Friday, 1 May 2009

Recognition & Respect: Are the Sikhs given due acclaim and protection

Over the centuries, the Panjaabi-Sikh soldier has fought, struggled and died in the most stringent and torturous circumstances for the defense of the British people and the British territorial interests.

Whilst the British soldiers, army officers and generals of the past known all too vividly about the invaluable Sikh role, mainstream Britons and the British Government today has no regard, awareness and appreciation of this fundamental sacrifice by Sikhs for Britain. Whilst much is known about the Gurkhas, and they are retained as a special part of the British armed forces, with special Gurkhas regiments; next to nothing is known and mentioned by the mainstream media, taught in schools, or generally acknowledged in public policy. Prince Charle's public calls for the establishment of a Sikh regiment in the current British Army, were roundly rejected by the British Government and its equalities watchdog, the Commission for Race Equality.

Sikhs were clearly good enough between 1850 and 1945, to fight on the frontiers and die in the trenches of France, fight the vigorous Afgan tribesmen in the North-West Frontier, defend Britain from imminent Nazi take-over, and protect the British presence from near collapse in the 1857 Indian rebellion. Yet, today, the very same Sikhs are forgotten and rejected by the Government for whom they did so much immeasurable amount.

"Under the mercy of God the loyalty and contentment of the people of the Punjab has saved India. Had the Punjab gone we must have been ruined." Sir John Lawrence, August 1858

The current media exposure about the British Government's sadistic discrimination against Gurkhas, is highly positive and deserved. The role of the Gurkhas needs much public profile and praise. Equally, what about the Sikhs? Are they to be left behind in past history?

"When in the month of May 1857, Mohammedan and Hindu Sepoys in the Hindustani armies turned on their officers and massacred them, the Sikhs, in and out of the services, stood loyal to a man...they endured starvation and misery during those days terrible days, and finally gave their lives by the sides of their British comrades...hungry and always outnumbered, they covered themselves with glory...with their backs to the wall, the Khalsa fought and died as men." Colonel Landen Sarasfield, Betrayal of the Sikhs, 1946, page 33

"Wherever in the East, and very often in the West, a British soldier has been in action, there also were to be found his Sikh comrades, ever loyal, ever courageous and ever ready to give their life's blood in the Common Cause. From those days in 1857 when nearly all India rose against us and massacred as many Europeans as were defenceless, the Sikhs have always been on our side. Whether at Dheli or on the plains of Flanders, in Salonika or in the Islands of the Pacific, they have covered themselves with immortality in our service." Colonel Landen Sarasfield, Betrayal of the Sikhs, 1946, page 19

"the Punjabees bore the privations, the fatigues, the perils of the ridge before Dheli, and shared in the final conflict within the city walls; how for long weary months they threw in their lot with the British beseiged in the Lucknow residency, how they were among the foremost in the storming of Lucknow city, how they behaved in the reconquest of Rohilcund, how in the arid and thirsty jungles of Behar they gave noble and touching proofs of their devotion to Europeans. Their physique shows that they come of a hardy and warlike stock, their discipline shows that, though encouraged and well treated, they have never been pampered or spoilt; that they have been taught to be obedient in all things, and that they have been inured to hard work of every description." Sir John Lawrence, Head of British Administration of Punjab, Report on the Administration of Punjab, May 1858

Jagdeesh Singh, pictured below, was a Sikh victim of post 9/11 ignorance and racism towards Sikhs in Britain. Across the globe, Sikhs suffered repeated physical violence and verbal taunting. Two Sikh gurdwaras in Britain were attacked. Numerous Sikh individuals were attacked. In September 2004, Jagdeesh Singh, was viciously attacked in Coventry.

Interestingly, there has been zero media coverage of these attacks in the mainstream media. Home Affairs Select Committee inquiries into the impact of 9/11 and terrorism on communities, has noted the concerns and incidents against the Muslim population. The Prime Minister and Government Ministers have repeatedly expressed their public support for the victimised Muslim population. The mainstream media has provided numerous feature stories of attacks on Muslim individuals. The Commission for Race Equality has expressed much concern about 'Islamaphobia'. Meanwhile, zero acknowledgement has been made of the severe impact on the Sikh community. This inspite of repeated communications and representations by the aggrieved Sikh community.

The above photo of the Sikh victim, epitomises the collective pain, hurt and dejection felt by the Sikh community within Britain and internationally. The above Sikh victim has a family history of dedicated service to Britain. From 1850 to 1945, three generations of his grand-parents have served in the armed forces for Britain. In December 1998, his sister Surjit Athwal, was murdered in Panjaab. Surjit, like Jagdeesh, was a full-fledged British national. Yet, the British Government has taken no official steps to enquire into his case with the Indian Government. Dismissed, rejected, discriminated?

In the 1947 Transfer of Power, the British overruled the Sikh demands for a distinct political set up to secure their territorial and political status, either as an autonomous or independent state. The Sikh homeland was partitioned, causing massive genocide, ethnic cleansing and population displacement. Power was handed to two new states - Pakistan and India. Sikhs were left to fend for their rights, freedoms and security between these two monstrous states. The British Government has refused to intervene to protect continuing Sikh issues, including the continuing human rights atrocities and genocide on the Sikh population in the Indian state. Under pressure from the Indian state, the British Government has obstinately refused to implement a landmark judicial ruling establishing Sikhs as a distinct 'racial group'. The same Government has rejected the proposal for a Sikh regiment in the British Army, whilst having Irish, Scottish, Welsh and Gurkha regiments.

"Surely...we cannot be so ungrateful as to forget them...If we do forget, and permit the Sikhs to be consigned to economic and political oblivion, I do not think any self-respecting Englishman will ever again be able to look a Sikh in the face or shake his hand in the way only honourable friends can understand."
Colonel Landen Sarasfied, page 20

The British Government's conduct throughout the centuries towards the Sikhs, as toward other conquered peoples, wherever and whenever, has been one of callous, sadistic, opportunistic exploitation, abandoned and scant dismissal. The British Government Prime Minister and fellow Ministers, have colluded and combined with the forces hostile to the Sikhs, such as the Indian Government. In 1984, the British Government provided military expertise to the Indian Government as part of its devastating genocidal military onslaught on Panjaab. The British Government remained coldly silent, as 50,000 civilians in Panjaab were made to 'disappear' and the whole of Panjaab was subdued beneath a layer of military terror, mass killings and military rule.

This official government policy, is distinct from the warmth and affinity of grassroot peoples of England, Scotland and Wales (who are equal victims of official policy). Ordinary Sikh citizens have enjoyed positive relations with their English, Scottish and Welsh neighbours, sharing common ties in employment, as neighbours and as ordinary citizens experiencing common issues and common life aspirations.

"A remarkable people, the Sikhs, with their Ten Prophets, five
distinguishing marks, and their baptismal rite of water stirred with steel; a people who have made history, and will make it again."
Martial India, F. Yeats-Brown, 1945.

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