty of those who are demonstrably innocent, even if only granting bail pending appeal. The Indian justice system would benefit society greatly if it worked with an organisation like ours and helped heal the mistrust of a Sikh community that feels oppressed by the judiciary and political classes.”

In the immediate aftermath of Pal Singh’s arrest, the Punjab Police denied that he had been arrested, leading to the Sikh Relief legal team filing a case for Habeas Corpus on 26th July 2010. Only then was his detention confirmed. This is another example of similar cases where men have been detained illegally by the police in Punjab, with the arrests being denied often for weeks at a time. Allegations from within the Sikh community suggest this time window provides an opportunity for the police to torture the illegally detained suspects, which then results in forced “confessions”.

Pal Singh faced charges of terrorism in an evidently flawed trial and was sentenced. Thanks to Sikh Relief, he has now been freed on bail ahead of his appeal against the conviction, which is due next year.

Jagtar Singh Gill, Secretary General Elect of the Sikh Council UK said: “The Sikh Council welcomes the news that Bhai Pal Singh, a citizen of France, has been released on bail and commends the hard work and perseverance of Sikh Relief in assisting with the release.”

Toofan Singh

Review of Toofan Singh – Harjinder Singh (Akaal Publishers)

The following is a review of Toofan Singh by respected Sikh author and educator Harjinder Singh. The recently released film depicts the life of famed Punjabi folk-hero Jugraj Singh who was a freedom-fighter for the Khalistan Liberation Force. For more from Harjinder Singh and the Akaal Publishers team, follow them on facebook, twitter or instagram.

To see where you can watch Toofan Singh in your area, check out the images here.


 

 

Last Friday, I went to the premier of the Toofan Singh movie. It was held at the plush and world famous Pinewood Studios (London, UK). I have never had a better sound and visual experience of watching a movie, so if you get an invite to Pinewood don’t turn it down! It was second to none.

Writing this review has been quite hard for me as I knew much of Toofan’s story before watching the movie, so apologies if it is not comprehensive.

Toofan means tornado, and this nickname aptly describes the storm that Bhai Jugraj Singh Jee created in Punjab when participating in freedom fighting in the late 1980s. This film is by far the best Punjabi movie produced that I have seen on anything related to the period of 1984 – 1995. It has raised the bar on previous poorer productions and I hope this raising of the bar continues in future movies about this period of recent history.

Bhai Jugraj Singh Jee is referred to as Gurbaaz Singh in the movie and is played by two actors – Damanpreet Singh (as the child/younger Toofan Singh) & Ranjit Bawa (the famous Punjabi singer). Damanpreet’s acting was superb, Ranjit Bawa did a decent job too for a singer. People have criticised the casting of Bawa in the main role due to his diminutive figure – but from what I know this is pretty accurate of what Toofan actually looked like. The movie starts with how the 1984 attack on Sri Darbar Sahib by the Indian government impacts the young Toofan, and shows his family life. His family was poor – they didn’t even have electricity in their home. He was the only son and had five sisters.

Toofan became one of the most famous freedom fighters of the Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF). The KLF was a formidable force and their leadership and fighters were some of the most exemplary characters of modern Sikh history. They were almost superhuman, and reflected complete determination and an unflinching attitude in battle and principle.

Toofan became famous because his story was in direct contrast to the view propagated of Sikh freedom fighters of this period. He loved people of all faiths, supported them all and participated in civilian reforms through his political power. His story goes against the conventional narrative of a gun-toting terrorist causing havoc. As a freedom fighter, he was both feared and loved. He stopped the evils of dowry and helped people of all faiths to live harmoniously, reintegrating Hindu families who may have left their villages due to fear, and settling disputes.

One of the opening scenes shows Toofan running home to get money to buy ice-creams for some poor girls who couldn’t afford them. This scene personified his character. This was a guy who would dedicate his life to helping the poor, downtrodden and oppressed. He would do this at great personal risk and did not flinch under any pressures. He was advised not to become a freedom fighter. He had five sisters and was advised to support his family instead. But he felt the need to help everyone in Punjab and voluntarily took up the life of a freedom fighter.

As a Sikh he became influenced by Damdami Taksal at a young age, notably by Bhai Manbir Singh Chahehru (in jail at Nabha). He stayed at Mehta – the headquarters of the Taksal – and his main inspirations remained within this circle up until his death in 1990. He worked under the leadership of Jathedar Bhai Avtar Singh Brahma when in the KLF. It was inspiring seeing a towering Brahma being depicted in the movie. This was guy was a true living legend. I got goosebumps every time Brahma’s character came on screen, as I knew of many of his legendary tales including one where his clothes were riddled with bullet holes, yet he survived to tell the story and show the clothes.

Toofan wanted to free the people of Punjab of all social evils and government oppression, choosing to free people from tyrants through the power of the gun to establish peace. The movie shows the despicable torture techniques of Punjab Police. These scenes make hard viewing but accurately display the human rights violations of prisoners in Punjab during this period.

The filmmakers developed a love story into the movie as is seen compulsory by Indian cinema, showing Toofan getting married and having a daughter but continuing to fight against the state. Other plot points can be discerned when you watch the movie. His wife and daughter also met their demise soon after Toofan’s but this isn’t explained when the movie ends.

The movie is essential viewing for all Indians, Punjabis, Sikhs & Khalistanis. The history of this iconic figure needs to be known. When Toofan was martyred in an encounter against the Punjab Police, an estimated 1000 people gathered outside the police station protesting for the release of his body from police custody so that a funeral could be conducted. It is estimated that 400,000 people attended his funeral. He was loved by all Punjabis. Notably, ‘Baba Takhur Singh of Damdami Taksal, Shaheed Major Baldev Singh Ghuman, Simranjit Singh Mann, Bibi Rajinder Kaur Bulara, Bibi Bimal Kaur Khalsa and Justice Ajit Singh Bains all paid homage to the great hero during his antim ardas (cremation). On that day, the president of Sri Hargobindpur’s BJP party, Mr. Darshan Lal Chopra, said that Jugraj Singh was their shield and protected the Hindu’s and today we feel alone after he is gone.’ (source: neverforget1984 dot com).

bangalore sikh attack victim

Threatened, assaulted in Bangalore, Sikh family turns to Akal Takht for help – TOI

We share this post as an example of how Sikhs – like other minority communities in India – regularly find no support from the police when targeted for abuse intimidation and more, which is why this family have turned to the highest seat of Sikh authority in the world for help.


 

 

AMRITSAR: A Bangalore-based retired Sikh Army officer, whose wife and two sons were allegedly assaulted and threatened, has approached the Akal Takht requesting it to use its influence on the Karnataka government to give him justice in the case.

In a letter written to the Akal Takht jathedar, a copy of which was sent to TOI on Saturday, Col R S Uppal (retd) wrote, “My son Harmeet Uppal was brutally assaulted and he suffered multiple facial fractures and a broken jaw. He had to undergo a 5-our surgery and has six plates in his mouth. He was also hit on the chest, head, back and limbs. My younger son, Harpreet Uppal, suffered multiple blunt injuries on head, chest, face, back and limbs.”

Harmeet spoke to TOI from Bangalore, saying his family had been getting threats from people, who told them to sell their property and leave the city. “We have met everybody in the Bangalore police establishment to get justice, but to no avail. Now, we have approached the Akal Takht to ensure that the culprits are booked immediately and we can live safely in Bangalore,” he said.

Harmeet, an IT professional having worked in US, alleged, “They threatened to break the legs of my mother Surinder Kaur and outrage her modesty. Police did nothing to safeguard us.”

In the letter, Uppal has also mentioned that they were called ‘Pakistani’. He stated that despite the seriousness of the assault on the family, they were not even being provided its CCTV footage. “There are three cameras on the main road which captured the assault,” he mentioned.

Harmeet said he was hopeful that the Akal Takht jathedar would give directions to Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) to constitute a committee and probe into the incident which had scared them enough to leave in India’s ‘Silicon valley’. “We hope the Akal Takht will write to the Karnataka government,” he said.

When contacted on Tuesday, Akal Takht jathedar Gurbachan Singh’s personal assistant Jaswinderpal Singh said they had received the letter and asked for CCTV footage, FIR, medical report and other relevant documents of the assault from the Uppal family.

Click here to watch the video

Via Times of India.

Oakcreek

Five years on, what has changed?

Five years on from the tragic Oak Creek Gurdwara massacre, journalist Dawinderpal Singh asks why there are still so many unanswered questions about America’s view of Sikhs.


On a Sunday morning five years ago, while worshippers at a Sikh Gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin USA, were preparing Langar (communal food) and Sunday school was in session, a white American man opened fire on the congregation, shooting six people dead.

A further four were wounded before the assailant killed himself. The mass shooting was considered a hate crime. The shooter had ties to white supremacist organisations. He believed that, due to the skin colour and appearance of the Sikhs, they posed a threat.

Five years later, and despite many attempts by Sikhs in the United States to raise awareness of who they are and what the Sikh identity stands for, little has changed. Sikhs are still living in fear of hate crime from Americans.

The issue first came to light in September 2001, after the 9/11 attack. Some Americans began seeking retribution for the Islamic terrorist attack, and the first victim they claimed was Balbir Singh Sodhi, a 49-year-old Sikh man in Mesa, Arizona. He was shot and killed outside his gas station.

It was the first of many attacks on Sikhs in the US (see Box-Out). Following Sodhi’s murder, a Sikh lady was killed by two men on a motorcycle who said: “This is what you get for what you’ve done to us,”; three teens burned down a Gurdwara (Sikh temple) in New York, and a Sikh man was beaten with metal poles by two men in LA, all within the following three months.

Thereafter, the shocking attacks continued at a steady pace; a Sikh man was stabbed in the neck in front of his home; a 15-year-old student’s hair forcibly cut by an older student in New York; a Sikh US Navy veteran who was approached by a police officer outside his own home in Illinois for an expired vehicle registration tag, is assaulted with pepper spray by the officer who shouted anti-immigrant expletives.

From graffitti and vandalism, to assaults and murder, Sikhs are being consistently targeted.

In just March this year, a Sikh man working on his car in his driveway in a Seattle suburb was approached by a man wearing a mask over his face, who told him to “go back to your own country”, before shooting him and fleeing the scene.

Sikhs in the United States have banded together to deliver a “National Sikh Awareness Campaign”, drafting in former President Obama’s election campaign team to manage the project. It had little impact. Instead, the American media has been caught using images of Sikhs in reports about Islamic terrorism. USA Today and Cosmopolitan both used images of Sikhs in reports about terrorism, despite no instances of terrorism ever being suffered at the hands of Sikhs in the country.

Has anything changed since the Oak Creek massacre? Seemingly, most would say no. An online poll of 151 by the Sikh Press Association showed 51% felt nothing had changed, whilst 17% felt the situation had actually gotten worse for Sikhs.

Although there is not anywhere near the same number of incidents – or at least violent incidents – suffered by Sikhs outside of the US, the issue is still prevalent in nations like the UK, Australia and Canada. The Sikh Network’s Sikh Survey, which over 4500 Sikhs participated in (which according to some figures could be approximately 1% of the population of UK Sikhs) showed over one in five had experienced a hate crime.

Yet, it is nothing like the US, where the violence “has become all too common” according to Attorney General Eric Holder, speaking at the memorial service held in Oak Creek five years ago.

“In the recent past, too many Sikhs have been targeted and victimised simply because of who they are, how they look, and what they believe.

“This is wrong.  It is unacceptable.  And it will not be tolerated.  We must ask necessary questions of ourselves: what kind of nation do we truly want to have?  Will we muster the courage to demand more of those who lead us and, just as importantly, of ourselves?  What will we do to prevent that which has brought us here today from occurring in the future?

Sikhs worldwide urge America to find the answers to those questions, five years on from when they were originally asked.

You can read more from Dawinderpal Singh here – http://dawinderpal.com/.

Harmanpreet Kaur

Sikh cricket star dedicates performances to 1984 genocide victims

Note – Sikh PA categorically refute language around the 1984 Sikh genocide which calls the massacres “riots”. Although this language has become common place as a reflection of the Indian media narrative, it does not accurately portray the horrific scale of the slaughters which took place across India. More information can be found here


 

As the world’s attention fell on Harmanpreet Kaur last week during her epic 171-run performance in the Women’s World Cup semi-final, the India team bats-woman used her shirt to remember victims of the 1984 Sikh genocide.

Wearing the number 84 shirt, it was after her amazing performance against Australia on July 20 when the reason for the choice of number went viral, with many applauding the female sport star’s constant recognition for the victims of one of India’s most horrific periods in recent history.

84 shirt harmanpreet india

In an interview in 2016, Harmanpreet was quoted saying “I am very emotional when it comes to my roots. The 1984 anti-Sikh riots were very unfortunate. I did not lose any relative during the riots but innocent people were the victims. Whatever I have achieved so far is dedicated to my community and to the 1984 anti-Sikh riots victims.”

Harmanpreet’s mother Sukhjeet Kaur said of her daughter to Indian media, “When she picked up her jersey, she chose the jersey number 84. For Punjabis, 84 brings back the memories of the 1984 riots. But she took it positively and now we also see it as a good sign for her. She dedicates all her victories to the victims of the riots.

“Girls must be empowered and shouldn’t be killed in womb. The way my daughter made the country proud, other girls should also be encouraged.”

Harmanpreet Kaur has also worn the number in domestic competition.

Harmanpreet Kaur 2 club shirt

The Sikh Press Association encourage all of our community athletes on all levels who feel a connection to the faith and the community to use their platforms to highlight Sikh issues/teachings. For support in any such endeavours, please get in touch via Media@SikhPA.com.

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Sikh educational group on Australian school turban ban

Below we share an article from ABC News (Australia) about a school in Melbourne that is refusing to admit a Sikh pupil because of his patka (religious head covering).

Jaspreet Kaur, volunteer at Sikh educational organisation Basics of Sikhi says:

‘It is disappointing Melton Christian College will be continuing with its discriminatory policy. This policy represents a  level of religious ignorance by the school that we hope to rectify. The patka is an integral part of the Sikh identity and for those that wear it, it is not something that can simply be removed. For as long as the school bans the patka it does not have an open enrolment policy. This issue has come about simply due to a lack of understanding about the Sikh faith.’

Basics of Sikhi are available and always willing to educate the public and institutions about the Sikh faith.


Melbourne Sikh family challenge ‘inclusive’ Christian school’s ban on boy’s turban

A Melbourne family has launched legal action against a Christian school for banning their son from wearing his traditional Sikh patka, a turban worn by children.

Sidhak Singh Arora, 5, was due to start prep at Melton Christian College, in Melbourne’s north-west, this year.

But his patka does not comply with the school’s uniform policy which prohibits students from wearing any type of religious head covering.

His family have taken their fight to VCAT, claiming the school had breached the state’s Equal Opportunity Act by discriminating against their son on religious grounds.

Outside court, the boy’s father Sagardeep Singh Arora said he was surprised the school would not make an exemption for his son.

“I was very surprised in an advanced country like Australia, they are still not allowing us to wear patka in the school,” he said.

“On the basis of that they are not giving enrolment in the school.

Sidhak has enrolled at another school, but his parents hope Melton Christian College will be forced to change its policy so he can enrol there instead.

The VCAT hearing was told the college had an open enrolment policy which allowed children of all faiths to enrol.

Former college council member Stephen Liefting told the hearing they were inclusive of people of all faiths.

“As long as they don’t wear clothing that promotes other religions,” he said.

“We don’t want children standing out as different … we’re inclusive in the college.

Principal David Gleeson gave evidence that a number of Sikh students attend the school but do not wear the patka.

“I think one of the real strengths of the college is that we’re blind to … everyone is blind to religious affiliations,” he said.

“Anything additional to the uniform isn’t allowed.

Mr Gleeson gave an example of another student who liked wearing a New Balance cap but was not allowed to.

The college claimed it was not breaching the Equal Opportunity Act as there was not an exemption allowing it to enforce reasonable dress standards.

The hearing will continue on Wednesday.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-07-24/sikh-family-challenge-christian-schools-turban-ban/8737716

 

 

Tanmanjeet in HOC

Sikh MP pledges Sarbat Da Bhala in maiden speech

Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi – the first turban wearing MP in UK parliament history – today pledged to serve the public in the Sikh spirit of “Sarbat Da Bhala” in his maiden speech in the House of Commons.

Tanmanjeet pledge House of commons

The pledge was made during his first ever public speech in the House of Commons. Sarbat Da Bhala is a term from Sikh scripture which is most commonly translated as meaning welfare for all.

In the widely acclaimed speech, available to watch below, Tanmanjeet Singh also accused France of having a “warped interpretation of secularism” and also proclaimed his commitment to tackling Islamophobia which is “prevalent in certain sections of our society and media“, something which commonly affects Sikhs as well as Muslims.

 

Referring to his own historic position, Tanmanjeet Singh stated Sikhs still have issues of being accepted, let alone embraced, by other communities.

I find it extremely disappointing that more than 80,000 turbaned Sikh soldiers laid down their lives to liberate the very country where their descendants now cannot now even take their I.D photos without removing their turbans. They cannot now even send their children to most state schools, without removing their turbans. This same warped interpretation of secularism now precludes Muslims from wearing their hijabs and niqabs, Jews from wearing their skull-caps, and Christians from wearing the cross.

Acceptability is still a problem in advanced nations such as our close allies the United States, where several Sikhs are shot dead for mistaken identity, mistaken for terrorists.

Tanmanjeet Singh went on to advocate speaking out against Islamophobia, before declaring, “I will be serving in the true Sikh spirit of Sarbat Da Bhala, working for the betterment of all, regardless of colour or creed.

Check out the full speech here.

Jagmeet-Singh-NDP-MPP

Is the Indian government sabotaging a Canadian election?

Jagmeet Singh, a candidate in the New Democratic Party leadership election in Canada, has talked about possible interference from the Indian government in his campaign.

In interviews with several Canadian newspapers, Mr Singh revealed that he had been informed by members of the Indian community there that people with links to the Indian High Commission in Canada were attempting to dissuade people from supporting him. This included people expressing an interest in donating to his campaign but later backing out after pressure from third parties. Confirming that he has received these reports, Mr Singh said ‘this is what they told me […] I am still trying to get as many witnesses as I can to prove this so that an appropriate action can be taken.’

The Amritdhari (initiated) Sikh would be the first ethnic minority leader of a major political party in Canada. He has previously been vocal in condemning the abuse of Sikh human rights in India, culminating in a visa refusal to the country in 2013, leaving Singh unable to return to the country of his parents.

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/in-jagmeet-singh-a-unifying-figure-with-divisive-potential/article35659994/

http://www.straight.com/news/934441/gurpreet-singh-ndp-leadership-candidate-jagmeet-singh-questions-if-india-destabilizing

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Sikhs and language of caste discrimination

The post below is from Ik Marg, arguing the case against the prejudicial explanatory notes about Caste Discrimination in the Equality Act 2010. The post outlines why Sikhs should have objections to the wording: 


 

Why Sikhs object to the prejudicial explanatory notes in the Equality Act 2010

Firstly, to avoid any misunderstandings and misconceptions, we strongly agree and actively seek to promote that there should be no discrimination on the basis of ‘caste’. No Sikh organisation is campaigning to prevent or object to any law or other form of redress for those who are discriminated against on the basis of ‘caste’.

The law cannot stop any member of one jaat refusing to marry a member of another jaat. British law does not have the right to interfere in the personal choices of individuals in the field of marriage, religion and social relations except marriage has to be monogamous and is prohibited within family members and marriage partners have to be over the age of 16.

Similarly, no law has the right to interfere in religious matters except in accordance with international norms in the ICCPR (International Covenant on Civil and Political rights) article 18.3. This permits the State to mitigate religious practice to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others. For instance, it cannot force Christian Churches to ordain females as priests, or Muslim Mosques to permit women to pray alongside men in the name of equality etc. but it can stop Burka in public places if it so wishes.

Legislation cannot stop a Ramgharia Gurdwara or Ravidaas Gurdwara from choosing their names nor can legislation restrict the membership of any religious order, else it would then have to do the same for Scottish Presbyterians, Welsh Protestants, Lutherans, Polish Churches etc.

The law can and should provide guidance and sanctions against discrimination for anyone at the work place, wherever such may be, e.g. employees of a Gurdwara. It can also stop people calling other people discriminatory names and prevent discrimination in the supply of goods to people.

Why are Sikhs objecting to the proposed amendment to the legislation?”

The answer is relatively simple: it is the definition assumed by Parliament to describe ‘caste’ and its association with Sikhs and the Hindu Varna system. The definition says: ‘The term “caste” denotes a hereditary, endogamous (marrying within the group) community associated with a traditional occupation and ranked accordingly on a perceived scale of ritual purity.’http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/notes/division/3/2/1/6

So far as the definition states ‘‘The term “caste” denotes a hereditary, endogamous (marrying within the group) community associated with a traditional occupation’ is generally acceptable. The legislation and therefore its impact includes not only Sikhs and Hindus, but a multitude of other communities, who would also inadvertently be deemed to discriminate against certain sections of the community on the basis of descent and / or past occupations, including perhaps, some indigenous English communities.

However, the UK Parliament has tried to narrow the definition of ‘caste’ to Hindu culture and Hindu cultural influenced societies by inserting the words ‘and ranked accordingly on a perceived scale of ritual purity’.  Rather than use the word ‘or’, the definition uses the word ‘and’ when describing the “perceived scale of ritual purity” thus defining it as an integral part of the definition of ‘caste’. Sikhism does not agree with or preach any kind of ritual purity.

‘Ritual purity’ in the caste/varna system is a practice that was stipulated by Manu, a serial law maker, in ancient India and was historically prevalent in some sects of Hinduism (references listed below). This practice entailed that when a person of ‘upper caste’ met with a person of ‘lower caste’, especially untouchables, that person was compelled to recite a prayer and wash themselves and their clothes. People of ‘lower caste’ and untouchables were not permitted into some mandirs (temples) nor were they allowed to sit and eat with those of an ‘upper caste’.

These sects of Hindus believed in what is called the ‘Varna’ system. This system says that a person of a ‘lower caste’ has to be born again into an ‘upper caste’ before he/she can pray and have any chance of getting ‘moksha’ (salvation). This belief system results in people being ranked according to this man-made hierarchy of birth related access to God. Only ‘upper castes’ had any chance of understanding texts and therefore reaching the ‘Absolute’. In fact, people of ‘lower castes’ were not even permitted to read or write in some sects.

“What about today? Does this still happen?!”

We do not know whether any Hindu groups practice and follow the Varna system of the type based on a perceived rank of ritual purity in the UK today. We do know for certain that no Sikh Gurdwara, Sikh organisation, Sikh family or Sikh jaat preaches or practices ‘ritual purity’ as part of what Sikhism teaches. No one will ask a Granthi (Sikh Priest) their jaat before taking parshad (religious offering) from them. No sewadar (volunteer) in the langar (kitchen) will turn away a person of so called ‘lower caste’. While sitting eating langar in a Gurdwara, no one asks the person sitting next to them what ‘caste’ they are.

As mentioned before, Sikhism does not agree with or preach any kind of ritual purity. Throughout the lives of the Sikh Gurus, they preached against the practice of the Varna system and were against there being any discrimination amongst people based on the family they were born into. All were able to read, write and recite prayers to their heart’s content. The langar system was introduced, where everyone sits together with no differentiation, whether they are a cleaner, warrior, king or teacher. There is no concept of being ranked according to ritual purity.

There are countless stories throughout Sikh history and many references to the ‘caste’ / Varna system in Gurbani which prove that we, as Sikhs, do not believe in it and treat all of humanity with respect. If there are some people who follow the path of Sikhism but do not follow these teachings and hold any kind of beliefs or practices in line with manusimriti, then they are a small exception and do not in any way represent Sikhism and the basic principles it has.

We strongly object to associating Sikhs with this practice of ‘ritual purity’, which is strictly a Hindu belief and practice. The Sikh community is offended that some academics and some politicians have wrongly decided that Sikh Gurdwaras wash utensils when touched by members of ‘lower castes’; or that people do not take parshad (religious offering) from ‘lower caste’ Granthis (Sikh Priest); or that people are refused admission into Gurdwaras because they are members of a ‘lower caste’. These views are simply wrong, untrue and deeply offensive!

“But the legislation helps those being discriminated against”

It is the duty of any Sikh who may have observed any discrimination of any form in a Gurdwara, within a Sikh organisation or in Sikh social life, to report it to the Sangat (Sikh congregation) and Sri Akal Takht Sahib (political HQ for Sikhs).

While we support any legislation to combat discrimination, we do not think the justification for that legislation should be based on maligning Sikhism, Sikhs and / or Gurdwaras. That is just unacceptable. No one would like to be maligned simply to make life easier for another’s benefit. Suffering hardship to make life easier for someone else is one thing, but an attack on one’s integrity is another thing. We cannot stand by and see an attack on the integrity of Sikhism or Sikh Gurdwaras.

“The legislation doesn’t affect Sikhism though”

We understand that there are some assurances being given by academics and other civil servants, that the explanatory notes in the 2010 Equality Act will not be used against Sikhs. However, we would like those academics to obtain an unequivocal statement from the Lord Chancellor and Minister of Equalities so that there is no ambiguity. In any event once enshrined in the legislation, it would be difficult and most likely impossible to have any offending legislation removed. It is better not to have such offending wording in the legislation in the first place.

We believe that there is no rush for this legislation to be passed in its current format. It has been delayed for seven years because of objections from the Sikh community as well as other comminutes. Therefore, there is no reason for it not to be delayed further to ensure a better and more suitable definition is agreed, without causing slander to Sikhism and the Sikh community.

“So how do we tackle this issue?”

Our petition, which can be found on www.ikmarg.com, is asking for removal of all references to Sikh and ‘ritual purity’ in the explanatory notes of the Equality Act 2010 and to officially remove the NIESR report. Both the explanatory notes and the NIESR report suggest that Sikhs follow manusmriti. We are not against a legislation to stop any discrimination.

The question then arises as to what can be done to help those who are impacted by discrimination and want this legislation to be approved. As mentioned before, where discrimination has occurred within Sikh institutions, then we believe that such matters should be handled within the Sikh community and addressed to the Sangat and Sri Akal Takht Sahib.

Alongside this, a group of independent members of the Sangat are working together with an aim to tackle any issues swiftly and without causing any further harm to anyone. They have links and contacts around the world to help tackle any issues of discrimination that may arise. This team can be contacted via the following email address: respectallsikhs@gmail.com

If there is a real need for the legislation to go through, it is up to the legislators and the people in government to suggest alternative definitions, without inflicting damage to Sikhs and the Sikh community (or to any other communities or faith). It is unfair to ask the general public who are unlikely to have the adequate knowledge or training to make acceptable alternative suggestions.

More information, in depth definitions and resources that you can download and forward on, as well as a link to our petition, can all be found at www.ikmarg.com

From Sewadaars of Ik Marg

References for the manusmriti stipulated by Manu:

http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/manu.htm

Ideology on outcast:

Ch 5, article 85 (bathing after touching outcast)

Ch 11, article 181

Ch 12, article 60 (associating with outcast)

 

Association and position of sudras:

Ch 1, articles 31 & 91

Ch 2, article 172

Ch 3, articles 16, 18, 249 & 92

Ch 4, articles 81 & 140

Ch 5, article 104

Ch 10, article 4

Ch 11, articles 149, 153 & 224

Ch 12, articles 43   60

http://www.duhaime.org/LawMuseum/LawArticle-297/200-BC–Laws-of-Manu.aspx

http://www.hinduwebsite.com/sacredscripts/hinduism/dharma/manusmriti.asp