Seeing that failed-aspirant-Labour-PPC-turned-Tory Gurcharan Singh is intent on asking a few questions, I thought I might ask a question or two of my own.
Gurcharan, I’d like you to think back a couple of months, to 19th May this year, and the events shown in this video…
Next, I’d like to read this account of events that took place in the Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara, Southall, following this protest.
Re: Incident of Intimidation & Threats at Park Ave Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Southall on 19.5.07
Press/statement by the General Secretary, Executive Committee, Dr Parvinder Singh Garcha
I humbly wish to bring to the notice of the Sangat a disturbing incident that occurred at Park Avenue Gurdwara on the evening of the 19th of May 2007.
As a background to this, one needs to be aware that some so-called ‘Panthic organisations’ had organised a ‘demonstration’ to protest about the serious situation that had occurred in the Punjab and the very unfortunate loss of life that had occurred in relation to the ‘Sacha Sauda’ incident*. This demonstration had been called without the knowledge and any prior discussion with the management committee of the Gurdwara; although the demonstration was going to take place from Havelock Road Gurdwara to Park Avenue Gurdwara.
The management committee had made regular announcements and giving detailed updates of the situation in the Punjab and also appealed to everyone for calm, and await the effort that senior organisations in the Punjab were making; and also advised that we should all wait for the announcement due on the 20th of May from the Akal Takht Sahib before taking further steps.
One of the apparent organisers of the demonstration, a Mr Gurcharan Singh, had come and met a representative of the executive committee on the 18th of May and advised us that the demonstration would be a peaceful one. He informed us that at the end of the demonstration, persons participating in the demonstration would come and congregate around the Nishan Sahib at Park Ave (the area in front of the Gurdwara) and do Kirten followed by Ardas in that area, and then disperse.
[Cllr Singh has asserted that this refers to a Gurcharan Singh other than himself. The electoral roll does show two individuals named Gurcharan Singh registered in the Southall area - see update at end of post]
However, subsequent events, which I will now detail, showed that this was a pre-planned politically motivated attempt at character assassination as well as an attempt to destabilise the Sabha. The Sangat became clearly aware of this as events unfolded in the Diwan Sahib (the main prayer hall).
he demonstrators came into the front of Park Avenue Gurdwara (as previously discussed) but did not do any Kirten or Ardas. Instead they burnt an effigy and then proceeded into the main prayer hall. The Police left the scene at this stage.
Some of the persons who had led the march approached myself and the stage secretary Mr Tejinder Singh Samra and demanded that they be allowed to say Ardas at 6:30 p.m., which was in between when the Kirten was due to finish and the Katha (discourse) starting. We discussed this with them, and pointed out that this was most unusual and would cause a disturbance to the regular programme of the Gurdwara, and it was not something that had been agreed the day before. Some of those persons said, because of the situation in the Punjab, the Ardas had to be done; we then agreed that it could be done at the end of the programme at about 7:30 p.m. and requested that the entire congregation should join together in this.
However, they said this was not acceptable and that this (i.e. the Ardas) was going to happen whether we liked it or not! In order to defuse the situation as we could clearly see that these persons were demanding in a threatening and aggressive manner; we agreed to their demands, and so we agreed that we could take a short break in the programme and do the Ardas. Not content with that; they then demanded that one of the persons, a certain Mr Manmohan Singh Khalsa, be given five minutes to speak to the congregation so he could make them aware of the events that were going on in India.
We politely reminded them that this was not in order and not something that had been agreed to. One of their lead persons, a Mr Jaswant Singh Dhillon requested that in order to defuse the situation we should allow this speech to go ahead. Also at that time his son, Gurpreet Singh, stated in no uncertain terms that it was going to happen anyway! We then agreed that this person be allowed to speak on the stage but only on the topic of the events going on in the Punjab and after his speech a trustee of the Gurdwara, Mr Surjit Singh Bilga, would also say a few words to the congregation. This was agreed by ALL present.
After the Ardas; I personally went over to Mr Manmohan Singh Khalsa* and humbly requested that he speak only on the situation in the Punjab; which he did for a few minutes. However, after that he started making an attack on the president of the Sabha, Mr Himmat Sohi, for attending a RSS meeting; while this was happening, I realised that some persons had started to use the video screen and were going to put on a video, which apparently had also been put out on ‘Youtube’ (about Mr Sohi) when this was happening. Mr Gurpreet Singh came over to me in a very emotional terms said to me that Mr Sohi was going to be removed as president of the Gurdwara today and I (Dr Garcha) would be declared as president! I was shocked and saddened at the state of events that were taking place. I made my way over to the corner of the prayer hall where the computer controlling the video screen was located. When I got to the computer six people gathered around me and I stated to them in a calm and collected manner that this is not what we had agreed, and as this was the Guru’s Diwan showing videos like this was not permitted. They just replied, “Who are you to stop us!”
At the same time an Elderly volunteer at the Gurdwara (who I recognised as Mr Gill) was pulling me backwards with both his arms! I was shocked. I remonstrated with him very politely and respectfully and said that he should let go of me, but he refused. There was no way that I was going to involve myself in a physical tussle with him even though he was being aggressive and pulling me; he said that this video must be shown, as did the other young persons who were surrounding me at this time. One of those was Mr Harjit Singh who is known to me as a member of the Gurdwara. Mr Harjot Singh (the lead IT coordinator of the Gurdwara) was standing to my left and told me that if I requested him to switch the video off he would do so; to this Mr Harjit Singh said he would stop him from doing it. I did not request him to do so, as I felt that this would further inflame the situation and cause further disrespect to the sanctity of the Diwan. Just at this time Mr Gurpreet Singh came over to me again, and again in very emotional terms, said that the video will go on; and I again remonstrated with him that we had agreed the program with him, his father and Mr Manmohan Singh Khalsa.
He was still very emotional and talking in an aggressive tone and said that I was the person who had expelled him from the membership (this was done by the Executive Committee in April 2006 after due process), and now he was a member of the Sangat and Waheguru (god) gives him permission and that the discussion and agreement made previously doesn’t count for anything and the video will go on!
While this was happening Mr Manmohan Singh Khalsa had taken it upon himself to request another speaker, a Mr Dabinderjit Singh, again breaking the agreement that we had previously made in the Divan, right behind the Palki Sahib (I understand he is from Slough and from an organisation called the Sikh Federation).Once had spoken, Mr Tejinder Singh Samra took the microphone from him and switched it off. As soon as he had done this Scuffles broke out and he was manhandled and pushed to the back and a lot of commotion at occurred as other persons from the Sangat came to protect him from further assault (note that all this happened in the sanctitiy of the Divan and right beside the Palki Sahib where Guru Maharaj were present. At this time, the police were called (it has to be noted that the police that had accompanied the demonstration left soon after the demonstrators came into the front of Park Avenue). I then requested that the sound system be disabled, and this was duly done. This clearly upset many of the persons who were bent on causing trouble. We also requested at this time that the usual program be start and a final prayer of the day be done by the Granthi Sahib (he did a marvellous job during all this commotion; and was continually requesting everyone to be respectful and behave as good Sikhs; although he was being intimidated and asked to go from the Palki Sahib by one of the persons of the organising group; but we give him great credit that he did not move and continued to show the utmost of respect to everyone). So as not to continue to further disrespect to Guru Granth Sahib final prayers were said and the program finished. However, many of the demonstrators still stayed in the hall; and it was apparent afterwards, that some persons had also vandalised the sound system by pulling many of the wires. We thank Mr Harjot Singh, who stayed on, till well past midnight to resolve matters.
By this time the police had also arrived, and I spoke to the duty officer Mr Singleton, and appraised him of the situation; I also said that I expected, many of the persons to leave gradually but requested that he leave two of his officers to ensure that this took place.
It was clear that this was pre-planned and coordinated as many of the demonstrators went upstairs to the office to probably interfere with the video recording equipment; because of this officers were called up to the office to avoid a probable breach of the peace, as persons in the office were concerned that these persons had come with ulterior motives. This was in fact, probably the case as many of them quickly moved out when the police came. However, two or three of them took it upon themselves to shout and became very rude to the policemen. This is very unfortunate as the Police have a difficult enough role anyway.
I, on behalf, of the executive committee and trustees, humbly request all persons involved in this and all members of the Sangat that the Gurdwara is a place of worship and not a place for confrontation, ill feeling and un Sikh like behaviour; and we ask everybody to come together and pray for a peaceful resolution to the current situation in Punjab. We also would like to remind everybody that in order to address some of the issues regarding the Gurdwara where persons may have differing opinions; a working group has been formed, and that is the platform where these differing opinions should be discussed and not in the main Diwan Hall.
For further information regarding this please contact Dr Parvinder Singh Garcha on xxx xxxx xxxx
So, Gurcharan, were you one of the organisers of the protest that resulted in this rather unsavoury sounding incident?
And if so, is it really appropriate for a local councillor, one who is supposed to represent the whole community, to be involved (allegedly) in the organisation of sectarian protests about events taking place thousands of miles away?
Oh, and if, as you said in 2005, ‘No rational sikh will raise the demand for Khalistan’, what’s with all the people chanting ‘Khalistan Zindabad’ in the video? Are they just being irrational?
Feel free to use the comments box - unlike your blog, I don’t screen comments first…
RESPONSE FROM CLLR SINGH
The story from Ministry of Truth is nothing but a lie. I have never met either the Executive committee of Sri Guru Singh Sabha or any of their official and never made any representation to them in any regard. The ministry has got wrong end of the stick. I believe they are talking about a Gurcharan Singh and not Councillor Gurcharan Singh. I would ask them to check their facts and apologise to me unreservedly for the offence they have caused to me and my family.I further believe that by putting this story and linking it with me is nothing short of my character assissinqation.
Cllr. Gurcharan Singh
1. The article above is sourced from a press release issued by the Gurdwara Executive Committee and has been published in good faith. The press release itself is reproduced with only minor annotations to clarify the background to the event which took place at the Gurdwara on the date in question and the background to one of the main protagonists in those events, Mr Manmohan Singh Khalsa.
2. The article, as is evident, does not assert categorically that the Gurcharan Singh referred to by the Gurdwara is Cllr Gurcharan, rather it asks Cllr Singh whether he is the Gurcharan Singh mentioned in the press release and, in the event that he confirmed this to be the case, posed a couple of supplementary questions relating to matters of clear interest to both the Sikh community in Southall, and generally to electors in the area.
3. Having appended Cllr Singh’s response to this article, the demands of accuracy are thus satisfied, in so far as he has issued a denial in response to the questions posed.
4. His assertion that the article is ‘nothing but a lie’ and that it amounts to ‘character assassination’ is a nonsense. Given that a Gurcharan Singh was clearly identified by the Gurdwara has having informed that that the protest was to take place and that one of the main protagonists in the altercation within the Gurdwara following the protest, heads an organisation, the World Muslim Sikh Federation, which was was represented at a meeting in Pakistan attended by Cllr Singh a little less than a month later, it seems perfectly reasonable in light of the content of the Gurdwara’s press release, to enquire as to whether the Gurcharan Singh referred to as an organiser of the protest march was Cllr Singh, or not.
5. I would also not that Cllr Singh states clearly and unequivocally that:
I have never met either the Executive committee of Sri Guru Singh Sabha or any of their official and never made any representation to them in any regard.
However, this article from NRIinternet.com appears to contradict that statement:
Sep. 16, 2003
Councillor Gurcharan Singh was born in the Punjab in 1948. He moved with his family to Uttar Pardesh, a neighbouring province, in 1954.At secondary school he received a merit scholarship for coming first in his O level exams out of more than 1000 students. He continued his studies at a college and graduated with a BSc in physics, chemistry and mathematics. He also holds a Masters of Science in mathematics. As Gurcharan did not belong to a rich family, he taught high school students to meet his college expenses. While other students travelled by bus, he cycled 13 miles to and from college every day. He also helped his father at his farm. He married Rajinder in 1971, moved to the UK in 1972 and they have three grown up children.
Gurcharan joined the Labour Party in 1976, becoming a councillor in 1982. He is actively involved in Sikh politics and has a strong base in the largest Sikh Gurdwara, Sri Guru Singh Sabha, in Southall.
Singh, who started as a British Rail guard, moved on to become a tax officer. By 1986, he had his own hotel in London. But, Singh says, life kept throwing up challenges his way. ‘‘Today, I have become Mayor with the support of the British, but woh bhi din tha jab mushkilen bahut ayin. Aakhir goron ka desh tha,’’ Singh told The Indian Express over the telephone from London.
When Singh migrated, things were different. Those were the days of racial prejudice. For an Indian to become acceptable, you had to prove yourself, which was not easy, Singh says. Asked why he migrated, he says: ‘‘kyonki koi sifarish nahin thi, Hindustan mein naukri nahin mili.’’
Gurcharan comes from a family with a military background. His father, grandfather, father in-law and grandfather in-law served in the British and Indian armies.
Notwithstanding any question marks over the content of the Gurdwara’s press statement, a matter that the Gurdwara itself seems best placed to clarify, Cllr Singh’s asserts that he has never met the Executive Committee of the largest Gurdwara in Southall (and in Europe, apparently) nor met any of its officers or made any representations to the committee in his 25 years as a councillor of ward with a Sikh population in excess of 4,000 (31.25% of the total population of the ward) that directly adjoins the ward in which the Gurdwara in situated - in fact all of Southall’s six Gurdwaras seem to be in pretty much the same area and within a mile or of each other (and also between 1.3 and 2.3 miles of Cllr Singh’s home, which is in the very ward he represents. One might reasonably assume, from that information alone, that a significant number of his constituents worship at the Sri Guru Singh Gurdwara.
Frankly it is difficult to see quite how Cllr Singh might have avoided meeting the Executive Committee of the Gurdwara and/or its officers, even without the claim that he is active in Sikh politics - an assertion that merit further clarification - and has a strong base at the Gurdwara.
6. So far as accuracy is concerned, and in the absence of further corroboration, Cllr Singh’s comments have been noted, published in full and a note has been inserted into the text of the press release noting his assertion that the individual referred to in the press release is a different Gurcharan Singh.