UK Sikhs Gather to Protect Gurdwaras from Riots

Guest blogged by Naujawani Sardar

article_2024358_0D5EFEA800000578_724_634x312.jpgRiots have hit London and a few other cities in the UK over the last three nights causing mayhem, destroying property and leading to looting.  Tonight, hundreds of Sikhs are gathering to defend the Gurdware in these cities should they fall under the eye of the looters. It is bringing together Sikhs of all backgrounds and affiliations; promising a glimmer of hope from an otherwise horrible situation.

To find out more about this mobilisation of Sikhs, go to the Sikh Riot Awareness UK page.

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The trigger has been widely recognised as the shooting of a 29 year old black man Mark Duggan in the Tottenham area of North London. 48 hours after his shooting, members of his family, friends and the wider community congregated outside Tottenham Police Station to protest at what they saw as the heavy-handed action of the London Metropolitan Police and the unhelpful communication from them about the matter in the following days. At this gathering of about some 300 protestors, a relatively minor confrontation between a teenager and the Police is said to have ignited running battles that ensued well into the night. A double decker bus was set alight and 49 fires were being dealt with by morning. But more importantly, as a sign of things to come, shops selling household goods, sportswear, toiletries and glasses were looted with CCTV images capturing hooded individuals taking away trollies laden with items.

On Sunday night and Monday night the riots did not dissipate and instead spread further to different parts of London and cities including Bristol and Birmingham. Parliament has been recalled, extra police forces have been sent on to the streets and news media is talking about nothing else. The state of chaos has garnered many questions that will surely be asked over the coming months and indeed years as to what has led to the riots. But what troubles me continuously is the idea that somehow the behaviour we are witnessing on the streets is justifiable. Across social media I have seen a number of people try to explain that the last few nights should have been foreseen based on a range of factors from the recent funding cuts to bizarrely the Iraq war. Arson, robbery and intimidation have no justification, particularly when they are acts committed by large groups. In the UK, we have numerous benefit hand-outs, free education, free health services and assisted housing. How does this compare to the plight of those in the Arab world who have rioted in recent months for basic rights without resorting to petty thieving

This is no revolution and there is no moral ground being sought. The victims are shopkeepers, home owners, franchisees and everyday people trying to get to and from work. The perpetrators are almost entirely groups of people who are taking this opportunity to commit crimes freely. They are not attacking the ‘machine’ that keeps them down and anyone suggesting so needs to watch how this man’s home was set alight in Clapham [link], how this innocent boy in Barking was attacked and then mugged [link] and how these two girls boasted of their petty pilfering [link].

The UK has learnt once again that our way of life and civil society is as fragile as the rest of the world, especially when good men do nothing and let those amongst us who are troubled take over.

[Note: above video added by The Langar Hall admin]


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44 Responses to “UK Sikhs Gather to Protect Gurdwaras from Riots”

  1. ravi behl says:

    if u need any kind of support or help from indian media if u want to share any images or videos then reply to my mail…we will show it on our channel….

    Thanks,
    Ravi Behl
    NDTV 24×7
    New Delhi
    INDIA

  2. Blighty Singh says:

    Its finally over…after 3 nights and days of total anarchy here in London. As sikhs though, we've come out of this extremely well. For one, we've shown how we are a very united and organised community. Secondly, with the healthy competition between our dedicated Sikh TV channels we've seen them rarise their quality to international media standards. With our Sikh communities being located in some of the worst hit areas its been heartwarming to flick through all the International News channels…from Fox, France 24, Russia Today and Sky….and see our Sikh insignia on the screen as they were using the live feeds from Sangat TV from the streets. Thirdly, the way we were able to very quickly mobilise Sikh units to the areas where the gurdwaras needed them the most, particularly in East London and south of the river in Woolwich.
    For me, this journalist summed it up best when he said " There are so many Sikhs outside the temple, I'd say it's the safest place in London tonight" http://southall.ealinggazette.co.uk/2011/08/100-s

  3. Fauj says:

    There is word that several gurdwaras were attacked – Wolverhampton being one. Does any one hav more info on this?

  4. Blighty Singh says:

    I don't know if the gurdwara in Wolverhampton was attacked. If it was, the guy from Sangat TV would have it on film. Sorry to go a bit off topic but the Sikh TV channel Sangat TV is a worldwide legend at the moment. It should get a Pultitzer prize or Emmy or whatever it is they give to news organisations. Right now its got millions of people throughout Europe glued to it…even though the commentary is in the most rustic doaba Punjabi you could ever imagine. Just read a tweet from the Irish comedian Dara o'brien who says he can't take his eyes off Sangat TV its such compulsive viewing. The whole thing is surreal. You've got the man at Sangat driving around Birmingham at the dead of night chasing ad=fter looters and rioters. Each time he turns a corner he finds vast gangs of Sikh men in the streets with kirpans and baseball bats. He stops and has a chat. There's proud chants on Bole so nihal ringing all over. Every now and then he finds a burning car. BBC and Sky then use the Sangat footage for its international audience….complete with Punjabi commentary in the background. Sky then lets its sister network Fox News use it in America. BBC and Sky, when not using sangat's footage, then go to their own footage of the Sikh vigilantes of Southall. As they do so, message forums and blogs all over the UK are talking about "those great Sikhs" of Southall…and how the rest of London should follow their example and protect their streets tonight. Before you know it, good people in other areas are out doing what they saw the sikhs do. Honestly I should be asleep right now….I've got work in the morning…..but the fella at sangat and his car is compulsive viewing. Its mental…..it's crazy…..but it's compulsive. Pure legend. http://twitter.com/#!/search/%22Sangat%20TV%22

  5. Karamjeet Kaur says:

    All I can say is Bole so nihaal.. .sat sri akal.. go sikhs.. im a canadian sikh and i wish i had sky to watch sangat tv.. but u guys are great.. keep it up .. its because of our sikhs that come together at times like these that we have so much of respect worldwide.. once again thank you!

    Karamjeet

  6. Karamjeet kaur says:

    and yes Blighty Singh.. get some sleep!!! but please keep us posted!

  7. Justin.tv says:

    You can watch Sangat TV through Justin.tv http://sangattelevision.org

  8. Blighty Singh says:

    Sangat TV achieved legendary status last night. This little obscure Sikh religious channel became the channel of choice for white. black and brown alike……For factory workers, journalists, professional footballers and supreme court judges alike. It was, without a doubt, a night of tv that has never been seen before. 2 Sikhs….one mona and one uncle with flowing dhari. Both, with balls of steel. Both, with old fashioned sikh attitudes that they are kings of the world…..the world belongs to them. Every time uncle was stopped by a police road black and ordered to go back uncle would smile and reply in his bad english "it's ok….we're protecting the humanity". They didn't understand the meaning of the word 'no'. Thats was both their strength and their weakness. I left it last night when they went to the trauma unit where 3 Pakistani muslim youths lay in critical condition after being rammed by a gang of blacks after trying to protect their property from them. The crowd of pakistanis outside the hospital probably numbered 100. Close relatives very worried for their loved ones. They had a young mullah with them and were trying to pray. But….the Sangat TV duo had other ideas. They went into the middle of the crown with cries of 'waheguru ji ka khalsa waheguru ji ki fateh' and the uncle started doing ardas for the injured youths. I cringed. I thought we should leave the family in peace. However, as muslim youth after muslim youth made it clear that they too had been glued to this Sikh religious channel all night you realised that they understood how these 2 ankhi singhs work. The younger presenter then got all emotional (probably because sky and bbc didn't want live feed from the hospital) and launched a tirade of abuse at the big news networks for ignoring the real victims on the streets. Then…..the brother of one of the victims came running out of the hospital clearly in some distress. He had totally lost his mind and was being restrained by the crowd. After mush pushing, shoving and shouting he eneded up right by the sangat tv camera. We watched a man break down mentally right before our eyes. His brother was dead. The sangat tv presenter, being the emotional man he is, also lost control and was crying uncontrollably as he announced the news. Then the other youth died and then the other. Sangat was probably breaking every television regulation and code in the book here. The entire nation was messaging and tweeting each other about what was happening on sangat. The entire nation was asking why BBC and Sky were not even mentioning the 3 brown kids laying dead. I left it there and went to sleep. I had seen enough. I felt those families should be left to grieve in peace. Time for normalcy now. Its over.

  9. fateh singh says:

    keep it up ….a uk sikhs …am with u …a voice from perth australia …:)

  10. Sundari says:

    What do readers think about the statement that vigilante groups, protecting their homes and businesses, are making matters worse – according to the police? http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14473781

  11. MohinderSingh says:

    If only these kind of sikhs had shown the same courage and acted,when JSB and his goons/thugs were desecrating gurdwaras in punjab during the 1980's.There would have been no need for blue star if blighty singh was there with a camera in hand and breaking down emotionally.HA HA lol :)

  12. manpreet says:

    This is really amazing .. the power of our religion lies in UNITY I am proud to be a SIKH http://the-sikhnetwork.blogspot.com/

  13. brooklynwala says:

    justification of "rioting" and "looting" is different than contextualizing it and understanding where its roots may lay. in this case, it does indeed seem like its roots are in austerity measures, unbearable economic conditions for working class and poor people of color, police brutality, and racism. i found this article helpful: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/aug/

  14. kantay says:

    So what’s the response to some guys running into a store and just taking what they want? Austerity made him do it? One gets the feeling that one person’s teachable moment is another person’s life going up in flames and broken glass. But I guess only some people deserve people bending backwards to explain their unjustified actions. Legitimate protest and lawless behavior are different from each other.

  15. guest says:

    right, kantay, "explanation" does not equal "justification". even if the "explanation" for the behavior is rooted in economic injustice, the fact that not all members of the working class and otherwise downtrodden or marginalized persons are participating in violence and mayhem means that one behavior does not necessarily follow from the other.

  16. kantay says:

    It’s not that people are not aware that social context plays a part. It is that this is only one part of the explanation. A person in poverty or without social support does not have license to beat other people or destroy shops and people’s livelihood. This is as obvious as that social conditions play a role in lawless behavior.

  17. guest says:

    true that poverty does not grant license to act in violence, and equally true that violence is not an inevitable outcome. there are plenty of local community members (in tottenham and other places) trying to achieve results through means other than violence:



  18. brooklynwala says:

    some helpful words from historian vijay prashad:
    "The political economy of the past forty years has reduced the social condition of vast numbers of people into the slumlands (1 in 5 people in the planet live in slums), where the political grammar cannot be articulated in the realm of production (jobs are simply not there to be had). Their politics is in the realm of consumption, and it sometimes takes the form of IMF Bread Riots (including Haiti, 2008) or Water Wars (Bolivia), or bare life riots (Intifada 2). Such social conditions make it impossible to imagine a politics that is civil and collected, able to properly seek out the avenue of power, to deal with political institutions and so on. Hence the death of one person can be the spur to destroy the marks of consumption or to steal them. As Rosa Luxemburg put it, 'Where the chains of capitalism are forged, there they must be broken.' This is the great tragedy of history, that it provides the flotsam of accumulation with such few means to articulate frustrations and rage, and so little hope."

  19. Blighty Singh says:

    Fellas, stop getting all intellectual please. It hurts my head. it's really very simple really. I even mentioned here a couple of months when talking about Sikh activism how it is the natural culture in the UK to take to the streets. Indeed our own Sikh history in England is shaped by the riots and running battles with the police during the Southall riots of 1979 and 1981.
    Its not really about poverty. Anyone that knows anything about the poor in England know that they only dress in the latest designer gear. And when I say latest designer gear I'm talking about high end Georgio Armani and Gucci etc…………and the latest smart phones. Yes they're poor….but they're poor because of the money they absolutely MUST spend on stuff. It'll be very hard for someone outside of England to understand them….as they are very different to the poor in other countries.
    And then you've got what is naturally a very very violent country. Its because this is such a violent country that the nation has to ensure that guns are extremely tightly controlled otherwise there would be chaos. To give you an idea of how violent, London's crime rate is more than 3 times that of New York. i.e London is 3 times more dangerous than New York. Its only saving grace is the lack of guns thus the minimal rate of homicides. It didn't help how…in the 1980's…when Guliani cleared up New York,,,….and the USA started the very dubious process of deporting criminals…….the very vicious Jamaican gangsters that were causing havoc there relocated to London, where they had Commonwealth rights of entry.
    Just reading the list of occupations of some of those rioters that have appeared in court last night. It includes professionals and academics……and the children of some very influential people. There really isn't an excuse for it.

  20. It is nice step taken by sikhs in order to protect their temples and their own belongings.

  21. kantay says:

    People were articulating their grammar by beating, robbing and looting the livelihoods of small shop owners. I’ve read plenty of prashad and I’m not convinced that the people in London were simply cogs in an economic wheel or that the non rioting victims are inevitable collateral damage

  22. kantay says:

    And the people of dehli who participated in the 84 riots were articulating their grammar and Sikhs there just got caught up as the slate upon which they expressed that grammar?

  23. tejinder says:

    coz somwhere in there mind 1984 riots in india where thousends of sikhs lost their lifes, so not this time we all here together to save others lifes

  24. Blighty Singh says:

    I'm not gonna get too caught up in the debate here about the causes and solutions of the riots…..I think we, as the worldwide Sikhs, need to take a lot of positives out of this. Something quite incredible happened during the riots to the psyche of the Sikhs. Our natural desire, instilled in us by Guru Gobind Singh ji, came to the fore……Our natural inclination of sarbat da bhalla. A desire to help all mankind. You wouldn't believe just how much respect Sikhs and Sikhism are getting right now in the international media. Blogs, tweets and forums of all races and creeds are singing the praises of Sikhs. There was a scene from the tv a couple of nights ago when a Hindu temple thought an attack was imminent because a dozen cars full of black youths was circling the mandir. The mandir itself was being guarded by Sikhs, but they called Sikhs from a nearby gurdwara and the Sikhs rushed to the mandir to protect it. Even the usually hostile Indian media and public forums there have been praising the Sikhs. A few minutes ago I just saw something quite incredible on the national news too. Very angry muslims….Pakistanis, somalians and bangadeshis…..were voicing their anger at the inaction of police. This is what they said :
    "Why ain't the police protecting the Muslim Mosques while they are praying after Ramadan? The police haven't done anything for us, it's the Sikh community have come and stood there to protect the Muslim Mosques so that people do not get hurt while they are praying," http://itn.co.uk/home/26325/Anger+towards+police+

    It doesn't matter whether we are English, Canadian or American Sikhs…….This is simply a time to be proud of who we are. Its time to build on this worldwide interest and respect.

  25. Deeph says:

    The Langar Hall has taken a new low with this post. By no means does this article characterize the progressive stance the site purports to take. I was thoroughly disappointed with the analysis and the subsequent racist innuendo by 'blighty singh.' However, this racism isn't just articulated here on the Langar Hall, it's being propagated elsewhere on numerous other Sikhs sites such as Sikh Chic.

    What's happening here? Is this a consequence of the Langar Hall's desire to reach out to diasporic Sikhs? Should there not be a metric, a standard, a moderation of language and individuals? Or do we allow hysterical and sensational journalism run rampant and undermine a seriously ill societies violent insurrection as mindless thuggery and violence?

    By and by voices from the ghettos of London have been crying out through the sharp wedges of society only to be stigmatized. Blighty Singh, you are one of those individuals that instead of heeding these cries, instead of understanding the plight of the poor and dispossessed, you have further marginalized them as criminals. Who are you to chide us for being outsiders unable to understand London's poor when you yourself are not a poor black youth and certainly don't understand their grievances? But of course, it doesn't matter because according to you they're all Jamaican immigrants deporting from the United States due to their innate criminality?

    What a shameful discourse this is indeed. A discourse that has disregarded the 1000 deaths in police custody, including the murder of a young black youth that ignited these riots, including the subsequent beating of a 16 year old girl during the peaceful protest of that killing outside a police station, and as the Guardian article clearly points out: "multiple student protests, occupations of dozens of universities, several strikes, a half-a-million-strong trade union march." The Brutal cuts that are affecting the poor are not felt by the writers on this site or it's many commenters, but to the poor, they make them feel as if they are animals boxed in a cage.

    So why the evasion from this reality? Suddenly our Sikhi is defined by our ability to protect our property and that of others and not take protest with the brutal policies of the government? What does that make us? Lap dogs of the establishment then and once again, of the British? Their unquestioning arm that remains quiet and indifferent as the state enforces suffering on the poor?

    No single person condones the violence nor does anyone detract the Sikhs that instinctively protected themselves and others, however deeper perspective is needed here and not just regurgitating of mainstream media rhetoric.

    Lastly, please don't compare this to the organized massacres of 1984. How ridiculous is that? In one case you have government officials, police officials, thousands of organized individuals from one religious community, primarily Hindu's, on a bloody rampage murdering, burning alive, raping and looting Sikhs and as I stated before: all under the states watchful eye and consent. Here we have, as we're being told but continue to ignore due our stubbornness and myopia, collective anger by poor peoples, mostly youths, against an establishment they see as oppressive and indifferent toward them.

    There is a world of difference here.

    "Riots are the voices of the unheard" Martin Luther King.

  26. Deeph says:



    Have a look. Let's start listening to voices from the streets, voices of those most affected. These are the voices that need to be heard.

  27. Fauj says:

    DeepH, your “holier-than-thou” stance is, quite frankly, irritating. First of all, if you’re such a huge proponent of the “underdog”, the “underserved” – why not try communicating with the common man rather than writing your comments in such an intellectual way that only the people you are fighting against can understand. For those of us living in the UK – this discourse has been incredibly fulfilling for us. This IS the discussion happening on the streets mate.

  28. Blighty Singh says:

    Deeph, you are without a shadow of an ignoramus of the highest order. Your bufoonery of a post reveals that you imagine you've read something before you actually have. Where exactly have I made a racist comment ? In between my running commentary of what was happening and praise for the Sikh spirit I even included a post (with a news link) of how sikh protection sometimes ran into bad aggression re; the horrific beating of the black man outside Smethwic Singh Sabha. Also, being a man who grew up among Jamaicans with my father a school buddy of the legendary reggae outfit Misty in Roots and myself an avid purveyor of old skool studio one roots reggae what in gods name led you to foam at the mouth like a mad man and let your imagination to go into overdrive and think I had made any racist comment against Jamaicans ? I can only conclude that you were referring to the one paragraph about the difference in crime levels between New York and London……which incidentaly was extremely relevant to this discussion because the prime minister David Cameron revealed today that the solution to the London's endemic crime problem may be to hire as the next chief of police the former New York police chief William Bratton. Now….if you had any knowledge of worldly affairs you might've been aware…..thus saving yourself foaming at the mouth like a silly person…..that in the 1981's there was explosion of violence in New York committed by Jamaican Yardie gangsters. Note..'JAMAICAN YARDIE GANGSTERS' !! Not Jamaican plumbers……Not jamaican students….Not Jamaican fork lift drivers….Not Jamaican nurses. i.e….NOT Jamaicans per se. In tandem with Mayor Guliani and William Bratton's clean up policy was the federal policy to deport hardcore dangerous criminals…….a policy highly criticised by human rights organisations around the world because it even sent back people to the land of their parents birth. In other words New York sorted much of its horrific Yradie problem by passing the problem on to the next city. Now…every man and his dog…..except you obviously…..knows that New York's most dangerous yardie criminals became Toronto and London's problem. Now how on earth can you get so worked up about that and imagine it yo be racist ? What on earth is wrong with you ?
    Oh Deary deary me Deeph. Think before you type. Don't make a fool of yourself.

    Anyway…..ignoring Deeph for one moment….racial tensions are very very high at the moment in the city of Birmingham. Lots and lots of rumours of revenge flying around. Talk is that blacks want revenge on Sikhs because of the vicious beatings administered on blacks by sikhs….sometimes on totally innocent people…….And muslims want revenge on blacks because of the murder of the 3 pakistani youths. Nothing too unusual in itself there. What is unusual though…..in a place where Sikh v Muslim tensions are always on show….is the brotherly love and unity between Sikhs and Muslims at the moment. Lets at least hope that can last.
    On a side note : There was an emergency session in Parliament today. The Prime Minister stood on the dispatch box and told the watching world how he was proud and in awe of the Sikhs of Southall and….like everybody else, had heard of the exploits of Sangat TV.
    I'll go now and give deeph some time to go over this post with a fine tooth comb and find some imaginary hidden racist messages.

  29. kantay says:

    Ok take the Detroit or La riots…who was killed and what was the condition of African Americans in the 60s and how strongly was non violent protest the preference of Mlk? What was the condition of riot hit neighborhoods afterward including small businesses? And in LA what is your opinion of the violence against small shop owners then? I am familiar with left views on riots like this and I am concerned about what I read. It’s a losing battle to see this as more than violence and looting. Of course dispossessed people live in disadvantaged situations but rioting like this should be opposed in the strongest terms. And the riots in dehli included poor people induced or led into violence.

  30. kantay says:

    Do the rioters know it is wrong to beat and loot people who have done nothing to them? If they know it is wrong why do they do it? And how are the people being beaten and robbed going to fare? When someone is beaten or denied an education because of their race that is wrong and must be opposed as well. But rioting and violence like this wrong and is not necessarily a political statement. Sorting out political inequality under threat of riot…there is something disconcerting about that.

  31. Meena says:

    You're the man Blighty Singh!

  32. guest says:

    if blighty singh is such a working class/son of the soil/man of the streets how is it that he has so much time on his hands to spew out venomous diatribes on every conceivable topic on this forum every hour on the hour just about every day? shouldn't he be out working instead of basking in the warm glow of his computer monitor?

  33. kantay says:

    Social scientists will be looking at the ability of the Sikh community to do what it did for quite some time. At a time when English society generally found itself hampered in its capacity to organize generally positive and effective responses Sikhs en masse were able to. Kirpa nall thanks to the people of the community for keeping the flame of our dharam shining….our heritage is worth something immeasurable

  34. jnanan says:

    your page is respectible for me