Sikhs@War Event in Parliament – Speech
Below are the remarks I made at the event, presenting the Attorney General with a Kirpan and thanking all those that made this project a huge success while remembering our glorious dead:
SPEECH: SIKHS@WAR LAUNCH EVENT – PARLIAMENT
By JAY SINGH-SOHAL
Ladies and Gentlemen, this is a momentous occasion – I never would have imagined that as a journalist and filmmaker I would one day be showing my film in Parliament. For that I must express my deep felt appreciation to the Attorney General Dominic Grieve who’s been a great supporter of the Sikh community at this and on many other occasions.
It’s only right we express our gratitude. Sir, you will no doubt as Queen’s Council have administered the proverbial sword of justice – today on behalf of the British Sikh community I’d like to present you with the Sikh sword of justice – the Kirpan. [Applause, presentation]
This film and this launch would not have been possible without the contribution and efforts of several people who I also wish to thank.
The Un Ltd Millennium Awards Scheme, Avtar Gakhal and Birmingham Plating for sponsoring the film.
My editor and cameraman Rajesh Divakaran for his technical expertise.
And Dewi Clough, Ed Church and Harjinder Singh Khalsa for their contributions.
Many thanks to Shri Dasmesh Sikh Temple, Birmingham for covering catering costs today, Sangat Television and Jastinder Singh Kudhail for broadcast and photography. To Sirdar Santokh Singh Chhokar for making today’s arrangements. And to DTF Books in Birmingham.
Thanks to my team for their hard work and effort – Sukhmani Vig, Dr Daman Mullhi, Hardeep Gill, Jag Kainth, Dave Kainth, Jasdeep Gill, Simran Gill and Pam Shoker.
On a personal level, I’d like to thank my family for their love and support during my journey as a filmmaker over the past 2 years. As Indian parents it must be bizarre for them to see me doing such unique and different things when, I have no doubt, they probably wish I had become a Doctor!
And I wanted to save the biggest thanks for last – and that’s for Jaspal Singh and his family for allowing me to tell his personal story. Jaspal told his emotional story with confidence and conviction, without which this film or this project would never have taken off and in turn inspired so many other young people – so please stand up, take a bow. [Applause]
Attorney General Sir, you’ve done me the great honour of screening my film here at this prestigious venue. You’ll know how much it means to me when I tell you that as a young child I was completely enchanted by this the institution of Parliament. It started when my grandfather brought me here as a child and that first vision of the Palace of Westminster has stayed with me.
Every visit since has been a reminder that the values enshrined in the walls of this ancient institution are values that we all hold dear – particularly for British Sikhs because so many of our Sikh forefathers chose to fight for them, selflessly died for them.
They did so because they believed in the values that make up the very essence of our Parliamentary Democracy and the beacon of light it is for the rest of the world: justice, the rule of law, freedom from tyranny and oppression, freedom of speech and belief.
They fought for a foreign King and foreign Country they’d never seen, but they did so to live up to their reputation as the ultimate martial race and bring honour and respect to their families, their clan, and our community.
They did their duty but we’ve forgotten ours somewhat – to remember our Sikh heroes and narrate their stories in every medium for all to hear. After all, we owe our own successful integration as British Sikhs to these loyal, law abiding, hard working and honourable men.
As a filmmaker, it’s my sincere hope that this film will play some part in telling the story of our Sikh heroes to the world – so no one can forget their loyalty and valour. I’m happy to announce we’re going to expand this project with more films and I hope we have your support in doing so. After all if we don’t tell the story of the Sikh soldier who will? They did their duty for Great Britain and deserve to be recognised and remembered.
I’d like to end by reading you a letter home to Punjab from the western front, dated 19 April 1916, written in Gurmukhi verse by Dafadar Natha Singh of the 2nd Lancers. It sums up for me that uniquely Sikh warrior spirit – in praise of the battlefield as the ultimate theatre of dreams, one where spiritual and physical liberation can be won:
The Sikh roars like a lion on the field of battle
And yields up his life as a sacrifice;
Whoever is fortunate enough to be born [a warrior]
Never fears the foe in battle’
He gives up all thought of worldly pleasure
And dreams only of the battlefield;
He who dies on the field of battle,
His name never dies, but lives in history;
He who confronts the foe boldly in battle
Has God for his protection;
Once a Sikh takes the sword in hand
He has only one aim – victory.
Ladies and gentlemen, we remember this every day with our traditional Sikh greeting, so please join with me in saying – Vaheguru ji ka Khalsa Vaheguru ji ki Fateh.
Now time for questions.