Currently Browsing: South East Asia
Sikh MP in NZ and the State of Sikh MPs

Unfortunately South East Asia’s coverage in The Langar Hall remains sparse, except for often tragic stories that make the world headlines.

Here we report on something much more pleasant.kanwalbakshi_180.jpg

It seems that in New Zealand, we have our first Sikh elected as a member of parliament (MP). Delhi-born businessman, Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi, won his precinct as a member of the conservative National Party, winning the immigrant-dominated Manukau East constituency in suburban Auckland.

Now I am the first to admit that I don’t know much about New Zealand’s politics, nor much about the National Party (other than that the “Nats” seemed poised to form the new government in New Zealand, after nearly a decade of Labour Party rule).

Still for some strange ethnic solidarity purpose (although I have a feeling I would have not voted for Bakshi), I do think his victory is a good thing for New Zealand in general and the Sikh community there in particular.


A Sikh tele-drama?

[Joint post by Singh and Reema]

The plot is thick. Nearly 100 million Phillipine pesos are at stake (roughly $ 2.2 million USD). Multiple groups of god-father like figures control entourages of loyal henchmen. Money is being used for unauthorized purposes, and powerful figures have put competitors out of play – risking not just the money, but [dun dun dun]…their lives!
Is this:

(a) The set of Al Capone?

(b) A government paramilitary force under a dictatorship?

(c) The Punjab Police?

(d) Or is it just the story of a gurdwara?

You guessed it: the answer is (d)!

This is the set for the latest episode of “Who Wants to be a Pardhaan (President of the Gurdwara),” and it takes place in Manila, where a battle for control of the local guru ghar has been waged for years. We had heard of this type of thing being publicized in the West (Europe and the Americas), but why should the Phillipines be any different – and undoubtedly this story has just as much drama and un-Sikh-like behavior as any we have heard. It goes something like this:

2004: Bansal became Gurdwara president following a court-supervised elections. After coming into power, he looked into organizations assets and found that Amardeeps group (the old committee) had siphoned off P30.6 million from Gurdwara donations to a new corporation they had createdKhalsa Diwan (Sikh Religious Association) Inc.


Sikh Woman In Malaysia: The Face Of HIV/AIDS Victims

Langa(w)riters have posted on AIDS/HIV infection amongst Sikh women here and here. We have discussed issues around support groups and causes of infection. One of the number one risk factors for contracting HIV/AIDS for Punjabi Sikh women is marriage. Many women are infected by their husbands who are intravenous drug addicts and/or clients of prostitutes. Not only are these womens lives reaped with more havoc at no fault of their own, but there is also an insurmountable amount of stigma these women endure.

This past week, a Sikh woman, Kiranjit Kaur, stood up with tremendous strength and bravery to help combat this stigma. She become the poster-woman for people living with HIV/AIDS in Malaysia. At the age of 35, Kaur has decided to put her face to this disease because I am here to help the ‘positive’ community and empower them and tell them they are not alone.

Kiranjit Kaur contracted HIV in 1996 through her husband who was a former drug addict and has since passed away.

After contracting the disease she began working full-time with the Asian Pacific Council on AIDS Services as an advocate for other HIV/AIDS patients.


Cheena-Punjabi Bhai Bhai

At one time Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) in Ludhiana, Punjab was THE agricultural university in Asia. Largely due to this university’s role in promoting the Green Revolution (fellow Langa(w)r-iters have described the Green Revolution’s darker sides, another monograph is by Vandana Shiva), students from throughout East Asia came to Ludhiana to study at PAU. In California, I have always been surprised to randomly meet some Chinese men that know Punjabi. However, here is an impressive Malaysian-Chinese man Kian You (AKA Karam Singh) that will leave your mouth wide open. He discusses the importance of continuing the Punjabi language and can even recite the first Pauri of Japji Sahib. On this Friday as many of us tune in to watch the Olympics in China, take a few minutes to watch this video of an ethnically Chinese man teach us about our maboli.

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UPDATE: Tragedy in New Zealand Sikh Community

The police have apprehended two suspects and are charging them with the killing of Navtej Singh. The police are still searching for additional suspects and accomplices.


Many of our friends and family own small businesses. Whether gas stations or convenience stores, the hours are long and the risks are high. Few of us would probably not be aware of some friends or family that have not had some circumstance occur while working.navtej.jpg

In Auckland, the New Zealand Sikh community suffered a tragedy with the killing of 30 year old, Navtej Singh, a father of three children all under 5 years of age.

Almost as disturbing as the cold-blooded murderers, who stole fifteen bottles of beer and a few dollars, was a callous customer that stole a box of alcopops as the victim lay in his blood.

The 12,000 member Sikh community in New Zealand is an established community with five gurdwaras and are asking questions. There is some division as to whether these crimes have a racial motivation or are crimes of opportunity:

“What is happening in South Auckland?” asked Sandeep Verma, who was with Navtej Singh when he was shot, and when he later died in hospital.

“All the people from the Indian community, whether they are Fiji Indians, Indians, Punjabis, Gujaratis; only those people are the main target.

“What are the police doing for the security of our people?” [link]