Sukhraj Singh: Let Me Introduce The New SikhArchive Series For Baaz
A monthly series on understanding Sikh migration and historical events
January 22, 2021 | 3 min. read
My name is Sukhraj Singh, however, many may better know me through the popular Instagram page and blog, SikhArchive, where I regularly create posts about what happened “on this day” in Sikh and Panjabi history.
We also host podcasts on similar themes with academics, authors, historians, journalists, and activists on their topics of expertise. These are all available on Google, Apple, and Spotify podcast platforms.
I would like to formally introduce and welcome you all to our new series of articles for Baaz where we will be exploring a continuation of our previous work through monthly pieces about Sikh migration patterns and global Sikh communities in the diaspora; to understand who we are outside of Punjab and how it impacts us and our identity beyond borders.
I feel strongly about these topics. I have a passion to explore the Sikh and Panjabi diaspora and our shared experiences, as well as a longing of making sense of our foreign dispositions. I also have a passion for teaching and education which I use to combine with my research to share all of my findings with the wider Sikh community in a pedagogical way.
The methods of my research include reading books, visiting archives to dig through old newspapers and periodicals, and conducting oral history interviews with our elders - all with the aim and intention to learn who we are and where we come from. After all, how do you know where you are going if you do not know where you have been?
As part of this series, I would like to begin by raising awareness about some lesser-known, yet very important, moments in our history by taking a closer look into the historical hate crimes and State policies that have been inflicted on the British Sikh community.
We can draw a lot of parallels with what we experience and witness today and employ these case studies to help us better navigate what it means to be Sikh in the diaspora.
I will be looking at a number of different racist and fascist campaigns that have taken place when Sikhs were in Britain during the early stages of settling and establishing themselves. Their stories, struggles, and protest movements in responding to both hostile immigration policies as well as prejudicial attacks on the ground have really determined the way we exist today and it is necessary for us to know in order to pass on this history to future generations.
Let us begin with the legal case of Surjit Singh Chhokar, a young Sikh man from Scotland who was attacked and murdered in November 1998. He was ambushed by three men and stabbed in the heart about a dispute over a cheque worth around £100. However, the biggest takeaway from this case was not the attack itself but how it was handled by the legal system and the subsequent police monitoring the Chhokar family faced throughout their campaign for justice.
It was only after 18 years of tireless family-driven campaigning, two failed prosecutions in 1999/2000, bigotry from the courts, two public inquiry reports (one of which found the police guilty of institutional racism), a monumental change in the double jeopardy law in 2012, and a reopening of the case later in the same year that justice was finally served and a conviction was made in October 2016. It is important to note here that there are many parallels that can be drawn with the Stephen Lawrence case, which is why his father backed the Chhokar campaign.
There are plenty of news stories and academic articles which explore the intricacies of the case in further detail but I think it is important for us as a collective Sikh diaspora to interpret these historical chains of events and reflect back on how the legal system had failed the Chhokar family for so long. We must, for example, recognise the invaluable legal advocacy work of Scotland's leading human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar in finally receiving justice.
I am confident that there have been other cases like this in North America, Europe, and Australasia, where legal campaigns for justice have not been taken seriously enough, or discounted because of the colour of one’s skin, or dismissed because of the predatory presumption of having powerless positions as migrants.
That is the purpose of this series, to share the commonalities we have had to endure and what connects us together with respect to our shared experiences beyond the cultural fabric of the homeland and its borders.
If you would like to learn more about the Chhokar case, I will be discussing it in further detail in an upcoming podcast where I will be taking a closer look at the judicial proceedings and the racial dimensions of the case.
Sukhraj Singh is a full-time teacher based in Denmark as well as the administrator of the SikhArchive online blog which produces podcasts on Sikh and Panjabi history. In addition to that, he takes an interest in producing resources that help to share the history of the Sikh diaspora and is currently recording and documenting the migration and settlement of the Sikhs of Denmark. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram at @sikharchive.
Baaz is home to opinions, ideas, and original reporting for the Sikh and Punjabi diaspora. Support us by subscribing. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook at @BaazNewsOrg. If you would like to submit a written piece for consideration please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.