The British Sikh Association (BSA) hosted dinner at the House of Lords to celebrate the 552nd Birth Anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev JI.
The 2021 British Sikh Association Annual Awards Dinner was held at the historic Cholmondeley Room of the House of Lords on Tuesday 30th November to mark the 552nd Birth Anniversary of the founder of the Sikh faith, Guru Nanak Dev Ji.
The host for the dinner and Chairman, Lord Rami Ranger CBE, welcomed the distinguished guests. The Chief Guest was The Defence Secretary The Rt Hon Ben Wallace MP.
Special guests included Lord Swaraj Paul, Mr Gopichand Hinduja, The Deputy Commander of the Field Army and the Defence Sikh Champion, Major General Cecelia Harvey.
Also present – the President of the BSA, Dr Amarjit S. Dassan , Vice-Chair Chairman Mr Hardyal S Luther, Chairman of the Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara, Dubai Dr Surender Singh Kandhari, Director of The Centre for Sikh and Punjabi Studies, Dr Opinderjit Kaur Takhur MBE, Vice-Chancellor Wolverhampton University Prof. Geoff Layer and the Committee Members of the BSA.
Lord Ranger commenced the proceedings and said, "Today, we have gathered to celebrate the 552nd birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the founder of the Sikh Faith and to also recognise those Sikhs who have brought honour to the community with their exceptional work. Religion is a philosophy developed to guide us through life; it is there to enlighten us". He spoke about the life of Guru Nanak Dev Ji and how the Guru founded the Sikh faith based upon the unity of humanity and the philosophy that everyone is born equal. Guru Nanak Dev Ji took teachings from all religions into the Sikh holy scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib, which is based on Interfaith teachings and was the first to advocate gender equality and the famous couplet given by the Guru, "Why consider someone inferior who bears prophets and kings".
Lord Ranger also spoke of the contribution of the Sikh soldiers in both the great wars for King and Empire and how they played a critical role in changing the course of many battles. The Sikh Regiment was the most decorated in the British Empire and remained the most decorated in the Indian Army. In closing he spoke of the ongoing project to establish a British Sikh regiment to commemorate the historical contribution of the Sikhs in combat and as a vehicle to promote greater Sikh and BAME community participation in the British Armed Forces.
Two Sikh Jewel Awards were presented to those individuals who had done exceptional work in promoting the philosophy of the Sikh Gurus.
The first was presented to Dr Opinderjit Kaur Takhar MBE for setting up the Centre for Sikh Studies and Punjabi Culture at the University of Wolverhampton and the second was awarded to Mr Surender Singh Khandhari for his outstanding interfaith work. He has established the first Sikh Gurdwara in Dubai, the Nanak Darbar which is a magnificent place for worship and welcomes people from all faiths into its fold.
The Deputy Commander of the Field Army and the Defence Sikh Champion, Major General Cecelia Harvey, said how honoured she was to attend and celebrate with the BSA. She highlighted the fact that the Sikh community was known throughout the world as a great warrior race, but that was not all. The Sikhs were also known for their contribution of intellectual and technical skills, which enriched the British Defence Forces. Maj Gen Harvey paid tribute to the humbleness and benevolence of the Sikhs in the Forces and how their actions of Seva over the recent Covid-19 emergency was an example for the rest of the Defence. She highlighted the unifying nature of the Sikhs in Defence. In the coming months, she and nine Sikh soldiers would be visiting Pakistan to build better ties and would visit Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of the Guru. In closing, she thanked Lord Ranger, the BSA and the Sikh community for their contribution to Britain. She pointed out the living bridge between UK and India and looked forward to celebrating Vaisakhi together in person in 2022.
Defence Secretary The Rt Hon Ben Wallace MP, started by thanking his host for his tireless and constant efforts to promote and highlight the Sikh faith and community. The Defence Secretary said he was honoured to be present and thanked the Sikh community for their efforts and gallantry both over the great wars right up to the present times. He spoke about how close India was to him personally as his grandmother and great uncles were born in Ooty. He also paid tribute to the Sikh commitment of service - 'Seva' and praised them for helping the masses during the Covid pandemic by serving food and shelter. He said that the Sikh community's contribution was historical and can be seen even today in the bravery of the Sikh soldiers in the Afghan wars and highlighted how we still faced threats to our security and values, and that is why we needed more Sikhs in the Armed forces, as the UK Armed Forces represent the best of Britain. In addition, he spoke of the great synergy between the UK and India and how both the countries had no choice but to step up to the modern-day threats faced to values and democracy and the rule of law. In particular, he highlighted the threats from the communist countries of China and Russia.
In closing, he thanked the British Sikh Association, Lord and Lady Ranger for hosting the event and said that the Sikhs who fought in the Great Wars was not just for the benefit of the British Empire but for the future of the free world.
Special Guest Mr Gopichand Hinduja said he was delighted to be present today and praised his longstanding friend Lord Ranger for his continuous work and efforts to highlight the Sikh faith and community. Mr Hinduja said the community work and contribution of Lord Ranger was an inspiration and example for others. Mr Hinduja also thanked the Defence Secretary THe Rt Hon Ben Wallace MP, Major General Celcilina Harvey, for their support.
The Vice-Chairman, Mr Hardyal Singh Luther, gave the vote of thanks. He thanked the defence Secretary and distinguished guests for gracing the dinner . He paid tribute to and the executive committee of the British Sikh Association for their efforts in making the evening enjoyable. He also thanked the staff of the House of Lords for their excellent hospitality and congratulated the awardees.