By Ninder Kaur
After the deaths of two protesters in India, Sikhs around the world have come together to put on a united front.
According to the Sikh Press Association: “The Indian government and Punjab Police have killed two Sikhs and brutalised many in Punjab who were peacefully marching against the police lack of action towards finding the culprits of desecration of the Sikh Scriptural Guru, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji.
“The Sikh community strongly suspects that these desecrations are politically motivated and the Punjab government is deliberately not investigating these desecrations.”
Jagmeet Singh, from the educational charity Basics of Sikhi, was a panelist member on BBC Sunday Morning Live for a studio debate about interfaith marriage.
Singh went off-topic, stood up in front of the camera and interrupted presenter Sian Williams, declaring the lack of media coverage of violence in India.
He said: “Sikhs are being killed in Punjab and nobody is reporting it.”
The representative from charity Basics of Sikhi wasn’t giving up and continued his protest live on television. When the programme returned after going to a video Singh was gone.
Basics of Sikhi charity group on Facebook published the following statement: “I am so
disappointed by the BBC’s treatment of Jagmeet Singh on Sunday Morning Live this morning. The presenter shut down Singh and repeatedly belittled him from bringing up the issue of violence against Sikhs in Punjab.”
Online, protest messages have been coming not only from India but from large Sikh communities across the UK. A petition to the BBC on Change.org has received more than 70,000 signatures. It calls for more coverage of the story and for coverage of India’s treatment of its Sikh citizens.
Following the clashes between police and Sikh protesters in Kotkapura, Punjab, on 14 October, which left two people dead and nearly 70, injured.
Protesters were demanding the arrest of those responsible for tearing hundreds of pages from the Sikh Holy Scripture and scattering them around the village of Bargari. Where is the justice?
Better yet, where is the media coverage? UK Media outlets employ thousands of reporters worldwide yet millions of people remain unaware of what is happening in India. Why is that so?
Gurjeet Singh National Press Secretary at the Sikh Federation (UK) was willing to comment. He said:
Last week we witnessed the unusual sight of a Sikh panelist on the BBC Sunday Live programme protest the lack of media coverage of peaceful Sikh protesters being killed in Punjab. The mainstream media need to have a rethink on what they think is important to report, especially regarding the plight of a minority community. Religious minorities in India are facing a huge threat. With the visit of the controversial Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi to the UK next month the media has a vital role to report on the way religious minorities have been treated since he came to power in May 2014. Sikh issues are often relegated on TV, radio or newspapers to ‘specialised’ channels, radio stations or the press. This is discriminatory and shows a lack of faith in what will be of general interest to viewers, listeners and readers.”
Following on from the rise of concern on these issues, a trending social media hashtag #SikhLivesMatter, candlelit vigils and demonstrations have in recent weeks highlighted the predicament facing Sikhs in India.
I spoke to a few people from the Sikh faith to find out they had to say.
Gurmeet Basrai, 34, from Leeds said: “When I had heard about the events that had been going on in India, I was absolutely appalled by the lack of representation show in the media about this. It makes me question how people think Sikh lives must be far less inferior that others.”
Rajveer Talwar,25, from Derby said: “I went to London on the weekend and what was meant to be a peaceful protest turned into violence when the police arrived mounted and armed with riot gear. It was unnecessary for them to use extreme heavy handed tactics against men, women and children.”
Ajmal Soodha, 60, from Bradford said: “ It disgraces me that such things are happening in India and no one is reporting on it. I am proud of Jagmeet going on live TV and addressing this to the public and media organisations. We should all stand together. So much is happening just look at Bapu Surat Singh Khalsa who has been starving himself to raise awareness to free Sikh political prisoners.
The UK’s Sikh community has said that the incident in Punjab closely resembles events of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, when there was a complete disregard for Sikh lives and widespread police and army brutality.
One can only hope that change will happen and that the media start reporting on cases like this.