How Europe is Indebted to the Sikhs
Varinder Walia, Tribune News Service
Amritsar-born and Holland-based International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF) leader, Mr Bhupinder Singh, has done documentation of the Sikhs who had made supreme sacrifices in Europe, including France and Belgium, during World War I. His documentation is titled — “How Europe is indebted to the Sikhs?”
The documentation of the valiant acts of the Sikhs who had helped the Europeans at the time of grave crisis has been duly recognised in Europe. The documentation, hitherto unknown information about the world wars, may compel the government of France to review the ban on wearing turban or patka in its schools. The official communications of the European countries have become a permanent record for the Sikhs who can now raise the “turban issue” with France in an appropriate and logical way.
The documentation runs into 274 pages. It includes rare pictures of the brave Sikh soldiers being greeted by the Europeans. The entry of the Sikh battalion had turned the World War I in favour of Europeans who have been remembering them by organising special functions every year to mark their respective Independence Days.
Dr Harjinder Singh Dilgir, a Sikh scholar, says that the unique work, including rare and precious documents, newspaper clippings of the World War period, done by Mr Bhupinder Singh deserves special commendation.
To honor 300 years of Khalsa and the sacrifice of Sikh soldiers during World War I, the City of Ieper together with the European Sikh Community organized a Celebration of Peace on Sunday 4 April 1999 at Cloth Hall in Ieper, Belgium.
The rare pictures include the arrival of Sikh soldiers in Marseilles (Oct 1914), Sikh soldiers in trenches of France, Indian troops evacuating wounded Somme. These pictures have been collected with great efforts.
A letter sent to Gen Pervez Musharraf by Mayor of Leper through Mr Bhupinder Singh shows the faith entrusted in the Sikhs. The Mayor of Leper wrote to Gen Musharraf that a historical bond existed between Europe and the people of Pakistan (a part of Indian sub-continent before 1947) who had made supreme sacrifices for the independence of European countries.
Mr Bhupinder Singh told Amritsar Plus that he had recorded the names and addresses of more than 80,000 Sikhs who had sacrificed their lives for the sake of European countries. However, the number of such brave soldiers was much more than that shown by the recorded history. Due recognition had not been given to such soldiers so far. He said had the sacrifices of Sikh soldiers during the world wars been projected properly, the turban issue would have been resolved by now.
Of maharaja and Tandoor restaurant…
Bhupinder Singh says, “Sikhs got an important opportunity to know and understand the Dutch in the 1970s through the diplomatic channel when the former Maharaja Yadvindra Singh of Patiala was the Indian Ambassador in Den Haag. The grand Sikh maharaja’s charismatic presence at social and cultural programmes greatly affected the people of Holland.”
“I came to Holland in August 1973 and met the maharaja in September at his residence where I also met Joginder Singh Mann, Ganga Singh Dhillon and R.S. Gentle. I came to know only from him that one Balbir Singh of Delhi had been running an Indian restaurant Tandoor in Amsterdam for some years. He also told me that a Sikh family of Beant Singh-Tarlochan Singh had been living in Rotterdam for the last ten years,” he adds.
Elaborating further, he says, “Our next meeting took place at the Tandoor restaurant where Bishan Singh Samundari (former Principal of Khalsa College and Vice-Chancellor of Guru Nanak University), was also with us. Mr Balbir Singh told us that there was one Guru Ramdas Ashram run by American Sikhs who also had a restaurant called the Golden Temple. This was the information which I got about the community on my arrival”.
“I cultivated regular contacts with the maharaja. He was not very happy to be there as an ambassador to Holland. He would often say that he himself had handed over the Patiala state to the government in order to consolidate India, and that the tall and brave Sikh soldiers of Patiala had died in the Indo-China war fighting in the forefront. He found it difficult to understand why a Sikh was not made an ambassador to the USA, Canada or England. Tears often welled in his eyes while talking about the young soldiers. He was also unhappy over the curtailment of the privy purses. He breathed his last in May 1974 at Wassenaar. His daughter and son-in-law came from England. With his death, a brilliant star of the Sikhs had disappeared from the firmament of Holland,” he adds.
French-Sikh Soldiers: Their Names Live for Evermore: After the bloody battle of Neuve Chapelle, France (10 till 13 March 1915) the Sikh Regiments had lost eighty perccent of their men and three regements stood at only sixteen percent of its original composition. "It was the dark days of 1914 when our men had to face mortars, hand grenades, high explosive shells for which they themselves were not provided. They could reply only with their valour, their rifles and two machine guns per batallion. And yet they did it.", more
Note: Comments do not represent the views of SikhNet. Comments containing
profanity, provocation or slandar will be removed by the moderators.
Email the News Editor Add SikhNet news to your website
Become a SikhNet Supporter
Make a one time contribution or sign up as a monthly SikhNet donor.
History - Donation - Privacy - Help - Registration - Search
Copyright © 2007 SikhNet
Phone: 505-753-3117 - Email SikhNet Support