The Day Facebook and Instagram Erased #Sikh People

I try not to be political on my blog, but the events of the last few days have made me think about staying quiet, when it is our voices that will help, not our silence.

So the two previous posts have been in support of the #BlackLivesMatter movement that is in full flow.

During this time of unease for many in the Black community, and the extended #BAME community , as well as those not of colour, horrified by the events that took place with the murder of George Floyd, I remembered there was something else of huge importance, to me, as a Sikh, to recall.


Ten days of Terror for the Sikhs.

This was when the Indian Government launched Operations Blue Star, and there, thirty six years ago, tthebeginnings of the biggest Sikh genocide took place.

Soldiers marched into the holy shrine in Amritsar, the Golden Temple, desecrating the buildings, grounds, religious artefacts, and murdering hundreds of innocent pilgrims, man, woman, child. There was no respite.

They were there to apparently flush out Sikh Separatists after there were calls for a separate state of Khalistan for Sikhs, as there was a Pakistan for the Muslims.

It was a time filled with terror, and resulted in hundreds, if not thousands of deaths of innocent Sikh people. The Indian Government were trying to erase us, the Sikhs.

To read more about the awful happenings of those ten days, click here.

Every year, there is a peaceful remembrance, filled with emotion, remembering those who died in this mindless act, which sparked the assassination of the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, by two of her Sikh bodyguards. That act then set off a domino effect of riots, rape and murder of thousands of Sikhs in Delhi, and the Punjab.

To this day, there are Sikh people who don’t know what happened to members of their families during this time.

Then, to top it off, on 3rd June of this year, amidst the Black Lives Matter uprising, the hashtags #sikh and #sikhism, which were being used to remember and highlight a key time in our community’s background, disappeared from both Facebook and Instagram.

If you tried to search it, it was blocked.

Sure, there were others, but the main hashtags for us, #sikh, and #sikhism was unsearchable.

So the Indian Goverment tried to erase us then, thirty six years ago, and now, in 2020, we have social media doing the same.

It’s back up now, but why?

Why was it deemed ‘unsuitable content’ for us to remember this injustice?

Were there too many big other movements going on?

We, as Sikhs, are right there, too, but come on social media, give us our chance to speak too!

Happy Vaisakhi everyone!

It is Vaisakhi today, an event with several meanings to different cultures and religions.

Happy Vaisakhi

Happy Vaisakhi

It is celebrated by Hindus and Buddhists as part of welcoming the new solar year in.

But it is extremely important to the Punjabi community and the Sikh religion.  The time of Vaisakhi, or Baisakhi, as some say it, is a traditional harvest festival, and as the Punjab is a large farming area, it is a cause for celebration, when the crops are harvested, people dance, and have fun, they do Bhangra, sing and dance, and generally celebrate the freedom they will now have, after a successful (hopefully) harvest. But before all this fun and laughter, they use this time to pray, and thank God for the good harvest, and to pray for the future crops too.

As a Sikh it holds a great importance too.  Way back in 1699, our 10th Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji laid the foundations of the Panth Khalsa, or the Order of the Pure ones, and so it is the birth of the Khalsa, and Sikhism as we know it now.

Guru Gobind Singh Ji's Khalsa Panth

Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s Khalsa Panth

On this day many people who may not be baptised into full Sikhism, choose to do this, known as Amrit Shakna.  This is basically that you are drinking the holy nectar, Amrit, and you pledge to be a true Sikh, as above, remembering the 5 Kakar’s (the 5 K’s).

Kesh – Uncut Hair, you remain as God intended you to be, be thankful for what God gave you, do not be ashamed.

Kangha – A wooden comb worn in the hair, to keep you tidy, and presentable at all times, a symbol of cleanliness.

Kara – A steel bangle acting as a constant reminder of a Sikh’s mission on this Earth, to do good, and help others. It is an external symbol of our faith. Being a continuous circle, it shows a Sikh’s unbreakable attachment to God. It was also used in self defence, and originally was part of a type of coat of arms, to protect the arms in battles.

Kirpan – A ceremonial dagger carried by baptised Sikhs, that is there to defend oneself, but more over to protect others regardless of race, colour or creed.

Kashera – a loose shorts like undergarment. Used to retain ones modesty, and cover your intimate parts, so as to always be proper, and also, as it is worn by both man and woman, it is a way to discourage looking at the opposite sex in an immoral way. It is tied with a naala, a drawstring, and the meaning for that is that if you were to be removing it to do anything improper, then untying the knot would give you time to think about what actions you are about to make…

We celebrated today by going to the Gurdwara to pay our respects.

Then on the weekend, there will be a large parade, the Nagar Kirtan, which slowly snakes around our town, and all the local community, Sikh or not, get involved! We place our holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib, in a specially made trailer, resembling the Golden Temple in Amritsar, and then there are people walking ahead, cleaning the road in advance. The Panj Pyare, or Five Loved/Blessed Ones, Walk ahead of this carriage.

Panj Pyare

Panj Pyare

This procession is attended by thousands, who come from far and wide to walk alongside, and behind the Guru Granth Sahib.

Ariel Image

Ariel Image

We walk behind, chanting holy songs, and walk through the town, and around the route there are people giving food and drink, to all. This is part of our Seva, or helping others that we are encouraged to do. Many people, in the lead up to Vaisakhi will visit the temple and donate items such as juice and sweets, which are distributed along the journey. Also, local businesses will arrange for hot food and drink along the route, for free, as their ‘seva’ for Vaisakhi.

Some of the many people who attend

Some of the many people who attend

Behind the main hoards of worshippers there are usually trailers for those that can’t walk the couple of miles that we travel, and also local sports teams or cultural clubs have their participants on board open sided lorries.  That’s where I’ll be, as I have been the last 4 years. Previously they were on a trailer together as they play the Dhol, (Punjabi Drum) with a local Bhangra team, but this year Lil Man is on a trailer with his football team, and Lil Princess will be sat with her Punjabi School classmates. I hope to get a seat somewhere as my feet may not cope with the long walk this year!

And we have Bhangra dancers, performing along the route at various stations.

Bhangra Dancers

Bhangra Dancers

It is a beautiful event, and there are Nagar Kirtans around the UK in places where there is a large Sikh community.  Hopefully, I’ll get some pictures on Saturday, which I can post for you!

But for now,


Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh

(Wonderful Lord’s Khalsa, Victory is to the Wonderful Lord)

Visiting the Gurdwara Today

It’s not even 9.30am, and already we have been extremely spiritual, given the auspicious nature of the day today! As it is Vaisakhi, we usually go to the Gurdwara to pay our respects, and because we had to drop Hubby Dearest to the station today, it seemed a good idea to start the day in a religious way!

The Gurdwara this morning

The Gurdwara this morning

The flags are up, ready for the Nagar Kirtan, the religious procession that will be happening on Saturday.

The Chanda, the flag, to show that there is a Gurdwara here

The Chanda, the flag, to show that there is a Gurdwara here

Yup, that’s my two, standing at the base of the Chanda, the flag of the Khalsa, paying their respects before going inside.

The Entrance hall

The Entrance hall

It’s a beautiful building, and there is amazing wooden carved panels, brought over from India, where expert carvers created the panels.

One of the panels

One of the panels

As you go up one level there is a stained glass window, depicting the symbol ੴ, Ek Onkar, meaning there is one God.

Ek Onkar

Ek Onkar

Then the domes that you can see for the outside are decorated on the inside with mosaic work.

The Outer Dome

The Outer Dome

Then when you go inside the Darbar Sahib, to actually pay your respects, there is another stunning stained glass window, and the decorated area where the Guru Granth Sahib sits.

Prayers are happening

Prayers are happening

The stained glass window depicting the Khanda, our symbol of the Sikh faith

The stained glass window depicting the Khanda, our symbol of the Sikh faith

And again a beautiful dome with mosaic decoration.

The inner dome

The inner dome

We’re hoping to have a peaceful day now, at home, but there are still Karate lessons later!

Enjoy your day everyone!

But I Smile Anyway...

Casting away Caste

It’s an out dated principle, granted. In the West, so many hear of this ‘caste’ system and are horrified.  Why would you judge someone to such an extent? In India, you have a HUGE caste system.  Everyone has heard of the ‘untouchables’, the slums in the cities, thanks to films like Slumdog Millionaire

I am by no means an expert on this topic, but have experienced a lot, seen and heard a lot over the years.

Our religion is Sikhism and our Gurus taught us to disown the Caste System, but still it’s there within Sikhi too.  Essentially the castes break down into groups of different types of work.  Some being viewed as a ‘higher’ level than others. I am part of a Jatt Sikh family.  This is generally viewed as one of the highest castes, not that it means much to me… basically, I am from a landowner and farming family.  Do we farm now? Nope.  My dad was a dentist, and my brother works in advertising, production and film making! My in-laws? Yup,.. they are Jatt too, but again, though he is now retired, FIL was working in a factory, and Hubby dearest and BIL are in sales and IT!

Admittedly, as a family we did have land, and both my mum and dad’s families carried on farming in Kenya when they went there, but coming over here, this wasn’t the case. And as for my in-laws, they still have land in India.  it is still farmed, but by someone else who rents the fields from us.  So there is still a level of Jatt-puna (means pride in being a Jatt) floating around the family!  When Hubby Dearest, and I met, and fell for each other, it was never the most important thing for me, but it was an added bonus as we were the same caste, so for others who may have found a ‘love marriage’ a bit hard to swallow, the fact that we were the right caste was a balm to ease this ‘naughtiness’! So I got off quite lightly in the end… the fact that our families were from different districts in the Punjab, and the comments that followed that particular debate, well that’s a WHOLE other post!

My Pops has always viewed all castes as equal.  He is a very spiritual person, he believes in Sikhism wholeheartedly, and he takes the words of the Gurus very seriously. This means that my brother and I have grown up with this whole issue being not very important, race, colour, creed, caste, it matters none.  What matters is the person you are, and your heart.  We have had weddings in the family in the past where people have married outside of the caste, and there have been various looks of horror, and furtive whisperings about how this could have happened.  My Pops would be asked, as one of the elder male members of the family, of his opinion.  From the beginning he said “Who am I to cast an opinion on what a child is doing, and whether it is right or wrong?  I don’t know what my own children will do in the future.  All I hope is that they will be happy, and embrace God.”  And he was right to do so… Ok, so I married within the expected ‘range’ but my brother took it to a whole other level.  Not Sikh, but a Christian, Finnish bride!  And what a beautiful union they have made too!  And Pops and mum accepted my new SIL into the family with open arms.  And we have a beautiful Finn-dian/Finn-jabi baby nephew to add to the family, as a result too!

Marry within our religion, that is what is hoped, at least, and for the most part we, in my family, all have.  But we have had a few who jumped ship!  But the respect for their religion is still there.  I remember a cousin who married out of caste, and her aunt was very disapproving, and very verbal about this too. It made for an uncomfortable atmosphere… then a few years later, her own son married someone not ever Sikh, or brown-skinned!  She was so ashamed of her words to her own niece that she felt he had to disown her son for doing this.  It took many years and a near tragedy to make her realise that her son was more important than her outdated beliefs.

Ok, so marriages and inter caste, or inter-faith, that’s my take.

When we go back to India, with my in-laws, we go and stay at the family home. As soon as you arrive, the whole caste system is apparent, wherever you go there, in India.  The higher castes in their fancy cars, swanning around, and heaven forbid if any lower caste person was to get in their way, let alone touch them! The lower castes trying to sell wares by the roadside, or begging. An accident happens… if it was a beggar, or someone who looks low-caste, them they are just left on the streets, until some good Samaritan arrives on the scene to help, or left to their own fate.  If it was someone affluent looking then there are swarms of onlookers, and all the relevant authorities and emergency services are called.  What so a low-caste person is no longer a human?

We get back to the village, and we have a lovely young girl who comes to clean and do our laundry. I say young, she is younger than me, but with around 5 children.  She happily cleans and does all that needs doing and that is required, coming early in the morning, and then going back to her family, then revisiting 2-3 times to refresh everything.  She works hard, to get her few rupees.  But the one thing she cannot do, in our house, anyway, is touch the food, or cook for us.  Because she is from one of the lowest of the castes.  It’s not my in-laws who say this, but the rest of the village.  Things have happened before. We used to have another girl come to work here, an she was from a less fortunate family. M MIL treated her as one of the children, letting her watch TV, eat with us, taking her out as well.

But apparently, this spoiled her, so after my in-laws would come back, the girl and her family became too big for their boots, expecting the same treatment from everyone else. But no one else in the village would do this, as they were Low Caste.

Due to various reasons, she no longer comes to our house but this other girl does, and for fear of the same thing happening, and the back lash from the villagers, MIL and FIL treat her well, but are cautious. We send food home with her for her and her family, I even save my children’s clothes that they outgrow, and MIL takes them for her kids. When we go over there from here, it is hard to see the way these apparently ‘lower castes’ are treated…

The reason? Because in our world, back in the UK and other western countries, this caste system means nothing. The ‘street and sewage cleaner’ from the village is a successful business man here who has made millions, while the ‘Jatt Farmer’ is unemployed or working as a cleaner himself in some office building, to make ends meet.

Yet, even here, there is still some sort of caste system.. It’s not called that, but you have your upper class, middle class, working class, the unemployed, on benefits that have their own tag, and the immigrants.

When will people stop looking at others with this ‘tag’ system,’ and realise that we are all equal, all human, and that we all deserve the same chances.  There will always be rich and poor, unfortunately, but this doesn’t mean that a poor ‘low caste’ person doesn’t have pride, just the same as a rich ‘high caste’ doesn’t automatically deserve lauding, if he hasn’t actually done anything!

Judge on personality and ability, not on some out dated system that has no real meaning any more.

My interactive peeps!

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