Archive: May 2013

  1. Sikhs and the EDL

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    It’s late, a little before midnight, and I’m writing my latest book “Saragarhi: The Forgotten Battle.”

    The chapter I’m currently drafting is about the subsequent aftermath of Saragarhi, where 21 Sikhs fought bravely to the last against the onslaught of 10,000 Pathans in 1897.  And what happened after the Samana range, which was defended by a mix of Sikh and Royal Irish troops, was cleared of the enemy.

    What happened next was that the British forces (comprising Sikhs also) were sent to the Tirah to deal with the tribes there who had caused such havoc on the frontier.  This was one of many expeditionary forces into Afghanistan before the turn of the century.

    And this was before the Sikhs were sent to fight in the Great War and Second World War.

    So looking for a short break from writing, I turn to that tool of procrastination that is Facebook; and click on a link a friend has shared with me.

    It is about an EDL rally that took place earlier near the Cenotaph where the speaker references the bravery of the Sikhs.

    I’ve been out the news loop today so I watch and I listen.

    Then I trawl down my FB timeline and notice other Sikh friends sharing the same video.

    So the English Defence League find it fitting to talk about the bravery of the Sikhs during the Wars, and Churchill’s admiration that the Sikhs were vital to the war effort.

    Thank you EDL for the reminder of this history.

    But should Sikhs support the EDL in their endeavours as they seem to like the community because they are integrated in Britain, and not waging holy war against the UK?

    This is the crux of what the video, the statement in it, and the social media sharing that is going on must surely centre on.

    But wait, I hear you say, as a blog that promotes British Sikh history during the Great War is it the realm of this medium to share thoughts on such a highly political matter?

    Probably not.

    I’ll do it anyway.

    But I’ll do so without passing an opinion on whether Sikhs should support the EDL – that isn’t a community matter but a personal and individual one.  One which each Sikh out there needs to find an answer for themselves – much like who to vote for or what to have for lunch.

    Nor will I pass judgment on those friends who I know have shared the EDL/Sikh video and other material, I know some people who do support the group that aren’t white, skin heads or racist, but that’s all.

    And I won’t indulge in the topic of talking up or down Islam; I’m not Muslim so I can’t say much for how they feel after the horrific death of Drummer Lee Rigby at the hands of someone who called himself a Muslim.  But I’ll presume he wasn’t a good one because not all Muslims run around trying to behead Brits (or maybe it’s the whole Muslim community that aren’t really Muslims because they’re not trying to …. ???)

    Anyway …. what I will talk about though, keeping to the historic purpose of this blog and away from statements that might inflame someone to declare a jihad against it; is another element of forgotten British history which members of the EDL or anyone thinking of going on an anti-Islamic crusade should think about.

    And that’s that it wasn’t only the Sikhs who fought for Britain during the World Wars.

    Plenty of Muslims did too!

    The Punjab Regiments that we are so proud of that fought in the trenches of Flanders, fought to capture Baghdad, fought in east Africa, fought in Europe and in Burma and else where … were made up of x2 companies of Punjabi Mussulman – and they fought alongside Sikhs.

    This might have been a long-winded posting to just saw that, but that was the gist of what I wanted to impart in this blog.

    But for those Sikhs reading this and wanting some sort of a political response to whether the Sikhs should be supporting the EDL I will share my opinion by saying this:  engage with the political system, engage with the media and be a player within the civil society that we live in.

    Should you fail to raise your voice and be heard in the arena’s of our liberal democracy we so strive to protect, then I think you will be entitled to join any ultra right/left/up/down group you desire.

    Should you fail…

  2. Letter from Saragarhi

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    In a weeks time, Mullocks Auction house will auction this letter from a soldier describing the scene at Saragarh.

    It makes for an interesting read, not least because the writer describes the scene at the outpost as “an aweful sight”.

    Does anyone have any more information about J A Lindsay who served in the Tirah campaign?

    And are there any other letters out there describing Saragarhi which have remained lost?

  3. Sikhs At Sandhurst – nearing completion

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    It’s nearly a year since we embarked on creating a new film for the “Sikhs At War” project.

    “Sikhs At Sandhurst” is about the hidden history of Sikhs which can be found at the Royal Military Academy, one which not many know about apart from the officers who are trained there.
    It tells the story of the first person of Sikh decent to have been accepted there – Victor Duleep Singh – the son of the last Maharaja of Punjab.
    Victor’s story is fascinating, as he is the product of British Sikh integration.  He lived a Christian life, and hisis life was as colourful as could be for a Victorian gent! 
    The new film touches upon Victor’s time at Sandhurst – and how he should not have been allowed to go to Sandhurst.
    It delves into the history of Sikhs who served during Empire, and how their contribution in the frontier with Afghanistan is remembered to this day.
    In fact, it fits in perfectly with my other research venture at the moment – the story of Saragarhi.
    For me, the Sikh effort on the frontier is an epitome of the valiant and invaluable contribution Sikhs made during empire.  Which was so fruitful that the British (indeed the world) reaped the rewards in the Great War and WW2.
    Back to the production, and editing took a lot longer than we would have liked, due to some technicality but is now nearly completion due to the hard work and ‘never say quit’ attitude of my fantastic editor Juggy.
    “Sikhs At Sandhurst” will be released soon … if you’d like to access it for your film festival / event / screening, it runs 20 mins long and you can contact us via this email.
  4. Found Saragarhi!

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    So further to my last post, I’ve been fortunate enough to have found a military expert who has helped verify my theory about where Saragarhi and the nearby forts are.

    Great!
    So I’m looking forward to releasing this soon in the book – the next challenge is actually getting access to the location, which is an army cantonment!
    Not so great!
    It’s a reminder that the area in question is highly dangerous even 116 years after the Sikhs fought there for Britain.
    Nonetheless looking forward to continuing my research and finishing the book.
    Which is being entitled “Saragarhi: The Forgotten Battle” … look out for it!