On Sunday 14th April, Khalsa Jatha in Central London celebrated Viasakhi in the presence of Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, Deputy Mayor of London for business Rajesh Agrawal, Labour politician Dr. Onkar Sahota, journalist Anita Anand, celebrity chef Manpreet Singh Ahuja among other members of the Sikh diaspora.
Vaisakhi commemorates the formation of Khalsa panth of warriors under Guru Gobind Singh in 1699, this year co-incided with the centenary of the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre.
Explaining the significant role, the Gurudwara had played in ensuring solidarity among the South Asians when undivided India was still ruled by the UK before 1947, Gurpreet Singh Anand, one of the main sevadaars of the Gurudwara said-
“This was the holy site where many immigrant South Asians used to come and plan for the overthrow of the British colonial rule.”
The Khalsa Jatha, British Isles, was formed in 1908, to promote religious and social activities among the Sikhs who had settled in the UK. Later in the same year it was affiliated to the Chief Khalsa Diwan, Amritsar. In 1911, the Jatha acquired a house in Putney (South London) for two years where the opening ceremony was performed by Maharaja Bhupindra Singh of Patiala.
This year at the Vaisakhi celebration, journalist Anita Anand recently published her book “Patient Assassin” chronicling Udham Singh's, journey. At the Gurudwara, she spoke about her grandfather living with “survivor's guilt”.
“People often ask me how do I choose to write about the stories that I do. But whether it is my story on Sophia Duleep Singh or Udham Singh, I chose these stories because I was surprised that people didn't know about the oppressions of the colonial rule. In all my recent interviews, English journalists were quiet surprised when I detailed about the oppression of the British Raj,” she said.
Over the last few weeks there has been an increasing push from the Sikh diaspora over teaching colonial history in schools, which many academics argue would be the biggest apology that the government could owe to the injustice done with the Sikh community. Taking the auspicious ocassion of Vaisakhi, the Mayor of London said-
“It is very important that all of us understand the teachings of other faiths and that is why it is important for all of us to celebrate Vaisakhi. You don't have to be a Sikh to celebrate Vaisakhi.”
“The reason why it is important to understand history is to realise that not everything in the British empire was hunky-dory. And one of the reasons why this country is so prosperous is because of the fruits of its empire in India,” said.
But like India, the UK had colonised much of Africa which even today struggles to combat modern slavery and land-possessions. In 2013, William Hague had acknowledged for the first time that the elderly Kikuyu and other Kenyans had been subjected to torture and other horrific abuses at the hands of the colonial administration during the Mau Mau emergency. On behalf of the British government he had expressed "sincere regret" that these abuses had taken place, and announced payments of £2,600 to each of 5,200 vetted claimants, and urged that the process of healing for both nations begin. While Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn may have apologised for the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, the conservative government still remains on the brink of “deep regret”.
“We understand that British empire didn't always do things that we condone. Many things done should be apologised for, and that includes what happened in Indian sub-continent, Africa among others, and this explains why some countries which have only achieved independence recently are struggling to be successful” said Sadiq Khan to the Asian Voice.