Vaishaki Apr00: delivered to the Punjabi Society of the British Isles


It is indeed a great honour for me to be invited to speak to you today. I thank your President, the Executive Committee and all of you for inviting my wife and me to share in the celebration of one of the most important events in the Sikh calendar.

300 years ago as crowds gathered to celebrate the spring festival of Vaisakhi, Guru Gobindh Singh emerged from his tent, sword in hand, and asked for any Sikh willing to give his life for his faith, to join him in his tent.

Without hesitation five Sikhs responded to the challenge! In a simple initiation ceremony “amrit” was sprinkled on the “five beloved” first members of a new community of equals –  KHALSA. Guru Gobindh Singh gave the five Khalsas the  symbols by which the Sikhs are recognised today! The Guru urged the men to change their name to Singh – meaning Lion, and the women to Kaur meaning a Princess.

What was the significance of this initiation? What was the dream of Guru Gobindh Singh? What were his aims and objectives? What was his strategy?

The Guru’s father, Teg Bahadur, was beheaded for defending the right to freedom of religious beliefs of the Hindus. Voltaire was inspired to write: “I may not believe in what you say, but I will defend to the death, your right to say it” Therefore, Guru Gobindh Singh understood well the virtue of steely resolve, saintly temperament, non intimidation and the right of freedom of belief. He was determined to highlight the importance of the need to stand up and be counted, whenever required, in support of one’s belief.

This need to stand up and be counted is as important today as it was 300 years ago! In British politics today it is important for members of ethnic communities to stand up and be counted! This means that men and women of all ages and backgrounds must play a full part in the socio-political life of this country.

Anyone, young or old, can reach any height in British politics today! Join political associations in your areas whatever your political persuasion may be; participate fully in the activities of these Associations; stand for elections for positions in their Executive Committees; stand as candidates for the Local Government elections, for Parliament at Westminster and in Brussels.

You must not wait to be invited – as no invitations will come. You must take the initiative, be motivated and determined to succeed.

You are not just Sikh – you are British as well as Sikh. You should be confident and proud to play your part in the economic and political life of your country. As we celebrate Vaisakhi today, let us remember what Guru Gobindh Singh said 300 years ago: Be ready to stand up and be counted!

Thank you.