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UK Sikhs are deeply disappointed by the UK government’s attitude to Sikh human rights. While the present government cannot in any way be held responsible for support given by a predecessor government of 30 years ago, the present government’s statement that the assistance then given was ‘only minimal’, was deeply hurtful to Sikhs, and insensitive to others concerned with human rights.

The same seeming indifference to Sikh human rights was also evident in the House of Lords during questions on the UK government’s advocacy of a UN led investigation into human rights abuses in Sri Lanka. Director NSO, Lord Singh asked Baroness Warsi, the Senior Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, if the UK government would consider supporting a similar investigation into the highly organised mass killing of thousands of Sikhs in 1984.

Lord Singh cited evidence from the American Embassy in New Delhi that the number of Sikhs killed in just three days in 1984 exceeded the total number of victims of General Pinochet’s cruel and arbitrary seventeen year rule in Chile.

Baroness Warsi declined to answer the question, saying instead, that she had spent ‘an hour and a half’ in a meeting with the Sikh community.

Following discussions in the NSO and with other Sikh organisations, Lord Singh was asked to pursue the point and ask the UK government to show the same degree of commitment in addressing Sikh human rights, as they were showing in addressing human rights abuses against the Tamil population of Sri Lanka.

Lord Singh accordingly put a written question to Baroness Warsi, again raising the apparent lack of even-handedness. Baroness Warsi again gave a response which totally ignored the question. Lord Singh complained to House of Lords officials who agreed that his question had not been answered, and the Minister was formally requested to respond to Lord Singh’s original question.

During Questions on 26th March Adam Holloway MP asked the Prime Minister what more could be done to justice for the appalling events at Amritsar thirty years ago.

In his reply the Prime Minister acknowledged the continuing hurt to the Sikh community and described the events of 1984 as ‘a stain on the post-independence history of India’. He continued: ‘we cannot interfere in the Indian justice system, nor should we’.

As British citizens, we are entitled to a clear answer to the question put by Lord Singh, ‘why is it fine for our government to concern itself with human rights abuse in Sri Lanka but wrong for similar concern to be shown to Sikhs in India?’ Are Sikhs lesser human beings?

The Prime Minister concluded his reply with an all too familiar patronising comment: ‘The most important thing we can do in this country is celebrate the immense contribution that British Sikhs make to our country………’

The contribution detailed by the Prime Minister failed to mention the most important contribution Sikhs to society, whether here or in India. That is, in the spirit of our Gurus’ teachings, a total commitment to human rights, not only of Sikhs, but of all peoples everywhere.  The true message of Baisakhi is that we should always be ready to stand up and be counted in our concern for the human rights of all people whatever the cost. It is a commitment that cost our 9th Guru, Guru Teg Bahadur his life defending the right of Hindus to worship in the manner of their choice against Mughal persecution. It is the same commitment that led to the 1984 genocide against Sikhs for their earlier opposition to the three year dictatorship of Mrs Gandhi.

We believe that it will be a betrayal of still grieving families in India, for UK Sikhs to participate in a UK government celebration that not only ignores their trauma and suffering, but also ignores the underlying commitment to human rights central to the festival of Baisakhi.

We urge all Sikhs to boycott the Downing Street function as a charade that ignores the very meaning of Baisakhi.

NETWORK OF SIKH ORGANISATIONS UK 
PRESS RELEASE
 
Truth is high, but higher still is truthful living—Guru Nanak
Truth is high, but higher still is trade—1984 UK Government.
 

London: (08 Feb 2014); On Tuesday 4th February representatives of many Sikh organisations met with Rt Hon Hugo Swire, Minister MP at the Foreign Office to express concerns over the Cabinet Secretary’s Report on revelations on UK government support for Indian Army action against Sikhs in the Golden Temple.

SUMMARY

UK Sikhs are particularly concerned that despite a promised full inquiry, the Terms of Reference of the Report appear to have been designed to mitigate embarrassment resulting from incriminating documents inadvertently coming into the public domain. The Report of the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood is selective in its examination of documentation and concludes that British involvement was minimal. No mention is made of the background of a decade of increasingly active persecution of Sikhs by the Congress government as detailed in reports by Amnesty International and other human rights organisation.

The then Cabinet’s collective bias against Sikhs in the released papers is seen in a consistent labelling of Sikhs with a pick and mix assortment of pejorative descriptions such as separatist, dissident, extremist, fundamentalist etc. to produce a negative image of the community. The documents also showed the absence of a single word of sympathy for the thousands killed in the attack on the Golden Temple on one of the holiest days in the Sikh calendar and the organised widespread killing of Sikhs later in the year. The Inquiry Report instead seeks to show minimal UK military involvement.

The unanswered question remains why and on what criteria the UK government decided to accede to the then Indian government request for military assistance against India’s 2% Sikh community.

DETAILED CONCERNS

1.    Trade of greater importance than Human Rights of Sikhs Lord Singh, Director NSO was invited to meet the Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood on 21st January. He explained the hurt and sense of betrayal felt by UK Sikhs over the revelations of British government involvement. The Cabinet Secretary’s response was that his task was simply to look at all documentation and report accordingly. When Lord Singh mentioned that the documents showed that the only concern of the then government seemed to be that a lack of support for the Indian government might jeopardise arms exports, he received the astonishing response from the Cabinet Secretary that he and his team were unaware of any arms trade implications in the papers. Lord Singh responded that he had seen several references to arms sales to India being under threat, and at the Cabinet Secretary’s request, gave his office details of a Cabinet document dated 22 November 1984, referring to a five billion pound arms contract.

·      Cabinet papers reveal several other references to arms sale concerns. A two-hour search by an NSO researcher at the National Records Office at Kew, found additional material and importantly evidence of key documents being removed. It has since been confirmed that the missing file related to ‘military intelligence relating to India for 1984’.

 

·      Lord Singh also informed Sir Jeremy Heywood of a personal experience when he went to see a former Cabinet member in November 1984 to express concern over UK government silence over the widespread organised killing of Sikhs throughout India. The staggering response was ‘Indarjit, we know exactly what is going on, it’s very difficult; we’re walking on a tightrope: we have already lost one important contract’. 

2.    Cabinet papers show that all members of the then Cabinet wilfully ignored the reality of the persecution of Sikhs in India despite evidence then available.

·      The UK consistently says that it does not interfere in the internal affairs of sovereign countries. Yet a policy decision seems to have been taken by the 1984 Cabinet to give unquestioning support to a Congress government with democratically tainted credentials in military action against India’s minority Sikh community. The decision ignored widely available evidence of the systematic persecution of Sikhs. This freely available evidence included:

·      A detailed report by Amnesty International in 1983 (AI Index: ASA 20/01/84 Distr: SC/CO) documenting widespread human rights abuses by the government.

·      A Report by highly respected Hindu civil rights lawyers entitled ‘Who Are the Guilty’, was smuggled out of India in November 84 and personally placed by Lord Singh in the pigeonholes of every MP.

·      A presentation was also given to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Human Rights who unanimously decided to send a two man investigating team to India. The Indian Government refused them visas. They appealed saying that their inquiry would help reduce tensions in the UK. They were still refused visas.

3.    Censorship of foreign journalists.

·      Jane Corbyn, a highly respected journalist from Channel 4, in India at the time of the organised killing of Sikhs in the first week of November, had her film confiscated by the Indian authorities. She did however manage to smuggle a duplicate copy to the UK. This censorship of foreign journalists is mentioned in the documents and was only relaxed after the end of the organised killings of Sikhs throughout India.

·      Perusal of the released papers also reveals Cabinet discussions on the need to curb the UK media against allowing any reporting or interviews about or with Sikhs that might offend the Indian government.

·      Unhelpful use of pejorative language in Cabinet papers to tarnish the image of UK Sikhs.

·      Reading through the documents gives the impression that anyone who expressed concern over the plight of Sikhs in India was immediately labelled an extremist by the UK government.

·      The papers show several examples of government pressure on the media to deny Sikhs a voice.

·      This use of pejorative language to smear a religious minority (referred to earlier) is underlined by Lord Singh’s personal experience. In November 84, two Scotland Yard officers visited him early on a Sunday morning. They said they were concerned about tensions in the Sikh community and asked Lord Singh if he was ‘an extremist or a moderate’? To emphasise the absurdity of such terms he replied he was ‘extremely moderate’. They then asked if he supported Sikh fundamentalism, to which he replied that the fundamentals of Sikh teachings were about the equality of all human beings, respect for other ways of life and a commitment to work for the betterment of society, ‘Yes I do try to be a Sikh fundamentalist’.

ACTION DESIRED

The present government cannot be blamed for what happened 30 years ago. But the Cabinet in 1984 must have been aware that the day chosen for the attack on the Golden Temple was the martyrdom anniversary of Guru Arjan, (the founder of the Golden Temple) when the huge Temple complex was full to overflowing with innocent pilgrims. The reason given was to remove supposed extremists. The unanswered question is why then were 40 other gurdwaras in Punjab attacked at the same time? Today the UK government should reflect on the continuing hurt of the Sikh community, including the then government giving unthinking support to the cruel and vindictive Mrs Gandhi. To many outside the Sikh community, the events of 1984 are, in the words of the poet, ’dying embers’; to Sikhs they remain ‘red hot coals’ now fanned afresh by the revelation of British government involvement.

The events of 1984 damaged the previous close relationship and mutual respect between the Hindu and Sikh communities. 30 years after the event it is time for an open, independent inquiry that that punishes the guilty and leads to healing and closure.

Two of the three main political parties in India have openly declared their support for such an inquiry, and even Raul Gandhi speaking for the Congress has agreed that there was Congress involvement in the genocide.

Sikhs in the UK call on the government and UK political parties to give their strong backing for a long due open inquiry. In response to a question from Paul Uppal MP, in the Commons, the Foreign Secretary obliquely supported the need for such an inquiry; it should now be given support at the highest government level.

Sikhs are duty bound to stand up for the human rights of all people (Sarbat Da Bhalla), and in this spirit we call on the UK government to show that the subordination of human rights to arms sales to any part of the world is no longer present policy. If the UK government does not do this it forfeits any moral right to lecture other countries on the abuse of human rights.

All Sikh Organisations that attended the Foreign Office briefing showed heartening unanimity in their statements. If we can maintain this unity, we have a real chance in meeting our common objective of an open independent inquiry into the holocaust of Sikhs in 1984.

 
                             ———————————————————
 [Ends]
 
Notes to Editors.
1.      The Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO) is a registered charity that links more than 130 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

London: (02 Feb 2014)

In a recent rally in India Rahul Gandhi was reported to say some congress politicians ‘were probably involved’ in the Delhi anti-Sikh pogroms in 1984.

Asked to comment by the Times of India Lord Singh said:

“I welcome Rahul Gandhi’s statement accepting that that ‘some Congressmen were probably involved’ in the November 84 genocide of Sikhs. He also agrees that the attacks on Sikhs were unwarranted and evil. In view of this will Rahul Gandhi institute an open inquiry as to why no action was taken against a spokesman on All India Radio repeatedly called for the killing of Sikhs with the words ‘khoon ka badla khoon’? Similar incitement in Rwanda led to a lengthy imprisonment by the International Criminal Court.”

He added: “In view of the need to improve relations between the Hindu and Sikh communities, will Mr. Gandhi agree to an open and independent Truth and Reconciliation Inquiry into the events of 1984 that moves to punish those responsible for violence on either side so that we can move to closure on this unfortunate period in Indian History?”

 [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 
www.nsouk.co.uk

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

JOINT STATEMENT BY THE NETWORK OF SIKH ORGANISATIONS,THE HINDU COUNCIL(UK) & THE SIKH MEDIA MONITORING GROUP(UK)

PRESS RELEASE

UK Sikh and Hindu organisations condemn recent comments by MP on sexual grooming in Rochdale and denials by the local Police force on the pattern of abuse.

London: (18th of December 2013) The Network of Sikh Organisations,The Hindu Council UK and The Sikh Media Monitoring Group (UK) jointly condemn recent comments by Labour Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk that certain ‘Asian’ communities are in denial after a spate of sexual grooming cases in Rochdale and also condemn Greater Manchester Police’s denial of an obvious pattern of abuse.

Joint groups of Sikh and Hindu organisations in recent years have campaigned against the use of the blanket term ‘Asian’ when reporting on several high profile court cases recently involving sex grooming gangs of mainly Pakistani origin – which many felt unfairly smeared Britain’s Sikhs and Hindus (see below link):

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-18092605

These same gangs have also targeted Sikh and Hindu girls in the UK and this was the subject of a recent BBC documentary (see below link):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7hXTM7ehvtk

Mr Danczuk’s failure in highlighting that it was gangs from the Pakistani-Muslim community that were responsible for such abuse must be condemned in light of the fact that no Sikhs and Hindus were ever involved. This has caused outrage within the UK’s Sikh and Hindu communities, many of whom interpret this as either political correctness or incompetence and has led to an online petition to be set up in protest (PLEASE SIGN PETITION):  

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/we-the-undersigned-demand-that-politicians

Equally as disappointing was the denial by Greater Manchester Police of a pattern of abuse of white girls being targeted by local Pakistani-Muslim gangs – despite similar patterns emerging after high – profile convictions in several UK towns and cities in recent years.

We welcome the forthcoming inquiry in the New Year chaired by Labour Stockport MP Ann Coffey to assess improvements in protecting young people since the Rochdale case. However, we feel it will be doomed to failure if high profile figures are either inaccurate or in denial in recognising the root causes of an undeniable pattern of sexual abuse emerging throughout the country.

The Network Of Sikh Organisations

http://nsouk.co.uk/

The Hindu Council UK

http://www.hinducounciluk.org/

The Sikh Media Monitoring Group (UK)

Appendices:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/10507023/Asian-communities-in-denial-about-grooming-says-Rochdale-MP.html

http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/local-news/mp-rochdale-simon-danczuk-made-6402120

For more information please contact:

 Mr Ashish Joshi

Sikh Media Monitoring Group (UK)

Tel:07917 633186

London: (17thof Dec 2013) In a debate last week led by Lord Dubs, Peers gave their views on plans to change laws in favor of “assisted dying”. The Assisted Dying Bill was tabled by Lord Falconer, it had it’s first reading earlier this year, it will go to a second reading in 2014. The Director of the Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO), Lord Singh of Wimbledon added a Sikh perspective to last weeks debate, stressing the importance to ‘accept that life is a gift from god’ whilst highlighting the ‘Sikh teachings of compassion, dignity and care for the suffering’. Please see full text of speech:

My Lords, this debate takes us into new ethical territory with complex medical, legal and emotional implications. Rational discussion is made more difficult by a polarisation of attitudes and opinions. I saw something of this about 12 months ago when I attended a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Assisted Dying. I raised some concerns and was made to feel that there was something wrong with my thinking if I could not immediately see the open-and-shut case for changing the existing law. I am also too aware of the opposite arguments, couched in religious terms, that life is a gift from God and we should never, ever, even think of curtailing it.

I served for some years as a member of the BMA Medical Ethics Committee and am well aware of major changes in society and bewildering advances in science and medicine that require us to constantly look anew at previously accepted views and attitudes. Sikhs accept that life is a gift of God to be cherished and preserved wherever possible, but we are also required to bear in mind the important Sikh teaching of compassion, dignity and care for the suffering. These two considerations are not necessarily incompatible. However, I am unhappy about a narrow focusing on individual autonomy to justify attitudes that clearly affect others. We have seen some of this today. We constantly hear the argument that we are all individuals and that our happiness and needs are all-important to the exclusion of our responsibility to others. I believe that this over-focusing on self, on me and my, is responsible for many of the ills in society today. For example, we are all aware that religious teachings suggest that marriage is a committed partnership for mutual care and support and for ensuring that children grow up as responsible adults.

What I believe to be a short-sighted contemporary social attitude encourages us to believe that it is okay to look exclusively at our rights, without consideration of the effect on others. This focusing on individual needs rather than on the family as a whole is, at least in part, responsible for the growing increase in dysfunctional families, with children frequently ending up in what we euphemistically call care, or with them mirroring the narrow thinking of their parents. A person’s decision to end their own life has an effect on friends and, importantly, on the message it can give to wider society of trivialising life. We all have wider responsibilities in all that we do.

I shall pull together these different threads in rational and compassionate decision-making to arrive at the way forward. First, we should always respect the gift of life and question the concept of autonomy. Secondly, there are times when those in ill health feel that life is not really worth living but, within a short time, they often feel that it is not really that bad. It is worse for those who find themselves with severe disabilities but, as the Paralympics showed, despite such disabilities, it is often possible to live a meaningful life. Relatives and carers sometimes find looking after someone onerous, and they can inadvertently make their feelings known to those they are caring for, making them feel an unnecessary burden. Sadly, there are others who may have more mercenary motives. A seemingly hopeless situation today may not always remain so. Huge strides are constantly being made in combating previously incurable diseases, as well as in palliative care.

In summary, while we should always be on our guard against the notion of individual autonomy trivialising life, we need to recognise that, from an individual’s perspective, life can become pretty intolerable and there is an argument for helping to end it in strictly controlled circumstances. The danger is that, if we go down this path, it could itself be a slippery slope to trivialising life, altering the very ethos on which medical care is provided. I feel, on balance, that we should leave the law as it is.

Baroness Morris of Bolton, Lord Taverne, Lord Alton of Liverpool, Baroness Warnock and Baroness Hayman and other Peers contributed to the controversial debate. Last month, three of Britain’s most senior legal authorities including Baroness Butler-Sloss, said relaxing the law on assisted suicide would amount to asking Parliament to write a “blank cheque” for euthanasia.

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

London: (07thof Dec 2013) The Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO) has written to the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (HMDT) suggesting the inclusion of both the Sikh (1984) and Tamil (2009) genocides, on Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) on the 27th of January 2014.

In an unprecedented move the NSO wrote:

‘The list of major atrocities following the Holocaust against the Jewish people is rather selective Notable omissions are the organised mass killing of more than 100,000 Sikhs throughout India in 1984 and the more recent killing of more than 40,000 Tamils by government forces in Sri Lanka.

It’s important that we are seen to be even-handed in reminding ourselves that even those with whom we have trade and political links can carry genocide out anywhere.

The 27th of January marks the liberation of the largest Nazi concentration camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau. The millions of people killed by the Nazi’s and the subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur will be remembered, whilst survivors of these hate filled regimes honored.

The NSO earnestly hopes the list will be amended in future years, adding both Sikh and Tamil genocides.

Hardeep Singh
Press Secretary
The Network of Sikh Organisations

London: (1st of Dec 2013) Lord Singh the Director of the Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO) was invited to give a talk on the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak at the High Commission of India earlier this week. In his speech and notably his first visit to the Indian High Commission since 1984, Lord Singh reminds the Indian Government about the carnage of 1984, calling for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Please see full text of speech:

Your Excellency, Friends.

It’s a real pleasure to be given this opportunity to talk about the life of Guru Nanak, an enlightened a visionary whose teachings offer uplifting guidance to all of us today, in the UK, India and the wider world.

Guru Nanak, who lived in the 15th century was deeply concerned that people at the time were ignoring the many ethical teachings our different religions hold in common, and instead focussing on supposed differences and divisions. It was against this background that the Guru in his very first sermon said

‘Na koi Hindu na koi Mussalman’; that is in God’s eyes there is neither Hindu nor Muslim, and by today’s extension, neither Christian, Sikh nor Jew. That the one God of us all is not interested in our different religious labels but in what we do to bring peace, justice and harmony to our fellow beings.

Guru Nanak travelled widely, with a Hindu and a Muslim companion, emphasising common ethical imperatives in our different faiths, while criticising superstition and divisive practices that attach themselves to, and take us away from true teachings of responsible living and care for our fellow beings.

More than 500 years ago, he emphasise the complete equality of all human beings, laying great stress to the dignity and full equality of women; something still not accepted by many societies today. The Guru repeatedly taught the importance of respect for all beliefs.  One of Guru Nanak’s successors, Guru Arjan, our 5th Guru underlined this respect for other faiths by inviting a Muslim saint Mia Mir to lay the foundation stone of the Darbar Sahib or Golden Temple. He also included verses of other faiths which parallel Sikh teachings in our holy scriptures the Guru Granth Sahib. The following lines by the Muslim poet Kabir for example, resonates with Sikh teachings on equality. Kabir writes:‘

The same one Divine light permeates all Creation. Why should we then divide people into the High and the low?

Guru Nanak reminded us and society today needs reminding, of the importance of responsible and balanced living. He taught that we should always live by three golden rules. These are Naam japna or reflecting on ethical teachings of right wrong and responsibility to give us a focus on daily living, kirt karna or earning by honest effort and thirdly and most importantly, wand chakhna or sharing with others, not only earnings, but also, increasingly important today, out time to help others. This Seva or looking to others is a common feature of our different religious teachings.

Guru Nanak’s teachings were widely welcomed by all communities and when he died, it was said of him:

Nanak Shah Fakir

Hindu ka Guru ; Mussalman ka Pir.

That is, he was regarded as a great religious leader by both Hindus and Muslims.

Guru Nanak’s never claimed any unique relationship with God or a monopoly of truth. He welcomed and rejoiced in parallel insights into the same truths, found in different religions, constantly stressing respect for our different faiths, and reminding us that we all need to work together, focussing on ethical values of right, wrong and responsibility in our common quest for a fairer and more peaceful society.

Friends, Sikhs perhaps more than others love celebrating important days in our history, but such celebrations are of little use unless we use them to re-charge our spiritual and moral batteries to help us live true to the values and truths we celebrate.

As we celebrate this year’s anniversary of Guru Nanak’s birth, it is important to remember that a central thrust of his teachings was to promote love and understanding between different religions. It therefore pains me to see how since partition, Hindus and Sikhs have grown apart from the days when our communities were so close that many Hindu parents would bring one of their children up as a Sikh.  Sadly the two communities grew further apart following the attack on the Golden Temple and the widespread killing of Sikhs throughout India in 1984.

Friends, next year sees the 30th anniversary of that terrible period in our recent history. I will be frank. My fear is some in the Sikh community, and others in the wider community, will use the anniversary to perpetuate anger and suspicion. This will not help anyone. My hope is that all in positions of political or religious power take the wind out of the sails of such people, by openly and objectively looking at and learning from the lessons of the past in building bridges of love and understanding between followers of our sister faiths as taught by Guru Nanak.

My plea is that next year’s anniversary be seen as an opportunity to establish some sort of Truth and Reconciliation Commission that brings to justice those responsible for criminal behaviour on either side, while at the same time, highlighting the much larger, largely unrecognised role of those who stood up bravely against the killings, sheltering and shielding Sikh neighbours. I firmly believe that a long overdue initiative on these lines will heal wounds, bring closure and make incredible India even more incredible. I will be happy to elaborate on anything I’ve said. Thank you for listening to me.

[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

London: (23nd of Nov 2013) In a debate in the House of Lords earlier this week, Lord Singh, the Director of The Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO) talked of the importance in acknowledging and condemning all human rights violations, including those involving foreign friendly states. In his speech, Lord Singh said he hoped Her Majesty’s Government ‘will take the lead in working for a world in which principle always transcends the interests of trade and power-bloc politics.’ Please see full text of speech:

‘My Lords, I am grateful to my friend, the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for securing this important debate. Manipulation of religious sentiment to persecute those of other faiths is a sad feature of human rights abuse in much of the world. I would like to take this opportunity to give a Sikh perspective on possible ways to a fairer and more tolerant society.

When we talk of human rights abuse, we immediately think of countries such as Syria, North Korea and Iran. We rightly condemn their abuses of human rights, but we look more benignly at countries with which we have close political alliances or trade links—as the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, perceptively observed. As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby reminded us, we should look to the mote in our own eye. If we were consistent, the UN report of a government massacre of some 40,000 men, women and children from Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority and evidence of continuing human rights abuses would have led to that country’s immediate suspension from the Commonwealth pending an investigation.

I will give another example of this less than even-handed approach to human rights. Next year sees the 30th anniversary of the Indian army attack on the Sikh Golden Temple in Amritsar and the subsequent massacre of tens of thousands of Sikhs throughout India. An independent inquiry headed by a former Chief Justice of India found overwhelming evidence of top Congress Party involvement. Yet our Government’s response to this attack on a minority faith was total silence. When I raised the matter with a then Cabinet Minister, I received the reply, “Indarjit, we know exactly what’s going on, but we are walking on a tightrope. We have already lost one important contract”. He was referring to the Westland helicopter contract.

We rightly condemn the use of sarin gas in Syria but were silent over America’s use of Agent Orange in Vietnam—which, even today, is causing horrendous birth defects half a century after its use. The same country’s use of drones to fly over sovereign territory to kill and maim those it does not like and, in the process, kill many innocent civilians sets a dangerous precedent.

I have spoken about our country’s selective approach to human rights only as an example. Other world powers, including India, China, the USA and Russia, behave in exactly the same way, making any co-ordinated approach on human rights virtually impossible. It was the great human rights activist Andrei Sakharov who said that there will be little progress in our universal yearning for peace and justice unless we are even-handed in our approach to human rights.

My hope is that Her Majesty’s Government will take the lead in working for a world in which principle always transcends the interests of trade and power-bloc politics. I firmly believe that our country is best placed to give a lead in this wider view of human rights.’

 [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.
2.      NSO231113
Hardeep Singh
Press Secretary
The Network of Sikh Organisations
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