Thursday, December 10, 2015

10 events in 2015 where Sikhs made a mark around the world...

1. 82-year-old Sikh Civil Rights Activist goes on hunger strike
16 January 2015 - Bapu Surat Singh Khalsa began a hunger strike which is still ongoing. He has refused food and now water to seek the release of Sikh political prisoners who have completed their court sentences. Where he is seeking release of Sikh political prisoners, he has also called for unconditional release of prisoners of all religions who have completed their terms. On 11 February 2015, his representatives wrote an open letter to India's Prime Minister explaining the motive of his hunger strike. In his letter, he summed up his demands in two points: (1) Treat all Sikh prisoners –under trials and those sentenced in cases relating to the Sikh struggle- as political prisoners; and (2) Release all prisoners who have completed their full jail terms and are legitimately due for release, exactly in the same manner, as other prisoners are so released in various other parts of the country. Since then he has been arrested on numerous occasions to be forced fed and given life-prolonging drugs. Recently when he was forcefully taken the to hospital by authorities under the influence of drugs and feeling delusional, the authorities released a video of him eating food fed to him by doctors. However, undeterred by this propaganda, Sikhs as well as others are behind Bapu Surat Singh's human rights mission.

2. Brave Sikh man saves visually impaired man who fell onto the subway tracks in Boston
1 May 2015 -  Sikh youth has become a hero in the US after he risked his life to save that of a visually-challenged man who had fallen on a rail track right in the path of a train. Gurteg Singh, 23, had just reached Park Street station to catch a train to his place of work in Boston, when he heard a scream and saw a visually-impaired man tumble on the rail track. CCTV cameras fitted at the railway station captured the entire incident and the video has gone viral on the social media. Even as another man tried to pull up the person from the track, he could not succeed. On seeing this and without losing a moment, Gurteg, who was on the other side of the platform, jumped on the track and pushed the blind man out, threw his luggage on the platform and then ran back to pick up his walking stick.

3. A Sikh in Australia saves a 6-year-old's life using his turban
15 May 2015 - 22-year-old Harman Singh, removed his Dastaar (turban) in order to help a young boy who was bleeding after a car accident near his home. The child was walking from school when he was struck by a car in the road. Daejon Pahia suffered serious head injuries and internal injuries. Harman Singh immediately came to assistant and provided first aid and support to the child and his mother. He prevented Daejon's condition deteriorating by staunching the bleeding from the young boy's head with his turban.

4. The selfless migrant Sikh taxi driver who cooks up 30 kilograms of Indian food after his 12 hour night shift to feed the homeless in Darwin
30 August 2015 - Daily Mail reported that Tejinder Pal Singh, a Sikh migrant taxi who cooks up 30 kilograms of Punjabi meals to feed the homeless after his night shift and is being hailed 'Australian of The Day'.  For the past three years he has dedicated the last Sunday of the month to feeding the poor and needy locals of northern Darwin, using what little money he can save.  Following a gruelling twelve hour night shift, he slaves away in his kitchen for five hours to prepare a veritable feast of chickpeas, rice and vegetarian curry - which he then packs into huge containers and serves as a free lunch with the help of his wife and children.

5. Sikh Charity Langar Aid feeds thousands of war-torn refugees in Iraq and Syria
22 October 2015 -  The Huffington Post UK reported that a Sikh charity is setting up bakeries to feed thousands of hungry refugees in the war-torn regions surrounding Syria and Iraq.  Langar Aid – an extension of the UK-based NGO Khalsa Aid – has provided free bread and water to those fleeing the conflicts from a base in northern Iraq since the start of the year.  It set up a bakery in the Pesh Harbour area around 35km from the Kurdish city of Duhok and 10kms from the Syrian border, which continues to operate today. The idea was borne because fighters from Islamic State (IS) also know as ISIS or ISIL, were destroying food coming in for Yazidi refugees.  Langar is the term used in Sikhism for a common canteen or kitchen where food is served to all visitors for free.

6. Sikh becomes first Cabinet Defence Minister in Canada
4 November 2015 - Canada got its first Sikh Defence Minister, Harjit Singh Sajjan. Sajjan was hailed as a combat veteran who has served in the Canadian Armed Forces in Bosnia and Afghanistan. While Harjit Singh Sajjan was praised for his military awards and honours (he was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for intelligence gathering and curbing Taliban influence in Kandahar), his 'heroic' photos in army fatigues and standing next to Taliban militants became the point of discussion on twitter. According to Twitter Canada, Harjit Singh Sajjan's welcome into the Canadian cabinet was the most retweeted among the 30 ministers inducted in this cabinet. Some Twitterati called him a 'badass' and 'amazingly awesome', while some compared his photo in fatigues to the previous defence ministers dressed in suits. 

7. Sikh teacher wins 2015 Prestigious UK Teacher Of The Year Award
4 November 2015 - Sikh 24 reported that an innovative and talented Sikh teacher from Leicestershire was awarded the title of ‘Teacher of the year 2015’ by HRH the Prince of York at a very special ceremony at Buckingham Palace on the 4th November 2015. Daljit Kaur, a practising Sikh and a Computing Teacher at Loughborough Grammar School was nominated for the award by her students. During the course of the year, TeenTech judges in collaboration with the examination board OCR shortlisted her for the highly prestigious national award and in June she was announced the overall winner. Daljit Kaur won her coveted place in the TeenTech Awards finals through her sheer dedication and determination to bring STEM based innovation and creativity to the classroom. She has worked passionately for a number of years to create an environment whereby her students can thrive and explore their innovative ideas and maximize the potential for the ideas to become a reality. She has been at the forefront of trialing new technologies, apps and software at her school and recently secured a purchase for a programmable humanoid NAO Robot!

8. B.C. Sikh community rallies in support of Syrian refugees 
23 November 2015 - The Globe and Mail reported that the Sikh community in B.C.’s Lower Mainland is rallying to provide support for thousands of incoming Syrian refugees, with offers this week that include food, transportation and even private school for children.  Community organizer Balwant Singh Sanghera, who attended the meeting, said Gurdwaras from Vancouver, Richmond, New Westminster, Abbotsford and Surrey have all agreed to collect food, clothing, blankets and other donations from their congregations. They also plan to launch a province-wide campaign to find free accommodations for the refugees.  Of note, roughly 1,000 of the refugees will be school-aged children. Khalsa School, a private school that teaches Punjabi language and Sikh history and religion on top of the public school curriculum, is offering one year of free education to 1,000 refugee students. (Tuition is usually $150 a month.)

9. A Sikh man from Patna Sahib selflessly serves poor patients in Patna Medical College
9 December 2015 - Zee News reported that Gurmeet Singh, everyday for the past 20 years has been preparing food and then going to Patna Medical College Hospital in Bihar, India, to feed the poor patients that have no relatives or family support. He has a clothes store. Every morning and evening, before and after work, he would go home and cook food and then feed each patient. Since the past 10 years he has been buying food from a restaurant due to constraints of the home. Where patients could not eat themselves, he would feed them with his hands. He uses his Daswandh (tithe) to buy medicines and pay for their treatment as well. He spends at least two hours a day with these patients that have no one else in the world to look after them or love them.

10. Singhs save a Muslim girl who had been kidnapped
18 December 2015 - News786 reports that a Muslim man brought a young Muslim girl who is aged under 18 from Kashmir, Sri Nagar, to Punjab under false pretences. She was then held captive by the 40-years-old man and was beaten and sexually exploited for over 3 months.  When the Singhs heard of this incident, they immediately came to the scene. After confirming the story, the Singhs beat the captor and freed the Muslim girl.  The captor was made to apologise and was then handed over to the authorities. The Singhs then escorted the girl back to her home in Kashmir from Punjab and offered to help her financially in getting married with whoever she wishes. The story reminds that a Sikh is willing to risk his or her life to the protect the honour of another girl, irrespective of religion.

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