UK MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi Strikes a Chord with Punjab
Indian Journalists speak to UK’s first turbaned Sikh MP over key issues faced by Indians and Indian diaspora
During his visit to India, Britain’s first turban wearing MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi has been raising key issues, striking a chord with Indian diaspora in UK and people of Punjab. Dhesi, a Labour Party MP who is in Chandigarh on a private visit, talked to journalists about seeking an inquiry on the role of UK government in ‘Operation Blue Star’. Operation Blue Star was an Indian Army operation to flush out militants from the Golden Temple. The very act of authorising this operation led to then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination by her Sikh bodyguards.
‘Operation Blue Star’
According to the Sikh Federation UK, the documents released by UK’s national Archives reveal that then Indian Army chief General Arun Shridhar Vaidya received a confidential briefing from British Army in 1984. Dhesi told journalists:
“As far as the 1984 Operation Bluestar is concerned, you know that all felt pain. But we never knew that there was any role of the UK government in it. We always thought it was an action taken by the Indian government.”
According to report in the Deccan Herald, he told the media some journalists in the UK while analysing secret documents found “involvement of the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher”.
“Whether the role was in advisory capacity or something more, but when we learnt about it, we were sad because we never thought our government would have any role in it,” he said.
Maharaja Duldeep Singh
On the matter of Maharaja Duldeep Singh’s remains to be brought to Punjab, he was cautious, saying it was a complicated matter involving legalities. According to him, there are some people for and against it.
The controversy over king of Punjab’s remains was rekindled after the release of film ‘Black Prince’. Singh, who was dethroned by the British, was forced to spend better part of his life in exile. He was buried at the Elveden Church in Suffolk in eastern England.
Dhesi was also festooned with Punjab Gaurav Award by Punjabi Cultural Council for his work in promoting the Punjabi language and the martial arts Gatka in Britain. He was also feted with a siropa and sword by local MLA.
According to Times of India report, Dhesi assured that he would be a loud voice for the Punjabis and Sikhs in the House of Commons, Dhesi said he would keep raising the issues confronting the diaspora.
Turban Issue in France
He went on to say: “ It is tragic for the Sikhs living in France that they have to remove their turbans for getting photographed and their children cannot go to schools wearing turbans, while over 80,000 turbaned Sikhs had laid down their lives for that country’s independence,” he said. He also expressed concerns over hate crimes against Sikhs in US.
Moving to issues closer to home, he said he was in favour of GST exemption of langar.
Dhesi’s native is Raipur, although his parents Jaspal Singh Dhesi and Dalvinder Kaur Dhesi live in Phagwara. For his primary schooling, Dhesi went to Jalandhar. His early education in Punjab is where he gained a cultural understanding of his birth place and an ability to connect with South Asians around the world. He finished his schooling in Gravesend– where he was Head Boy.
His higher education was in three of UK’s top universities: Oxford, Cambridge and University of London. He also has an MPhil from Cambridge.
According to Huffington Post, he was only 28 years old when he was elected to Gravesham Borough Council in 2007. In 2011, he became Europe’s youngest Sikh mayor when he was unanimously elected as Mayor of Gravesham. He has been elected as Chair of the Gravesham Labour Party twice.