Monday, 6 October 2014

British Army Honours First World War Sikhs

(Click on photos for full image)
Sikh platoon at Sandhurst in WW1 uniforms

The invitation from 1914 Sikhs Directorate  read, “On 12th September 2014 the British Army will be hosting an event dedicated to Saragarhi Day and this will also see the launch of the BAFSA(British Armed Forces Sikh Association).  This is to be hosted at the prestigious Royal MilitaryAcademy, Sandhurst and will culminate in a march past by the 1914Sikhs platoon.”
It was only after attending that I realised how important and historic the event was !  Even more so the following morning, when I turned on the TV.  “BBC 24 Hours” peak time morning news was already showing those awe-inspiring British Singh jawans, resplendent in their First World War Sikh regiment uniforms filling the TV screen.  Not only has the British army acknowledged (at last) and “honoured the contribution made by Sikh soldiers during World War One”,  but even the British mainstream media has woken up to that historical fact.  No longer are the Sikhs lost in generalised labels like “Indians” or “Asians”.  They stand tall as “Sikhs”.

Having done some army training while at High School in Malaya,  I am only too well aware how much training these young 36 Sikh volunteers would have put in to achieve the high standard that they displayed marching up and down the parade ground at Sandhurst. Full credit goes to Anglo-Sikh Heritage Trail (sister organisation Maharaja Duleep Singh Centennial Trust) for much hard work behind the scenes. 

In the Indian Army Memorial Room, Lord Indarjit Singh delivered a well balanced speech followed by others. With the two visible identity Sikh Lords present - the other being recently appointed Lord Ranbir Singh Suri - all played their part.  Many Sikh community leaders, including from Sikh Federation UK, were there with also a good mix of smartly dressed young Sikh men and women, boys and girls. 

It was an opportunity to meet many old and new faces, and to also mix with serving Sikhs in the British army and at least one Squadron Leader from the Royal Airforce.  A short exchange with Lord Suri confirmed my own first impression that his cultured presence in the Lords will certainly add to British Sikh influence in the Lords.  It was a pleasure meeting him; and a bonus having a photo taken with both Sikh Lords and their wives. (Something for the family album!)

Such a show of British Sikh solidarity as we remembered the epic battle of  Saragarhi, gives us a hope for the future that we will be counted and recognised as “Sikh” and as “British”.

British Sikhs can progress when there is recognition of complementary roles and skills, above personality level.   We congratulate those young British Sikhs in uniforms, proud of their Sikh identity.  They will continue to show us the way forward, as they march in step to “take part in ceremonial and re-enactment parades  during the next 4 years.” (quote 1914 Sikhs Directorate)

Lords Indarjit Singh and Lord Ranbir Singh Suri (white turban) with their wives.
Author in the middle.

Gumukh Singh
Article may be published with acknowledgement.

© Gurmukh Singh

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Khalsa Aiding & Winning Friends

From Khalsa Aid:

"The waters may have rose, but your spirit has risen higher", banner on Parrett River, Burrow Bridge, Sommerset.  


Message in response to post from Ravinder Singh (Chief Executive of Khalsa Aid) on "Sikh News Discussion" of 28 February 2014:

From: gurmukh singh

Cc: Ravinder Singh (Khalsa Aid)

Sent: Saturday, 1 March 2014, 11:05

Subject: Re: [sikh_news_discussion] KHALSA AID winning the hearts of local communities [4 Attachments]

"The waters may have rose, but your spirits have risen higher." (banner on River Parrett, Burrow Bridge, Sommerset ( see photo)

The flood water is still there at Burrow Bridge at dangerously high level (see photos taken on 27th February)
"Raaj karega Khalsa !", but how ?

Many from the local community came to greet us warmly on seeing Ravinder Singh and his Khalsa Aid colleague "Billa" Singh. Many told me that, they were crying out for help when all emergencies had failed. Khalsa Aid responded on hearing the appeals on radio, and the burly "sevadars" arrived with a truck full of supplies to help. The locals described them as "giants" who defied the weather to work tirelessly day and night in pouring rain, piling up sand bags on the river bank (photo).

Please bear in mind that the attached photos of the receding water were taken only a couple of days ago.

Khalsa aid was given peaktime TV coverage during the floods period, which according to the local people, was the only community aid charity which responded, while the government services remained in utter chaos.

Truly, only seva in the field in true Sikhi spirit will continue to bring our next generations closer to other communities.

In any case, "Wich dunia sev kamaayiay. Taa(n) dargeh baisan paayiay" - "seva" - selfless and non-discrminatory service in this world is a pre-condition and the path to Waheguru's Presence.

( As we were talking to Charles Payton, the church warden, and his wife (ex Air India hostess) sitting around a table drinking coffee at the local Pub "HQ" for the services, UK IP's Nigel Farage (anti-immigration), also visiting and well aware of massive Khalsa Aid popularity, made it a point to come over to shake hands - Ravinder Singh was not too keen about earlier press photos which captured him and Nigel in the same shot ! It is only afterwards that I realised who he was.)

Gurmukh Singh

Message from Ravinder Singh, Chief Executive, Khalsa Aid on Sikh News Discussion:on 28 February, 2014:

Sardar Gurmukh Singh, Patron of Khalsa Aid visited the floods affected Burrowbridge,

Somerset yesterday. Khalsa Aid ( KA ) was the only NGO in Burrowbridge when the floods were at their most dangerous levels. KA was working very closely with the local community group FLAG. The local community has been very welcoming to the Sikh volunteers and has even provided accommodation in their homes for the volunteers.

Sardar Gurmukh Singh was invited by the CEO of Khalsa Aid Ravinder Singh to visit Burrowbridge and to present a framed print of Harmandir Sahib to the local community. The local church warden, Mr Charles Payton requested " something from the Sikhs" as a momento for the village , he received the special gift and was overwhelmed by it.

" What a wonderful community! I am so pleased that Khalsa Aid was involved in assisting the community in its hour of need. I sincerely hope this will be the beginning of a great friendship among our communities." Sardar Gurmukh Singh.

Ravinder Singh