Cuffs arrest

Latest updates – British Sikh man tortured in Indian jail, without charge

Respected Scottish Sikh activist Jagtar Singh, who went to India for his wedding, had a sack thrown over his head and was bundled into a van whilst out shopping with family, and is now being implicated in a murder case without any official charge levelled at him. 

 

For further information, or for comment from members of the Sikh community/interview opportunities, email Jasveer@SikhPA.com.


LATEST UPDATE

Sikhs across the world are sharing their angst at hearing about the case of Jagtar Singh, recognised as yet another all too familiar tale of a Sikh activist being detained based on spurious claims by the Indian state, with the hashtag #FreeJaggiNow going viral.

24.11.17

Jagtar Singh police custody detainment extended, still no official charge

Jagtar Singh, the 30 year old British Sikh who is being detained by Indian police without a charge, was given four days more of remand in police custody, with once again no official charge levelled at him.

The news added to concerns of #FreeJaggiNow campaigners, as in police custody is where torture happens, according to historic cases documented by human rights groups. Jagtar Singh stated to his lawyer that he was being tortured via electrocution and having his legs stretched beyond their capabilities. Since this statement on 14 November, despite support from the British High Commission, an independent medical has been refused by the Punjab judicial system. The extension on his remand will see Jagtar Singh’s detainment without charge, nor any police FIR (First Incident Report) naming him, reach 24 days.

Three members of the British High Commission were in court to witness the hearing, including Deputy High Commissioner Andrew Ayre. The BHC reps stated they did not wish to get interfere in any investigative process, although a private meeting with Jagtar Singh was requested.
“The court gave the British High Commission team a copy of the directions issued to the police to arrange for a meeting between the High Commission delegation and Jagtar Singh in a separate room for privacy” said Jaspal Singh, Jagtar Singh’s lawyer.
Also, according to Jagtar Singh’s lawyer, Jagtar Singh was asked if he wanted to address the court and Jagtar Singh pleaded his innocence, stating he was unrelated to any of the crimes he is being linked with.
Following this update, Jagtar Singh was once again taken to an unknown location by Ludhiana police.

Full report available via Sikh Siyasat news.


23.11.17

MPs “reach out” directly to Punjab Chief Minister for “transparent and open process”

Preet Kaur, chair of the Sikh All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) and Labour MP for Edgbaston, joined Jagtar Singh’s local MP Martin Docherty in writing directly to Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder regarding the issue.

Declaring that with reports of torture,“any further delay in charges…would be most concerning” the letter asked for “a fair, transparent and open process”. The letter has been greatly received by supporters of the #FreeJaggiNow campaign who have been concerned about the fact there has been no FIR (First Incident Report) naming Jagtar Singh and no official charge yet made, despite him being in detention since November 4th.

See the letter here.

 

British High Commission refused permission to see Jagtar Singh by Punjab Police

Today it was revealed by lead campaigners of the #FreeJaggiNow movement, having spoken directly to his family and legal support team, that a British High Commission official was blocked from seeing Jagtar Singh Johal last night.
The news comes just a day before he is set to appear in court again, prompting further concern about his precarious position. Whilst the FCO did promise “extreme action” if Jagtar Singh was found to be tortured, it remains to be seen how this will be investigated without the cooperation of Indian authorities, who have so far refused an independent medial and now are refusing British authorities to see the 30 year old Dumbarton resident.

 


 

22.11.17

Brother of Jagtar Singh addresses MPs & community figures in Parliament

Gurpreet Singh, brother of Jagtar Singh, addressed MPs and community figures at the annual Sikh Network Guru Nanak Gurpurab (Guru’s celebration) in Parliament this evening.

The talk by Gurpreet Singh during the event further emphasised the need to continue the fight to challenge the Indian states human rights abuses, which was widely supported by all in attendance, including a plethora of MPs who posed with a #FreeJaggiNow sign.

See images of the event here.

 

Hindu extremist group leader puts bounty on Sikh MP head for calling out “old tactics of Punjab Police”

Yogesh Batish, leader of far-right India nationalist group Shiv Sena, allegedly offered a reward for “chopping the nose of” Bhagwant Mann of the Aam Aadmi party.

The threat came after Mann suggested the Punjab Police would use devious tactics and torture to extract confessions of detainees, in reference to the Jagtar Singh case. See full story here.

 

Jagtar Singh lawyer says Punjab Police have “something to hide”, after Captain Amarinder refutes torture claim

Jaspal Singh, lawyer of Jagtar Singh, stated “The way Punjab Police rejected our application for an independent medical shows they have something to hide”, in response to Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder claiming reports of torture were “baseless”.

Captain Amarinder, who famously made outlandish comments suggest Canadian MPs Jagmeet Singh (NDP Leader) and Harjit Singh Sajjan (Liberal Party Defence Minister) were linked with so-called Sikh extremism, made the comment in a media interview. Captain Amarinder said on the case earlier this month that eight unaccounted for murders were “solved” upon Jagtar Singh’s arrest, before a charge had even made (and still has not been made), let alone a trial.

Read the full story here.


 

21.11.17

Parliament question on tortured Scot mounts pressure on British Government

The Sikh community today continued to pressure the British government to act swiftly and decisively over Jagtar Singh Johal, the British Sikh who has been tortured in Indian custody without charge. This follows a remark from the Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday that the Foreign Office officials were watching Mr Johal’s situation ‘with concern.’

Dozens of Sikhs from across the country descended on Parliament this morning to lobby their MP over Mr Johal’s plight. They then proceeded to observe proceedings from the public gallery in the House of Commons which this morning included Foreign and Commonwealth Questions. During Question Time, Mr Johal’s MP, Martin Docherty, asked the Foreign Secretary about what discussions he has had with India over their human rights record in the state of the Punjab, critically in relation to Jagtar Singh’s situation.  Foreign Office minister Rory Stewart replied, saying that Mr Johal’s detention was being taken ‘very seriously, adding: ‘We take any allegation of torture seriously […] it is completely unconstitutional, it’s offensive to the British government […] and of course we will take extreme action if a British citizen is being tortured.’ See this on video here.

Following Question Time, Mr Docherty MP hosted a meeting in Parliament with Preet Gill MP, Gurpreet Singh (brother of Jagtar Singh), Tan Dhesi MP and members of various Sikh organisations along with the #FreeJaggiNow campaign leads. At the meeting Martin Docherty said that he would be meeting Mark Field, the Foreign Office minister with responsibility for India, next week to discuss Jagtar Singh’s case.

Addressing the gathered Sikhs, Gurpreet Singh, Jagtar’s brother, said, ‘Thank you to everybody from the bottom of my heart for supporting me and my family in these circumstances. Mahraaj gave me this seva to lead this campaign, but it is only with the power of the sangat that we have been able to pressure the British government over Jaggi’s case.’

Jas Singh, advisor to the Sikh Federation, remarked on the growing campaign, ‘This momentum is snowballing globally. Now Jagtar Singh is known worldwide. It is a travesty that in 2017, a country that calls itself the world’s largest democracy can abduct, detain, and torture a British citizen. There is no faith in the police or judicial process in India: a violation of Jagtar’s rights is a violation of all of our rights.’

Sikh MPs Preet Gill and Tan Dhesi also contributed, stressing the need for Jagtar Singh’s human rights to be upheld and appealing for concerned individuals and families to contact their MP about Jagtar Singh’s case.

Gurpreet Singh and representatives from the #FreeJaggiNow campaign are currently meeting with officials at the Foreign and Commonwealth Offices.

An update on this will follow.

Protest in Australia continues to show worldwide Sikh support for #FreeJaggiNow

A Melbourne city centre protest by members of the Sikh community in front of the Indian consulate continued the trend of international support for Jagtar Singh.

The Scotland born Sikh has been held by Punjab police and reporting torture for 17 days now, all without an official charge or any legal documents naming him in relation to a criminal case. During this period Sikhs have protested in countries afar as India, Australia, Canada, USA, Italy, Malaysia and further, demonstrating concern and angst at the treatment of Jagtar Singh.

See images of the latest protest in Melbourne here.

 

Jagtar Singh Johal: Mastermind of killings or Punjab government’s NRI scapegoat? – News Laundry Article

Every time I sat down to pen this piece, I was stopped by a voice within. It shouted to me:

“You will be labelled a Khalistani. You will be abused, slandered and trolled by thousands. Your loyalties will be questioned, upbringing will be targeted and you might even be threatened with murder.”

I finally stood up and shouted back…

Read full post here.

 

Video of Indian police torture goes viral, whilst more historic accounts of British Sikhs detained without evidence shared

A video shared on twitter by Kesri Lehar of Scotland highlighted a recorded example of Indian police torture in action.

The video – which whilst having only a few RTs has been shared to hundreds via whatsapp – shows Indian police holding a man in custody whilst another officer beats him with a stick. Some members of the Sikh community described this as “mild” in discussion with Sikh PA, in comparison to other methods of torture used by the infamous Punjab Police, who have a track record of torture, documented by the Punjab human rights committee.

The video has only added to the concern of the Sikh community and human rights advocates in regards to Jagtar Singh’s detainment without charge by the Punjab police.

Meanwhile, Sikh humanitarian organisation shared a case dealt with by their SOPW project (Sikh Organisation of Prisoner Welfare) from 2006 where a Sikh British national was held for months and tortured, before the case went to trial where it was dismissed for a lack of evidence. See more here.


 

20.11.17

UK Prime Minister says government are “watching with concern”

Therese May today spoke of being “aware of the concern” regarding the Jagtar Singh case, today aired on the BBC Asian Network.

May, current Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party, stated Foreign and Commonwealth Office representatives have met with Jagtar Singh and are “pursuing the case…and watching what is happening with concern”.

Hear the report here.

 

“MPs to demand answers” from Boris Johnson regarding Jagtar Singh case

A Sikh Federation UK press release today stated that UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is “expected to get a rough ride” as he answers questions for an hour in the House of Commons.

The statement is based on the fact that over 200 MPs have been pressed by constituents to forward concern about the Jagtar Singh case. Tuesday, 21 November, will see a day of lobbying in parliament by supports of the #FreeJaggiNow campaign.

Read the full press release here.

 

Jagtar Singh lawyer rebuts Punjab Police statement on torture 

Following a Punjab Police statement on the allegations of torturing Jagtar Singh, the lawyer of the 30 year old Scotsman questioned “why the police opposed the request for his independent medical”.

Jaspal Singh, who is representing Jagtar Singh, also called suggestions made by Punjab Police that Jagtar was involved in terrorism “mere allegations”, before providing historical accounts when such suggestions against Sikh activists had previously come to nothing.

Read the full article via Sikh Siyasat News here.

 


 

19.11.17

Jagtar Singh remand in police custody extended for five days

Supporters of the #FreeJaggiNow campaign were today further disappointed at the news that Jagtar Singh’s stay in police custody was extended by a judge for a further five days.

On 17 November Jagtar Singh was told in Bagha Purana court, Moga (Punjab, India) that he would be placed in judicial custody following a plea by his team, where it is deemed there is less chance of torture. However, immediately after the court hearing Ludhiana police took Jagtar Singh to the HOUSE of two different judges, in order to have him placed back into their custody, based on an FIR (First Incident Report) which did not name him.

Now Sikh Siyasat News have revealed through their sources on the ground in Punjab that Jagtar Singh was today placed before a magistrate court judge in Ludhiana (a district of Punjab) where his stay in remand under police custody was extended for another five days.

Jagtar Singh is next scheduled to appear in court on 30 November.

Indian celebrity tweets #FreeJaggiNow to 3million followers

Diljit Dosanjh, famed Punjabi singer/actor and one of the biggest names in Indian showbiz, today tweeted his support for the #FreeJaggiNow to his 3.01million followers.

The continuing growth of awareness adds to the pressure on the Punjab Police to actually officially place a charge on Jagtar Singh or release him.


 

18.11.17

Lobby of parliament day announced

The #FreeJaggiNow campaign team have announced a day to lobby parliament, taking place on 21 November.

A call to use the green card system in central lobby, following an opportunity to see Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson challenged directly in the House of Commons, was announced this evening. The leads of the campaign along with members of Jagtar Singh’s family will then address the public at a committee room meeting in parliament.

See full details via the images below.

Free Jaggi Now - lobby parliament posters

Free Jaggi Now - lobby parliament poster 2

 

UFC Fighter lends support to #FreeJaggiNow campaign

Arjan Singh Bhullar, the first Sikh and South Asian to fight in the UFC, the world’s premiere MMA organisation, lent his support to the #FreeJaggiNow campaign.

Arjan Singh shared the message via Twitter and is look to connect with the Sikh community of the UK when he arrives in the nation next week, where he is doing a promotional tour.

 

Sikh American Humanitarian highlights “suspicious” nature of latest Jagtar accusation

In order to put Jagtar Singh back in police custody, as opposed to judicial custody, Ludhiana police report an FIR (First Incident Report), which does not name Jagtar Singh, is linked to the Scotsman in relation to the murder of a Christian pastor in July this year.

Jasjit Singh Dhanoa a Sikh American that works for Humanitarian Sikh legal aid charity Ensaaf called this “suspicious” based on the fact the RSS, a Hindutva nationalist organisation on many extremist watch-lists across the world, have been threatening Christians in India.

Jas Dhanota tweet #freejagginow christian pastor

 

 

Writer says detainment of Jagtar Singh “shows why Khalistan remains a powerful idea” for Sikhs

Sunny Hundal, a journalist known to cover Sikh community issues, stated even though he is personally against the idea of a separate state for Sikhs, the fact that “no minority in India is treated fairly” adds “strength” to support for Khalistan.

Hundal, who has written for the Hindustan Times, Independent and many other mainstream media outlets, stated that Khalistan is not about “Sikh theocracy” but about “Sikh dignity”, whilst also appealing to Hindus to speak out about injustice against Sikhs to prevent fracturing India.

Read the full post here.


 

17.11.17

BREAKING – Reports state Jagtar Singh back in police custody

Just hours after the Sikh Federation UK (SFUK) stated a decision to move Jagtar Singh out of police custody would “hopefully” end his torture, reports from India claim the 30 year old has now been moved back into police custody.

The move is alleged to have happened straight after a court decision was made to move Jagtar Singh into judicial custody, rather than police custody. Upon leaving the court, Ludhiana Police took Jagtar Singh to the homes of two judges to approval bringing the Scotsmen back into police custody. This was done because courts were closed due to the time of day, showing just how desperate Ludhiana Police were to have Jagtar Singh in police custody. The justification for doing so is relating to an apparently new – but still unofficial – link to a crime, (FIR 218/17 – further detailed in the link below), which once again, does not officially mention Jagtar Singh (searchable here http://115.112.58.53:1111/FIR/firfilestatus.jsf?name=LUDHIANA%20CITY).

The original decision to remove him from police custody was made before British High Commission representatives in attendance at Bagha Purana magistrate court (Moga, Punjab) and was welcomed by many. The reversal of this decision is already being deemed an underhanded move by Punjab Police. Full story by Sikh Siyasat here.

 

Medical to examine reports of torture DENIED by Indian court, who instead extend remand

A British High Commission (BHC) supported request for Jagtar Singh to receive an independent medical examination to look into reports he was being tortured was rejected this morning by Bagha Purana Judicial Magistrate court in Punjab, India.

Whilst a request for the medical will be made again, many supporters of the #FreeJaggiNow campaign stated the rejection of it, coupled with the fact Jagtar Singh’s time on remand has been extended until his next scheduled court appearance on November 30th, allows time for injuries sustained to heal and therefore remove evidence of torture.

See more information on this from Sikh Siyasat News here.

 

Jagtar Singh removed from police custody, SFUK state this will “hopefully” end torture

The Sikh Federation UK (SFUK) welcomed the news that Jagtar Singh will be removed from police custody and moved into judicial custody, stating “hopefully” this will end his torture.

Jagtar Singh will remain in jail for judicial custody until November 30th, although location of where he is being held is still being kept secret. British/Scottish governments were asked to do “much more” by SFUK in a press release, which you can see here.

The 30 year old Scottish Sikh was denied a new set of clothes provided by his in-laws, whilst Punjab Police also took away the contact details he was given from the British High Commission (BHC) preventing Jagtar Singh from summoning them for legal representation when required, and instead forcing him to rely on their continued presence.

The Sikh Federation also stated that Boris Johnson will be challenged directly on the situation when he next appears in the House of Commons, thought to be Tuesday.

 

Punjabi locals supporting #FreeJaggiNow through social media arrested

Reports from Punjab state a Sikh man was arrested for posting #FreeJaggiNow on his Facebook profile.

A report from the Punjab Shield news outlet, states a Bhupinder Singh was arrested on November 16th for being “part of the #FreeJaggiNow campaign. Bhupinder Singh Budhsinghwala had a public message on social media Facebook” (roughly translated into English) which suggested a British national should be at the court hearing.

Further reports of others being arrested, harassed and intimidated for supporting the #FreeJaggiNow in Punjab have been forwarded to the Sikh Press Association from contacts on the ground.

 

Canadian MPs add pressure on Foreign Office to investigate torture

The likes of Jagmeet Singh, leader of the NDP, Raj Grewal of the Liberal Party and current Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan joined the growing list of people urging a serious inquiry into reports of the torture of Jagtar Singh.

 

Harjit Sajjan


 

16.11.17

Foreign Office reps meet with #FreeJaggiNow campaigners during protest 

 

“The FCO acknowledged they have not been fulfilling their role”

#FreeJaggiNow protest pic

Hundreds of Sikhs from across the UK and from afar as Cyprus came together for a #FreeJaggiNow protest outside the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) today, resulting in an impromptu meeting between campaigners and FCO reps.

Jas Singh, advisor to the Sikh Federation UK (SFUK), was part of a 90 minute, along with Shamsher Singh of the National Sikh Youth Federation (NSYF) and Gurpreet Singh, brother of Jagtar Singh.

“In this meeting we discussed a number of things to understand the dynamics of this case. The FCO acknowledged they have not been fulfilling their role thus far.

“The key thing discussed was the report of torture and how that will transit into action from the FCO. It was stressed this came from Jagtar Singh’s lawyer who spoke with Jagtar directly. We made the FCO aware that the longer Jagtar Singh stays in custody, the greater risk there is to his life.

“A medical examination by the British High Commission was requested and it is hoped this will be granted by the judge at Jagtar Singh’s court hearing tomorrow.

“We expressed that attendance from the FCO at the court hearing is imperative, especially because the reason for the extension of remand for Jagtar Singh was due to a lack of clarity around his passport, to establish him as a British citizen. The FCO stated they have provided the Punjab Police with the means to acquire the passport.

“The FCO also confirmed there is no charge that has been registered with them for Jagtar Singh from Indian authorities, nor has there ever been any inquiry about him. They are as much in the dark as we are. There is no case around this, just an attempt to intimidate a Sikh human rights activist.”

“We pressed that non-attendance would be unacceptable at tomorrow’s court hearing. A senior consular officer has now been given the case and been fully briefed on the situation, as has UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. The FCO have said a supervisor and their human rights lawyer will remain in direct contact with us.”

The protest saw approximately 400 Sikhs standing outside the FCO headquarters, holding aloft placards, handing out leaflets on the situation and chanting slogans including “FCO – DO YOUR JOB” and “FREE JAGGI NOW”, referencing Jagtar Singh’s nickname, Jaggi.

 

“The FCO have been contacted from all over the world about Jagtar Singh”
#FreeJaggiNow bhenji with sign

Shamsher Singh of the NSYF said of the meeting with FCO reps, “They let us know they have been contacted from all over the world about Jagtar Singh’s case, demonstrating the impact of the sangat (Sikh congregation) supporting the campaign.

“The FCO are fully aware of how much the Sikh community is behind this campaign. The media articles, the emails, the letters, the tweets – they’ve been taking in all of it. They understand the sentiment of the Sikh community and I think that’s why they were able to understand this is all tied to deep traumas we have historically suffered at the hands of the Indian state.”

 

“It felt like my Guru was with me”

#FreeJaggiNow Gurpreet Singh media

Gurpreet Singh, brother of Jagtar Singh, thanked the sangat that attended, including those who arrived in coaches driving overnight from Scotland as well as one individual flying in from Cyprus for the protest.

“With the sangat’s presence today, it felt like my Guru was with me. I want to thank everyone who is standing with me and my family in this situation. However, I humbly request all to recognise that this is not over, we have to keep fighting for Jaggi until we see him home and safe.”

“Do not support petitions and fundraisers” for #FreeJaggiNow campaign

Gurpreet Singh, brother of Jagtar Singh, warned Sikhs of signing any petitions or contributing to any fundraisers on behalf of the campaign.

“Please do not support any petitions or fundraisers. We do not know who has started the petitions and we do not know where the money being asked for is going. We have made it clear we do not need money at this stage of the case. If the need comes, we will openly tell the sangat.”

Celebrities boost campaign with support

Awareness around the #FreeJaggiNow campaign has received a huge boost in recent days with tweets from the likes of famed rapper and activist Akala, best selling poet Rupi Kaur and others from the bhangra industry such as Jaz Dhami and Jazzy B.

Jasveer Singh of the Sikh Press Association said, “The Sikh community are grateful that those in the public eye are stepping forward to highlight this issue of human rights. Through their social media presence, many celebrities simply have a bigger platform than even many mainstream media outlets can offer. As such, it is definitely a boost for the awareness side of the campaign to see celebrities tweeting about the #FreeJaggiNow campaign to hundreds of thousands of followers.”


15.11.17

Jagtar Singh’s local MP asks parliament if Foreign Office can look into his situation

In a point of order this afternoon Dumbarton MP Martin Docherty asked for a ministerial statement on his constituent Jagtar Singh Johal’s detention and torture in Punjab, which the Speaker said ‘could happen’ but warned of the feasibility of this approach for every troubled Briton overseas.

Journalist with 35 years experience covering Punjab stories says Jagtar Singh case is not convincing

Senior AAP leader and Kharar MLA, Kanwar Sandhu has expressed doubts over the veracity of police claims of the involvement of Jagtar Singh Johal alias Jaggi, a British national, in targeted killings in Punjab and has demanded that the Union government should intervene and a joint inquiry with the UK police should be conducted in the case. Full story here.

1000 Sikhs expected at London #FreeJaggiNow protest

Jagtar Singh london protest nov 16


 

14.11.17

FCO on allegations of torture:

A Foreign & Commonwealth Office spokesperson said:

“We take all allegations or concerns of torture and mistreatment very seriously and will follow up with action as appropriate.  When considering how to act, we will avoid any action that might put the individual in question or any other person that may be affected at risk.”

Shamsher Singh of the National Sikh Youth Federation and one of the leads of the #FreeJaggiNow campaign stated “Jagtar Singh is already being tortured. The point of worrying about putting him at risk has long since passed. The situation warrants immediate intervention by in order to show any value for British Sikh community concerns.”

Jagtar Singh being tortured states only person to speak with him since detainment

Today at Jagtar Singh’s third court appearance to further extend his time on remand, defence council legal advocate Jaspal Singh who is the only person to have spoken directly with him since his detainment, stated he has been “physically and mentally tortured”.

Jaspal Singh went on to specify that, “His legs were forcibly stretched to the point of tearing, and he has been electrocuted on his nipples, ears and penis.”

The statement  was made to media outside Bagha Purana Judicial court, where the 30 year old from Dumbarton was taken for the third extension on his time in remand, now extended for a further three days.

Jagtar Singh’s court appearance was worrying for his supporters, as he was surrounded by armed police and had his face covered.

“The face covering is a tactic to hide that Jagtar Singh has been gagged, so he can’t speak out to the cameras recording. This is common treatment for people being detained by Punjab police” stated Shamsher Singh of the National Sikh Youth Federation, one of the leading campaigners of the #FreeJaggiNow movement.


 

13.11.17

Investigative journalist team discover still no FIR for Jagtar Singh

The Sikh Siyasat team found Punjab Police have purposely left out the FIR (First Incident Report) sheet for the arrest of Jagtar Singh from their official online database.

Earlier this week Gurpreet Singh, Jagtar Singh’s brother, stated that Jagtar Singh was not even named on any legal documents needed for his arrest.  See full report from Sikh Siyasat here.

Sikh MP writes directly to Boris Johnson

The Sikh community are awaiting a response from Boris Johnson following Slough MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi writing to him about the case of Jagtar Singh. See more information on this here.


 

12.11.17

Confession by known Punjab gangster leaves authorities red-faced regarding Jagtar Singh link

Saraj Sandhu, a well known gangster in Punjab currently on the run from state police, not only admitted to killing Hindu Sangharsh Sena leader Vipan Sharma, but even suggested that the “killing should not be linked to religion”.

This news comes after Chief Minister of Punjab Captain Amarinder Singh shockingly suggested eight murders were solved on the back of the detainment of Jagtar Singh and three others, without a formal charge let alone a trial taking place. See full story here.


 

11.11.17

Statement from the family of Jagtar Singh

A statement from the family of Jagtar Singh regarding his detainment by Indian authorities cleared asked those supporting their campaign to free him to continue raising awareness on social media and reach out to MPs to address the situation too. Read the full statement here.

More facts point to Indian authorities breaking due process with Jagtar’s arrest

Campaigners working for Jagtar Singh’s freedom have pointed out that an alleged FIR (First Incident Report) which links Jagtar Singh to criminal activity in 2016 in India was not brought up during a visit to India by the Scotsman in April of this year. The fact that the FIR has also not been seen by any of the legal team on Jagtar Singh’s side also points to serious discrepancies in the process of the arrest of Jagtar, leading to many including Gurpreet Singh, the brother of Jagtar and a solicitor, calling it “illegal”.

Campaigners have also pointed out that;

  • Jagtar Singh has only been to India three times in his entire life (twice in 2017 for a wedding and once in 2009), leaving lots of questions about how involved he could have been in any of the alleged criminal activity.
  • Captain Amarinder, Chief Minister of Punjab, outrageously claimed eight murders had been solved upon the arrest of Jagtar Singh and three others, without any charge being officially leveled at him, let alone a trial.
  • There is still yet no clarity on the exact charges Jagtar Singh is being accused of, no access to the British High Commission of India to speak with Jagtar Singh, no FIR (First Incident Report) shown to any of Jagtar Singh’s family or legal representatives to show why he was even arrested.

This information has led to very serious concerns about the intentions of the Punjab Police and Indian authorities in arresting him and keeping him on remand for so long.

 

Lord Singh and Sikh MPs push for Foreign Office intervention

Calls for UK authorities to intervene in the situation regarding Scottish born Sikh Jagtar Singh’s detainment by the Punjab police were yesterday reinforced by two Sikh MPs and Lord Singh.

The Network of Sikh Organisations, a group headed up by Lord Singh, called the Indian state’s behaviour “gangster-like” and stated Lord Singh of Wimbledon will be writing to the Foreign Office (FO). The full statement can be read here.

Preet jagtar tweet

Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, MP for Slough, stated on his Twitter feed he has been in touch with the FO as well as the High Commission of India UK. Preet Kaur Gill, MP for Edgbaston, also stated she was working with the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for British Sikhs and various other MPs to address the issue.

Tan tweets Jagtar

 

10.11.17

British High Commission denied seeing Jagtar Singh

On 10 November, as per Sikh Federation UK sources, Jagtar Singh was placed on extended remand at a court appearance in Baghapurana, Moga. Jagtar Singh himself was not seen in court, nor was any legal representative of his to object the extension. Despite requests made from the UK, a British High Commission representative was also “denied” from appearing in court. As of yet, no charge sheet has yet been issued to clarify why Jagtar Singh has been arrested.


The Sikh Relief – Sikh Organisation for Prisoner Welfare (SOPW) group, released the following statement about the arrest on 10 November;

STATEMENT FROM THE CHAIRMAN OF SIKH RELIEF AND EX NRI SIKH POLITICAL PRISONER, BALBIR SINGH BAINS

“I was deeply saddened to hear about the arrest of Jagtar Singh. I am deeply concerned for Jagtar’s safety and when hearing from his family, about the manner in which he was detained, it was almost identical to how I was arrested in 1999 during a routine family visit to India. I know all too well the complexities and failings of the Indian legal system having established SOPW after my own illegal arrest and false imprisonment many years ago.

I have personally reached out to his family and our team is on standby. We have extended to them our full support in a legal, financial and moral capacity should they need it. SOPW is always there to address relief needs of Sikh political prisoners and to provide intervention and oversight in legal proceedings which are severely susceptible to corruption and abuse given the culture of impunity that exists”.


Original article on the Jagtar Singh case

Members of the British Sikh community have urged the British government to intervene in the case of Jagtar Singh of Dumbarton, who was “illegally detained” last week in Punjab, India.

In a press release, the Sikh Federation UK (SFUK) Chair Bhai Amrik Singh stated, “Punjab police are notorious for their brutality and use of torture during interrogation to extract information or obtain false confessions.

“Given some of the media reports we are disturbed by the lack of urgency and action taken by the British High Commission in both Delhi, the mission in Chandigarh and the Foreign Office in London. They have failed to make contact with senior police officers to ensure the safety and well-being of this young British man.”
*Note – since this statement was made the Foreign Office and Jagtar Singh’s local MP have made statements, as can be seen below.

30-year old Jagtar Singh Johal travelled to Punjab with his father and two brothers, on October for his wedding. Jagtar Singh had been to India earlier this year without issue. Jagtar Singh is known among the Sikh community for highlighting issues around the Sikh genocide of 1984. SFUK have been in contact with UK governmental offices regarding the issue.

 

“My brother was not even named on the warrant or charge sheet”

 

According to the SFUK press release on 3 November, Jagtar Singh “was accosted, a sack thrown over his head, and he was forced into a van by men dressed in plain clothes”. In a press conference after the arrests, sources stated Punjab police mentioned that Jagtar Singh was known for “running a magazine”, whilst Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, also singled out Jagtar Singh’s arrest.

Gurpreet Singh Johal, the elder brother of Jagtar Singh, said, “Unless the British authorities quickly step in, this will guarantee a law-abiding British citizen will be illegally detained for some time and will not receive a fair trial. He should be immediately released and returned to the UK.

“My brother was not even named on the police First Information Request (FIR) equivalent of a warrant or charge sheet. This raises further questions that his detention is opportunist and the absence of any evidence against my brother.”

Only after two days were the family of Jagtar Singh made aware he had been arrested, when he was presented in court and put on remand. Whilst Indian media such as the Times of India, NDTV and more, have reported Jagtar Singh was one of four people arrested in connection with targeted killings in Punjab, many members of the Sikh community feel as an activist, he is being framed. The fact there was no attempt from the Indian authorities to coordinate with their British counterparts to arrest Jagtar Singh, both when he was in the UK and now he is in India, is an issue of concern to members of the Sikh community, who have previously seen many diaspora activists arrested and tortured when going to India.

A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesperson stated on the issue, We are in contact with the family of a British man who has been detained in India.  Our staff are in contact with the Indian authorities regarding his case.”

The family of Jagtar Singh have complained of harassment and intimidation from the Punjab police, with an attempt made to seize the British passports of Jagtar Singh’s immediate family. Whilst Jagtar Singh’s family from Scotland are now back in the UK, his Punjab based family have had to go into hiding to avoid the targeted intimidation they face from Punjab police.

MP Martin Docherty-Hughes, of Jagtar Singh’s home town Dumbarton, stated on the issue, “I am deeply concerned about the circumstances of Jagtar Singh Johal’s arrest and imprisonment in India. This has been an extremely distressing time for my constituent’s family and I am doing everything in my power to support them as their Member of Parliament.

“The lack of information being given to Jagtar’s family by the police and judicial authorities in Delhi following his arrest is alarming. I have raised this as a matter of urgency with the British High Commission of India and the Foreign Office.

“I will also be contacting the Foreign Secretary and the Scottish Government to ensure that Jagtar and his family are not unfairly mistreated by the Indian authorities. This is an extremely serious matter and I hope my constituents will be fully supported in their efforts to secure a positive outcome.”

The Sikh Press Association will be and providing continual updates on this story.

 

guru-nanak

Five Facts about Guru Nanak

Guru Nanak Dev Ji Maharaj, is considered by Sikhs to have been the embodiment of God on earth. Here are five facts to help explain why millions still follow His teachings over 500 years since His birth.


 

1)  He Promoted the Oneness of Mankind

Born in 1469, Guru Na nak Dev Ji lived in a time of huge inequality in 15th century India. Religious segregation, slavery and caste/gender discrimination were rife. Guru Nanak Dev Ji openly talked and acted against this, humbling royalty and nobleman, whilst elevating the poor.

Recognise the Lord’s light within all, and do not consider social class or status; there are no classes or castes in the world hereafter”Guru Granth Sahib Ji (Ang 349).

 

2)    He was one of the most traveled people in history

Guru Nanak Dev Ji traveled tens of thousa nds of miles to spread God’s message of oneness and purity. From His birthplace of Punjab, Guru Nanak travelled on foot as far as the middle-east, Europe and East Asia. Only accompanied by His faithful follower Bhai Mardana, Guru Nanak is recorded as having visited the likes of Mecca and historic sites in Tibet and Turkey in over 20 yea rs of travelling.

 

3)    Championing Gender Equality

In India at the time Guru Nanak was around, women had very few rights. Widows were often burnt alive as their husbands were cremated and women in general were not allowed to remarry. Guru Nanak Dev Ji preached against this discrimination and sought to improve the respect of women.

From woman, man is born; within woman, man is conceived; to woman he is engaged and married. Woman becomes his friend; through woman, thefuture generations come. When his woman dies,he seeks another woman; to woman he is bound. So why call her bad? From her, kings are born. From woman, woman is born; without woman, there would be no one at all” Guru Granth Sahib Ji (Ang,473).

 

4)    He has different names in different cultures

Guru Nanak Dev Ji is revered in many different cultures and as such has been given various names. In Afghanistan He is commonly called Nanak Peer. He is also known as Nanak Rishi in Nepal, Baba Nanak in Iraq, Nanaka-Chraya in Sri Lanka and Nanak Lama in Tibet. These are just a few examples.

 

5)    He Invented Langar

Guru Nanak Dev Ji started the Sikh concept of langar over 500 years ago as a child. Translating as ”communal kitchen”, langar sees every Gurdwara (Sikh temple) in the world have an open kitchen that distributes free meals all day, every day, to anyone, regardless of faith,gender, age or status.

 

 

Sikh genocide women's protest

UK Sikh Ladies Coalition to hand letter on Sikh genocide to 10 Downing Street

Group to ask UK Govt to consider India’s “state sponsored Genocide of Sikhs” when dealing with India “for post Brexit trade talks”.


 

Sikh women are to march across London in silence tomorrow in order to hand letters to government authorities in regards to the Sikh genocide of 1984.

33 members of the UK Sikh Ladies Coalition, representing 33 years of injustice, will assemble from 10am at Trafalgar Square before walking in silence to High Commission of India, Downing Street and the Palace of Westminster, where they will hand letters to the establishments detailing Sikh hurt about the 1984 Sikh genocide and future and concerns regarding trade deals between the UK and the Indian state.

A statement from the group reads, “Our request to Her Majesty’s Government is that any post-Brexit trade talks with India should consider the longstanding issue of the state-sponsored genocide of Sikhs in the days following the assassination of then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi.

Declassified documents of government communication prior to the 1984 Sikh genocide have revealed that the UK were concerned about jeopardising trade deals between the nations, resulting in collusion between the two in regards to “Operation Blue Star”, the Indian government assault on Darbar Sahib (the Golden Temple), which saw thousands of murdered civilians during a state wide shoot-on-sight shutdown of Punjab. It was this strategic and callous attack which led to India’s Prime Minister Indira Gandhi being assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards, resulting in the state facilitated genocide of an estimated 30,000 Sikhs across India.

A spokesperson stated regarding the aim of the letters, two of which will be directly addressed towards PM Theresa May and Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn, “We hope the letters will urge India to redouble it’s efforts to bring justice and closure to the victims of the November 1984 Sikh Genocide.

For further information, including interviews and images, please email Jasveer@SikhPA.com.

SFUK Logo

Report on UK Govt involvement in Indian Army attack on Sikhs set for release

The Sikh Federation UK are hosting an open invite event to launch “Sacrificing Sikhs”, their official report on UK Government involvement in the 1984 Amritsar Massacre. Register to attend here.

For media requests, please email Jasveer@SikhPA.com. 


 

After over three years of investigations, Sikh Federation UK will be unveiling an official report on UK government involvement in the events which led to the 1984 Sikh genocide on Wednesday November 1st in Parliament.

Sacrificing Sikhs is an SFUK commissioned report based on independent research of declassified UK Government documents from the National Archives, superseding an inquiry made Sir Jeremy Heywood in 2014.  The report will be released on November 1st in Parliament. Full event details can be below.

 

“Parliament has been misled by the investigation as reported by William Hague”

 

SFUK said of the event, “The Sikh Federation began its own research of the declassified files held at the National Archive in order to piece together the gaps in the inadequate review conducted by Sir Jeremy Heywood. 

“The report is an attempt at a reconciliation of what was reported by William Hague to the House of Commons on 4 February 2014 with what was available in the archive. The contrarian nature of what has been found is compelling and brings in to focus the validity, integrity and nature of the review conducted by Heywood, to the point that it wouldn’t be unreasonable to consider that parliament has been misled by the investigation as reported by William Hague in the House of Commons.

A push for an independent public inquiry was part of the Sikh Manifesto, a document produced by SFUK to empower British Sikh voters in the run-up to the 2015 General Election. However, with the truth not forthcoming via political means, the group commenced their own investigations which will culminate in the release of Sacrificing Sikhs.

It was in 2014 that the world became aware of UK Government collusion between Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Government and the Indira Gandhi led Indian state prior to “Operation Blue Star”, the infamous Indian government attack on Darbar Sahib (the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar) in June 1984. An inquiry revealed the Indian state were advised by the UK Government on the assault, which saw a massacre of thousands of civilians. First exposed by Labour MP Tom Watson (who will be in attendance and speaking at the event), the discovering of the liaison between the state authorities regarding the callous attack sent shock-waves through the British Sikh community upon its discovery, especially with the realisation that the welfare of Sikhs was placed second to trade deals between the nations.

The events of Operation Blue Star have remained a gaping wound for the international Sikh community for over 30 years, due to killings of civilians by Indian state authorities not just in Amritsar but across Punjab as police imposed a shoot-on-sight policy at road blocks all over the state. The destruction of the Darbar Sahib complex and the burning down of a historic library by the Indian Army after the attack also add to the ceaseless hurt Sikhs feel due to Operation Blue Star.

The resulting Amritsar Massacre directly led to the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards on 31 October 1984, which fueled the Sikh genocide. After her death, mobs spent days killing, raping and robbing Sikhs in revenge attacks thereafter all over India. With proven state complicity in the 1984 Sikh genocide, the fact that no state figures have ever faced justice further prevents the wounds of 1984 from healing for Sikhs.

A deeper look into reasons of Sikh hurt in regards to the events of 1984 will be discussed through the release of 1984: India’s Guilty Secret, a book by Pav Singh described as a “shocking exposé of a true-life Orwellian plot of nightmarish proportions”.

Hosting the launch will be Preet Kaur Gill, MP of Edgbaston and the first ever female Sikh MP. Also speaking on the day will be respected Human Rights lawyer Darragh Mackin, SFUK advisor Dabinderjit Singh, along with many political figures and Sikh community representatives from across the UK.

The event is highly anticipated not just in the UK but across the world, with revelations having the potential to cause the Sikh community to review its relationship with the UK Government.

SFUK Chairperson Bhai Amrik Singh added, “Despite extensive censorship, this report is a real eye-opener into some of the painful facts that both the UK and Indian governments wanted to remain hidden. Promises of trade were enough for Thatcher to sanction and encourage Sikhs to be sacrificed in their homeland and for civil liberties to be suspended for the law-abiding British Sikh community.

 

 

EVENT DETAILS
TIME: 2.30pm-4pm.
DATE: 
1.11.17
LOCATION: 
Grimmond Room, Portcullis House, Westminster, London, SW1A 2LW.


 

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.

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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.
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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.”

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

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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.