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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

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

Earlier this month (Dec 2013) on BBC Radio 4’s World at One, Simon Danczuk MP for Rochdale said there was “no doubt” ethnicity was a factor in grooming cases. He said “We still need a breakthrough, I think, in terms of the Asian community” Simon Danczuk’s use of the term ‘Asian’ in this context is grossly insulting to the Hindu and Sikh communities.

Those convicted in Simon Danczuk’s constituency for grooming of white British girls in May 2012, included 8 men of Pakistani origin and one from Afghanistan. Judge Gerald Clifton who sentenced the men said they treated the girls as though they were worthless and beyond respect” he added “One of the factors leading to that was the fact that they were not part of your community or religion”

The men were of predominantly Pakistani Muslim origin.

As in Simon Danczuk’s example, by masking the identity of perpetrators by using vague terminology ‘Asian’, we are unable to have a mature discussion or get to the root cause of an emerging pattern of criminality. This is important because…..

· Use of the word ‘Asian’ is unfair to Sikhs, Hindus and other communities who are of Asian origin and have not been involved in the emerging pattern of convictions for sexual grooming.

· 1.1 The reported convictions of men for sexual grooming of white British girls, almost always involve men of Pakistani origin.

· 1.2 There is reluctance by both government and media to discuss the disproportionate representation of Muslims in such cases.

· 1.3 Victims are almost always non-Muslim girls

· 1.4 The Hindu and Sikh communities have been complaining about targeting of their girls by Muslim men for decades

· 1.5 In August 2013, Muslim men were amongst those convicted for the sex grooming of a Sikh girl in Leicester.

· 1.6 Communities who themselves fall victim of this emerging pattern of criminality, should not be besmirched by the vague terminology ‘Asian’.

· 1.7 In order to help find a solution to the problem, we need to be clear on the identity of those involved. We will not be able to do this if we mask the identity based on misguided views of protecting a vulnerable community of perpetrators and not looking at the vulnerable community of victims.

· 1.8 Political correctness by some of our elected representatives is stifling an important debate.

· 1.9 We believe that in this case the government itself is sanctioning the use of term Asian as a way of clouding responsibility.

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

The Network of Sikh Organisations

http://nsouk.co.uk/

Sikh Media Monitoring Group

Hindu Council UK

www.HinduCouncilUK.org

Organ Donation

November 10th, 2013 | Posted by Pritpal in Current Issues - (0 Comments)

We hope you can all please make your family and friends aware of a very important campaign to promote Organ Donation amongst the Punjabi, Asian and Sikh communities.

More than 10,000 people in the UK currently need an organ transplant. 1,000 people die each year (three people a day) because there are not enough organs available.

Organ transplants are much more likely to be successful if the organ donor and the person needing the organ are matched.

Nearly 20% of people requiring an organ transplant are from the Asian community but only around 1% of organ donors each year are Asian.

Sangat TV are showing a series of special Sangat Health shows on this topic every tuesday evening at 8.30pm. These were filmed in conjunction with City hospital in Birmingham and NHS Blood and Transplant

We urge you all to please sign up as an organ donor and very importantly, please let your family know of your wishes.

You can sign up here:
https://www.organdonation.nhs.uk/how_to_become_a_donor/registration/consent.asp?campaign=2271

Further information can be found on the sangat tv website, the sangat health facebook page or the organ donation website.

The sangat health tv shows have started and we hope you will urge your family and friends to watch and register as a donor

 

Here is a brochure for you to download, share and distribute

Organ Donation 2

Organ Donation 1

 

Below is a keynote address by Lord Singh

KEYNOTE ADDRESS

TO TRANSPLANT ALLIANCE FORUM 30-9-13

Lord Singh of Wimbledon CBE, Director Network of Sikh Organisations UK

 

I would like to thank Kirat Modi and Professor Gurch Randhawa, and others who have worked hard to organise this conference, for inviting me to join you to give some personal reflections on challenges and opportunities resulting from rapid advances in medicine. I served for a while on the BMA medical ethics committee and was fascinated by the many new discoveries and the complex ethical challenges that now face us.

Today we are all living longer and bits and pieces of our body breakdown through age or disease but there is hope for repair and renewal through such techniques as organ donation. When we die our organs can be used to help others have a better quality-of-life or even save life. Organ donation and other advances in medical techniques often raise huge ethical questions. Ethical dilemmas in specific areas of medicine themselves change with the quickening pace of new research.

We all know that stem cells taken from embryos can help to grow new body tissue, but there has always been some unease over destroying potential life to help those already living. New developments however show the possibility that a person’s own skin or other tissue might be used by transforming cells into pluripotent stem cells which can be cultivated to form different body organs. To a layman like myself, the pace of change, to borrow a word from my grandchildren, is truly ‘awesome’.  I’m not quite sure how it was done but many of you like me would have been fascinated by a picture in our newspapers last week of a man in China who was made to grow a nose on his forehead which would be eventually transplanted to replace his existing damaged nose.

Coming back to organ transplants, many religions and cultures have reservations about the ethics of removing organs from a dead person to use for transplant purposes. It has to be noted that there are fewer reservations in the same religions and cultures about receiving organs to enhance or save lives. Some religions express concern about such techniques as a xenotransplantation, the removal of an organ of a different life form to repair damaged tissue. The fear, more cultural than religious, that an animal part, like a valve taken from a pig to repair heart damage leaves the person less whole. But most people take a wider view. Very few people for example, would object to vaccination against diseases such as smallpox. Here vaccines have their origin and base in animals, such as puss from cows being used at an early stage to cultivate the smallpox vaccine.

Another reason for a reluctance to donate organs after death is the fear that if a seriously ill person has given consent for organs to be removed after death, doctors might be less concerned in making strenuous efforts to save the life of the potential donor. There are many procedural safeguards against such a possibility and we all have much work to do in making these known to the wider public.

Linked to this is the fear that a loved one might not be really dead when clinically considered so. We sometimes read stories of people suddenly waking up at or on their way to a mortuary. The concern is that doctors may not always be right and we have to address such fears rational or irrational to increase donation.

Religion has a very powerful influence on people with some genuinely believing that the body must be left intact before burial or cremation. I believe that the essence of all religion is that it is better to give than to receive. Unfortunately when it comes to the donation or receipt of organs many take the opposite view and are much happier to receive organs rather than pledge to donate. Black minorities in this country and people here from the subcontinent have a donation rate which is something like a half of that of wider white population,  yet perversely the need for organs in these same communities due to genetic, lifestyle and dietary factors is almost twice as great. An article in this week’s British Medical Journal draws attention to these statistics. It also makes an interesting suggestion that priority for the receipt of a donor organ be given to those who have been on the donor register for three years. It is a suggestion that I strongly endorse.

Sikhs have no religious excuse for not being willing donors. Our 5th Guru Guru wrote’ False is the body which does not do any good to others (p.269) ’. And if we are required to use our whole being to do good to others while we are alive, and we believe that our soul leaves the body on death, there is little excuse for us not donating body parts after we die.

Religious texts in all our different faith were written long before medical advances made it possible for us to help others. But the principle of responsible living contained in Sikh scriptures make our responsibilities very clear.

Let me mention a few more of these in the words of Guru Nanak:

The dead sustain their bonds with the living through virtuous deeds

And again, the true servants of God are those who serve him through helping others.

Despite such clear teachings, there is still a measure of reluctance among some in the community. As with all communities there is what someone described as a yuk factor: a degree of squeamishness at the thought of donating our organs when we can no longer use them.

As with all religious communities there is a degree of ignorance in the Sikh community about the essentials of a background faith in which they were born. It is often taken as a sort of background culture.

Many Sikhs don’t have clear views on the merits of organ donation, but generally the principal of giving and helping others is understood and applauded.

For the record, I have put my own name on the organ donation register so, when God, Scotty or whoever, beams me up, anyone is welcome to my less than perfect bits and pieces. I wish them well. The Network of Sikh Organisations which I head, is doing what it can to promote a wider understanding of the need more donors coming forward from the community and we are getting positive support from the Sikh Doctor’s Association.

Before I go onto to suggest what more Sikhs and others in what is called the Black Asian and Minority Ethnic Communities (I don’t like the term) should or can do, I want to get a personal grumble off my chest. Every day we hear on the Today Programme of exciting new potential cures to all our ailments. It would be helpful if those doing the research would place a measure of the limits of confidence in the eventual success of such developments. Earlier this year we were told that mitochondrial replacement of the damaged battery part of cells would cure many hereditary diseases. More recent research seems to suggest the possibility of the procedure adding its own risk of genetic damage.

Let me end on a positive note of what our different communities can do. Our different gurdwaras, churches and mosques are strategically dotted around the country. They are ideally placed to be centres of action. But sadly there is tremendous inertial and a lack of education in our communities. Central umbrella organisations like the NSO should be sending people to different gurdwaras to inform and enthuse. But we have no resources; no government funding which is made freely available to pie in the sky projects like combatting extremism, or cosmetic ‘be good for a week’ type projects like national interfaith week. To me, true community cohesion and respect between different communities can only come through working together to help alleviate suffering through organ donation, and similar initiatives in other fields. It is through working together in worthwhile projects that benefit society that we begin to realise that that the differences between different faiths are far smaller than that which we have in common. Cohesion based on common respect and responsibility to others is the true way to social cohesion.

Thank you for listening to me.


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