For the first time in more than 20 years, Sikhs from Banbury withheld from lighting candles or divas and use of fireworks to celebrate the Sikh festival of Bandi Chhor Divas (The Day of Liberation).
The event coincides with the Indian cultural festival and holiday of Diwali and celebrates the release of the sixth Guru of the Sikhs from prison along with fifty-two other political prisoners whose release was secured by the Guru’s refusal to leave prison without them.
The Sikh community of Banbury, have had a ‘Black Diwali’ to mark the recent continuing deliberate acts of desecration of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the holy Sikh scriptures which to Sikhs is the embodiment of their living Guru.
It also follows on from the lack of adequate action and heavy handed treatment of peaceful protestors by the authorities in Punjab, northern India.
Banbury town councillor Surinder Dhesi said, “The desecration of Sri Guru Granth Sahib is extremely hurtful to Sikhs. The desecrations are continuing to happen in so many places across the state of Punjab in northern India, and this seems to indicate an organised campaign to hurt the sentiments of Sikhs.
“The Banbury Sikh community decided to stand in solidarity with the majority of Sikh communities around the world choosing to mark not to light candles or use fireworks this year when celebrating Bandhi Chhor Divas.”
In recent weeks in Punjab, the homeland of Sikhs, there have been a growing number of cases reported of desecrations of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. In protest at the lack of action from the authorities to trace and bring to justice the perpetrators of these attacks, Sikhs peacefully protested across Punjab.
On several occasions the policing of these protests was extremely heavy handed with Police utilising lathi (cane) charges, live ammunition and water cannon against peaceful protestors.
These tactics resulted in two protestors being killed and hundreds more being injured.
Manvir Singh, a Sikh Educationalist, said, “Banbury Gurdwara will celebrate Bandi Chhor Divas through the established Sikh ways of singing hymns, sermons, prayers and sharing of free communal meal this Sunday.
“However, the Sikh community are pained with the human rights violations in India and how the minority Sikh community in India is being treated. The Indian PM, Mr Modi’s visit to the UK this week is of concern to Sikhs, Muslims and Christian communities due to increase intolerance and attacks on India’s minority communities.”