Posts Tagged ‘Sikhs’

Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara 2005

Friday, October 1st, 2021

Sixteen years ago on Saturday 1st October 2005 I was fortunate to be able to go with friends from the now long defunct London Arts Café on a visit to the Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara completed in Southall in 2003 with the building’s architect Richard Adams of Architect Co-Partnership and one of the Sikh volunteer guides. The temple, built with over £17m of local donations was said to be the largest in the western hemisphere, intended to be “a temple second only to the Golden Temple in Amritsar, with a life expectancy of a minimum of 100 years“.

The architects had won the commission in open competition and working with the Sikh community and had produced what I described as “a building suited to their needs, and it does so impressively:clean simple surfaces, powerful colour in the windows and light streaming into the central stairway and lobby from the large window and glass roof areas.” I hope my pictures convey something of this.

Here’s some of the text I wrote about the visit at the time, when I was posting entirely in lower case:

the sri guru singh sabha gurdwara serves the community, both for workship and for other needs. as well as a vast prayer hall officially capable of seating up to 3,000 people (and actually holding rather more at major festivals) there is a fine marriage room, and various other facilities including a langar (dining hall); this free community kitchen can serve over 20,000 vegetarian meals over a festival weekend.

the gurdwara had a powerfully religious atmosphere. on entering we followed the customary practice of removing our shoes, covering our heads with the scarves provided and washing our hands before commencing our visit. at various points both our guide and the architect explained how the building served the basic sikh tenets of service, humility and equality, and also the spiritual guidance from the sri guru granth sahib, the religious writings which are were appointed as spiritual head of the sikh religion, the eternal guru, by guru gobind singh around three hundred years ago.

although the architecture and the prayer hall in particular were impressive, what made the strongest impression on me was the kitchen, especially the team of women working together. the food was excellent, a real pleasure to eat, although my still rather painful knee made it easier for me to stand and eat at one of the tables rather than in the traditional manner seated on the floor. although food is free, those eating may perform some service to the temple in thanks for their food, or give an donation of some kind, which we gladly did.

southall is now britain’s holy city, apparently with places of worship for over 50 religions or denominations. brother daniel faivre’s ‘glimpses of a holy city’ published in 2001 after more than 20 years of living in southall gives a good insight into some of this diversity.

More pictures on My London Diary.


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


A Busy Saturday – August 15th 2015

Sunday, August 15th, 2021


I began my working day rather later than the pickets outside the National Gallery, who held a short rally after picketing since the early morning on the 61st day of their strike against plans to outsource the jobs of 400 gallery assistants and the sacking of PCS union rep Candy Udwin for her union activities.
More at: National Gallery 61st day of Strike

A related protest against the privatisation of visitor assistants was taking place a little later outside Tate Modern on Bankside, with workers giving out leaflets calling for equal pay and conditions for outsourced and in-house workers at both Tate Britain and Tate Modern in London. Privatised staff doing the exactly the same job have zero hours contracts with no guarantee of regular work, get £3 an hour less, and do not get the decent pensions, sick pay and holidays enjoyed by their colleagues.
More at: Equalitate at Tate Modern

Back over the river to Aldwych and the Indian High Commission, where two protests were taking place on Indian Independence Day. Sikhs were supporting the call by hunger striker Bapu Surat Singh, now on hunger strike for over 200 days, calling for the release of Sikh political prisoners and other prisoners of all religions who have completed their jail terms but are still in prison.

Many of the Sikhs held posters of Gajinder Singh, a founding member Dal Khalsa which calls for an independent Sikh state, Khalistan, and they called for a referendum to be held in the Punjab and among the Sikh diaspora around the world on the setting up such as state.
More at: Sikhs call for release of political prisoners

Also protesting outside the Indian High Commission were a crowd of Kashmiris calling for freedom. Kashmir is a disputed territory with parts occupied by India, Pakistan and China, and since 1987 the Indian occupation has turned their area into one of the most militarised places in the world, with around one Indian soldier for every 14 Kashmiris.

Over 100,0000 Kashmiris have been killed since the current uprising against Indian occupation began in 1987, and torture is used as a mean to get confessions and terrorise the civilians including women and children. In Kashmir Indian Independence day is observed as ‘Black Day’.
More at: Kashimiris Independence Day call for freedom

Back in Trafalgar Square Iranian Kurds from the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK) remembered its fighters killed in the fight against Iran and ISIS for self-determination. Like the PKK, PJAK owes allegiance to Abdullah Öcalan and the ideals of the Rojava revolution.
More at: Kurdish PJAK remembers its martyrs

A few yards away, Koreans were holding their monthly silent protest for the victims of the Sewol ferry tragedy, mainly school children who obeyed the order to ‘Stay Put’ on the lower decks as the ship went down. They continue to demand that the Korean government raise the Sewol ferry for a thorough inquiry and punish those responsible as well as bringing in special anti-disaster regulations.
More at: 16th ‘Stay Put’ Sewol silent protest

Finally I made my way to Oxford Circus to meet members of the United Voices of the World and supporters including those from SOAS Unison, the National Gallery strikers, Class War and others who were marching to protest outside Sotheby’s in Old Bond St. The UVW werecampaigning for proper sick pay, paid holidays and pensions for the cleaners who work there, and so far Sotheby’s response had been to sack two of the union members, Barbara and Percy.

Police harassed the protesters as they arrived outside Sotheby’s, trying to move them off the road they were marching along and onto the pavement, and they responded by sitting down on the road and refusing the police orders to move. After some minutes they got up and marched around the block, past the rear entrance to Sotheby’s, with two union officials going into some of the shops on the way to hand out leaflets explaining the action. Police tried to stop these two going into the shops and some arguments developed.


The marchers returned to the street in front of Sotheby’s and held a short rally, again ignoring police who tried to move them off the road. Police then tried to stop them marching around the block again, holding some while others surged around and the marchers made another circuit, returning to Sotheby’s for a short final rally before marching back towards Oxford Circus.
More at: United Voices – Reinstate the Sotheby’s 2.

My day wasn’t quite over, and I moved to Grosvenor Square, where two young women, one black and one white, had organised a Black Lives Matter protest close to the US embassy in solidarity with events across the US against the collective and systemic unlawful arrests and killings of black people in America. The protest around the statue of Franklin Delano Roosevelt was supported by groups including BARAC (Black Activists Rising Against Cuts) and the Nation of Islam.

More at: BlackoutLDN solidarity with Black US victims.

In all the travelling around central London on foot or by bus, I had time to take a few pictures between protests.
More at: London Views.


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


1984 Remembered

Tuesday, June 8th, 2021

Every year around the 8th June, Sikhs march in London to remember the 1984 destruction at the Golden Temple in Amritsar. The Soviet government forged documents in 1982 to show that Sikh militants were getting CIA support for their plans to establish an independent Sikh state of Khalistan in the Punjab and these were taken seriously by Indian intelligence services and prime minister Indira Gandhi, who on June 1st 1984 sent in the Indian Army in Operation Blue Star, attacking scores of Sikh temples across the Punjab.

On 3rd June Indian forces surrounded the Golden Temple in Amritsar where many of the militants who were well armed had taken refuge, along with thousands of pilgrims who were there for the anniversary of the death of the fifth guru, Arjan Dev Ji. The siege lasted several days and many were killed, mostly pilgrims who had been allowed by the army to enter on the 3rd June but not allowed to leave later that day. As they secured the Temple, the army carried out many executions of those they detained and fired on men and women as they were trying to follow army orders to leave.

Acoording to Rajiv Gandhi, around 700 Indian Army soldiers were killed in the attack, although the official figure was 83. There are also huge discrepancies between the official figures of those who died inside the Temple, with an official figure of 554 casualties and independent estimates of 18-20,000.

Many Sikhs resigned from official positions and soldiers left the Indian Army after this assault on their religion, and five months later Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards in an act of revenge. This in turn led to anti-Sikh riots in which thousands of Sikhs were killed.

Many Sikhs still continue to call for an independent Sikh homeland, Khalistan, combining parts of the Punjab in both India and Pakistan that were severed at partition in 1947 when the whole area was divided between the two and Sikhs, along with other minorities were sidelined. Both political and military activities continue as does their repression by the Indian government, with many Sikhs held in Indian prisons, some under threat of hanging.

Feelings still run very high, and in 2013 four Sikhs were found guilty of attacking one of the generals who led the attack on the Temple, long retired and on holiday in London with his wife. Police have often taken a very keen interest in the annual march and prevented people from carrying some placards and posters which support the proscribed organisation Babbar Khalsa. The pictures here are from the march on Sunday 8th June 2014, which I left as the last of the protesters went down Park Lane on their way to a rally in Trafalgar Square

Sikhs march for Truth, Justice & Freedom


Protest Against Egypt Death Sentences

Also taking place on Sunday 8th June 2014 was a protest against the the 1,212 death sentences imposed on Islamists in Egypt, which was taking place as the new Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, was sworn in. These included 529 members of the Muslim Brotherhood sentenced in 2014 following an attack on a police station in 2013.

There was a mock trial. People wearing numbers to represent the prisoners made the Islamist R4BIA (Rabia) sign and the event ended with a die-in in front of Marble Arch.

Protest Against Egypt Death Sentences


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Deaths, Bedroom Tax & Feathers

Tuesday, April 6th, 2021

After a day resting and recovering from our 3 day walk along the Thames Path in 2013 I was ready to go up to London again on Saturday 6th April.

Sikhs had come to London at Vaisahki for a protest against the “ongoing and, disturbing atrocities that are being committed in the Republic of India, that, infringe the basic human rights of the minority communities, which includes but is not limited to the Sikhs, Christians, Muslims and Dalits (India’s untouchables).

In particular the Kesri Lehar (I Pledge Orange) campaign was protesting against the death penalty in India, with over 470 prisoners in Indian prisons on death row, though actual executions are rare. The House of Commons shortly before this protest had debated and agreed a backbench motion welcoming the Kesri Lehar petition and calling on India to abolish the death penalty.

One of those on death was Balwant Singh Rajoana, sentenced for his part in a suicide bomb attack which killed a former Chief Minister of Punjab, Beant Singh and 17 others in 1995. Sikhs say that Beant Singh was responsible for the extra-judicial killing of over 25,000 Sikh civilians in a brutal attempt to eliminate Sikhs calling for an independent state.

Balwant Singh Rajoana was sentenced to death in 2007 and was due to be hanged in 2012, but execution was stayed after some Sikh organisation appealed for clemency. But in 2013 there were renewed demands for his execution. This did not happen and in 2019 his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.

Campaigners also called for the release of Professor Devender Pal Singh Bhullar who has been on death row in India for 18 years, for his alleged involvement in a car bomb in Delhi in 1993. They say there is no evidence to connect him with the attack. His sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in March 2014.

A rather smaller protest at Downing St had been organised by the Counihan-Sanchez Family Housing Campaign from Kilburn against the unfair Bedroom tax and benefit caps which are effecting so many people and called for the GLA to build more social housing. The family’s own problems with Brent Council have made them very aware of the huge problems faced by many others across London and elsewhere and how cuts and sanctions have had a cruel impact on so many.

Also at Downing St, members and supporters of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (PMOI) were calling for the UK government to support an enquiry into Iraqi attacks on Camp Liberty in Baghdad where its members are held. They had been given refuge in Iraq by Saddam Hussein and gave up their arms when the US invaded Iraq in return for US protection. But the US hand over control of their camps to Iraq in 2009 and there have been a series of attacks on them by Iraqi security forces sympathetic to Iran, with over over 50 being killed, more than a thousand injured and many arrests.

Later in 2013 the United States organised a move of the roughly 3,000 members of the group to a new base in Albania, providing a $20 million donation to the UN refugee agency to resettle them. The USA has continued to support them as a government-in-exile for Iran and they are also apparently supported by them in covert operations continuing in Iran against the current Islamic regime. There are groups of the PMOI and supporting organisations in a number of European Countries and the UK as well as in the United States, though they are generally thought now to have little support in Iran.

It was good to leave what had been rather intense protests and go on to something in a much lighter mood in Trafalgar Square. I think the first International Pillow Fight Day was in March 2008, when I photographed it in Leicester Square. In 2013 the event, organised by the urban playground movement, was taking place in 90 cities across 30 countries.

The aim of the event is to get people away from “passive, non-social, branded consumption experiences like watching television” and to consciously reject “the blight on our cities caused by the endless creep of advertising into public space.” The organisers hope this will result in “a global community of participants, not consumers.

The authorities frown on it, possibly as a subversive activity but perhaps because it makes something of a mess, as pillows inevitably break and feathers fly, leaving the ground covered with them after the event. Or perhaps they are just killjoys. Royal Parks police had prevented a fight in Hyde Park earlier in the day but the Heritage Wardens were overwhelmed by the numbers who had come to Trafalgar Square and were unable to stop. A small group of Westminster Council workers were standing on one edge ready to clean up afterwards.

The feathers and dust do make these events something of a health hazard, and it would have made sense to wear a face mask – but back in 2013 these were only seen on Japanese tourists. Probably a once a year exposure to dust and feathers isn’t a huge risk, but this year they did rather get down my throat and I withdrew once the air was thick with them, deciding I’d taken enough pictures.

Feathers Fly in Trafalgar Square
PMOI Protest Iraqi killings
No to Bedroom Tax & Benefit Caps
Vaisakhi “Save a Live” Vigil

Republic Day: 26 January 2011

Tuesday, January 26th, 2021

Republic Day has been celebrated in India on the 26th January since 1950, and marks the day in 1950 when the Constitution of India came into effect. India had gained independence on 15 August 1947, but that left the country as a British dominion, still under British Law and with King George VI as head of state. It took until November 1949 for the new constitution to be agreed, and the January 26 was chosen for its introduction as the Indian National Congress had declared it as Independence Day in 1929.

Along with Independence Day it is a day when there are often protests outside India House in London and on 26th January 2011, ten years ago today, there were at least two taking place. One called for the release of leading paediatrician and public health specialist Binayak Sen, a member of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties who has gained international recognition for his work in Chhattisgarh, India, where he “helped establish a hospital serving poor mine workers in the region, founded a health and human rights organization that supports community health workers in 20 villages.”

Dr Sen also criticised the Chhattisgarh state government’s atrocities against indigenous people fighting the handover of their lands for mining and their establishment of an armed militia, the Salwa Judum, to fight against the Naxalite (Maoist) rebels in the area, and was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment by a Chhattisgarh court for sedition and helping the Naxalites. His case and appeal attracted support from around the world including from 22 Nobel laureates who sent a letter to the Indian President and Prime Minister and Chhattisgarh state authorities asking for him to be allowed to travel to the US to receive the Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights. Later in 2011 he was granted bail by the Indian Supreme Court.

Also protesting outside India House were Kashmiris and Sikhs calling for the freedom for their nations which has been denied by Indian military repression. Kashmir is one of the oldest countries in the world, dating back to the Iron Age and became a Muslim monarchy in 1349, was later a part of the Sikh empire but was established later as a kingdom under British guidance. At partition the ruler ceded the country to India against the wishes of the majority of its inhabitants for military protection after Pakistan invaded the country, which is now in three parts, under military rule by India, Pakistan and a small part China.

The Indian administered area, known as Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh had limited autonomy which was revoked on 5 August 2019 and has a huge occupying force accused by human rights organisations of imposing strict military law in a systematically brutal fashion, with deaths during interrogation of suspects, detention without trail, censorship, arson, beatings, rape, mass murder, and tortures of all kinds.

It was a busy Wednesday, with other protests taking place, including a student day of action against fees and cuts, including the loss of the Education Maintenance Allowance which has allowed many 16-18 year olds to remain in education. Axed in England it is still available in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Unfortunately although there had been publicity about students walking out of schools and college there was very little information available about the protests they might attend, and only perhaps qa hundred made their way to the rally in Trafalgar Square.

After some speeches there was a discussion about what to do next, and most of those present decided to join the NUJ demonstration outside Bush House against the savage cuts announced by the BBC for the World Service broadcasting, with up to 650 job losses, switching off of radio services and the complete loss of services in 5 languages. This was particularly convenient for me as I was also going to join this protest as a member of the NUJ – and it was just a few yards from India House were I was going to photograph other events.

More at:
Release Binayak Sen Now
Free Kashmir & Khalistan
Save the BBC World Service
Student Day of Action


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.