Last Sunday, after the London 1984 remembrance march and freedom rally held in Central London. For the me the event is important as it an acts as a testimony to India and the world that the Sikh community is undefeated and still proudly standing, despite attempts of holocausts, genocides, killings and attacks on Sikh ideology and beliefs. On the way back home from the event, I was reflecting on the day. Various thoughts came to my mind. Later in the week, Bhenji Navrup Kaur was sharing her experiences and observations about the event. Both of our observations were similar, so Bhenji requested for me to share some thoughts with the Sangat...
During the Hyde Park speeches, an elderly gentleman with a colourful orange Dastaar and white beard came on the stage. The person was introduced as "Mr. Patel". I thought it was a slightly strange to have a Singh with the name 'Patel'. Anyway, the gentleman began talking and he was speaking Hindi. I thought that was even more strange! Then he introduced himself with the following: "I am a Hindu. I a not a Sikh. However, I respect Sikhs because if it was not for the ninth Guru, Guru Teg Bahadar Ji, and the bravery and sacrifices of the Khalsa, today Hindus would not exist and thousands of our Hindu sisters and mothers would been forcefully taken and sold in Afghanistan and Iraq. For this reason, when I heard that the Indian government attacked Sri Harmandir Sahib in June 1984, I was deeply saddened. How could the Indian government be so ungrateful to the Sikhs? If it had not been for the Sikhs, there would be no India! In response to my Sikh brothers being killed, having their Dastaar direspected, and Kes forcefully cut in India, I decided out of solidarity to my Sikh brothers to stop cutting my hair and wear a Dastaar. It is not just me, but I know lots of other Hindus that stand by with Sikhs and support Khalistan." It was a short but very inspiring speech, and I hope that our brothers and sisters who have Sikh roots but are not yet keeping their Kes or wearing a Dastaar, may be inspired to stand and be counted for in solidarity with our brothers who fell down with bullets in 1984, by keeping their Kes and wearing a Dastaar with pride.
Whilst walking with the march, I noticed a man with cut hair and his head covered with a Rumaal pushing a wheel chair. A young boy wearing a blue Dumallaa (turban), a blue Chola (khalsa dress) and Kirpaan worn over his clothes, was by him. I thought it must be a nephew or someone that he knew. But then the Khalsa child, when speaking with the man, said, "Dad." It put a smile on my face and I thought 'wow.' The Indian State and anti-Sikh forces wished to destroy the Sikh identity and existence, and yet today, despite the middle-aged man who for whatever reason doesn't have Sikh identity, but his next generation are proud Khalsa and living proof of the legacy of the Shaheeds and those who laid their lives down for the sake of Sikhi. That's powerful! This illustrates the Sikh story of defiance, surviving holocausts, and remaining in Chardikala.
But I also noticed a growing trend of men and women wearing Western clothes instead of their traditional Sikh dress, and some dressed as if they were going to soak up the sun on the beach, and others as if they were going for a workout in the gym. The Shaheeds that we are remembering died wearing their cholas and traditional dress, wearing their kirpans with pride over the clothes, and wearing the beards flowing like lions. Anti-Sikh forces despised the identity of the Khalsa, and for them to see a sea of dastaars, men and women adorned in Khalsa dress and wearing their Kirpaans over the clothes with pride, would send a strong message to them that would make them think twice about how successful they have been in the campaign destroy the Khalsa.
Some people complained it was too hot, and had forgotten how hot it must have been in the Sri Harmandir Sahib complex in June 1984 when the army had shut off the electricity and water supply and the Sangat had to endure 40 degrees temperature for all the days the attack continued. It made me think, have we really understood why we are here? Bhenji Navrup Kaur shared that before they left home, she asked her young 7 year old daughter that she can wear a t-shirt instead of Bana (Khalsa dress) because it was going to be hot. Her daughter replied, "No mum, I wish to wear Bana, as we are remembering the Shaheeds."
|Gurleen Kaur and Mansimar Kaur proudly dressed with Dastaars, Kirpaans and Bana last Sunday|
When marching through London I also observed that people who came to attend the remembrance event were entering shops to go shopping, restaurants and cafés to have some lunch, others were enjoying ice-cream, having a laugh with their mates, and taking selfies at tourist site attractions that were on the route of the march. Are we taking this event seriously? Or has it become a day trip and an opportunity to go shopping and site-seeing in Central London for free (using the coach paid by the Sangat or Gurdwara)?
Bhenji Navrup Kaur wrote on her post that she shared on the Internet:
"The day you see or hear me referring to this event as a day out in London, a day to pop into Primark en-route to the event, wearing my western clothes, getting myself a nice coffee and sarnie from Pret, not bothering to go to listen to the speeches or the videos, meet the Sangat, and support and remember this day and all that it stands for... That day is the day my heart would have gone stone cold and my being there will make no difference to the cause."
|Bhai Gurpreet Singh and Bhenji Navrup Kaur with their children last Sunday|