Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s Gurpurab (Birthday) was marked for the second year running with a memorable celebration at the Houses of Parliament. The Sikh Network, the Sikh Federation (UK) and the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for British Sikhs organised a befitting evening of celebration, inspiration and recognition. The event was full and attracted many politicians, professionals, business and interfaith leaders as well as media outlets.
The event was opened with a tribute to Sir Mota Singh, the first ethnic minority judge who was an early role model to turban wearing Sikhs who sadly passed away at the age of 86 a couple of days earlier. This was followed by opening remarks and welcome by Conservative Lord, Ranbir Singh Suri.
The keynote speaker was Ramnik Pal Singh Randhawa, a scholar who shared Guru Nanak Dev ji’s message on leadership and the qualities that a good leader should possess – wisdom, truthfulness, courage, humility, tolerance and ethical conduct.
Eshmit Kaur, a university student and Spoken word poet, expressed in moving words her tribute to Guru Nanak Dev ji, in a poem called ‘Tu hi’. Renowned Kirtan singer, Manika Kaur travelled from Dubai to grace those attending and recite two beautiful religious hymns/shabads.
The event saw representation from all political parties. Rob Marris MP, the Labour MP for Wolverhampton South West and the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for British Sikhs provided an update on the work of the APPG.
Rt. Hon. Maria Miller, the Conservative MP for Basingstoke and former Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and the Minister for Women and Equality who currently is the Chair of the Women and Equalities Select Committee, acknowledged Guru Nanak’s vision for equality for all, regardless of gender, religion and colour. She also spoke of the importance of the UK Sikh Survey developed by the Sikh Network providing valuable information to Parliamentarians and decision makers on discrimination and hate crime.
Rt. Hon. John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor and MP for Hayes and Harlington, spoke passionately about the importance to find the truth behind the British Government’s role and involvement in the Sikh Genocide of 1984. He specifically referred to the Sikh Manifesto and stated: “we will not desist until we get the truth” and called for a fully independent inquiry. He went on to say if we are celebrating anything today on Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s Gurpurb one of the essential teachings is the need for truth and justice and concluded “I give you this commitment we will continue to campaign until we secure an independent inquiry and until we secure truth and justice.”
Angus Robertson, Deputy Leader for the Scottish National Party (SNP) and who leads the party in Westminster commended Sikh engagement in politics in Scotland, acknowledging Charandeep Singh as the first Sikh SNP candidate standing for the Scottish Parliament in 2015.
Baroness Lorely Burt, represented the Liberal Democrats and shared a personal connection with the Sikh community, paid tribute to Sikh soldiers who fought in both World Wars and the importance of Sikh representation in Parliament.
David Lelliott, British Deputy High Commissioner for Chandigarh, shared his experience of the Sikh community in both Punjab and across the UK and thanked them all for their unified generosity.
Other speakers included Bishop Kevin McDonald who has responsibility for Interreligious Relations within the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. He shared the message of equality and hospitality shown by the Sikh faith.
Jas Singh of the Sikh Network provided a short update on the Sikh Manifesto and some of the findings from the UK Sikh Survey. He mentioned the results of the UK Sikh Survey will be formally launched for academics at Wolverhampton University on Friday 25 November.
The event ended fittingly with a recognition award ceremony. All award winners were visibly moved at being recognised at this prestigious Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s Gurpurab event in the UK Parliament.
The following were awarded for their contribution in their own fields of work.
Contribution to Politics – Jasbir Singh Athwal, Councillor in Redbridge
Contribution to Sports – Harleen Kaur, World Martial kombat silver medallist 2016
Contribution to Education – Nick Singh Kandola, Executive Chair of the Khalsa Academies
Contribution to Business – Ninder Johal, former President of Black Country Chamber of Commerce
Contribution to Media – Sandip Singh Khakh, Dharam Seva records
Contribution to Human Rights – Phil Miller, Researcher and journalist
Contribution to Charity & Selfless seva– Ravinder Singh from Khalsa Aid
Recognised Organisation – Sikh Welfare & Awareness Team (SWAT)
Recognised International Contribution – Jagmeet Singh, Canadian Member of the Provincial
Parliament in Ontario
Recognised Lifetime Achievement – Dr Jagir Kaur Sekhon OBE former Cllr & Mayor of Greenwich
Some of the other politicians who attended included; Alex Salmon (SNP), John Spellar (Lab), Baroness Jenny
Jones (Greens), Stephen Timms (Lab), Khalid Mahmood (Lab), Mike Gapes (Lab), Amanda Solloway (Con),
Pat McFadden (Lab), Ruth Cadbury (Lab), Shailesh Vara (Con), Nic Dakin (Lab), Valarie Vaz (Lab), Jim
Cunningham (Lab), Dawn Butler (Lab), Kirsten Oswald (SNP).
Jonathan Hellewell, Theresa May’s Special Adviser on Communities and former Private Secretary to the
Prince of Wales also attended the Gurpurb celebrations.
Mankamal Singh from the Sikh Network said:
“It is great to be marking Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s Gurpurb in Parliament, as he was not only the founder of the Sikh faith, but also the first Sikh activist. As Sikhs around the world celebrate in Gurdwaras, this year we are delighted to be also celebrating it in the UK Parliament, keeping to the Sikh tradition of Miri Piri.”
The Sikh Network and the Sikh Federation (UK) warmly thanked all those who attended and supported this event, especially the sponsors Buildware, Atam Academy and the Matharu Events & Wedding planners.
The media partners for the event were the Sikh Channel, Punjab 2000 and GEO News. The social media hashtag used for the event was #GuruNanak and it was broadcast live to thousands by the Sikh Network on it’s Facebook page.