Echoes of Mutiny - The Story

Echoes of Mutiny – interview with Deep Hundal

Interview by Harwinder Singh. For more from Harwinder, check out naujawani.com. Please do help support the project by donating whatever you can to help this brilliant idea go forward. To donate or for more information on the project, click here – https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1033862513/echoes-of-mutiny. 


 

Deep-HundalDeep Hundal (pictured) is the imaginative soul behind ‘Echoes of Mutiny’, a graphic novel project crowdsourcing funds through the Kickstarter website. The truly unique and exquisite imagery of the sample artwork captured my attention, but it’s the sub-heading – “Steam-Punk and British Colonialism meet an unflinching and epic Sikh resistance” – that had me needing to know more about Deep, this project, and steam-punk.

 

 

 

HS: Thanks for speaking to me; I’m going to dive straight in – what is steam-punk?!

DH: Steam-punk is modern technology (computers, robots, airplanes/ships, weapons, cars etc.) powered by steam and set in the 1800’s – early 1900’s. If you’re a Japanese anime fan, then ‘Steamboy’ comes to mind and if you remember, then also ‘Wild Wild West’ with Will Smith and even Hell Boy has some elements of it as well. Steam-punk is more prevalent than we think.

 

How long have you been a fan of Steam-Punk? Are there many other Sikhs that you know of who are into it?

I’ve never been a die-hard fan of steam-punk. I just thought it was cool whenever I would come across it. And quite frankly, I don’t know a single Sikh that likes steam-punk. Hell, I may be the only one.

 

Why did you choose to interpret ‘Ghadar di Goonj’ for your first graphic novel? Was that a personal or commercial decision?

I think the last ten years of organizing in the Sikh community and being involved in so many Sikh orientated politics has led me to the eventual realization that we need to reclaim so many of our narratives. The Ghadar movement, and beyond that the Sikh sangarsh against the British Raj, is one of those narratives that has been appropriated and acclaimed by Indian Nationalist/secularists.

About 6-7 years back, Bhai Ajmer Singh had made a trip to my city (Edmonton, Alberta) where he was speaking about a book he had just released, “Ghadari Babe Kaun Sun.” During that talk, he had carefully described how the communist movement (whom we refer to as “Comrades”) has essentially hijacked the Ghadar movement and slowly morphed it into an Indian Nationalist movement with secular and atheistic dispositions. As Ajmer Singh went on to describe the Ghadar movement in their own unmolested words, I remember sitting there and feeling a pit in my stomach. So much of our Sikh history is being torn asunder and we have a responsibility to stop that.

It wasn’t commercial reasons that lead me to write this, it was this deep desire to contribute to the much-needed narratives our Sikh community needs.

 

A project like this could be perceived by some as having a limited audience; do you think that’s fair? Irrespectively, what has driven you to invest so much of your own time and money into this project?

Sikhi in its totality has a limited audience too. How many people are willing to get out of their comfort and endorse the use of arms and militancy? Not many. That being said, I’ve never taken myself as someone who appealed to a wider audience, so my default position in life is to expect to be at the margins. 

 

The team you’ve gathered together to create ‘Echoes of Mutiny’ are highly talented individuals; are they friends, connections, or did you seek them out professionally?

I went through a pretty lengthy process of trying to bring together a team. I literally spent months on end trying to figure it out all out until I came across Ryan (my penciler) who was then able to find the rest of the team (his friends) and from there we began work.

 

The illustrations and colours look incredible; is that something you conceived as part of the creative direction of this project or did it evolve from the pen of the artists?

It’s all collaborative. There were certain things that were important to me, for example, a softer colour pallet and overall use of colours not conventionally used in Panjab, Sikh creative projects (films, books etc.) But these guys also had strong vision and ideas and you need to let that flow too.

Echoes of Mutiny - cartoon Singh

You’re not new to tackling sensitive subject-matter [see ‘The Condemned’]; can we expect the narrative of this graphic novel to be as tempestuous as the historical period it is inspired by?

Without a doubt. This period was complicated (not that any period in our history isn’t) and Sikhs were dealing with multiple threats through numerous ways. I wanted my characters to acknowledge these problems and then try to confront them the best they can. We’re dealing with the outright physical violence of colonialism to its more nuanced machinations: something as small as introducing the vaja (harmonium) to something as insidious as creating their own controllable resistance with upper-caste Brahmin Hindus.

 

The British Empire, Sikh revolutionaries, Brahmin Hindus – how much of ‘Echoes of Mutiny’ is fiction and how much draws on factual accounts?

I took a lot of what I know and read (and continue to read and understand) and used that as a background and inspiration. I needed creative latitude to tell the story in the way I wanted so I didn’t try to reimagine or re-tell the story of actually ghadari babay/bibis – except for Harnam Singh (the Singh with the steam-powered arm) who is loosely based on the great-grand uncle of one of my good friends who mentioned him to me in conversation and who I thought had a pretty dope story.

But there were a lot of aspects of British rule and Sikh resistance that needed to be incorporated: the creation of the Congress party, the building of the railways (which plays an important part in the story) and the storied and spirited resistance of our Sikh people.

Echoes of Mutiny - cartoon Singh and Kaur

Writing for film and writing for graphic novels are clearly very different. Can you share any of the similarities you’ve found from drafting the story for this project?

Well, it’s pretty funny but when I wrote the first chapter and sent it to Ryan, he told me that it had too much exposition and I didn’t need to do that. I actually felt like an idiot because I put so much heart in trying to explain Panjab to someone who has never been there. Instead, I think I just sent him pictures of Panjab. He suggested I write it like a film script, so that’s what I did.

 

You’ve suggested on the Kickstarter page that this project is to publish the first edition; what determines the possibility of sequels and future editions?

Frankly speaking: money. I didn’t want to cut corners and I wanted something that would be strikingly beautiful. I eventually realized that this was going to be an expensive endeavour and a part of the reason I took so long in placing it on Kickstarter was apprehension and fear. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to raise the funds and I didn’t want to have to tell this story without this beautiful art and universe. But here I am.

Beyond that and to be franker: a part of the reason I made this was in reaction to already existing creative projects out there. Clearly, they lack imagination and clearly, they’re conceived by individuals who have themselves never grew up watching any damn good animation.

I know steam-punk because I watch a ridiculous amount of anime and western animation. Shows like Cowboy Bebop, Avatar the Last Airbender, Full Metal Alchemist, Dragon Ball. Movies like Princess Mononoke, Ghost in the Shell, Metropolis, Akira, everything from Studio Ghibli, Tokyo Godfathers. Honestly, I could go on forever, but you get my point. The reason we don’t see such great Sikh animation is that those at the helm of current ones have such a limited scope of reference which further narrows their imagination.

Our younger generations need to imagine themselves, as Sikhs, in every possible, crazy, fantastical, unrealistic universe possible. Given the almost lack of Sikhs we see in current mainstream narratives, it’s up to us to create those universes.

 

Is it purely coincidental that the three male Sikh characters resemble the UK-based Sikh rapper (and naujawani collaborator) SINGH MAHOON?! I know you know him, did you get him to model for the art work?!

Mahoon is my homie and one of the characters looks very much like him. I won’t say whom. But what I do know is that Mahoon has an amazing voice and if some incredibly rich Sikh decides that they’re going to full fund an animation, then Mahoon will voice that mysterious character.

 

Thank you very much Deep and best of luck with the project, we look forward to seeing this in print next summer.

 

‘Echoes of Mutiny’ is being crowd-funded on Kickstarter between now and Monday 17 July, 2017 for the humble total of $15,000 (Canadian dollars). Contributions are only taken once the entire amount has been procured and the crowd-funding period has concluded; pledge your support at:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1033862513/echoes-of-mutiny.

Associated images to compliment this interview can be found on the Kickstarter project page (see link above); credit: ‘Echoes of Mutiny’.

Afghan headline

Statement: Sikhs in Afghanistan – What’s the problem?

The Sikh Press Association share this statement from documentary makers Pritpal Singh and Harkiran Kaur in relation to today’s news about Afghan Sikhs being illegally brought into the country by a group who seemingly exploit the desire of those looking to leave a country where Sikhs are unable to live freely. 

Please note, this is in no way a statement in defence of the those on trial for illegally arranging Afghan Sikhs to come into the country. This is a statement shared to highlight why Sikhs are leaving Afghanistan. We highly recommend watching the documentaries linked in the statement below to gain a better understanding of why Sikhs are desperately looking to leave Afghanistan.


 

Often a misunderstood minority, the Sikh community in Afghanistan is fast dwindling.

Once known for its thriving trade routes and culture, Afghanistan is now known for its turbulent political history, causing many Afghans to migrate, including the Sikh and Hindu religious minorities. The country has been torn apart by war for decades and peace is not in sight when the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) troops leave.

For minorities like the Sikhs and Hindus, the situation is quite hopeless.  Last year in December Lala Del Souz Singh, the head of the Sikh community in Kunduz, northern Afghanistan was killed by unknown gunmen. Of the more than 50,000 Afghan Sikh families that lived in Afghanistan around the 90s, only 3,000 are left.

During the years of the Taliban, Sikhs were often forced to wear yellow armbands so they were easily distinguishable. From those years to this day, Sikhs in Afghanistan regularly face issues of harassment and abuse. Parents worry about sending children to school. Young girls and women are commonly targeted. Whether it is about holding a funeral for our deceased or having our businesses, land and goods taken from us, anything goes when it comes to Sikh persecution in Afghanistan. The authorities perpetrate this. The discrimination is institutionalised. This is why nearly all the Sikhs have left Afghanistan.

Thousands of miles away from the homeland, however, a small community of Afghan Sikhs have preserved the culture and traditions of the dwindling community and at the same time are working hard to integrate and contribute well in British society.

It is awful to think some of this community’s own could have used the plight of their fellow Afghan Sikhs as a chance to exploit them, by illegally getting them into the country. However, it seems this is the case. As such, without defending the callous alleged (the court hearing is still ongoing) actions of those on trial, it must be understood just why Afghan Sikhs are doing anything they can to get into the UK.

In 2013 I produced a documentary “Mission Afghanistan” https://youtu.be/0h11jAyO0zg portraying the life and hardships of Hindu and Sikh minorities in war-torn Afghanistan.

Four years later, my latest work “Hindu Kush to Thames” https://youtu.be/usmOTLiWQTw , co-produced, filmed and directed by Ariadne Bechtold which released in May this year, follows up on Mission Afghanistan’s coverage of the plight of Sikhs living in Afghanistan. Hindu Kush to Thames sheds light on those who have immigrated to the UK. Our new documentary, highlights the Afghan Sikh and Hindu communities, but this time through the lens of Afghan immigrants to the UK, particularly Southall, by carefully juxtaposing the life left behind, with life in their adopted homes. The sacrifices and struggles are masked with vibrant displays of faith, music, food and dance. In the nearly empty diwan halls of Kabul, and the vibrant and overflowing hall of Gurdwara, Sikh place of workshop in Southall, London, with touching depictions of the dilapidated temple and gurdwaras in Kabul and impressive retention of their roots throughout generations on foreign soil, “Hindu Kush to Thames” presents the story of immigrants, who are rarely covered in Afghan or mainstream media.

Whilst the perpetrators of this crime – if found guilty – should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, those that really wish to tackle this issue need to look at treating the root cause, not just the symptoms. For as long as Sikhs continue to suffer in Afghanistan, they will do anything they can to get to the UK, a place many Sikh Afghan families are now happy to call home.

 

Pritpal Singh

Harkiran Kaur

Christian punjab missionaries

Harvesting Souls In Punjab: How The Evangelical Ecosystem Targets Sikhs – swarajyamag.com

SNAPSHOT

Recently, violence erupted in Punjab after four Sikhs allegedly made “derogatory remarks against Jesus Christ”.

The confrontation between Sikhism and Christianity is neither sudden nor relegated to isolated events such as these. It’s bigger.

The evangelical war on Sikhs has spanned the last two centuries.

Four Sikhs – Paramjit Singh of Amritsar, Simarjit Singh and Jaspal Singh of Sanghe village, and Manavdeep Singh of Deenewale village – were arrested on 27 June for making “derogatory remarks against Jesus Christ”. The Christian protestors indulged in violence, pelting stones on buses and burning tires on the national highway. After an orgy of mob violence, they gave a two-day ultimatum to the administration to arrest the Sikhs, who they claimed had “blasphemed against” their deity Jesus.

After the arrests of the Sikhs, “bishop P J Suleman, who was flanked by representatives of various Christian organisations, including Punjab Christian Movement (PCM), said they were satisfied with the police action in this case” (‘Christians call off protests after arrests in video episode’, Indian Express, 28 June).

This is not the first time that the Christian community in Punjab has angrily reacted to the “blasphemy” of Sikhs against their god. On 22 May 2001, Satnam Singh, a 70-year-old lawyer, was arrested for his book on Sikhism. It had a chapter on Jesus in which the Christian deity was depicted in an unfavourable light. That was in the 1999 edition of the book. In the 2001 edition, the objectionable passages had been edited out. Even then the Christian leaders were not satisfied. They demanded the arrest of the author. Satnam Singh was arrested and, after he got bail, later offered to apologise, though the Christian leaders questioned his sincerity (Christianity Today, 1 June 2001).

The confrontation between Sikhism and Christianity is neither sudden nor relegated to isolated events. In fact, the reaction of Sikhs, which had attracted media attention in a highly unfavourable manner, is the result of Christian invasion and evangelical war on Sikhs that spans the last two centuries.

Sabu Mathai Kathettu, a Christian evangelist from Operation Mobilisation (deceptively abbreviated as “OM”), published in 2009 a report assessing Christian evangelical work in Punjab. Published by one of the apex protestant institutions in India with global connectivity, the Indian Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (ISPCK), the book provides not just a historical account but also the theological position and methodology for conversion of Sikhs to Christianity. It shows the kind of monumental global adversary against which are pitted the rural Sikhs of Punjab.

The book’s author is well aware of the incompatibility of the fundamental tenets of Sikhism with those of Christianity. This has even created a hurdle in approaching the Sikhs, he points out:

(The missionaries) preached that all people are sinners, and Christ is the true Saviour. The concept of all people as ‘sinners’ was objected to by the Hindus and Sikhs because it was different from their philosophy. For them it is difficult to recognize that they are sinners!

P 73

Note the exclamation point, as if it is a natural thing for people to think of themselves as sinners. And the Sikhs and Hindus are shown as if they have some learning disability – difficulty in recognising that they are sinners.

The Sikh concept of god is also contradictory to the Christian concept of god. For Guru Nanak, the god is “loving and gracious but He is never angry or shows wrath towards humankind”. In contrast, when the Christian god’s “righteousness confronts human sinfulness it becomes wrath because God is holy and abhors sin”. Further, Sikhism dismisses “the uniqueness of Jesus as the Son of God and the only way to God”. In addition, the book says “the Sikh doctrine of Ek Onkar, the Absolute Oneness, rejects the Biblical concept of Triune God” (p 113).

So evangelism is needed. The book clearly states the obvious that all humanitarian work done by Christians is only a means for conversion. However, despite British-engineered famines ravaging Punjab, they could not attain much success, so they changed strategies.

Evangelism was the ultimate goal of mission societies and ministries such as education, medical care and literature were seen as channels towards evangelism. … Progressively, the missionaries changed their strategy and adopted the ingenious methods to present the gospel.

P 73

Mathai says that still “the missionaries did not have a proper strategy to reach the Sikh community”. So they decided to convert the ‘high castes’. Mathai unwittingly busts a big missionary propaganda line that missionaries were genuinely attracted towards the poor and the downtrodden. They actually went for the so-called upper castes. When they could not convert them, they turned to the so-called lower castes. No humanitarianism here, only a change of strategy.

They realized the importance of reaching the Hindu high caste people in Punjab. Stock says that the Christian missionaries were convinced that winning the high caste was the key to evengelising the country as a whole. … Later the missionaries turned to Chamars and Mazhabi Sikhs of the lower caste.

P 75

Even here there was a failure. The converts were seen as kind of collaborators with the British, people who had gone out of Indian culture. In a revealing line, Mathai writes that “it was evident in 1857 when the Indian Mutiny broke out…” (p 77). It is revealing for the use of the term ‘Indian Mutiny’. It shows from which point of view a modern evangelist born in independent India approaches the problem.

When it comes to independent India, Mathai writes how evangelists are using the modern visual communication system. The Indian state machinery is also co-opted in this evangelical war against Sikhism.

Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) is screening gospel programmes through the national channel Doordarshan in Hindi. In Punjab churches and mission agencies use Jesus or Dayasagar films in outreach programmes. Sikhs respond to these programmes well. At present a few fundamental Hindu and Sikhs are fiercely opposing the screening of these films.

P 97

Still there are problems. They are not winning the conversion battles. Mathai points out the possible reasons and starts suggesting remedies.

The pattern of worship, customs, and church buildings are not inculturated and are the same as the missionaries left behind. Therefore the Sikh community does not understand the core of the gospel message. The churches of Punjab should modify their mission strategy to reach the Sikhs effectively. The gospel of Christ should be incarnated in the context of the Punjab. The pattern of the church and worship should be inculturated in a way the Sikhs can understand.

P 100

In enumerating the hurdles, one is frighteningly interesting. The Sikhs are successful, self-confident and content, and there Mathai sees a problem.

Most Sikhs are well settled and secure as they feel satisfied with their own religion. Wealth is a great hindrance to them for accepting salvation. … Because of wealth they have developed strong personality and personal security that has instilled in them a kind of pride that they can survive anywhere in the world. The Christian worker, or the church, must make a strategy to witness to the Sikhs regarding their appetite for the material things.

P 101

One is left to wonder what kind of a religion wants to destroy the self-confidence and success of a community of people so that it can spread itself.

Then he details how to evangelise through inculturation – which is essentially creation of theological confusion in a community.

… for effective inculturation, satsang style of worship services should be conducted in the local languages with kirtans accompanied with local music. Also singing Bhajans should be included in worship. Bhajans and Kirtans are the appropriate method for communicating the Word of God effectively to the Sikh community. … Every morning and evening the scripture should be broadcasted from the church as is done in the Gurudwara.In such cases laws regarding the use of microphones and loudspeakers should be adhered to in government restricted areas. … And after the worship service the believers should share fellowship around a communal meal like the langar.

P 107

Note the intentional confusion of symbols and spiritual entities exclusively rooted in Sikh culture and religion. Note the creation of competitive use of loudspeakers that can create social strife. And note the caution so as to escape government monitoring. The methodology of blatant deception continues.

Christian workers should also learn and use Punjabi terms. The church can be called Kristh Gurudwara or any appropriate words can be used. … Also the term ‘pastor’ or ‘priest’ can be replaced by ‘Granti’ or ‘Giani’. It is best for believers to be called Isa da Sikh.

P 108-9

Even the life-cycle rituals are not spared.

The most important ceremony is that of pathul or baptism, usually administered at puberty. The initiate takes amrit nectar and is admitted to the Khalsa fraternity. The concept of pahul in Sikhism is similar to Christian baptism. Therefore the Pastor should be able to critically evaluate it and adopt the good elements of it.

P 110

Note the condescending theo-supremacist tone. The pastor will critically evaluate and judge and adopt the ‘good elements’ in a ritual central to Sikhism. Lest we think the missionaries are indulging in crass deception, the usual tool of historiography that would do a Romila Thapar proud is employed to justify the evangelical deception. The Sikhs appropriated the Hindu festivals and we are doing the same to them.

The Sikh festivals are the best examples of inculturating the meaning of Hindu festivals into Sikh faith by their Gurus. The same way, the Christian missionaries can inculturate the Sikh festivals with Christian meanings.

P 111

It is conveniently forgotten that Sikhs did not appropriate Hindu festivals with the ulterior motive of converting them. Neither did they appropriate nor did the Sikhs inculturate. The festivals have evolved in India with their own local narratives. There are no clever intentions or artificial instructions like the ones given here. They are symbols of pluralism that underline India’s spiritual cultural unity and not tools of expansionism.

Figure 1

Figure 1
Figure 2

Figure 2
Figure 3

Figure 3
Figure 4

Figure 4

Figures 1-4: Almost all Sikh communities are under the evangelical radar with shocking background work done on each of them. Note that in Pakistan, 60 per cent of Jat Sikhs have become Christian. Also remember that in the Joshua Project database, some Christian denominations like the Catholics are not considered Christian.

Then comes the ultimate appropriation – the fulfilment theology, which in the context of non-Christian faith says that the latter is spiritually deficient and that Christianity fulfils it. In doing this even the holiest aspects of Sikh spirituality are not spared.

The Christian worker must evaluate whether the concept of Sat Guru can be used or not. Also after a careful study the term Sat Guru can be adapted for Jesus as he is the only way to the Father. Jesus claimed himself as the truth, so he is the Sat Nam. … the title Waheguru also can be adapted to accept Jesus. …Therefore, Jesus Christ is the only Satguru who provides salvation and he can also be described as the fulfillment of Guru Granth Saheb.

P 113

With such ammunition and foreign funds, individual cult-like churches have at last started mushrooming in the Punjabi villages. In 2011, Shafi Rahman reported in India Today how such independent churches are attracting huge foreign funds and are spreading across Punjab. These are radical churches and they have Taliban-like solutions for perceived social evils. Rahman gives an eye-witness account of how they work with the believers.

At Wanjawala near Amritsar, Prakash Messi, a borewell-operator-turned-preacher, holds his Sunday prayers in the living room of one of his parishioners. He asks a group of 25 men: “Alcohol is sin. What is the reward of sin?” They answer in unison: “Death”. The preaching is simple, the demands to the Lord are less complicated. “Jesus, son of Virgin Mary, make our journey on cycles and motorcycles safe,” prays Messi. The prayer group includes converted Hindus and Sikhs and even former Catholics.

Shafi Rahman, ‘Freelancers Of God’, India Today (30 April 2011)

With the ‘secular parties’ refusing to take note of this problem of conversion war unleashed on Sikhism, interestingly, only the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has come forward to counter conversions with the media-maligned ‘Ghar Wapasi’ programme. On December 2014, RSS efforts led to the homecoming of 40 Mazhabi Sikh families at Jivan Singh gurdwara in Guru-ki-Wadali, Amritsar. However, these efforts are no match to the highly institutionalised, global, evangelical war apparatus which has been researching and developing its weapons of deceptive conversions, specially targeting the Sikhs for the last two centuries.

After the theo-institutional appropriation and foreign-funded evangelism, Christianity has started asserting itself as a political force which can unleash violence and effect censorship on the society. In 2016, Christian leader Imanul Rehmat Masih announced to the media that the actual Christian population in the state was 7-10 per cent instead of 1 per cent as reported in the government census (‘Census does not tell real population of Christians in Punjab: Leaders’, Hindustan Times, 5 September 2016). The demands of Christians as an aggressive political entity in Punjab are accelerating in an alarming manner.

The implications for the border state Punjab and Sikhs, who have traditionally stood as the barrier between expansionist monocultures and rest of India, becoming evangelised is severe for India as a nation and as a civilisation. Imagine a Christian movement consisting of converted Sikhs; then one can understand the gravity of the problem.

The frustration of the rural Sikhs against such a well-planned strategy and a global enemy is totally understandable. Today, the Punjab police has charged the Sikhs under Sections 295A (outraging religious feelings), 505 (for rumours) and 153A (promoting enmity between different groups) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) against eight people. If that is what those frustrated, helpless individual Sikhs did, what is it that the church organisations have been doing to the Sikhs? Are they not ‘outraging religious feelings’ of Sikhs by appropriating their holiest of holies? Are they not ‘promoting enmity between different groups’ by indulging in nefarious conversion practices aimed to confuse common Sikhs?

Sikhs in Punjab have a battle on their hands – one of the toughest in their history of valiant struggle. The state government should recognise this and withdraw the cases against the Sikhs and enact laws that would curb the missionary activities in the state and proclaim them as anti-national and anti-humanistic.

Grenfell Tower

Grenfell Tower fire – News and Links to support

The Sikh community have rallied to help those impacted by the Grenfell Tower fire. Here we share details and news related to these efforts.

Drop off centres

If you wish to donate or help in anyway, please use this Facebook page (being regulated by humanitarian charity Khalsa Aid) to coordinate efforts – https://www.facebook.com/Grenfell-Tower-Relief-Coordination-1724526381181534/?notif_t=fbpage_fan_invite¬if_id=1497450070665755&sw_fnr_id=3447242588.

Sikh in Trump era

Being Sikh in the Trump era – L.A Times

‘You have to go out of your way to prove you’re not a threat’

Balmeet Singh stepped outside a burger shop in a strip mall to wish his 13-year-old cousin a happy birthday when the stranger squared up against him.

“So, you’re going to blow up this country?” the man said. “You’re trying to blow up this country?”

He threw a drink in Singh’s face, his long beard and burgundy turban the intended target. Then the man threatened to kill him.

A dozen people sat in the nearby patio. Singh scanned their faces. No one said anything. Singh had never felt so alone.

The September attack left the 31-year-old real estate agent among the swelling ranks of Sikhs targeted, in many cases, after being mistaken for Muslim — a phenomenon that gained momentum after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Sikh community leaders say they’ve seen another uptick since the 2016 presidential election and the Trump administration’s proposed immigration and travel bans. Those proposals, they argue, are fueling an intensified xenophobia.

Sikhism, which has roots in the Punjab region of northern India and eastern Pakistan, is the world’s fifth-largest religion.

The FBI began collecting data on anti-Sikh, anti-Arab and anti-Hindu hate crimes for the first time in 2015, though the Sikh community has struggled for years to accurately track those crimes. Only six of the incidents in the most recent FBI report were anti-Sikh hate crimes, but the bureau has said it takes years to get an accurate accounting.

Sikh advocacy groups argue such incidents are under-reported and do not include other hate-filled attacks, such as discrimination or hate speech — a concern buoyed by law enforcement data. Many cities either did not report hate crimes or reported zero hate crimes, according to the FBI report.

“The overwhelming motivation for these attacks or intimidation incidents are part and parcel of a growing wave of hostility based on perception that Sikhs are Muslim,” said Suman Raghunathan, executive director of the advocacy group South Asian Americans Leading Together.

Advocacy groups use statistics on anti-Muslim hate crimes to help determine whether Sikhs are at higher risk, said Rajdeep Singh Jolly, interim managing director of programs at the Sikh Coalition.

“At the moment, the risk of anti-Sikh hate crime is high,” Jolly said. “Any time there is a flare-up in anti-immigrant rhetoric, we see an uptick in even an apprehension about hate crimes.”

While some of the violence against Sikhs stems from misconceptions about their background — attackers assume they are Muslim or Middle Eastern — experts say much of it is fueled by a prejudiced response to their darker skin, beards or turbans.

Earlier this year, two Sikhs and two other Indian men were shot in attacks in Kansas, Washington and South Carolina. In two of the incidents, authorities said the shooters expressed a variation of the same sentiment: Go back to your country.

“It’s very similar to how I felt after 9/11,” Singh said. “It’s not enough to simply be who you are and exist. You have to go out of your way to prove you’re not a threat.”

Community members are working to strike a balance in its efforts to educate the public about Sikhism — aiming to differentiate themselves through awareness campaigns and local outreach without appearing to condone attacks on Muslims and other minorities.

“Sikhs began migrating in large numbers with my parents’ generation,” Jolly said. “They just didn’t have the time or resources or the know-how of how to do lobbying. To some extent, we’re catching up.”

A disturbing trend

Maan Singh Khalsa was attacked and beaten, and his hair was cut off in Richmond, Calif., in 2016.

Maan Singh Khalsa was attacked and beaten, and his hair was cut off in Richmond, Calif., in 2016. (Sikh Coalition)

Maan Singh Khalsa thought nothing of the men in the white Ford F-150 who pulled up next to him at a red light in Richmond, Calif. Then they began throwing beer cans at him.

When the light turned green, Khalsa drove off and called 911. The truck followed.

At the next red light, two men got out of the pickup and ran up to Khalsa’s car. They reached into the open window, punched his face and yelled profanities. The attackers cut off bits of his hair. They stabbed his finger as he tried to shield himself. His finger was later amputated.

“By cutting my hair, the attackers did not just attack my body; they attacked my dignity, my spirit, my faith, my religion and my entire community,” Khalsa, 42, said later in a court statement.

Khalsa said he didn’t even think about rolling up the window when the men approached him. Instead, he tried to reason with his assailants, saying, “There is a misunderstanding; I am your brother.”

The Texas men were sentenced to three years in prison for the September attack. When addressing his attackers in court, Khalsa again tried to get them to understand.

“I hope that you will learn about me and my community and one day consider me your brother too,” Khalsa said.

High profile attacks on Indian Americans

  • September 2001: Balbir Singh Sodhi is killed in the aftermath of 9/11 in Mesa, Ariz.
  • March 2011: Two elderly Sikh men are killed while out for a walk in Elk Grove, Calif.
  • August 2012: A gunman opens fire in a gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wis., during Sikh prayer services, killing six.
  • September 2015: A teenager calls a Sikh man “terrorist” and “Bin Laden” before repeatedly punching him in his car in Chicago.
  • September 2016: A Sikh man is brutally beaten and his hair is cut off while stopped at a red light in Richmond, Calif.
  • February 2017: Two Indian men are shot, one of them fatally, at a bar in Olathe, Kan. The shooter reportedly told them to go back to their country.
  • March 2017: Two Sikh men are attacked in separate shootings, one in Washington and another in South Carolina. The man shot in South Carolina was killed.

On Sept. 15, 2001, Balbir Singh Sodhi was planting flowers with a landscaper outside his gas station in Mesa, Ariz. On his head rested a turban.

As he drove past in his pickup, Frank Roque, a 42-year-old machinist, opened fire with a .38-caliber handgun. Sodhi, 49, was shot multiple times. He crumbled to the ground, fatally wounded — the first Sikh killed after 9/11 by someone bent on killing a Muslim.

The next day, when police arrested him, Roque yelled, “I stand for America!”

Before the attack, Roque told a waiter at an Applebee’s that he was going to go out and “shoot some towel heads.” He said that “all Arabs should be shot” and that he wanted to “slit some Iranian throats,” according to media reports.

Sodhi’s brother, Rana, didn’t learn of his brother’s death until the next day, when a gas station employee called. He thought his brother must have been shot in a robbery. Then it sunk in that his brother was killed outside the shop. Sodhi had been shot because of what his beard and turban meant to his killer, his brother realized.

“We didn’t know there was so much ignorance,” Rana Sodhi said.

A link between political rhetoric and crime

Gurcharan Singh, 63, celebrates a holiday parade at his gurdwara.

Gurcharan Singh, 63, celebrates a holiday parade at his gurdwara. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

The FBI began tracking hate crimes against Sikhs in response to community advocacy following a mass shooting at a gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wis., in 2012. Six people were killed, and three were critically wounded. The gunman shot himself in the head.

Sikhs have been attacked at least a dozen times since, but it was a shooting in Kansas in February that again put the Indian community on edge. In that attack, two men were shot by a man who reportedly believed he was shooting Iranians.

Valarie Kaur, a Sikh civil rights advocate, said she’s spent years pushing back against the mistaken identity narrative because xenophobia targets “all of our communities at once,” not just Sikhs.

“It seems to make very little difference if the brown, bearded man with the turban calls himself a Sikh and not a Muslim,” she said. “They read us as un-American.”

Sikh women prepare bread during Nagar Kirtan celebrations at Gurdwara Guru Angad Darbar in Bakersfield.

Sikh women prepare bread during Nagar Kirtan celebrations at Gurdwara Guru Angad Darbar in Bakersfield. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

A correlation between President Trump’s talk on immigration and an increase in hate crimes doesn’t necessarily point to causation, said Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino, but there could be a link between political rhetoric and crime.

When then-President George W. Bush called for tolerance after 9/11, anti-Muslim hate crimes dropped dramatically across the country, he said. Those crimes spiked when Trump, then a presidential candidate, first proposed his “Muslim ban” after the San Bernardino terrorist attack in December 2015, Levin said.

The average for anti-Muslim hate crimes at the time was about 13 per month, he said, but there were 15 anti-Muslim crimes within five days after Trump’s speech.

“Sikhs are getting swept up in that,” Levin said.

Carrying proof of citizenship

Sikh holy men walk in front of a procession carrying their holy book, Guru Granth Sahib, during a Nagar Kirtan parade.

Sikh holy men walk in front of a procession carrying their holy book, Guru Granth Sahib, during a Nagar Kirtan parade. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

In the days following Trump’s first travel ban order, conversations in Balmeet Singh’s family began to shift from asking about each other’s day to whether they would need to prove they are Americans. Over dinners, they discussed keeping copies of their passports in their car and scanned copies onto their phones.

They bought his youngest sister a panic button in case anyone harassed her.

Singh, who lives in Bakersfield with his parents, grandparents and sisters, said it was surreal for all three generations to sit down and talk about their identity.

“Suddenly, all of us have to discuss that it’s not enough to be who we are,” he said. “We suddenly have to prove ourselves.”

Sikh men play a card game in a neighborhood park in Bakersfield.

Sikh men play a card game in a neighborhood park in Bakersfield. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
Sukhpreet "Sandy" Kaur, left, helps Emily Villarreal cover her head before entering the gurdwara.

Sukhpreet “Sandy” Kaur, left, helps Emily Villarreal cover her head before entering the gurdwara. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

About 500,000 Sikhs live in the United States, with much of that population settled in California and New York, according to the Sikh Coalition.

Sikhs represent a small portion of the Indian population, but community estimates place more than 30,000 in the central San Joaquin Valley. They comprise the majority of the local Indian population.

In an effort to familiarize the rest of the community with Sikhs, Singh’s father put up a billboard along the freeway with his photo and information about his medical clinic. His face is plastered on the left side of the sign, his hair wrapped in a black turban.

Forgiveness

A Sikh priest offer prayers during Nagar Kirtan services at Gurdwara Guru Angad Darbar in Bakersfield.

A Sikh priest offer prayers during Nagar Kirtan services at Gurdwara Guru Angad Darbar in Bakersfield. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Just days after 9/11, Balbir Singh Sodhi, his brother Rana and other members of their gurdwara planned a Sunday news conference to educate the community about Sikhs. The day before, Sodhi called his brother and asked him to bring an American flag for the gas station.

Sodhi was shot dead 30 minutes later.

“A lot of us moved from India after 1984, when Sikhs were persecuted in New Delhi out in the open,” Rana Sodhi said. “We didn’t expect those kind of things from America.”

He spoke with his brother’s killer for the first time last year after Kaur, the Sikh civil rights advocate and a family friend, set up a phone call.

The three spoke for more than 20 minutes. Roque, who still is in prison, told Rana Sodhi that he was seething over the terrorist attacks when he pulled the trigger. He said he wasn’t a racist, and he did express remorse.

“I want you to know from my heart, I’m sorry for what I did to your brother,” Roque said, according to a recording of the conversation. “One day, when I go to heaven to be judged by God, I will ask to see your brother, and I will hug him, and I will ask him for forgiveness.”

Sodhi nodded, then replied: “We already forgave you.”

Via – http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-trump-sikhs-20170509-htmlstory.html


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How did the Sikhs do? #GE2017

With over a dozen Sikhs running for seats in last night’s election, many within the community were waiting for the results to come in to see if there would be a Sikh MP in parliament for the first time since 2015.

Here we bring you a comprehensive breakdown of just how the Sikh MP candidates did last night.


The results of the General Election 2017 saw history created for the Sikh community, as for the first time a Sikh female and a turban wearing Sikh became elected as MPs.

Both running for the Labour Party, Preet Kaur Gill was first to find out she had made history, winning over 6,000 more votes than the Tories to become the official MP for Edgbaston. News of Tanmanjeet Singh‘s success soon followed, with news of him winning the seat for Slough with a huge majority of 16,998.

Sikhs across the world and with varying political allegiances were quick to congratulate both on social media. The sentiment was especially echoed by UK Sikhs, largely due to both being recognised and respected community figures, as Sikh Press Association press officer Jasveer Singh explains.

“Both Tanmanjeet Singh and Preet Kaur are receiving so much praise for their achievements not simply because both are Sikh but because both have long been active figures within the Sikh community.

“Preet Kaur has always been a regular at national rallies and local events across the UK. She has never been afraid to publicly express the views of the Sikh community on subjects such as the Sikh Genocide of 1984. As a board member of the Sikh Network, Preet Kaur has been heavily involved in advocacy of the Sikh manifesto and also advising younger Sikhs on getting into politics.

“Tanmanjeet Singh was one of the first Sikhs to speak in the media following the 2015 General Election results, which saw no Sikh MPs elected anywhere in the country. He advocated a reaffirmed commitment from all Sikhs to push for political representation and now we see he has led the way in acting on his own words two years ago.

“During his campaign, Tanmanjeet Singh was receiving support from diverse figures within the Sikh community, from MMA instructors to langar sevadaars (communal food volunteers), due to his long-standing support for grassroots organisations. He remains the President of the UK Gatka (Sikh weaponry martial-art) Foundation and a trustee of Alzheimer’s and Dementia SS.

“Their job is now to serve the interests of their constituents. However, I am certain both will always remain connected to the Sikh community at all levels.”

 

Elsewhere, other Sikh candidates failed to match the success of Tanmanjeet Singh and Preet Kaur, with the two being the only Sikhs elected in the UK.

One of the most watched campaigns of any Sikh came from independent candidate, Jagmeet Singh, running in Wolverhampton South-West. A well known activist, Jagmeet Singh aimed to find a new way to make change by venturing into politics in his home city of Wolverhampton. Part of the newly formed (but not officially registered) Panth Party, Jagmeet Singh’s politics centred on Sikh ethos, advocating community spirit and a fearless approach to speaking on issues of concern. Jagmeet Singh won 358 votes in a seat he contested with fellow Sikh Paul Uppal, who was the MP for the area from 2010-2015. Uppal won over 18,000 votes for the Conservatives but was unable to topple Labour candidate Eleanor Smith, who is now the official MP for Wolverhampton South-West.

Bally Singh, Labour candidate for Kenilworth and Southam, came second to his Conservative counterpart Jeremy Wright in comprehensive fashion, with a huge 18,000 votes the difference between the two.

Kuldip Sahota, also for Labour, ran a much closer race with Conservative candidate Lucy Allan in Telford,  with each getting over 21,000 votes and only 720 votes as the difference between the two.

In Feltham and Heston – a constituency with a large Sikh community – Samir Jassal of the Conservatives was unable to dethrone Seema Malhotra of Labour, taking just over 16,000 votes, half the number she won. Labour’s Rocky Gill found himself in a similar position in Hornchurch and Upminster, taking just under half the votes of the Conservative candidate winner, at 16,000.

Reena Ranger of the Conservatives was always going to find it hard in Birmingham Hall Green, a long time Labour stronghold, and ended up coming second to the Labour candidate by just under 34,000 votes, having won over 8,000 herself.  Elsewhere in Birmingham, known to have a big Sikh population, the Birmingham Perry Barr area was contested by three Sikhs. Harjinder Singh, formerly of UKIP and now of his self-made Open Borders Party, based on a principle of more but better vetted immigration, won 99 votes, approximately 500 less than the Green Party’s Vijay Rana. Vijay’s haul was around half of what Harjun Singh of the Lib Dems received, meaning none of the three were close to the constituency’s winner, Khalid Mahmood of Labour, who has had the seat since 2001.

Running in Tewkesbury, Manjinder Singh Kang of the Labour Party came second to Conservative candidate Laurence Robertson, who took a majority of over 35,448, compared to Manjinder Singh’s 12,874.

For UKIP, who failed to win or retain a single seat, Vijay Srao was unable to challenge his Labour, Lib Dem or Conservative (the constituency winners) counterparts, taking just under 1300 votes. His fellow UKIP-er Bob Dhillon came last as Labour took Warwick and Leamington. Teenager Arran Rangi of the Green Party also came last in Ashfield (won by Labour on the day before the 18 year old’s history exam, meaning he went home before he had found out how he had done.

Finally, in Derby South the Lib Dem’s Joe Harjinder Singh Naitta came behind UKIP, the Conservatives and the majority winners Labour, as he picked up 1229 votes.

The Sikh participation and outcome is detailed more analytically in a press release from the Sikh Council. For this press release, or more information, please get in touch via Media@SikhPA.com.

 

Jay Singh Sohal

Sikhi and Conservative Principles – Jay Singh Sohal

Following our recent General Election posts, here we share the thoughts of Jay Singh-Sohal, Communications and Media Engagement Consultant. A Conservative since 18, he was chairman of Brunel Conservatives and a member of Sikh Tories. He has actively campaigned for Brexit and in support of Conservative candidates all over the country.

NOTE – Please note – Sikh PA are an apolitical organisation and share this to promote political dialogue within the Sikh community. We have previously shared thoughts on Sikhs advocating the Green Party, Jeremy Corbyn as PM and abstaining.


 

While Sikhi is unique and does not fit onto the party political spectrum, there are values that it does share with conservative principles. This includes upholding duty, tradition and family values.

For me my conservatism stems from my belief and understanding of Dhan Sri Guru Nanak Dev ji’s teachings of vand shakna and kirat karni (share your wealth and earn an honest living).

These form the basis of Sikh thought but are also traditional conservative principles which are manifested through compassion and charity.

We can see the fruition of this, when in a low tax liberal economy individuals keep more of the money they work hard for and can then chose how to spend it, whether on themselves their loved ones or good causes.

‘Basics of Sikhi’ is a good example of the latter, a charitable endeavour from a community which can achieve success when funded by through the grassroots and not the state.

If people were taxed significantly more, as would happen under Labour, their money might be redistributed (although much would go into bureaucracy) but just giving wouldn’t occur, nor would those spiritually enlightened to give dasvandh (or a tithe) benefit from the ghun (virtue) of giving.

Elusive logo

When the Guru supported the better man – post from Elusive Fighter

The following article has been taken from a post made by the Art of Elusive Fighting page, a Sikh martial-arts social media account. Based on Jeremy Corbyn’s political ethos, this article uses references to Sikh history to advocate Sikhs voting for Labour (to bring Jeremy Corbyn into power).

Please note – Sikh PA are an apolitical organisation and share this to promote political dialogue within the Sikh community. We have previously shared thoughts on Sikhs advocating the Green Party and abstaining. 

Please read, share and comment!


 
There are many that keep ‘their politics separate’. There are others who think Sikhs should not get involved and focus only on our own raaj* (we live in the UK..?).

I’ve not taken any interest in elections for 2 decades (all my adult life). Why? Because it has always been clear after some basic reaearch and checking candidates manifestos, as well as the consistency (lack of) in their ideals… that these parties were simply one corrupt beast in different bodies (be it Labour or Tories).

But since Corbyn has taken control of Labour, I have been watching him with interest. He has always had the courage to speak his mind, speak against whomever he feels is warmongering, against those who put short term gain above long term stability, against those who create rules to empower the rich and further weaken the poor, against those who happily deal and trade with oppressive terrorist supporting regimes, against the ruin of our once world class public services (e.g. Education, NHS etc).. etc.

Here is a man who genuinely tries to embody Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s wisdom of ‘Sarbat da Bhalla’ (betterment of all mankind). Here is man who is a voice for the oppressed and the poor. Here is a man who is willing to challenge those in his own family (Party) when they step into the realm of corruption. Here is a man who does not degrade himself to the level of sleazy propoganda and feel the need to degrade, lie about or insult his opposition.

Looking to puratan ithihaas (traditional Sikh history), we learn that the Khalsa is Niyara (Unique and Independent) and supports only dharam (just rule) and the greater good. In ithihaas a wonderful example is given when Sri Guru Gobind Singh ji gives his support to Bahadur Shah who previously challenged his own TYRANT father Emporer Aurangzeb when he was ordered to fight the Guru. Guru provides help by way of Khalsa soldiers to help Bahadur Shah defeat his brother who has snatched his rule. Guru supports the better man, one who will ‘not be a tyrant’. Guru helps him to the throne of rule.

Further, and as an important caveat, Guru later refuses to help Bahadur Shah fight against the Marathas, who are on the war path in retaliation for the atrocities meted out by Bahadurs Tyrant grandfather.

Guru (Khalsa) can give but can also take. Then can support, but can retract the support depending on the scenario (dharam).

Today, you all have a chance to apply GurMat principles and show support for someone who refuses to sell arms to those who supply ISIS. Who is prepared to do immense work to bring respectability to our public services and support to our poor again.

Do the right thing. Vote ‘Corbyn’. This is your chance to change the face of 3 decades of corrupt, propoganda lead politics.

Sri Gur Panth Prakash

Chaupai :(Thereupon) Farukhsiar responded to (their instigation) by saying, That his grandfather (Bahadur Shah) had given him an advice. He had advised that there existed a house (dynasty) of Nanak, with whom he (Farukhsiar) must not enter into any conflict.

When his great grand father (Aurangzeb) had felt offended (with the Guru), He had ordered Farukhsiar’s grandfather to wage a war against the Guru. But his grandfather (Bahadurshah) did not proceed against the Guru, and sent his soldiers to work in favour of the Guru.

On that day, the Guru had told his grandfather (Bahadur Shah), that he (the Guru) had blessed him (Bahadur Shah) with a sovereignty. The Guru had made his grandfather a sovereign with active support, Otherwise how could he become sovereign without Guru’s (support).

*Raaj = Rule.

NSYF Logo

The Sikh vote: A conscience choice – NSYF Article

The following article is written by Ranveer Singh of the National Sikh Youth Federation, a write up in response of the recent first ever Sikh community hustings. NOTE – Sikh PA are an apolitical organisation. In the run up we have previously shared articles where Sikhs have advocated the Green Party and other forms of thinking. We seek to provide a platform for political discussion.

For more thoughts and writings from Ranveer Singh, follow him on @RanveerSP on Twitter.


 

On Tuesday evening the Sikh Press Association hosted the first ever Hustings event for UK Sikhs. In the spirit of open debate and freedom of speech, the panel included representatives from both the Labour and Conservative parties, as well as a spokesperson from the National Sikh Youth Federation (NSYF).

The discussion was centered around questions which directly affect Sikh identity and Sikh affairs, with the aim of answering which Party, if any, can best represent the Sikhs following this Thursday’s General Election. The manner with which both Party representatives spoke suggested there to be a disconnect between how British politicians who self-identify as Sikhs, view the House of Guru Nanak with the position put forward by Panthic minded Sikhs.  It appears both Bally Singh (Labour) and Kulveer Singh (Conservative) view Sikhi as the “ism” it morphed into following the colonial encounter in Panjab. However, those of a Panthic view, such as Shamsher Singh (NSYF) understand that Sikhi is not the ism it has become over the last century or so because the colonial moves to throw our revolutionary Panth into a labyrinth of religiosity is an affront to the Guru’s institute of Miri-Piri.

Nevertheless, Sikhs living in the UK are naturally compelled to engage in society and have worked tirelessly to gain recognition and rights for our distinct way of life, be that on grounds of identity or conduct. When accepted it has always been restricted to the grounds of “religion”, and from a British perspective, understandably so. Despite this, Sikhs have contributed towards alleviating social ills with active grass roots engagement. It is our Guru-inspired Sikhia which has compelled us to rise-up and fix broken Britain. Whether it’s groups such as Sikh Welfare Awareness Team (SWAT) who unilaterally take the Guru’s institution of Langar on to the streets of London for the poor and impoverished, or groups such as Sikh Awareness Society (SAS) who highlight the issue of sexual grooming, particularly in the North of the country; Sikhs continuously provide band aid remedies to the shortcomings of a government that has failed its people.

However, we also acknowledge that by engaging with the establishment we inevitably legitimise the political structures that control and steer the overall governance in this country. By engaging within the political system, we legitimize domestic and foreign UK policy from the past, present and for the future. This is the existential crisis of a Sikh living in 21st century Britain, imposed entirely by our residence here. We find ourselves constantly trying to reconcile Guru inspired principles that demand we work to establish equality and liberty for all, with a system built on the exploits of its colonial past, for which is has yet to deliver any redemption. There is no denying that. The UK is where it is today because of the global violence, conquest and exploitation it was overtly responsible for up until the last century.

Today it is projected as a leading power in the world, the epicenter of democracy and modernity; all the while it is engaged in proxy wars to destablise the Middle East. Let us not forget it was only in the last decade that Britain waged an illegal war of aggression in Iraq. The Chilcot inquiry revealed how MI5 actively sent British Libyans and exiles back to Libya to fight alongside the rebel fighters to overthrow Gaddafi, the man who had given up his nukes just months after the decimation of Iraq!

As Sikhs of Guru Nanak our conscience does not allow us to ignore the above, no matter how much change is promised. Are we that naive to think change will come from the heirs of colonial rule, who have yet to address and remedy the problems they created all over the world? Jeremy Corbyn is the standout candidate, but is he willing to apologise for their colonial ways and expose the inhumane foundations upon which 21st century Britain stands?

Guru Nanak advocated a new socio-political dynamic with an emphasis on eradicating all hierarchies and inequalities, whether social, political, economic or religious. The establishment of institutions such as Langar for example, challenged social norms of division perpetuated by exploitative social power structures. In this way Guru Nanak laid the foundations for his successors to create a state within a state; founded on principles of compassion, equality and love but fired with the spirit of fearlessness, dignity and self-respect.

Guru Nanak’s condemnation of all forms of exploitation and inequality should serve as the bedrock of our social and political engagement with society today. We understand the Guru did not just highlight the hypocrisy of power structures, he provided an alternative and paved a new path by introducing Sikh scripture as the guide complete with a distinct culture as well as the construction of centers, towns and cities all of which were built on the foundations of his unique ideology.

The Guru’s method was direct governance which is why the culmination of 200 years of Gur-gaddi resulted in the formation of the Khalsa, a self-governing, self-administering assembly of Sikh who were ordained to capture political power with the overall objective of establishing an egalitarian society.

If you decide to engage with the political system in Britain today, do not get drawn into cross party politics. Instead engage with full acceptance of this country’s colonial past which continues to haunt people across the globe. Engage in full knowledge of its current foreign policy which arms an oppressive state to bomb innocent civilians, which in turn creates millions of refugees who are exploited having lost their freedom, dignity, justice and happiness.

But most importantly do so knowing that this is not what the Guru advocated. The Guru gave Paatshahi to his Sikh, he made each one of us sovereign and empowered us to follow his example of shaking the echelons of corrupt power. It is up to us whether we leave our revolutionary Sikhi to one side and adorn the garb of its colonial imposter Sikhism, and continue to regurgitate what the master taught us. Or we enact that Guru given Paatshahi and collectively step into unchartered territory to deliver on the Guru’s mandate in a capitalist driven, post-colonial world.

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The Sikh MP race – #GE2017

The Sikh Press Association will be tweeting about the UK General Election results LIVE through election night (June 8th after polls close at 10pm). As the votes are counted, we will be letting you know how the Sikh candidates have done in their constituencies and sharing election news relevant to the Sikh community.

Follow us via @SikhPA to keep up to date with the General Election Sikh story.

See below for details on the prospective Sikh candidates.


Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi is standing for Labour in Slough following the retirement of incumbent Fiona Mactaggart. This seat in Berkshire has been Labour since 1997 and has a large Sikh Punjabi population. The previous Labour MP here took the seat with nearly 50% of the vote.

In Wolverhampton South West, Paul Uppal (Conservative) is hoping to regain the seat that Labour won with the slender majority of 801 in 2015. Jagmeet Singh of the newly formed Panth Party is also contesting this marginal and all eyes in the community are on how this new candidate pledging a strictly Sikh ethos performs.

Either Tanmanjeet or Jagmeet could be the UK’s first ever turban wearing Sikh MP.

Preet Kaur Gill is contesting the marginal seat of Birmingham Edgbaston as a Labour Co-operative candidate. Labour held onto this seat in 2015 by under 3,000 votes. If elected she will become the UK’s first Sikh female MP.

Bally Singh (Labour) is standing in Kenilworth and Southam in Warwickshire. The seat is currently held by the Attorney General for England and Wales Jeremy Wright, who enjoys a comfortable majority for the Conservatives.

In Telford, Kuldip Sahota is standing for the Labour Party. The Conservatives currently hold this seat with a majority of less than 2%, making for a tight race.

Samir Jassal is the Conservative Party candidate for Feltham and Heston, a seat currently held by Labour’s Seema Malhotra with a majority of more than 11,000.

In the relatively new seat of Hornchurch and Upminster, Rocky Gill is standing for Labour against a 24% Conservative majority in the constituency.

Three Sikhs running for one seat! Looking to remove Labour’s Khalid Mahmood from a seat he has held since 2001 will be Harjun Singh, standing for the Lib Dems in Birmingham Perry Barr, where Vijay Rana runs for the Green Party along with Harjinder Singh for UKIP.

Manjinder Singh Kang is standing in Tewkesbury for the Labour Party, battling against a solid Conservative majority of nearly 22,000.

Having been runners up in 2015, Vijay Srao takes over from UKIP’s Chris Adams in Aylesbury, hoping to take them past the majority winning Conservatives.

Joe Harjinder Singh Naitta is standing in Derby South for the Lib Dems, looking to gain ground on his Labour, Conservative and UKIP counterparts who all bested his vote count in 2015.

Attempting to go from Councillor to MP is Reena Ranger for the Conservatives, running in Birmingham Hall Green, where she will need to oust the overwhelming Labour majority of 28,000 in 2015.

This year Arran Rangi becomes the first ever Green Party candidate to run in Ashfield this General Election.

In Warwick and Leamington Bob Dhillon will look to help UKIP claim back some of the Conservatives’ massive 24,000 majority.

 

 

 
Reena Ranger