This is the second year that the Sikh Community in Derby have created an event in the City Centre to give others a glimpse into their culture. On offer was the opportunity to be dressed with a turban, or to have your name written in Punjabi, to taste some food, listen to music, or learn about the history and tragedies of the Sikh people.
Like most religions people engage with it at different levels. The men who are more orthodox and devout will be seen to wear a turban. Their views about not cutting their hair are well understood and recognised by many. The other philosophies of Sikhism are not well known, and this event tried to bridge that gap.
I went to the Vaisakhi event in April 2014, and was privileged to have had a long conversation with a Sikh woman who gave me a very good insight. The 2 qualities which were memorable for me were:
– Equality. There is a strong belief that everyone is created equal, and there is no room for discrimination and racism in Sikhism, for any reason.
– Sharing. To share your material possessions, and food, with others in the community.
It is the latter of these that gives the underlying motivation behind the Langar ( free hot meal provision at the Gurdwara), as well as the weekly “food bank” service that the Guru Nanak Mission arrange and provide in the Market Square in Derby, at the weekend.
Like too many ethnicities and religions in the world they have been subjected to Genocides and Massacres throughout their history. This must shape the way they view life, and the burden they carry to maintain the memories of those who were killed. There were 2 Genocides in the 18th Century. The most recent event was in June 1984 when thousands of Sikhs were killed in Amritsar. Indian Government policies against Sikhs since then have distinctive racist overtones – some might consider genocidal.
Sikhs have lived in Derby for decades, and are an integral part of the society. Their philosophies and ideals are commendable and a more obvious demonstration of how they are accommodated in mainstream thinking can only be supportive of city wide cohesion and integration. I understand Council Leader Ranjit Banwait is a Sikh. The widespread application of Sikh philosophies in his leadership style would be welcomed by all….I’m sure!
To find out more about Sikhs and their history: