Where Unity Is Strength
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(religion is already adequately recorded in the census)

Peers debated the contents of draft Census (England and Wales) Order 2020 in the Lords earlier this week. The flawed Sikh ‘ethnic’ tick box argument was raised following a debate in the Commons last week in which Labour party politicians briefed by the Sikh Federation UK (SFUK) cited questionable statistics.

Our Director, Lord Singh who has been a prominent opponent of the SFUK’s tick box campaign told peers about the misunderstanding of the Mandla case from the 1980’s which SFUK rely upon and for which he was expert witness.

He said, ‘The law then protected ethnicity, but not religion, against discrimination. The Law Lords ruled that as most Sikhs in the UK then were born in Punjab and had Punjabi ethnicity, Sikhs were also entitled to protection. The criteria of birth and origin would not be met today, as most Sikhs are born in the UK, nor is such a convoluted protection necessary. The Equality Act 2010 gives full protection to religion.’

He went on, ‘The politically motivated federation falsely claims mass support, with questionable statistics. The ethnicity argument was discussed at the large gurdwara in Hounslow, in front of ONS officials, and was firmly rejected, yet the federation includes Hounslow among its supporters. Many Sikhs and people of other faiths are appalled at the way in which some politicians, anxious for votes, are willing to trample on the religious sensitivities of others and accept as fact the absurdities of those who shout the loudest. I urge that we look to what the different religious groups actually do for the well-being of their followers and wider society.’

Supporting Lord Singh’s position on the issue, Former Bishop of Oxford and crossbench peer Lord Harries of Pentregarth, said: ‘I believe that ​Sikhism is a great and very distinguished world religion. I do not think there should be any blurring of that fact and I worry that putting this in the ethnic minority category will somehow diminish what Sikhism has to offer as a world religion.’

Once the Order has been approved, Census Regulations will be laid before Parliament. According to the House of Commons Library, ‘the ONS aims to publish an initial set of census reports one year after it has taken place, and to make all outputs available within two years.’

We hope the British Sikh community can now move on from this debate and focus on the uplifting teachings of our global world religion, and all it has to offer today’s fractured society.

Why we should seriously consider the temporary closing of normal gatherings in gurdwaras to prevent the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19)

We have been followed the evolving government guidance on the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic closely and are aware of guidelines being disseminated by other Sikh organisations in response to it.[i] Many gurdwaras have already taken steps to curtail or completely stop services.

Although it’s not an easy decision to make, following discussion with medical professionals some of whom are at the frontline of tackling the disease, we have concluded UK gurdwaras should seriously consider temporary closure of normal gatherings to prevent transmission of Covid-19.

The reason we have come to this conclusion are as follows:

  • Public Health England have advised that those who are at increased risk of severe illness include those over 70 (without underlying disease) or those over 70 with comorbidities.[ii] Many of those who regularly frequent gurdwaras are over 70, and many of them are likely to have comorbidities like diabetes or heart disease.
  • During services in the gurdwara the congregation normally sit near each other. Public Health England have issued guidelines around social distancing and advise to, ‘avoid large gatherings, and gatherings in smaller public spaces such as cinemas, restaurants and theatres.’[iii] Gurdwaras carry similar risks, especially large gatherings like the Anand Karaj (Sikh wedding ceremony).
  • Although recommendations on hand washing for 20 seconds with soap and respiratory hygiene[iv] have been issued, there remains a risk of transmission during the preparation and serving of langar (free kitchen).
  • As many Sikhs live in extended families, if someone were to pick up the virus from a gurdwara setting, there is a risk they could become a ‘super-spreader’ and Covid-19 could be transmitted to different generations in the same family, including the most vulnerable.

IMPORTANT

We have a wonderful religion and it would be useful if we devote some of the time that we and our children would normally spend in visiting the gurdwara, on reflecting on the Gurus’ teachings through studying Gurbani at home with our children, and through listening to, or watching Sikh religious programmes on radio, TV and the internet. Focusing on the teachings of Gurbani will help to carry us through these difficult times.

[ENDS]

Contact us: info@nsouk.co.uk

 [i] http://www.citysikhs.org.uk/2020/03/coronavirus-covid-19-update-for-gurdwaras-united-kingdom/

[ii] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-on-social-distancing-and-for-vulnerable-people/guidance-on-social-distancing-for-everyone-in-the-uk-and-protecting-older-people-and-vulnerable-adults

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Ibid.

It is no secret our relationship with the Sikh Federation UK (SFUK) has been difficult over the years, especially considering our opposition to their ‘ethnic’ tick box campaign. The SFUK has previously described our Director as ‘an 85-year old dinosaur’,[i] brought the Sikh community into disrepute with a ‘karma’ tweet following the death of Sir Jeremy Heywood,[ii] and falsely claimed that a gurdwara which rejected their ‘ethnic’ tick box argument, had written in support of the APPG’s (their) campaign.[iii]

We point to another issue which requires urgent investigation. In response to evidence we submitted to the Scottish government[iv] the APPG on UK Sikhs issued a statement, which was also later published by the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee, in which they write:

‘Some MPs may have received a briefing last week titled “Why Sikhs should not have a Sikh ethnic tick box and are not a distinct ethnic group” from the Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO) headed by cross-bencher Lord Singh. Disappointingly the NSO briefing is biased, misleading and includes matters that are totally irrelevant to the issue at hand.

The NSO and its head have shockingly described MPs on all sides backing the Sikh community in this campaign as “naïve” and “bewildered”. This sort of language is hugely discourteous to hundreds of elected MPs who have had letters from constituents in support of this campaign and in many cases discussed this issue locally at Gurdwaras on many occasions and with individual Sikh constituents.’

The SFUK issued a press release on 19 February 2020, titled: ‘Conservative MPs issue briefing on Sikh ethnic tick box and rebuke biased and misleading note from Network of Sikh Organisations’, (attaching the APPG statement).

Contrary to what is written, we did not use the word ‘bewildered’ so it’s odd that this has been included. However, more significantly still, the introduction to the APPG document appears to have been agreed in principle with three newly elected Conservative MPs.

We wrote to all three MPs, when we first heard about the briefing and the related Indian press coverage which cited them,[v] when the latter was publicised alongside their images on Twitter by the SFUK on 16 February 2020. We indicated they appear to be a signatory to, or at the very least in agreement with the contents of the document whose introduction we have cited above.

We asked them if they were aware of the document and or the related Indian press coverage.

One of the three got back to us and said they were not aware they had signed anything, nor had they read the coverage, which was published in Punjabi in the Daily Ajit publication in any case (and would have required translation) – adding:

‘I’m happy to consult my constituents on this issue rather than take a particular view myself.’

This response not only indicates an open mind on the census issue, but makes it clear they are not party to the SFUK/APPG position on the census.

We believe it is difficult in the circumstances, to then imagine the same MP support a briefing which attacks our charity and is egregiously partisan.

We have written to Preet Gill MP the Chair of the APPG, and the SFUK (the APPG secretariat) to ask them to confirm as a matter of urgency if the MPs whose names have been included at the bottom of the briefing published by the Scottish government provided their express authority to do so.

We believe the Sikh community requires an explanation and will be reporting the matter to the Conservative party to investigate further. At the time of writing we are yet to hear back from either Preet Gill MP or the SFUK, but we are willing to publish their response if we receive it.

[Ends]

[i] https://twitter.com/SikhMessenger/status/1234886709529190403

[ii] https://twitter.com/SikhMessenger/status/1234885755580952576

[iii] http://nsouk.co.uk/why-we-need-the-appg-for-british-sikhs-to-be-transparent-with-their-ethnicity-campaign/

[iv] https://www.parliament.scot/S5_European/General%20Documents/20200131_NetworkOfSikhOrgs.pdf

[v] https://twitter.com/SikhFedUK?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor

Sikh prison chaplains at the residential training event at the Prison Service College

Our charity is proud to be run the Sikh Prison Chaplaincy Service and we provide both spiritual and pastoral care for all Sikhs in prison in the United Kingdom.

One of the areas in which we’d like to see more emphasis is in prison chaplaincy initiatives to help reduce reoffending rates. It’s a no brainer that if we can keep Sikhs who’ve been in prison, out of prison – that can only be for the betterment of the community, and wider society at large. Of course, once ex-offenders are out, there must also be opportunity to encourage them back into work, motivate them to contribute positively to their community and reengage with broader society as responsible citizens. Indeed, we believe gurdwaras, not just the National Probation Service or multiagency management have an important role to play in this regard.

In a House of Lords debate on prisons and radicalisation, our Director Lord Singh of Wimbledon highlighted the importance of reducing reoffending and our desire to reduce this for Sikhs.

He said: ‘I declare my interest as director of the Sikh Prison Chaplaincy Service. Does the Minister agree that chaplains must be at the forefront of any move to tackle radicalisation in prisons? To do this, they have to place dated social and political norms embedded in religious texts in the context of today’s times.’

He went on: ‘Will the Minister agree to meet me to discuss Sikh chaplaincy initiatives to do this and reduce reoffending rates, and how this experience might possibly be used to the benefit of other faiths?’

The NSO believes that a measure of the success of a positive, effective and engaged prison chaplaincy service must surely be a reduction in reoffending rates.

We will be following up to discuss this with the government and believe this aim should extend to prison chaplaincy services for all faiths and none.

 

The above image of the Mayor of London being greeted at Sri Guru Singh Sabha Southall with the backdrop of the martyrdom of the Chote Sahibzade (sons of Guru Gobind Singh) could be deemed ‘Islamophobic’ by the APPG on British Muslims definition of Islamophobia – a definition City Hall has adopted.

In a recent House of Lords debate the APPG Islamophobia definition which was previously rejected by the government was again discussed. Our Director Lord Singh, responded:

‘My Lords, emotive definitions such as Islamophobia are simply constraints on freedom of speech. A phobia is a fear, and the best way to combat irrational fear or prejudice suffered by all religions and beliefs is through healthy, open discussion. Will the Minister endorse the commitment given last week by Heather Wheeler, Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, to protect all religions and beliefs without fear or favour?’[i]

The Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO) is committed to parity in all areas of policy for all faiths and communities. In a recent debate on anti-Semitism Lord Singh made this very point when he said:

‘My Lords, anti-Semitism is evil and should be combated in every possible way, but will the Minister make it clear that the Government are equally committed to tackling hate crimes against all communities, even those of non-Abrahamic faiths?’[ii]

Despite the pleas for a level playing field, when it comes to resources and policy around hate crime, we’ve consistently stressed in evidence[iii][iv]to the government our concern about the marginalisation of non-Abrahamic faiths. Sikhs have suffered significantly since 9/11 due to the negative reverberations of Islamism, yet we remain an afterthought and are subsumed within the broader ‘Islamophobia’ debate. We’ve previously referred to the government’s failure in addressing this in both Action Against Hate (2016) and Action Against Hate ‘refresh’ (2018) – the government’s four-year hate crime action plan.

Current legislation is enough to protect all faiths from crimes motivated by hatred. We believe the Equalities Act 2010 provides equal protection under law for all racial and religious groups, and those pushing for special definitions like ‘Islamophobia’ an amorphous term – aim to push the boundaries of ‘hate’ to beyond anti-Muslim prejudice, to any discussion of inconvenient aspects of religion and doctrine – which we must all be free to discuss without fear of prosecution or arrest. The same applies to use of the word ‘anti-Semitism’ when it is used to deliberately shut down legitimate discussion about Israel.

Remarkably, we were the only Sikh organisation who realised that under proposals put forward by the APPG, merely discussing aspects of Sikh history (like the martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur) could be deemed ‘Islamophobic’ equated to ‘racism’, and quite possibly criminalised.[v] This in turn would cause immediate problems for our gurdwaras who have pictures of shaheeds or martyrs hanging on their walls. Prominent historians like Tom Holland understood the consequences,[vi] meanwhile some prominent Sikhs ignorantly supported the definition.[vii]

Our Director and Deputy-Director were signatories to an open letter to the then home secretary opposing the APPG definition last year.[viii]  However, despite the government rightly rejecting it, it has since been adopted by many councils across the country, with more looking to do so this year. Like others, we remain concerned that this definition could serve as a backdoor blasphemy law, and maintain that ‘anti-Muslim’, like ‘anti-Sikh’ or ‘anti-Hindu’ hate is much clearer language, and something already protected under existing legislation.

[i] https://hansard.parliament.uk/Lords/2020-02-13/debates/D2C6CF82-DDBD-4AB5-949D-C1205E3AF0A4/Islamophobia#contribution-E1E080CF-4115-4F78-A7DB-DB2C4C2B4715

[ii] https://hansard.parliament.uk/Lords/2020-02-11/debates/B70471E8-75CF-414D-805A-A6A1DD1A9081/HateCrimeAnti-Semitism#contribution-E106490B-FC08-4D47-B595-3A2BE62A5909

[iii] http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/home-affairs-committee/hate-crime-and-its-violent-consequences/written/77518.html

[iv]  http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/home-affairs-committee/hate-crime-and-its-violent-consequences/written/45945.html

[v] ‘claims of Muslims spreading Islam by the sword or subjugating minority groups under their rule’ would be deemed ‘Islamophobic’ by Islamophobia Defined.

[vi] https://twitter.com/holland_tom/status/1128756384537956352?lang=en

[vii] https://www.islamophobia-definition.com/

[viii] http://www.civitas.org.uk/content/files/islamophobiaopenletter.pdf

Gurdwara Janam Asthan, Nankana Sahib, Pakistan

As Sikhs, we should recognise that those in power and authority often abuse human rights to perpetuate their authority, and see the egalitarian teachings of Sikhism with their emphasis on human rights and freedom of belief as a threat.

This was the situation in India at the time of our Gurus who incurred the active hostility of both the Mughals and the Hindu Hill Rajas. Today, the governments of India and Pakistan, while viewing Sikh teachings as a threat to Muslim or Hindu domination, are both playing on the supposed naivete of Sikhs to strengthen their positions in sub-continent rivalry. We have seen this in the overtures to Sikhs in the construction of the Kartarpur Corridor for Sikh pilgrims to Sikh heritage sites in Pakistan, and the widespread participation of the Indian government in the celebration of Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary in India and many countries abroad.

Sikhs are not that naïve. India has waxed indignant about some stones thrown at the gurdwara in Nankana Sahib following an incident in which a Sikh girl apparently chose to marry a Muslim boy. Indian newspaper headlines and broadcast news has expressed outrage at the religious bigotry of Muslims, while being totally silent about the more serious destruction of a gurdwara and dozens of Sikh homes by Hindu extremists in Madya Pradesh. The Indian government has maintained a deafening silence over Hindu extremists targeting Sikhs, while actively promoting Hindu extremism in its discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act.

Some Sikhs looking through one eye rail against the government of Pakistan. Some looking through the other eye, condemn the Indian government. The reality is that the governments of both countries are trying to manipulate Sikh sentiment for their own ends and, in the case of India, destroy our independent Sikh identity.

As Sikhs we should recognise the very real difficulties faced by Sikhs on the sub-continent. We cannot match the physical strength of either India or Pakistan, let alone both. But, through diplomacy and skill, along with adherence to our Gurus’ teachings, we can do much to reduce the hostility between India and Pakistan to the advantage of people of both countries, including Sikhs. Both countries are suffering economically in maintaining huge armies against supposed threats from the other. Both countries would gain enormously in the reduction of tension and the creating of a common economic zone. A freer movement of people would help reduce ignorance and prejudice that gives rise to religious bigotry. It is a distant dream, but it is the direction in which our Guru given guidance requires us to go.

Dear Khalsa ji,

Waheguru ji ka Khalsa; Waheguru ji ki Fateh.

As we leave 2019 and enter 2020, it is important that we look closely at the forces and pressures that resonate in the Sikh community and reflect on how these help or hinder us in living true to our Gurus’ teachings.

 

The Challenges

The Sikh religion consist primarily of the teachings of the Sikh Gurus enshrined in the Guru Granth Sahib.

  • Our Gurus experienced several challenges to their leadership from false claimants to the Guruship seeking to use the popularity of Sikh teachings to further their own interests.
  • Guru Gobind Singh was acutely aware that these challenges would continue after him and gave us his far-sighted injunction ‘Guru Manio Granth’. That is that we should shun those who try bend Sikh teachings for their own ends and follow the teachings of the Guru Granth Sahib as we would a living Guru.
  • The Sikh Gurus incorporated writings of Hindu and Muslim saints in the Guru Granth Sahib to emphasise that no religion has a monopoly of truth. In the same way, leading Sikh scholars who compiled the 1945 Sikh Rehat Maryada also accepted the authenticity of some writings, popularly attributed to Guru Gobind Singh found in the misleadingly titled Dasam Granth (a 19th century compendium of mostly amorous exploits of gods and goddesses compiled by a Brahmin called Chiber).

PRIORITIES FOR 2020

As Sikhs we must should heed Guru Gobind Singh’s clear warning about false gurus, and totally reject the siren call of sants and babas, distorting and offering questionable short cuts to the disciplined life taught by the Gurus.

The Sikh community should be on its guard against the increasing threat from ignorant members of such groups, who seek to impose their anti-Sikh agendas on gurdwara sangats. Threats and intimidating behaviour, such as seen earlier at Southall and Hounslow and more recently in Coventry, brings the Sikh community into disrepute and should be reported to the police in the first instance, and the office of the Network of Sikh Organisations via: info@nsouk.co.uk with photos and other relevant evidence.

THE ROLE OF SIKHISM IN 2020 AND BEYOND

The Sikh religion is a strong faith rooted in compassion and commonsense and has nothing to fear from discussion and questioning which can only make its teachings clearer and stronger. Our Gurus were far-sighted human beings who far from claiming special powers, warned us against superstitious beliefs and idle speculation about peripherals of belief.

Our responsibility as Sikhs is to live true to the teachings of our Gurus and make them known to a wider world which in many ways has lost its ethical direction. Many coming across Sikh teachings for the first time applaud its powerful emphasis on the equality of all human beings, gender equality respect for freedom of belief, and our responsibility to work for a just and peaceful society.

The challenge for all Sikhs in 2020 is to look beyond ourselves, and while being true to Sikh teachings, commit ourselves to living these values in serving the wider community. If we can overcome our petty internal divisions by focusing on the actual teachings of our Gurus and live the life they taught, 2020 can be an important year of unity and fulfilment for us all.

Indarjit Singh CBE,

Lord Singh of Wimbledon

Director, Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO) UK

 

Dr Gurdeep Singh and Gurmel Singh Kandola

Gurdwara Guru Har Rai Sahib ji in West Bromwich was less than a third full (perhaps 50-60 people present) on 21 December 2019, when Dr Gurdeep Singh and S Gurmel Singh Kandola, claiming to speak on behalf of  all UK Sikhs, began an extraordinary attack on S Ranjit Singh Dhadrian Wale, Harinder Singh and the Nirvair Khalsa Jatha, demanding they be banned from preaching in all gurdwaras in the UK.

The Sikh religion is a strong faith rooted in compassion and commonsense and has nothing to fear from discussion and questioning. Our Gurus were far-sighted human beings who far from claiming special powers, warned us against superstitious beliefs and idle speculation about peripherals of belief. Our responsibility as Sikhs is to live true to the teachings and make them known to the wider world. We should never follow the practice of other faiths in trying to deify our Gurus. Christians talk of an empty tomb following Christ’s crucifixion, Muslims that Mohammed ascended to heaven on a horse. Such superstition and conjecture are contrary to Sikh teachings.

S Harinder was shown in a video played at the gurdwara trying to make this very point. Unfortunately, he got carried away by his own rhetoric with unnecessary speculation over the circumstances surrounding Guru Nanak’s death rather than keeping to the topic of what happened to Guru Nanak’s body after his death. The correct response would have been to support S Ranjit Singh’s suggestion to ask S Harpreet Singh, Jathedar Akal Takht for his guidance.

Both S Harinder Singh and S Ranjit Singh Dhadrian Wale have done much to emphasise the importance of Sikh teachings and it is wrong for a few self-proclaimed guardians of the Sikh faith to issue un-Sikh like ‘resolutions’ against those that do not conform to their view.

The NSO requests all Sikhs to look to the real issues facing the Khalsa Panth in this 550th year of Guru Nanak’s birth, such as the overt attempt by the RSS/BJP to absorb the Sikh faith into Hinduism, the alarming mushrooming of sants, babas, deras and others to dilute and distort Guru Nanak’s teachings beyond recognition.

 

         2011 census statistics | England and Wales 

        Total census Sikh population:  430,020

No. of Sikhs who identified themselves as Sikhs under ethnicity:  83,362

No. who identified themselves as Sikhs under both religion & ethnicity:  76,500

No. Sikhs who identified themselves under ethnicity only:  6,862

      % Sikhs who do not want to be identified by religion 6,862/430,020: 1.6%*

The 2011 census results show that 98.4% of Sikhs in 2011 were happy to be identified by religion.

Comment:

The above statistics show that the 2011 census accurately reflected the Sikh population. This effectively destroys the Sikh Federation UK’s (SFUK) case of under-representation. Facts and figures however mean nothing to the SFUK anxious to downplay our religious identity and show Sikhs as a tribe or sect needing state protection. Their staggering response is now to suggest without any evidence, that the true population of Sikhs is as much as 800,000.**Nearly twice the census figure, suggesting some 370,000 beings, so-called ‘ethnic Sikhs’ are wandering around refusing to be identified under ethnicity.

Dr Jhutti-Johal an academic from the University of Birmingham supports our position when she concludes, ‘It is difficult to see what additional benefit that data collected through a Sikh ethnic tick box would bring. ONS research has already suggested that the existing Sikh religion tick will capture virtually all Sikhs in the UK.’[i]

Whist previously boasting that Sikhs lead other communities in home ownership, in a classic example of double-think SFUK have since claimed Sikhs face discrimination in housing.[ii] They contradict themselves. In the 2016 UK Sikh Survey, The Sikh Network (their sister organisation) suggested, ‘92% of Sikhs are owner occupiers the highest for any group in the UK’.[iii]The 2014 British Sikh Report made a similar point, ‘In terms of wealth and assets, home ownership is very high amongst British Sikhs with 87% of households owning at least a portion of their home’.[iv] Why the U-turn by SFUK?

Worse still the legal action against the Cabinet Office was brought by the Chair of the SFUK, namely Amrik Singh Gill (on behalf of SFUK), the owner of apparently more than 100 properties, who was recently described as a ‘rogue landlord’ and fined more than £50,000 for housing tenants in overcrowded and substandard conditions.[v] We have asked the SFUK to confirm or deny if their Chair Amrik Singh Gill was the subject of the fine and gave them an opportunity to comment on the decision, we did not hear back from them. The phrase, ‘physician heal thyself’ comes to mind.

The SFUK are now seeking permission to appeal the High Court decision against them,[vi] with Gill as the appellant on behalf of the SFUK.[vii] Neither Gill nor, the SFUK represent the view of the majority of British Sikhs who are content with describing themselves as Sikhs by religion in the census.

All Sikh organisations urgently need to make clear that the ‘rogue’ Sikh Federation UK in no way speaks for British Sikhs.

*https://bit.ly/36M335J

**https://www.leighday.co.uk/Sikh-Federation-UK-to-seek-permission-to-appeal

[i] https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/research/perspective/sikh-ethnic-tick-box-ons-assesses-evidence.aspx

[ii] https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/campaign-to-include-sikhs-as-ethnic-group-in-census-reaches-high-court-a4285236.html

[iii] http://www.thesikhnetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/UK-Sikh-Survey-2016-Findings-FINAL.pdf

[iv] http://www.britishsikhreport.org/british-sikh-report-download-2014/

[v] https://news.derby.gov.uk/rogue-landlord-fined-over-50000/

[vi] https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2019/3407.html

[vii] https://www.leighday.co.uk/Sikh-Federation-UK-to-seek-permission-to-appeal

‘Sikhs should be wary of Hinduism’s capacity to act like ‘the boa constrictor of the Indian forests’ in absorbing other faiths and beliefs.’

Max Arthur Macauliffe

India’s boast of being a secular democracy exposed as hollow

On 10th November 2019 India’s Supreme court issued a seriously flawed and politically motivated judgment granting ownership of the disputed Ayodhya Babri Masjid site to the Hindu community.

In a lengthy, judgement, the court accepted that the demolition of the mosque in 1992 had been illegal, as was the surreptitious placing of Hindu idols in the mosque in 1949 claiming that they had ‘just miraculously appeared’ and were a proof that the mosque had been built on the site of the birthplace of the Hindu god Ram. Instead, the Supreme Court anxious to implicate Sikhs in their narrative, relied heavily on fake history of the Sikh Gurus, asserting that they were Hindus and pejoratively referring to Sikhism, the 5th largest world religion as a ‘cult’, it went on to conclude that the site should go to the Hindu community.

The timing

  • The Supreme Court judgment was given on eve of the 550th anniversary of the birth of Guru Nanak and the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor from India to the Guru’s birthplace in Pakistan. The gurdwara at Katarpur Sahib and the surrounding area had been generously renovated by the Pakistan government.
  • The growing friendship between Sikhs and Muslims was seen as a threat to the BJP’s avowed aim of turning India into a Hindu State, by absorption of Sikhs into Hinduism and subduing of other minorities. Mr Modi decided to use a compliant Supreme Court to try to create suspicion and distrust between Sikhs and Muslims while at the same time relegating members of Sikhs to the status of a Hindu ‘cult’.

Absurd and biased arguments used by the Supreme Court

Fake history

  • False assertion that Guru Nanak and other Sikh Gurus made pilgrimages to Ayodhya because they were Hindus and it was an important Hindu holy site.
  • God appeared to Guru Nanak and ordered him to go to Ayodhya.

Facts

  • No historical evidence was produced to show the site was of historical importance to Hindus.
  • Guru Nanak argued against the practice of going on pilgrimages.
  • Guru Nanak rejected the Hindu faith and refused to wear the Hindu sacred thread. He also criticised central aspects of Hindu belief such as the caste system, idol worship, multiplicity of gods and goddesses. Guru Arjan wrote, ‘I am neither a Hindu, nor a Mussalman.’
  • The idea of God appearing to people is contrary to Sikh teachings which state God has no physical form.

Concluding Note

In 1990 Advani, the then president of the BJP rode through India on a truck designed like a chariot to whip up support for the Babri masjid to be converted to a mandir (Hindu temple).

The latest shenanigans of the BJP and their use of the Supreme Court to further their determination to make India a Hindu state are being watched and condemned by a wider world.

We call upon all Sikhs and people of other faiths to condemn the BJP’s attack on religious freedom. In the spirit of Guru Nanak’s teachings, we pledge to oppose all forms of religious bigotry and work for tolerance and respect for people of all faiths and beliefs.

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