Rag Head logo

Stage-show on Sikh hate crime begins Hollywood stint

A critically acclaimed stage-show based on hate crimes against Sikhs is set for a four week run in California, starting from September 20th until October 16th.

Details on the show and tickets are available here.

The Sikh community of the US (approximately 500,000) have suffered from targeted abuse due to mistaken conflations between the Sikh physical identity and terrorism. In 2012 this reached a peak when a white-supremacist invaded Wisconsin’s Oak Creek Gurdwara and shot indiscriminately at worshippers, killing six people.

Put together by Sundeep Morrison (writer/performer) and Amrita Dhaliwal (director), the play is described by producer Jenn Prince as ‘A brave piece of theatre that somehow brings levity and joy to its topical and tragic themes. Sundeep Morrison navigates her characters with grace and humour.’

Sundeep said of her creation, Rag Head was written to spread awareness about the Sikh community’s struggle of being victims of prejudice in the United States. Rag Head illustrates how were are all connected. The only way to stand united as Americans is to educate each other about our differences’.

 

Event details

Location: The Complex Hollywood, The Ruby Theater 6476 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90038

Show time tickets: Various, available via SundeepMorrison.com

Date: September 20th – October 14th

Note to media: Interview opportunities are available upon request. To review the show, please email sundeepmorrison@yahoo.com. For more info on the show, see SundeepMorrison.com.

NOTE - This is a stock image and not a picture of the actual raids mentioned in the article.

Were raids on Sikh homes the result of Indian influence on British police?

A statement from the Sikh Federation UK today suggested that “Indian police officers may be in the UK and could be targeting Sikh activists through British police.”

See the full statement here.

The statement came after West Midlands police released news of “Addresses in , and searched as part of CTU investigation in connection with allegations of extremist activity in India and fraud offences.” No arrests were made during the raids. See the full statement here.

The addresses are alleged to have been the homes of Sikhs, prompting the Sikh Federation UK to say they hope “the West Midlands and East Midlands police are not doing the dirty work of the Indian authorities.”

The alleged raids on Sikh homes comes just after the Sikh Federation UK reformed their push for Khalistan, an independent Sikh homeland in India to be made up of Punjab, a movement Indian authorities have regularly decried.

The Indian state has a history of false statements regarding the nature and threat of pro-Khalistan movements in the UK, with Indian media previously claiming a dossier on Sikh extremism in the UK was handed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Prime Minister David Cameron in 2015, only for Sikh Council UK to prove no such dossier existed or was ever handed to Cameron, as confirmed by the secretary of parliament. This fake news was also reported as fact by the Daily Mail Online. Despite proof the Mail Online report was false and perpetrated by Indian media with an anti-Sikh agenda, a complaint by the Sikh Press Association against the coverage was rejected by the Independent Press Standards Organisation, whilst Indian media also did not report the findings that the dossier did not exist.

On 13th June Cressida Dick wrote to Preet Kaur Gill MP, Chair of the APPG for British Sikhs regarding the 1984 Sikh Genocide Remembrance March. The letter stated that Commander Jane Connors of the Met Police was “in contact with the Indian High Commission to discuss the policing of this event”. The admission caused outrage in the Sikh community, following which Commander Connors later indicated that the Indian High Commission had not been contacted.

It is expected more Sikh groups will speak out about the raids. Further details on this situation will be reported when more information comes out.

smart centre

Nearly £250,000 pledged in single evening for dedicated centre to counter sexual exploitation of vulnerable Sikhs

A phenomenal fundraising effort last night saw nearly £250,000 raised for a Sikh community initiative to counter the sexual abuse and exploitation of vulnerable Sikhs.

The Sikh Mediation And Rehabilitation Team (SMART) Centre was launched by award-winning Sikh community group Sikh Youth UK on the Sikh Channel in a programme exposing the sexual exploitation of underage Sikh girls. The centre is a ground-breaking initiative to safeguard Sikhs via prevention, intervention and rehabilitation.

More than 900 people have pledged an average of over £100 each on the online JustGiving page while over £50,000 was pledged by callers to the Sikh Channel throughout yesterday evening. One businessman made a stunning pledge to fund two full time members of staff at the centre.

Towards the end of the over four-hour long programme the total donated was increasing at a rate of £1,000 per minute, with presenter Kam Singh constantly updating the audience of the new total.

As donations flooded in online and via pledges to the Sikh Channel studio, they were accompanied by messages of support, thanking Sikh Youth UK for showing leadership on this grave issue.

Addressing Sikhs at home, Sikh Youth UK Coordinator Deepa Singh said as the programme ended last night: ‘Thank you to the Sangat out there, and of course, overall, Mahraaj’ adding: ‘Whatever we can do to serve the kaum [Sikh community-nation] we will continue to serve the kaum and do what we can.’

A total of £500,000 is sought by Sikh Youth UK to launch the project which will consist of several interlinked areas. The centre will provide 24-hour support within a Sikh ethos to the primary victims of sexual abuse and exploitation across the UK.

The SMART Centre will also be an independent facility providing mediation between victims, local authorities and law enforcement agencies. The centre will also work to tackle sexual exploitation at a fundamental level by employing intelligence officers to identify online predators and collating evidence on their networks and associations. This evidence will be crucial in facilitating the arrests and prosecution of perpetrators.

These functions are already being carried out by Sikh Youth UK, who on the show exposed using undercover footage religiously motivated paedophiles targeting Sikh girls for sexual exploitation. One had even travelled to a Sikh school to meet an underage Sikh girl for sexual acts.

It has been known for decades that Sikh girls have been targeted by sexual predators with religiously-related motives. However, the issue of sexual exploitation is considered by many to be a taboo, which has prevented adequate support being offered to victims and a lack of awareness of how to identify sexual predators.

Sikh Youth UK have been instrumental in raising awareness of the issue, winning two awards in recent years for doing so. They have worked with local authorities and law enforcement organisations to safeguard the Sikh community, supporting victims of sexual abuse and exploitation across the country and raising awareness of how to protect yourself from sexual predators.

Next month the group will launch an in-depth investigative report into the targeted sexual exploitation of young Sikh females, analysing the history and factors of this exploitation to further educate the community about the dangers posed by religiously-motivated sexual predators.

 

arson attack3

Arson attack at Edinburgh Gurdwara Sahib

An arson attack at the Guru Nanak Gurdwara Sahib in Edinburgh this morning has caused extensive damage.

At around 5am, a petrol canister with a piece of cloth was lit and pushed through the front door of the Gurdwara Sahib in Mill Lane. A fire started on the other side of the door, inside the Gurdwara Sahib.

While the fire damage is limited, it caused extensive internal smoke damage, including inside the Divan hall. Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji was not in Parkash (but in Sachkhand) at the time of the attack.

Shortly after attack, a passer-by who was familiar with Edinburgh sangat alerted the Granthi Singhs to the fire. Both the police and fire brigade arrived within minutes, along with members of Edinburgh sangat.

Local sevadaars were able to carry out a brief inspection before the police sealed off the Gurdwara Sahib for forensic analysis, but they could not determine much as it was still dark. In this time, a sevadaar rushed upstairs to Sachkhand to check Mahraaj’s Saroops which thankfully appear not to have suffered any damage. Galab Singh, a committee member of the Gurdwara Sahib said: ‘When I heard there was a fire I had to rush here and go upstairs to check Mahraaj’s saroops with my own eyes. I’m quite surprised at this attack, the Gurdwara Sahib enjoys a good relationship with the local community here.’

Police officers are now inspecting the Gurdwara Sahib, and have taken away the petrol canister for forensic examination. The Gurdwara Sahib is hoping to update sangat once the police have finished investigating.

Detective Inspector Clark Martin from Gayfield CID said: “Fortunately, the fire was extinguished relatively quickly and no on was injured, but nevertheless we are treating this incident with the utmost seriousness.

“Anyone who remembers seeing any suspicious activity around the temple, or in the Sheriff Brae area during the early hours of Tuesday morning should contact police immediately.

“In addition, anyone with any further information relevant to this investigation is also asked to come forward.”

Inspector Andrew Johnson from Leith Police Station said that police would be having a ‘high-visibility presence’ in the area while the investigation continues.

Despite some reports to the contrary, Police Scotland have confirmed that no arrests have yet been made.

The timing of the incident is of interest to the police: usually, arson attacks such as this come in the aftermath of domestic terror attacks, at a time of heightened backlash against minority communities. Moreover, the fact that the attack occurred in the early morning rather than late at night is a further indication of premeditation.

Kulbear Singh, President of the Edinburgh Sikh Gurdwara, said: “Scotland’s Sikh community places an emphasis on contributing positively to society and prides itself as a vital part of a modern, multicultural Scotland. As such, hateful occurrences such as this are incredibly disheartening. The gurdwara is the place of sanctuary and learning. We come here every week with our family and children; it is frightening that someone would target us in this way.”

Members of Edinburgh sangat have received numerous messages and gestures of support, both from the local community and national Sikh sangat. Local businesses near the Gurdwara Sahib have offered their CCTV recordings to assist the investigation.

The Church of Scotland has issued a statement expressing sympathy and solidarity with the Sikh community. The Right Rev Susan Brown, moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, said: “How sad that a place of worship should be the target of such a hateful act.

“I am glad no one was injured and extend sympathy to the Sikh community in Edinburgh.

“We recognise the actions of a small minority do not reflect the good relations that exist with your local community. There is no room in Scotland for intolerance.”

Sikh PA will bring further updates as they come from the Gurdwara Sahib and Police Scotland. Media enquiries about this attack should be directed to sukh@sikhpa.com

 

 

ICE Sikhs USA detention

Sikh Asylum Seekers Allegedly Tortured at ICE Detention Facility in Georgia – IndiaWest.com

This article has been shared from IndiaWest.com due to the site’s unavailability for those outside of North America. See the original post here.

Several Sikh asylum seekers who went on a hunger strike at the Folkston, Georgia ICE Processing Center to protest their indefinite detention, were allegedly tortured by ICE officers.

Javeria Jamil, Pakistani American director of legal services at Asian Americans Advancing Justice Atlanta, told India-West that the Sikh protestors, who were forced to quit their strike in mid-July, were held in solitary confinement with the air conditioning cranked up to create unbearably cold temperatures. The Sikh detainees did not receive warm clothing to counter the effects of the frigid temperature, said Jamil. “They were being tortured by ICE officers,” she alleged.

Officials at the Folkston detention center had not returned several calls for comment by press time. Screen Shot 2018-08-22 at 21.33.01

“All of these men are running away from persecution in India; they have this idea of coming to the U.S. to be free and to escape persecution. They come here and are told ‘you’re not welcome,’” said Jamil, noting that most of the men who went on the hunger strike have been in ICE detention since December 2017.

The men, most in their 20s and 30s, have had to leave family behind in India. Many have traversed the long journey from Mexico by foot to arrive at the U.S. border.

None of the men has received a bond hearing in the eight months they have been detained. A bond hearing, allowed to those who have established a credible fear of persecution by the home country, would allow the men to stay with their families in the U.S. until their asylum cases are heard.

“They feel very hopeless and uncertain of their future, sitting in detention for eight months,” Jamil told India-West. She noted that the men have been moved to other facilities in Georgia with the aim of separating them to break up the hunger strike. Thirty to 50 Sikh asylum seekers are being held at various ICE detention centers in Georgia, she said.

Indian American attorney Deepak Ahluwalia, who works extensively on Sikh asylum cases, and serves on the Sikh Coalition’s advisory board, told India-West earlier this month that bond hearings are becoming increasingly difficult to obtain. Moreover, most requests for release on bond are being denied, he said.

Prior to the advent of the Trump administration and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the government had to show a high legal standard for detaining someone for over six months, and had to allow them to be released on bond if the government could not prove its case. Now, it is very difficult to be released on bond, said Ahluwalia.

Atlanta’s grant rate for asylum is just two percent, said Jamil. Those who are denied asylum are held in detention until travel documents are obtained from the Indian government, a process that can take several months.

On June 26, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta, the South Asian Bar Association of Georgia, and members of the Sikh community held a press conference to call attention to the hunger strike and to demand that ICE release the detainees to sponsors and U.S. family members until their asylum cases were heard.

“We are a nation of immigrants, and this type of treatment impacts our entire community. The Sikh community of Georgia is deeply concerned and urges a closer examination of the current situation to make sure that each and every detainee is receiving fair and equal treatment under the law,” said Inderpreet Singh, a Sikh community leader, in a statement released after the press conference.

Waqar Khwaja, a member of the South Asian Bar Association of Georgia, noted: “ICE has denied bond and deprived individuals with the right to seek attorneys to help out with their cases.”

“Such due process violations impede the ability of detained families to effectively apply for asylum while detained, creating situations contrary to the public interest in which bona fide refugees are returned to face continued persecution, including death, in their countries of origin,” said Khwaja.

Screen Shot 2018-08-17 at 18.08.30

UK Press Standards org rejects complaint against newspaper for calling Vaisakhi Sikh new year TWICE

A Sikh Press Association complaint made against The Times newspaper for stating that Vaisakhi is the Sikh new year twice in three weeks has been rejected by the Independent Press Standards Authority (IPSO).

The ruling was made based on IPSO believing ‘Because the description of Vaisakhi as a “Sikh new year” festival is so widespread…the Committee did not consider that repeating it represented a failure to take care’. 

See the IPSO statement on the complaint rejection here.

Commenting on this ruling, Sikh PA Senior Press Office Jasveer Singh said: ‘This is a deeply disappointing outcome for the Sikh community and religious literacy in the UK. The rejection of our complaint by IPSO is a complete mockery of supposed press regulation in Britain. If newspapers cannot be held to account for a simple factual inaccuracy made multiple times, including on the front page, what can they be held to account for?

The reasons outlined by the IPSO Complaints Committee show a complete lack of understanding of this case. They refer to the fact that Vaisakhi is not the Sikh new year as Sikh PA’s “position” when in fact it is an established, irrefutable fact. Moreover, much has been made by both The Times and IPSO of the “specific context of the photo captions” as if the fact that the inaccuracies occurred in a caption and not in a body of text somehow changes the level of accuracy required.’

During April 2018, print editions of The Times on two separate days – 9th April and 30th April – carried photograph captions that incorrectly described Vaisakhi as the Sikh new year.

A photograph in the 9th April edition of two boys at a Nagar Kirtan was accompanied by the
caption: ‘Street party: Thousands of Sikhs paraded through Glasgow on a route taking in the city’s four temples to mark Vaisakhi, the Sikh new year, next Saturday’.

The Sikh Press Association contacted The Times’ Feedback Editor regarding the caption, explaining: ‘Vaisakhi in fact marks the creation of the Khalsa, and the second month of the Sikh calendar. The Sikh year begins with the month of Chet’,  whilst also offering assistance with the aim of accuracy to help any future coverage on Sikh stories.

That email was not replied to and unfortunately, The Times ignored this advice. Mere weeks later, on 30th April, the description of Vaisakhi as the ‘Sikh new year’ made it onto the front page of the newspaper. A photograph of Sikhs at the Vaisakhi in the Square celebrations was accompanied by the caption: ‘Brothers in Arms: Jasdeep Singh, of the National Army Museum, with volunteers in First World War uniforms at a celebration of the Sikh new year in Trafalgar Square’.

Sikh PA raised this repeated mistake in a call to the newspaper’s feedback editor Rose Wild both on that day and over the course of the following weeks, taking the position that The Times had a duty to acknowledge the mistake publicly to all its readers who were misinformed about Vaisakhi. Sikh PA also suggested the newspaper actively show they take religious literacy seriously by sending somebody from the publication to a media training course which was being held by the Religious Media Centre. Not only did the newspaper did continue to ignore Sikh PA’s correspondence, their staff even stopped taking calls from Sikh PA press officers.

Following this, Sikh PA decided to submit a formal complaint to IPSO, which initiated correspondence between Sikh PA and Ian Brunskill, Assistant Editor at The Times under the clause of accuracy, based on the inaccurate statement about Vaisakhi.

Sikh PA argued that repeating the inaccuracy that Vaisakhi is the Sikh new year just weeks after being corrected over an identical accuracy, which was also upheld in 2015 in a complaint to The Sunday Times, contravened the provision that the press must take care to publish inaccurate information. Moreover, the second provision provided a solid basis upon which to expect a public apology from the newspaper.

Regarding The Times’ stance on the matter, the decision of the IPSO Complaints Committee stated:

‘The publication said that ‘Sikh new year’ was a widely-used
summary description for the festival, which was generally understood and almost universally used, and to claim that this was significantly inaccurate was disproportionate… The publication provided a wide range of sources in which the festival was referred to as the “Sikh new year”. The publication considered that the complainant’s interpretation was particular and orthodox…Because the description of Vaisakhi as a “Sikh new year” festival is so widespread, and encompasses Sikh and Indian sources, the Committee did not consider that repeating it represented a failure to take care over the accuracy of the captions.’

The Sikh Press Association was and still are thoroughly unimpressed by the stance taken by The Times and their staff’s defensive and accusatory attitude towards a Sikh organisation explaining the significance of a Sikh festival. The response from Sikh PA to points made by The Times in its correspondence via IPSO can be seen here.

The Sikh Press Association constantly strives to promote and uphold accuracy regarding the reporting of Sikhs and Sikhi in the media. Sikh PA recognises that the reference to Vaisakhi as the Sikh new year is just as widespread as it is inaccurate. The Times was by no means the only media outlet to make that error this year; other high profile media outlets including ITV and the Guardian have made identical mistakes. In their cases, however, the offending descriptions were swiftly corrected in a quiet manner following professional dialogue with Sikh PA.

Jasveer Singh added regarding this situation: 2018 was the worst year since Sikh PA’s inception in seeing major news outlets describe Vaisakhi inaccurately. Whilst we recognise that means we have a lot more work to do internally, the UK media in general has a lot to be held to account for too. Most of them are simply regurgitating the first thing they find upon a google search of Vaisakhi, which includes a mistaken piece on the BBC website, which thus far no one at BBC has taken responsibility to correct, despite the fact we have been chasing this change for over a year.’

This outcome leaves Sikh PA with some serious consideration to do regarding how we engage with media organisations in the UK. As always, we ask for the support of the sadh sangat in moving forward. We only work at their direction and we hope both The Times and IPSO recognise Sikh community feelings on this issue. We will remain open for dialogue with both parties.’

For more information on this issue, Sikh PA can be contacted on email at media@sikhpa.com. Email The Times about this situation on feedback@thetimes.co.uk, and IPSO on inquiries@ipso.co.uk.

sikh pa logo

Sikh PA report on Times newspaper suggestion Vaisakhi can be called ‘the Sikh new year’

In April 2018 the Sikh Press Association contacted the Times twice within three weeks regarding inaccurate captions which stated Vaisakhi marked ‘the Sikh new year’.

Sikh PA reacted to the first mistake on April 9th by simply asking for the statement to be amended to correctly address Vaisakhi as a celebration of the creation of the Khalsa. Instead, the Times ignored Sikh PA and simply removed the statement altogether, rather than correcting it. The second time (April 30th), upon contacting the Times about the second mistake, the newspaper staff reacted dismissively to our attempts to have the statement publicly acknowledged as mistaken, something pushed for only due to the regularity of the mistake which would have gone out to potentially millions of readers.

Sikh PA consequently decided to take up the issue with IPSO (Independent Press Standards Organisation), which prompted a Times response to the complaint. Sikh PA felt the response was both condescending and disparaging to Sikh community efforts to have Sikhi covered accurately in the media. The response essentially stated that because references to Vaisakhi as the ‘Sikh new year’ were so wide spread, that their captions were justified, whilst also suggesting the Sikh PA were acting individually to enforce an orthodox narrative that Vaisakhi is a celebration of the creation of the Khalsa, which other Sikhs would not advocate. As such, the report below was sent to the Times to outline why they were wrong to stand by their statement that Vaisakhi can be called ‘the Sikh new year’.

The Sikh Press Association shares this to highlight the lengths that were gone to in an attempt to highlight how inaccurate it is for the Times to suggest Vaisakhi is ‘the Sikh new year’, a position which IPSO disappointingly validated by rejecting the complaint against the captions.


NOTE – For legal reasons, Sikh PA are unable to divulge verbatim quotes from our interactions with both IPSO and the Times made during the course of the complaint investigation. Those mentioned in the report have been blanked out (REDACTED).

Comments from the Sikh Press Association regarding correspondence from Ian Brunskill

(The Times) to John Buckingham (IPSO) of 17th May 2018

1.The complaint from the Sikh Press Association to IPSO concerned the use of the phrase ‘Sikh new year’ in two separate photo captions of Sikhs celebrating Vaisakhi, in The Times’ print edition of 9th April and 30th April.

2. It is with regret that the Sikh Press Association notes the surprisingly intransigent position of The Times regarding a clear factual error. Brunskill’s emails of 17th May 2018 to IPSO contained several irrelevant points, opening several obfuscating and meaningless avenues, which the Sikh Press Association feels compelled to address fully here.

3. The phrase ‘Sikh new year’ directly implies all of the following:
i) the existence of a calendar
ii) according to which Vaisakhi is the first day of the year
iii) that is adopted by the Sikh faith

4. The Times, in its correspondence to IPSO, did not provide a calendar according to which Vaisakhi is the ‘Sikh new year’. No such calendar exists. Vaisakhi can in no way be understood to be the Sikh new year. Hence, it is wholly incorrect to refer to Vaisakhi as the ‘Sikh new year.’

5. Both of Sukvinder Singh Sodhi’s complaints to The Times stated: ‘Vaisakhi in fact marks the creation of the Khalsa, and the second month of the Sikh calendar. The Sikh year begins with the month of Chet.’ The second month of the Sikh calendar is called Vaisakh [ਵੈਸਾਖ], the start of which is the (appropriately named) day of Vaisakhi [ਵੈਸਾਖੀ]. How can the first day of the second month of a calendar also be its new year?

6. As was said earlier, the first month of the Sikh calendar is the month of Chet [ਚੇਤ]. There is indisputable theological justification for this. Guru Granth Sahib is the Sikh scriptural Guru. It contains two compositions called ‘Barah Maha’ which translates literally to ‘Twelve Months’. These can be found on Angs (out of respect Sikhs do not refer to the Guru Granth Sahib as having pages) 133(1) and 1107(2) . Both compositions go through the 12 months of the year in order. In both, the first month is Chet and the second month is Vaisakh. IPSO is welcome to consult anybody learned in Sikh scripture on this point. One organisation which specialises in the education of Sikh scripture in the UK, Nihung Santhiya, says the following on this matter: ‘The Gregorian Calendar which is most widely used globally runs from January – December, however, the Sikh Calendar runs from the month of Cheth (mid-March) to Phalgun (mid-February). This system was accepted by Guru Sahib which is evident in the Banis of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji (Barahmaha Raag Tukhari), Sri GuruArjan Dev Ji (Barahmaha Raag Maanjh) and Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji (Barahmaha from Krishna Avtar) […] many Sikhs are unaware that the New Year for Sikhs starts on 1st Cheth.’(3)

7. If IPSO would like confirmation from other major UK Sikh organisations that Vaisakhi
is in no way the Sikh new year, the Sikh Press Association suggests contacting any of
the following:
 Sikh Council UK
 Basics of Sikhi
 Sikh 2 Inspire
 Sikh Federation UK
 National Sikh Youth Federation


(1)http://www.srigranth.org/servlet/gurbani.gurbani?Action=Page&Param=133&punjabi=t&id=5449#l5449.
(2)http://www.srigranth.org/servlet/gurbani.gurbaniAction=Page&Param=1107&english=t&id=47532#l47532.
(3)http://nihungsanthia.com/calendar/

Cases of the inaccuracy

8. It should be noted that both occurrences of the inaccuracy were regarding pictures that specifically represented Vaisakhi as the birth of the Khalsa, and events which in no way celebrated a ‘Sikh new year’.

9. In the 9th April edition, the phrase ‘Sikh new year’ was used in the caption: ‘Street
Party: Thousands of Sikhs paraded through Glasgow on a route taking in the city’s four temples to mark Vaisakhi, the Sikh new year.’ The parade in question refers to the Sikh procession known as a Nagar Kirtan. This can be literally translated to ‘neighbourhood hymn singing’. The most important thing to note about a Nagar Kirtan is that it is led by five individuals referred to as the Panj Pyare – who represent the first five members of the Khalsa, which was formed on Vaisakhi. There are no ‘new year’ connotations of a Nagar Kirtan of any sort. The event was specifically to mark the creation of the Khalsa.

10. In the 30th April edition, the phrase appeared on the front page in the following caption: ‘Brothers in arms: Jasdeep Singh, of the National Army Museum, with volunteers in First World War uniforms at a celebration of the Sikh new year in Trafalgar Square.’ The Vaisakhi celebration in Trafalgar Square was not at all to celebrate a new year, let alone a Sikh new year. The event’s own website page confirmed the fact that it was a commemoration of the Khalsa. It said: ‘Head down to Trafalgar Square to enjoy our Vaisakhi festival, a celebration of Sikh and Punjabi tradition, heritage and culture, in commemoration the birth of the Khalsa (the inner core of the Sikh faith) over 300 years ago.’(4) The Sikh Press Association worked closely with the Sikh steering group for the event, and invites IPSO to confirm with any members of the steering group that both Vaisakhi and the event in Trafalgar Square on Saturday 28th April were in no way related to the ‘Sikh new year’.


(4) https://www.london.gov.uk/events/2018-04-28/vaisakhi-2018# ; screenshot of page
included in Appendix A

11. THREE SENTENCES REDACTED.
The Sikh Press Association fully appreciates that picture captions are subject to space constraints. However, this does not justify filling the space with an inaccuracy. This explanation from Brunskill is baffling. If The Times could not fit an explanation of Valentine’s Day into a caption from February 14th would they instead just refer to another, unrelated, Christian event such as the birth of Christ in it?

References to the ‘Sikh new year’ provided by The Times

12. THREE SENTENCES REDACTED.

13. WORDS REDACTED the Vaisakhi page on the BBC website.(5) The Sikh Press Association is aware that it incorrectly describes Vaisakhi as the Sikh new year festival. The Sikh Press Association has through a variety of means tried to have the page corrected but it has been archived. This has created the dual problem of no department at the BBC being responsible for it any longer, and the fact that something which has been archived cannot be amended. This is a struggle that the Sikh Press Association has been open about, as proved by this tweet specifically referring to the page in question that predates the second occurrence of the inaccuracy in The Times on 30th April and the IPSO complaint.(6)

14. It is not unreasonable to suppose that many of the occurrences of this mistake have come from a single source of misinformation, such as the BBC page referred to above. In discussions with journalists who have made this mistake in the past, they admit to simply searching ‘Vaisakhi’ on Google and using information from the links on the first page. Thus, the presence of the inaccuracy on a few pages has, over the years, snowballed unchecked into being replicated across many one-off articles about Vaisakhi each year. This gives the impression that there are a lot more authors and publications supporting the idea that Vaisakhi is the Sikh new year, when in actual fact, they have taken the inaccuracy at face value – albeit in good faith – from elsewhere.


(5) http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/sikhism/holydays/vaisakhi.shtml
(6) https://twitter.com/SikhPA/status/986985320473354240

15. SIX SENTENCES REDACTED.  There is no reference here to Vaisakhi being the start of a Sikh calendar. There is, however, a reference to the formation of the Khalsa.

16. SIX SENTENCES REDACTED.

17. The Sikh Press Association does not dispute the widespread use of the phrase ‘Sikh new year’ to Vaisakhi, and the worldwide magnitude of this inaccuracy. This does not make it correct however. On 18 th April 2018, the Sikh Press Association hosted its annual review, where it reported its activities for the preceding year to members of the Sikh community. In it, the Sikh Press Association’s Junior Press Officer Sukvinder Singh Sodhi said the following: ‘For the Sikh Press Association, we have a few aims when it comes to Vaisakhi as a whole, that we carry out each year. The first is to get the narrative correct. The last few years, even the last few days in fact, the press will constantly say, the press will constantly assume, that Vaisakhi is the start of the Sikh new year. And yet anybody that’s read any Gurbani, or knows anything about calendars, will know that the Sikhnew year does not start with the month of Vaisakh: Vaisakh is the second month of the year. ITV made that mistake yesterday, The Times made that mistake two [sic] days ago in the newspaper as well. These are mistakes that mainstream media outlets, ones that… if you polled people on the street and said: ‘Could you trust The Times to give you correct information?’ they would say yes. And The Times is telling you that Vaisakhi is the Sikh new year, and it’s not. So saying that Vaisakhi is not the Sikh new year is the first thing [for the Sikh Press Association].’(8)


(7)https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/magazines/panache/baisakhi-bihu-vishu-poila-
boishakh-puthandu-the-many-new-years-of-india/baisakhi-harvest-festival-of-
punjab/slideshow/63744986.cms
(8)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3GzQPQDI0I&t=1210s at time 20:10

18. The Sikh Press Association would like to note that the remarks quoted in paragraph 17 were made on 18th April 2018, which was prior to The Times’ second caption error (30th April print edition) and the Sikh Press Association’s complaint to IPSO (13th May).

19. The Times’ correspondence to IPSO conveys a clear sense of the notion ‘if everybody else is doing it, how can it be inaccurate?’ This however does not take into account all of the inaccurate references that have been both corrected and prevented by the Sikh Press Association since its founding relatively recently in 2015. SENTENCE REDACTED. One of the reasons for the founding of the Sikh Press Association was to combat the sheer deluge of inaccuracies regarding the Sikh faith in the media, including online.
20. Brunskill’s second email of 17 th May, in reference to the Sikh Press Association, said:
SENTENCE REDACTED. The description of the Sikh Press Association as a WORDS REDACTED. is inaccurate. The Sikh Press Association works with every major Sikh organisation in the United Kingdom, and without their support, it would not be able to operate. Since its founding in 2015, the Sikh Press Association has campaigned openly and with the support of other Sikh organisations every year to clarify that Vaisakhi is not the Sikh new year. Never has a UK Sikh organisation challenged this, nor has the Sikh Press Association ever been criticised by any Sikh organisation in the United Kingdom upon this insistence. The Sikh Press Association is supported because it works directly with the educational organisations and charitable groups that represent the Sikh community publicly. The Sikh Press Association takes its positions from them. It is a shame that The Times have not done the research to learn about the Sikh Press Association. Many of the inaccuracies that
have been corrected by the Sikh Press Association have actually been brought to its attention by ordinary members of the Sikh community. That Vaisakhi is not the Sikh new year is not just a REDACTED but a fact, as paragraphs 3 – 6 of this submission explain. As has been said previously in these comments, IPSO is welcome to confirm this with any major UK Sikh organisation. There is a difference between something being contested and something being misunderstood. Vaisakhi is indeed misunderstood in the press, and even by Sikhs, but there is no argument from any Sikh group (in the UK or elsewhere) that it does mark the Sikh new year. Thus, clarifying that Vaisakhi is not the Sikh new year in no way qualifies as dictating WORDS REDACTED. It would be like accusing somebody who made the obvious mistake of saying that Jesus was born on 14th February of dictating the terms under which Valentine’s Day may be discussed.

 

WORDS REDACTED Lord Singh’s article of 25th March 2006

21. Lord Singh’s article of 25th March 2006 WORDS REDACTED did not refer to a ‘Sikh new year’ at all. It instead referred to the ‘Indian new year’. The two are not the same. Lord Singh himself emphasised the fact that the ‘Indian new year’ is a geopolitical reference, not a religious one, by referring specifically to ‘Northern India’ and not to any religious group. Moreover, Lord Singh explicitly distinguishes Vaisakhi for Sikhs from the significance of that time of year generally for Northern India by referring specifically to ‘the Sikh story of Vaisakhi’ and narrating the foundation of the Khalsa. As Winston Churchill famously said: ‘India is a geographical term. It is no more a united nation than the Equator.’ The heterogeneity of the Indian nation has always meant it is not equivalent to a single religion, language, or culture. If The Times derived ‘Sikh new year’ from the phrase ‘Indian new year’ the newspaper needs to be reminded that Sikhs make up less than 2% of India’s population and are concentrated in one of 36 states and union territories.

22. The Sikh Press Association regularly works with Lord Singh in his parliamentary role, and with the Network of Sikh Organisations, of which Lord Singh is the director. We are happy to invite Lord Singh to clarify the fact that Vaisakhi is not the Sikh new year directly. However, this would mean going public with the stance of The Times on this case and any position IPSO takes on this too, which could be damaging to the reputations of said organisations. If IPSO wish to clarify this point privately with Lord Singh, it would have the encouragement of the Sikh Press Association.

23. SENTENCE REDACTED. The fact that an article was commissioned 12 years ago is irrelevant to the fact that two inaccurate captions were published in April 2018. Nor it is clear how Lord Singh’s article fits the description of ‘scholarly’. The article does not cite primary evidence of any nature (e.g. original sources), contains no academic references, with there being no evidence of it having been peer-reviewed, which are all the general hallmarks of scholarly work. The Sikh Press Association notes here that Lord Singh’s title ‘Dr’ is by virtue of an honorary doctorate awarded by the University of Leicester in 2004.

24. A more recent piece from Lord Singh regarding Vaisakhi is his speech titled ‘Implications of Vaisakhi for Sikhs today’ given at the Ministry of Defence on 19th April 2017.(9) Nowhere in the speech is ‘Sikh new year’ referred to. However, 45% of this speech (579 out of 1280 words), is devoted to the formation of the Khalsa, which is what both of Sukvinder Singh Sodhi’s emails to The Times (on 9th April and 30th April) stated Vaisakhi to be for Sikhs.

(9)http://nsouk.co.uk/implications-of-vaisakhi-for-sikhs-today/ -Text reproduced in Appendix B.

The Times’ Tone

25. Brunskill’s assertion that the Sikh Press Association’s complaint to IPSO WORDS REDACTED  is outright patronising and offensive. It directly implies that the Sikh community should tolerate factual inaccuracies about this festival, and that if it does not do so, the whole spirit of the festival is compromised. If The Times is so concerned with the maintenance of joy, celebration and inclusivity, the Sikh Press Association notes that Vaisakhi would be much more joyful, celebratory and inclusive for all if The Times reported it accurately.

26. SENTENCE REDACTED. Given that the Sikh Press Association’s complaint all along has been one regarding accuracy of the Sikh faith, the Sikh Press Association would appreciate greater attention to detail. It is indicative of the ridiculousness of The Times’ position and arguments that WORDS REDACTED to explain the meaning of a Sikh festival to a Sikh organisation contains such a basic spelling error.

27. The IPSO complaint was not made because of the inaccuracy per se. As has been outlined above, many other organisations have made the inaccuracy this year including ITV and the Guardian newspaper. The difference is however, in almost all of these cases, the publication understood the explanation provided by the Sikh Press Association and corrected it. An inaccuracy was swiftly corrected by ITV(10) and another one was corrected within one hour by the Guardian. Furthermore, as far as the Sikh Press Association is aware, only The Times has made the same inaccuracy twice this year. The Sikh Press Association generally enjoys a harmonious and constructive relationship with media outlets. However, it is evident from the correspondence between Sukvinder Singh Sodhi and Rose Wild at The Times, the publication has twice now been unwilling to even admit it made an error. Sukvinder Singh Sodhi’s email to Rose Wild of 12th April was not replied to. Nor was his email of 9th May to Rose Wild replied to. This has only been compounded by The Times’ attempts to explain the meaning and significance of a Sikh festival to a Sikh organisation, which the Sikh Press Association considers rude. There was no need for such a patronising tone from Ian Brunskill about a topic he is clearly personally unaware about. Copying and pasting links from a Google search is no substitute for an informed explanation, which is what the Sikh Press Association has been compelled to provide to IPSO in this lengthy and regretful submission.

(10)https://twitter.com/SikhPA/status/990987293971353601Appendix A: Mayor of London Vaisakhi 2018 web page
Appendix B: Speech by Lord Singh ‘Implications of Vaisakhi for Sikhs Today’ at the Ministry of Defence on 19 April 2017

I would first like to thank the MoD for hosting this second Vaisakhi Conference, and
Secretary of State for Defence Rt. Hon Michael Fallon and other guests for their kindness on joining us to celebrate one of the most important days in the Sikh calendar.
Vaisakhi, marks the first day of spring in northern India. It’s a time of new hopes and new beginnings; celebrated with colourful processions, fairs and sporting contests.
For Sikhs, Vaisakhi has an added and deeper significance. It was the day chosen by our 10th Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, to give Sikhs a distinct identity, symbolised by the turban and symbols of our faith. The question arises, why did the Guru, who taught the equality of all human beings, deliberately choose to make Sikhs distinctive and recognisable?
For the answer, we have to go back to a cold winter’s day in 1675, when the 9th Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadhur, was publicly beheaded in Delhi by the Mughal rulers, for defending the right of the Hindu community, not his own religion, but that of others, to worship in the manner of its choice. It was a unique martyrdom for the cause of religious freedom for all. It was Voltaire who said, ‘I may not believe in what you say; but I will defend to the death your right to say it’. Nearly a century earlier Guru Teg Bahadhur gave that noble sentiment brave and practical utterance.
Following the beheading, the Mughal rulers challenged the followers of the Guru, to come forward to claim their master’s body. But Sikhs, who then had no distinguishing appearance, hesitated to do so. As we celebrate the Christian festival of Easter, we see a striking parallel with a key moment in Christianity with Peter’s denial that he was a follower of Jesus Christ, at the time of Jesus Christ’s martyrdom.
The tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, thought long and hard about the momentary lapse of courage at the time of his father’s martyrdom. It was on the spring festival of Vaisakhi in 1699, that he decided to put the community to the test. Amidst all the fun and celebration, the Guru, suddenly emerged from a tent, sword in hand, and asked for volunteers who would be ready to give their lives there and then, for Sikh principles.
The crowed was hushed to silence fearing anyone who came forward might be harmed. A brave Sikh made his way to the Guru’s tent. Others followed.
After the fifth Sikh, had gone into the tent in response to the Guru’s challenge, the Guru
again emerged from the tent, sword in hand. This time however, he was not alone. To the joy and relief of the crowd, the Guru was followed by all five Sikhs, wearing the five symbols of Sikhism, the most prominent of which is neat and uncut hair covered with a smart turban.
The Guru gave the five Sikhs Amrit (blessing and confirmation in the new Khalsa community), and said that in future, all male Sikhs would take the common name Singh, literally lion, as a reminder of the need for courage. At the same time, he declared that all female Sikhs would take the name or title ‘Kaur’, literally ‘princess’, as a reminder of the dignity and complete equality of women first taught by Guru Nanak. Guru Gobind Singh then did an extraordinary thing. He asked the first five members of the Khalsa, now known as the ‘panj piare’, to give him amrit. In a remarkable exercise in humility, master and disciple were now one.
The Guru was now confident that the infant Sikh community could now survive and flourish without a living Guru. He added the writings of his father Guru Teg Bahadhur to the Guru Granth Sahib and declared ‘Guru Manio Granth’. That is that Sikhs should follow the teachings of the Guru Granth Sahib as they would a living Guru.
Today, on this anniversary of that historic Vaisakhi, we need to consider the implications of the Guru’s injunction, Guru Manio Granth to life in the world of the 21st century.
In giving supremacy to the Holy Granth over all living leaders, Guru Gobind Singh warned us against false prophets who would try to distort the teachings of Sikhism to suit their own ends. Sadly, today, many Sikhs are chasing after people who are doing precisely this, and looking to superstitious short cuts to a supposed better afterlife, rather than to ethical living.
Guru Gobind Singh’s injunction, ‘Guru Manio Granth’, that is follow the teachings of the holy Granth as you would the founding Gurus, warns us against this distortion and dilution of Sikhism and the need to be true to the ethical teachings contained in our Holy Scriptures. It reminds us not to be passive in our belief, but be active in living true to the teachings. The message of Vaisakhi is that we must not only believe in the teachings, but also let these infuse into the pores of our very being and influence our action and reaction to the world about us, at all times.
In short it’s not enough to simply believe in teachings on equality, religious tolerance and social and political justice as worthy ideals. The message of Vaisakhi is that we must make the furtherance of these ideals the central goal of our lives. We must work together to ensure that the light of the Guru’s teachings reach the furthest corners of our troubled world.
Sikh teachings on human rights have much to offer to a world that has clearly lost its sense of direction. A world in which greed and profit are put before human rights; a world which daily reports of neglect of vulnerable youngster and the frail elderly; a world in which members of the so-called Security Council supply more than 80% of the means of killing in a world awash with arms; weaponry all too easily available to cruel and arrogant leaders. I could go on.
In the past, in India as well as in Europe, religious leaders often amassed power and wealth for themselves, ignoring the need for fairness and justice in society while telling the poor and suffering about promised rewards in heaven. Secular society has gone the other way, arguing that religion should be a private affair and not be allowed to interfere in a materialistic pursuit of wealth and happiness in its blind pursuit of a better life, not in the hereafter, but here and now; and the result is again, power and wealth for some and suffering and cruel hardship for others.
I’ve spent some time in building and construction, but it doesn’t need a construction
qualification to understand that that a structure build on inadequate foundations will
inevitably suffer damage. Similarly, a blind pursuit of material happiness that ignores the need for the ethical underpinning of society, inevitably results in the cracks in society that we see today. True ethical underpinning means that human rights, gender equality and concern for others must predicate all we do. They should not subservient to trade and the pursuit of power and privilege as they were a century ago and still are in many parts of the world. Vaisakhi reminds us, that it is the duty of us all to demolish this divide between religious teachings and secular living.
At the same time, Sikhs are duty bound to break down the artificial barriers of superiority and exclusiveness between different faiths and show commonalities far greater and more important than supposed differences.
The task of moving society to more responsible living is not an easy one. It requires the
dedication and total commitment inherent in the message of Vaisakhi.

brexit

Why Sikhs becoming ‘ready for another vote’ on Brexit is ‘the right thing to do’

Randeep Singh is a Senior Policy Advisor with extensive high level experience of working within both the private and public sectors of the finance industry. As an Amritdhari (initiated) Sikh with a background in Sikh community work, Randeep Singh shares his thoughts in this opinion piece on what is the right thing to do for Sikhs, regarding Brexit.


Please note, a pro-Brexit response from a Sikh perspective will be shared on this platform later this month.

 

The fact the government is talking about stockpiling food and medicine in preparation of a no deal brexit isn’t ‘project fear’, it is project reality.

As the government loses control on the negotiation of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU and heads to its preferred option of a ‘no deal’, we must do our bit to ensure the social fabric of the country is not ripped apart. This is not just the right thing to do, it is also the Sikh thing to do.

The Tory party’s infighting over who should be leading the negotiations and what deal the UK should have with the EU post-brexit is essentially a proxy war at the heart of government over who has ultimate power. This has left a devastating leadership vacuum. This vacuum is having two big consequences; economic uncertainty with a knock on effect on services and increase in social issues.

It is fair to say, we all know the negative economic impact Brexit is having on our economy; loss of productivity, households being £900 worse off and businesses from all sectors of our economy threatening to abandon the UK because of the anti-business stance of the government.

According to a recent study by the Centre for Economic Reform (“CER”) Brexit has already caused a 2.1 percent dip in economic output which has cost the public finances £23 billion (amounts to 440m a week). In fact, the damage to the U.K. economy has already exceeded the size of the budget contributions Britain will be able to claw back when it finally leaves. To put it another way, there will be no Brexit ‘dividend’, and this economic damage means the government has less money to spend on public services such as the NHS, police and education.

The dip in economic output is a direct result of the uncertainty of our future relationship with the EU; businesses aren’t willing to invest until they know they can trade freely within the EU. Airbus recently announced they would need to move operations from the UK in the event of a bad deal, risking 14,000 jobs and another 100,000 indirectly. Others, like Tata, have already announced they are moving production elsewhere in Europe.

During the referendum campaign, Brexiters boasted of taking ‘back’ authority, gaining control of ‘our’ borders, negotiating new trade deals with the Commonwealth nations and making unchecked pledges to fund social services. We are now beginning to see what the reality of Brexit is, a poorer and increasingly intolerant country, no longer a significant player on the world stage.

Like the mainstream Brexiters, the minority of Sikhs who campaigned for Brexit are also silent now, and with the fast approaching deadline around the corner and no real progress, who would want to remind the public they are to blame?

Leaving aside the economic mess the current government has caused, the political leadership vacuum has left a dangerous space for hate to take root, to the point that the Brexit vote has legitimised intolerance and discrimination. Although most of this has and continues to take place online, for example the racism faced by MPs such as David Lammy, there has been over spill with incidents taking place around the country, which have included threats, insults, violence and criminal damage.

To put things in perspective, there has nearly been a 33% rise in hate crime reported to the police year on year since the referendum vote, most of which is racially motivated.

This is being noticed internationally; The UN’s special rapporteur on racism said recently that a “notable shift” in attitudes had taken place following the vote and there was now a growth in volume and acceptability of xenophoc discourses on migration and foreign nations both online and in traditional media.

This hate has been allowed to rage on without check from government, who are too scared to look weak or worse, seem to sound as they have gone soft on Brexit.

So where does the Sikh community come in to all of this? It’s time for us to step up and provide the leadership our communities and the wider country needs. This would not be a step in to the unknown. Sikhs have always stepped to the fore in times of uncertainty and difficulty. Whether this has been through serving free food to the needy, providing shelter to those escaping persecution and overthrowing unjust dictators who have committed atrocities on fellow citizens. Sikhs personify values of courage, equality and boundless compassion which makes them ideal in showcasing the positive attributes of a diverse country, where dignity and equality are the pillars of a fair society.

Sikh Gurdwaras play a major role as community hubs where people can find support, pool resources and make decisions as a collective. The Sikh Gurus knew, in order to bend the minds of Sikhs towards God, the basic provisions of a decent life need to be provided.

As a community we should stand shoulder to shoulder with other minorities and call out hate of all kind. We need to come out strongly and say no, we do accept this legitimising of intolerance, and our silence cannot be assumed to be our support for the hostile environment pursued by the hard right.

Added to this, we need to become more aware of what is going on in the Brexit negotiations. With a stalled parliament, it is highly likely that we may have a general election or second referendum to break the current deadlock. We need to understand the impact of Brexit our economy, public services, rights and freedoms and the environment so that we are ready for another vote on the issue. This is our responsibility.

 

That

Thatcher Government wanted to ban Sikh marches to secure British trade with India

Government documents from 1984 released after a tribunal ruling show that the then UK Foreign Secretary Sir Geoffrey Howe wanted to ban Sikh demonstrations to protect Britain’s trade and relations with India.

The move by Howe was made despite the assessment by the Metropolitan Police that there was little risk of violence at them. These revelations cast doubt on British government’s argument for keeping the files classified; that releasing these files would damage Britain’s relations with India. Instead, the revelations could be hugely damaging to the reputation of the Thatcher government, especially in the eyes of British Sikhs.

The documents were released by the Cabinet Office to investigative journalist Phil Miller who has written about their contents here: https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/ev84ke/thatchers-foreign-secretary-wanted-to-ban-protests-that-endangered-arms-deals

 

Key points emerging from the documents include:

  • Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet had a ‘clear preference’ for a ban on Sikh marches
  • Sir Geoffrey Howe knew that this was against the law (Public Order Act 1936 bans freedom of assembly only if there is a risk of violence)
  • He tried to get the law changed, exploring the idea of a discretionary power for the Home Secretary to ban marches that threatened ‘British interests abroad’
  • The Foreign Office explicitly warned that £5 billion (over £16 billion today) of British trade contracts with India ‘would be potentially at risk’
  • The Home Secretary Leon Brittan was against this, saying it was not an ‘acceptable approach’ to ban a march ‘because of potential damage to our overseas interests’
  • This carried on into 1985 when the Environment Secretary conceded that it would be beyond his power to ban a Sikh demonstration in Hyde Park ‘solely on the grounds that the Indian government takes a poor view of Sikh demonstrations in this country’
  • The present government has spent at least £13,000 even before the tribunal to keep these papers hidden, and is still keeping some intelligence-related papers secret

There seems to be little, if anything, that is significant enough to threaten Indo-British diplomatic relations more than 30 years on that can be found in these files based on this new information. However, they do show that members of the Thatcher government were willing to deny British citizens a fundamental right for the sake of maintaining relations with a government that had massacred thousands of Sikhs at their holiest shrine in India.

For more information, interview opportunities or Sikh community reaction to this news, email media@SikhPA.com.

Gurpreet Singh (left) and Deepa Singh (right).

Right wing and left wing ‘exploiting’ Sikh community grooming concerns

Award winning community group Sikh Youth UK, known for their work in supporting survivors of street grooming gangs, speak out, having previously been accused of having a right-wing leaning.


Sikh Youth UK yesterday proclaimed ‘We don’t stand with the right, we don’t stand with the left. What we do do, is stand with the Panth (Sikh community).

In a video statement released on their social media, available to watch here, two senior SYUK volunteers spoke out, following feedback on their weekly TV show on the Sikh Channel, which this week saw a grooming gang victim give an exclusive interview.

The Sikh ethos community group, who work on dealing with taboo issues such as addiction and abuse within the British-Punjabi community, made their feelings clear in regards to accusations about their political leanings.

 

‘The left-wing have never allowed any serious and mature debate on the issue.’

 

Gurpreet Singh of SYUK said of right-wing support, ‘When it comes to the right-wing, they throw fuel on the issue to fan the flames. They are looking to stir up community tensions. They have no genuine interest in the betterment of the Sikh community. To them the Sikh community is just a pawn in their greater battle against other communities.’

He went on to add, ‘When it comes to the left-wing, especially the left-wing media, any serious debates about the street grooming issue, they have always dismissed it. Anybody who brings up cultural tendencies in regards to street grooming, they are demonised, for example, the likes of Sarah Champion. They have never allowed any serious and mature debate on the issue. That’s because they again don’t have any real concern about the Sikh community, they are concerned about selling newspapers to the masses. It is only the panth that cares about what is happening to Sikh girls.’

 

‘Please can we focus on who is actually suffering here.’

 

Deepa Singh also stated, ‘We don’t stand with the right, we don’t stand with the left. What we do do, is stand with the Panth, stand with the Guru, and stand with our sisters who are preyed upon and targeted in the UK. 

So we are not happy with the right-wing or left-wing exploiting this. Please can we focus on who is actually suffering here.’

 

‘We hope that any media coverage on the group will now focus on their work’

 

Jasveer Singh, Sikh Press Association Senior Press Officer, said the statement was needed to counter media portrayals of the community group.

‘Sikh Youth UK declaring their apolitical position when it comes to dealing with street grooming gangs is important, as hopefully this will now draw a line under accusations about their work.

‘We hope that any media coverage on the group will now focus on their work supporting Sikh girls that have been targeted by street grooming gangs, rather than using a few historic sporadic incidents to portray the group in a negative light.’