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http://www.sikhchic.com/1984/i_will_not_attend_lord_indarjit_singhs_missive_to_teji_bindra

Lord INDARJIT SINGH

 

To

Teji Bindra

New York, USA

 

25-10-12

Dear Tejinder ji,

Sat Sri Akal

Re: Sikh Heritage Arts Gala 2012

I am writing to inform you that I will not be attending the Sikh Arts and Film Festival.

When Dr Narinder Singh Kapany informed me that Sikhs in New York wished to honour me for becoming the first turbaned Sikh in the British Parliament, I agreed.

I was given to understand that it would be at a function of Sikh Heritage Awards. I now learn from the detailed Programme sent me that it is a Festival of Indian Films with dinner and dance in the presence of dignitaries from and representatives of the Indian government.

This festive  event coincides with the anniversary of  the government planned systematic  slaughter and rape of thousands of Sikhs throughout the length and breadth of India following  the assassination of Indira Gandhi, commencing with Rajiv Gandhi’s broadcast incitement of “khoon ka badla khoon” – “Exact blood for blood”. ( An official in Africa recently received a lengthy jail term from the International Criminal Court for lesser incitement).

Ever since 1984, I have campaigned tirelessly for those responsible for this genocide against Sikhs to be brought to justice through articles in the Sikh Messenger , the Journal of Amnesty International, articles in the Times, the Guardianand other  British, French, American and Arabic journals and in radio and TV broadcasts. My effort and those of many others for the Indian government to respect civilised norms and bring those responsible to justice have simply fallen on deaf ears.

In the circumstances, I hope you will understand why on the anniversary of this massacre, I cannot join you with your guests from the Indian government.  My apologies for any inconvenience.

Kind regards
Dr. Indarjit Singh ( Lord Singh of Wimbledon)

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/137b1408-7dd9-11e3-95dd-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2qku6Ocwx

By Griselda Murray Brown and Kiran Stacey

The campaigner speaks out following revelation about UK government’s possible involvement in tragic incident
Lord Singh

Lord Singh is widely known for his contributions to the “Thought for the Day” slot on BBC Radio 4, urging religious tolerance in gentle, measured tones, but his influence extends far beyond the breakfast table. This tireless campaigner is currently demanding an apology from the British government over its possible involvement – revealed this week – in the 1984 attack by the Indian government on the Sikh temple at Amritsar.

A practising Sikh, Singh co-founded the Inter Faith Network for the UK in 1987 to promote better relations between religions, and in 2008 he became the first Sikh to address a major conference at the Vatican. He set up the Network of Sikh Organisations in 1995, co-ordinating pastoral care for Sikhs in hospitals, prisons and the armed forces. The Prince of Wales, Anglican bishops and the Metropolitan Police are among those who have consulted him, and he has advised the government on race relations. In 2011, he was made a crossbench life peer in the House of Lords – the first member to wear a turban.

Born Indarjit Singh in 1932 in Rawalpindi, now in Pakistan, he moved to the UK as a baby. Singh’s father, a doctor, had been involved in the Indian independence movement and was “virtually exiled” to east Africa; after studying in Britain he decided to move his family there rather than returning to India. So, in 1933, Singh, together with his two elder brothers and mother, joined his father in Birmingham.

Singh now lives in the detached Victorian house in Wimbledon, southwest London, that he and his wife, Kanwaljit, bought in 1974. Forty years after the Singhs moved in with their two young daughters, the home feels lived-in but well-maintained, and various decorative objects attest to the couple’s broad tastes: an engraving of the Golden Temple in Amritsar, north India, the holiest Sikh shrine; an ancient Greek-style plate; a painted Alpine scene; and a Japanese print.

Singh met his wife in India, when he was working there as a mine engineer, and they moved to England in the mid-1960s – first to Birmingham, then London when Singh was offered a job in civil engineering. He later studied for an MBA and moved into local government. Kanwaljit, in turn, has worked as a primary schoolteacher, a headteacher and a school inspector. In 2011 she was awarded an OBE for services to education and interfaith understanding.

Wall hanging of the Golden Temple

Over tea and homemade samosas, Singh recalls his childhood in Birmingham – where, in 1939, the Indian population was estimated at just 100. “My parents had a very tough time. They wouldn’t give my father a hospital job so he set up his own practice as a GP. He was a very determined chap, but the patients didn’t come too quickly. My mother even had to pawn some of her jewellery for things like bread and milk.” At this, he breaks into laughter, his eyes almost disappearing as his face creases. “But they came through it all, and the practice grew and grew.”

Singh is serious in his beliefs but quick to laugh at life’s absurdities – even the absurdity of prejudice. The Singh brothers were the only non-white pupils at the local grammar school. “Everyone knew that Britain was top and everybody else was down there,” he gestures to the floor. “There was a history teacher who looked directly at me in class and said ‘They come over here, they get educated and they go back to India to harass us’.” Did that upset him? “No,” he says, “it was par for the course. We knew it was wrong but it was the game being played. It was snakes and ladders and your ladders had broken rungs.”

Indarjit Singh's dining room

After graduating from Birmingham university in 1959 with a first-class degree in engineering, Singh applied to the Coal Board to become a mine manager. However, at his interview he was squarely informed that “miners in this country wouldn’t like an Indian manager”. So he decided to leave home for India, a country he barely knew.

At that time, relations between Sikhs and Hindus in India were deteriorating. They had lived together harmoniously for centuries. But that changed with the Partition of India in 1947, when Pakistan was carved out as a Muslim land and bloodshed ensued as Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs found themselves on the wrong sides of the new borders. The Indian prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, had promised Sikhs “an area and a set-up in the north where in [they] may also experience the glow of freedom” – but no such provision was made. Sikhs felt increasingly marginalised and there was rioting in Punjab.

“When I went to India, Sikhs had no voice,” says Singh. “There was no Sikh press and if you wrote complainingly to the papers you were ignored. Being British, I thought ‘This is unfair, I’ve got to do something about it’.” A smile spreads slowly across his face. “If I wrote to the papers as a Sikh, there wasn’t a chance they’d print it, so I decided to write as my next-door neighbour in England, Victor Pendry, and my letter to the Hindustan Times was published. It had a huge ripple, especially in the Sikh community. My wife had heard about Victor Pendry before she met me.”

Mantelpiece at Indarjit Singh's home

At this point, Kanwaljit enters to refill our teacups. She is busy in the smaller back sitting room (she still works as a freelance school inspector), but she wants to check that we have everything we need. The couple’s grown-up children moved out years ago and the house feels big for two – big enough for a study each and several spare bedrooms. Initially, they made alterations to the place – “we knocked two rooms into one through-lounge, and built a kitchen extension and a garage” – but after a while they “got a bit lazy”. It seems likely they were less lazy than busy.

Singh co-founded the Inter Faith Network for the UK while still working full-time, and in 1989 he became the first non-Christian to be awarded the UK Templeton Prize “for the furtherance of spiritual and ethical understanding”. He wrote regularly for the Sikh Courier from 1967 and when, in 1983, its owner didn’t like Singh’s proposed articles on communal violence between Sikhs and Hindus in India, Singh left to establish a new publication, the Sikh Messenger, of which he remains editor.

Tensions with the Sikh community came to a head in June 1984 when India’s prime minister, Indira Gandhi, ordered the army to storm the Golden Temple complex and remove Sikh separatists, with co-ordinated raids on gurdwaras (Sikh places of worship). The attack fell on the anniversary of the martyrdom of Guru Arjan, founder of the Golden Temple, when thousands of pilgrims were gathered. Official estimates put civilian deaths at about 400, but independent reports claim thousands died. Four months later, Gandhi was assassinated by two Sikh bodyguards in an act of vengeance, and anti-Sikh rioting swept across India, killing thousands more.

Indarjit Singh's living room

It is now almost 30 years since the attack, an anniversary that has brought fresh information. A document released by the British government, under the 30-year rule, has revealed that Geoffrey Howe, the then foreign secretary, sent an SAS officer to India in the months before the attack to advise Gandhi’s government on its tactics.

The revelation has led David Cameron, the UK prime minister, to order an inquiry and the Foreign Office has accepted Singh’s offer of support. “I would like the authorities to take the opportunity to try and bring closure on something that is creating continuing suspicion between the Hindu and Sikh communities,” he says. “I want an open, international inquiry into those events – then you can punish those that are guilty on either side and give a sense of closure.”

For all his mild-mannered charm, Singh is not one to back down – and his drive is that of a much younger man. “It’s always worth having a say and keeping to your principles,” he insists. Three decades after the killings at the Golden Temple, he will be doing that more than ever.

——————————————-

Favourite thing

Singh’s house is full of awards: an OBE, a CBE, an honorary doctorate and countless tokens of appreciation from gurdwaras across Britain. But “the superior thing” is a painting by his granddaughter, which he has since framed. “I went to their house when her mum was away and I was deputed to do her plaits. She said ‘No one has ever done them quite like that’, and the next time I went there she presented me with it”.

Here is a link to an article in India Today on 14th January 2014

http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/thatcher-colluded-with-indira-for-op-bluestar-labour-mp/1/336038.html

A British MP and a Sikh member of the House of Lords claimed that top secret documents suggested Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s government helped Indira Gandhi plan the storming of the Golden Temple in 1984 to flush out militants from the shrine, an operation that left more than 1,000 people dead.

Tom Watson, the Labour lawmaker from West Bromwich East, and Lord Indarjit Singh said the documents released under Britain’s 30-year rule included “papers from Mrs Thatcher authorising the SAS (Special Air Service) to collude with the Indian government on the planning on the raid of the Golden Temple”.

The government apparently “held back” some more documents and “I don’t think that’s going to wash”, he told BBC Asian Network.

“I think British Sikhs and all those concerned about human rights will want to know exactly the extent of Britain’s collusion with this period and this episode and will expect some answers from the Foreign Secretary,” Watson said.

He wrote on his website that he would write to the Foreign Secretary and raise the issue in the House of Commons to get a “full explanation”.

“But trying to hide what we did, not coming clean, I think would be a very grave error and I very much hope that the Foreign Secretary will…reveal the documents that exist and give us an explanation to the House of Commons and to the country about the role of Britain at that very difficult time for Sikhism and Sikhs,” he added.

On his website, Watson referred to documents that were made public by the organisation “Stop Deportations”. The organisation said these documents were among a series of letters released at the New Year by the National Archives in London.

A letter marked “top secret and personal” dated February 23, 1984, nearly four months before the incident in Amritsar, titled ‘Sikh Community’, reads: “The Indian authorities recently sought British advice over a plan to remove Sikh extremists from the Golden Temple in Amritsar.

“The Foreign Secretary decided to respond favourably to the Indian request and, with the Prime Minister’s agreement, an SAD [sic] officer has visited India and drawn up a plan which has been approved by Gandhi. The Foreign Secretary believes that the Indian Government may put the plan into operation shortly.”

Lord Singh, also the director of the Network of Sikh Organisations in the UK, now wants the UK government to reveal the extent of British government involvement in both Houses of Parliament

London: (13th of Jan 2014) The Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO) can confirm that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has been in contact with Lord Singh, further to a leak of documents, indicating Thatcher’s approval of SAS collusion with the Indian government’s attack on the Golden Temple in 1984.

The Prime Minister, David Cameron has ordered an inquiry into the then governments involvement.

The FCO have readily accepted the offer of support from Lord Singh to support any investigation.

[Ends}

 

Notes to Editors.

1.      The Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO) is a registered charity that links more than 100 Gurdwaras and other UK Sikh organisations in active cooperation to enhance the image and understanding of Sikhism in the UK.

Hardeep Singh

Press Secretary

The Network of Sikh Organisations

http://www.nsouk.co.uk/

London: (17th of Jan 2014) Leading academics and local residents join Lord Singh Director NSO, to urge Mr. Nawaz Sharif the Pakistani Prime Minister, to help preserve a historic gurdwara in Wazirabad, Gujranwala District. The gurdwara known as Guru Kotha, was named after Guru Hargobind Ji, the sixth Guru of the Sikhs. Nadir Cheema, from The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) approached Lord Singh of Wimbledon, the NSO’s Director for support.

In an open letter to Pakistan’s Prime Minister the signatories write:

“It should be a matter of pride for you, as the Prime Minister of Pakistan, that the Muslim residents of Wazirabad, listed in this letter, were the first to show their concern about the state of the gurdwara and brought this to our attention. In the last ten years around 200 mosques have been restored in Indian Punjab with the help of Sikh and Hindu communities. Showing such a measure of mutual respect for each other’s religious sentiments could play a huge part in producing sustainable peace and coexistence between two nations.”

Nadir Cheema from SOAS said, ”I approached Lord Indarjit Singh on behalf of Muslim residents of Wazirabad, Gujranwala District (Pakistani Punjab). The residents had been trying to preserve the gurdwara in the city of Wazirabad, which is illegally occupied and incessantly encroached. The gurdwara was named after Guru Hargobind Ji, the sixth of Sikh Gurus. Lord Singh encouraged me to take the matter up with higher authorities; he supported and guided me at every step. He directly wrote a letter to the High Commissioner of Pakistan and is the main signatory of the letter to the Prime Minister of Pakistan, which is also supported by senior Sikh academics at British universities.”

He added “The High Commissioner of Pakistan in London has assured me that he will forward the letter to the Prime Minister of Pakistan with his strongest recommendation for the preservation of the historic gurdwara in Wazirabad. We, the residents of Wazirabad, are highly indebted to Lord Singh for his support. Such endeavours will help us to revive the plural culture of Punjab which transcended religious boundaries for centuries.”

[Ends]

Notes to Editors.

1.      The Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO) is a registered charity that links more than 100 Gurdwaras and other UK Sikh organisations in active cooperation to enhance the image and understanding of Sikhism in the UK. 

Hardeep Singh

Press Secretary

The Network of Sikh Organisations

http://nsouk.co.uk


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