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1st Sikh Parade of Denver on May 22

Following the trend of Texas and New York, Colorado prepares for its first Sikh Parade.

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Sikh congregation, Wikimedia Commons

DENVER: The capital of Colorado, Denver city will be hosting its first ever Sikh parade on May 22, in celebration of the culture of the growing population of Sikhs in the area. Around 1,000 people are expected to attend the event, including 500 Sikh families in the Denver area, Christian and Jewish Pastors and seven other Sikh groups from the areas of Colorado Springs, Boulder, New Mexico, California and Utah.

Sponsored by the Colorado Singh Sabha temple in Commerce City, the celebrations for the Sikh parade would begin from 9:30 am and culminate at 4 pm at the Denver East High School while free vegetarian food will be available throughout the day. The morning would begin with prayers and music with the parade starting at 1:15 pm.

Organizers Paul and Gurpreet Juneja were inspired to increase awareness and celebrate their culture, specially after their kids faced bullying at school after being mistaken for Muslims.

“We hope it will bring more awareness and be well received,” Gurpeet Juneja said to Denver Post. “Our kids don’t feel different than other kids until they are treated badly at school.”

Related Article: Art exhibit spreads awareness of Sikh identity in US

Despite Gurpreet Juneja immigrating to the United States and Paul Juneja and their two children having been born in US itself, Gurpreet said she and her family had still faced circumstances where they were insulted and told to leave the country.

According to Paul, “This whole thing is being done because of our kids,” adding that “We’re through being a victim and want to take the lead.”

When the Junejas approached Denver city officials about holding an event to increase awareness about Sikhism, a parade seemed the best option.

A spokesperson of the city’s office of special events, said “We work closely with city agencies to promote events that bring greater awareness to cultures in our communities.”

In New York the Sikh Cultural Society celebrates the cultural identity of Sikhs through the annual Sikh Day Parade, bringing together believers from gurudwara congregations across the state. The largest procession of Sikhs outside India however, can be seen in Canada, during the annual Khalsa Day Parade.

Although the adherents of the Sikh faith are often identified as those wearing turbans, Sikhism is the 7th largest religion of the world with around 23 million followers, according to United Sikhs, an UN-affiliated international non-profit organization. The largest concentration of Sikhs is located in India, from where the religion originated, followed by United Kingdom and then United States.

Event Details
What: Denver’s first Sikh parade
When: 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. Sunday, May 22
Where: Denver East High School, 1600 City Park Esplanade

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Seven Decades after Partition: Sikhs in Pakistan Struggle amid Bombings and Violence

Sikhs in Pakistan have been looking to leave Pakistan as their homeland has begun to turn toward radical Islam

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Types of 51st Sikhs (Frontier Force), now 3 Frontier Force, Pakistan Army. ca. 1905. Wikimedia Commons
  • In today’s period, Sikhs in Pakistan are among the smallest minorities
  • Pakistan today uses blasphemy as a weapon against minorities and fellow Muslims alike, which is a crime that carries an involuntary death penalty
  • Mr. Singh heads a council representing the Sikhs in Pakistan

Aug 15, 2017: At the age of 11, Radesh Singh’s grandfather left his village in India’s Punjab province to move to Peshawar, which is bordered by Afghanistan in the far northwest of the country.

Pakistan wasn’t even a glint in the eye of its founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah in the year 1901 when the British ruled the Indian subcontinent and Peshawar held the promise of work and adventure.

It has been 70 years since the partition of India, which divided the subcontinent into majority Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan and led to one of the largest migrations in modern history.

Singh’s family have been waging a secessionist uprising in India ever since, demanding unmitigated sovereignty for India’s Punjab state where they command. Singh’s family is neither Hindu nor Muslim but Sikh, a religious minority in both countries. Feeling increasingly less at home on either side of the border, they have been victims of local Taliban violence in the recent years in Muslim Pakistan.

Singh’s grandfather would never return to his village, not even in 1947. Singh stated that poverty kept his grandfather in Peshawar, which was controlled by fiercely independent ethnic Pashtun tribesmen. He said, “It’s not easy to start over at zero when you have very little,” mentioned BBG Direct.

ALSO READ: 10,000 members of Sikh community in Pakistan lack Education and Health: Sikh Leader 

According to Singh, the enmity in the immediate aftermath of 1947 was slightly lower in the northwest. It was followed by decades of peace. The decision to stay in Pakistan appeared like a reliable option at the time.

The Sikhs had lived harmoniously for centuries alongside their Pashtun Muslim countrymen. Singh explains, Sikhs had a glorious history in the northwest. In the 18th century, they oversaw a dynasty headed by a Sikh ruler Ranjit Singh, whose capital was Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore. He rebuilt Peshawar’s infamous Bala Hisar Fort, an imposing walled fortress that some historians assume is as old as the city itself.

In today’s period, easily identifiable because of the colorful turbans and the surname Singh, Sikhs in Pakistan are among the smallest minorities. As indicated by the CIA Factbook, 3.6 percent of Pakistan’s 180 million people are non-Muslims which include Sikhs, Christians, and Hindus.

Singh asserted until 1984 Pakistan’s Hindus and Sikhs lived unitedly in northwest Pakistan. Their children married and worshipped together. But after the tragic assassination of India’s Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards, the entire scene changed consequently.

“They (Hindus) cut all relations with us. They said Pakistani Sikhs are like all Sikhs everywhere. No difference. They said, ‘From now on, we will be separate from you”, Singh recalled.

Today Sikhs in Pakistan are contending with the government for possession of dozens of Sikh temples (Gurdwaras); however, they have succeeded to restore some of the buildings. The Pakistan government took over the buildings after 1947 and allowed the squatters to remain.

Once a vibrant Gurdwara attended by hundreds of Sikhs, it no longer resembled a house of worship but rather a sweeping courtyard. However, it was until now that two families called it the home, said Singh.

Singh who heads a council representing the Sikhs in Pakistan, said young Sikhs have been looking to leave as the homeland has begun to turn toward radical Islam.

“They want to go to another country, not to India or Pakistan. But every country eyes them with suspicion.,” he said.

He adds, “Even Indians see his Pakistani passport and question his intentions, suggesting he wants to agitate for Sikh secessionism, the battle that resulted in Indira Gandhi’s death and a dream still held by many Sikhs on both sides of the border.”

According to Singh, Pakistan’s slide into intolerance began when Pakistan’s military dictator Zia-ul Haq set the country on the course of Islamic radicalization in the late 1970s with the former Soviet Union’s invasion of neighboring Afghanistan. Jihad became a rallying cry to defeat the communists in Afghanistan.

Extremism aggravated after the 2001 intrusion of Afghanistan by a U.S.-led coalition, he proclaimed.

The tribal areas were steadily caught by Taliban and in 2013 several Sikhs were killed, their limbs cut. Singh said the brutality of the killings and the threats sent thousands abandoning Pakistan.

Pakistan today uses blasphemy as a weapon against minorities and fellow Muslims alike, which is a crime that carries an involuntary death penalty.

“That is why we have a fear in our hearts, that this law can be used against us,” he told.

“In the last nearly 40 years we have been facing the boom, boom (mimicking the sound of explosions) in every city of Pakistan,” said Singh. “In a long time we have not heard any sweet sounds in our Peshawar, but still we love our city.”


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Five Years of Massacre: Sikh Community in US Continue to Hail Act Of Kindness

Devout male followers of the Sikh faith, a monotheistic religion that originated in Northern India, keep long beards and wear turbans, and often are confused with Muslims

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Six people were killed when a white supremacist attacked the Gurdwara or Sikh Temple of Wisconsin five years ago. VOA

Aug 06, 2017: Over the past year, minorities across the United States have increased their outreach to the public and efforts to make their voices heard amid fears of a White Supremacy movement.

The Sikhs of Oak Creek, however, were working to raise awareness of their faith and uplift their community long before 2016.

On August 5, 2012, a white supremacist named Wade Michael Page killed six believers of the Sikh faith in their house of worship, a Gurdwara, outside of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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Mourners attend the funeral and memorial service for the six victims of the Sikh temple of Wisconsin mass shooting in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, Aug. 10, 2012. VOA

In the five years since, members of the Gurdwara have organized scholarships, blood drives, 6K walks and runs, and presentations on understanding the Sikh faith in local schools.

“My outreach is also a coping mechanism,” Pardeep Kaleka, whose father was one of the six victims, told VOA. “Processing my own pain and hurt… I’d rather just go into the community and make it better for everybody else.”

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Members of the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, prepare a communal meal for the community. VOA

Immediately after the shooting, the Sikh community increased its efforts to invite people of all faiths to come to the temple and learn about Sikhism.

But Navdeep Gill, who co-founded the temple’s outreach program, “Serve to Unite,” with Kaleka, says they soon realized they also needed to spread awareness outside the temple after members of the community said they were uncomfortable attending Sikh services.

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“Peacekeepers” at a Montessori school made this mural after a workshop with “Serve to Unite” – the organization started by the son of one of the victims of the 2012 shooting. VOA

“Whatever faith you practice, whatever community you come from, you should feel comfortable attending an event,” said Gill, who was tasked with organizing events commemorating the 5th anniversary of the shooting. “Whether that’s in schools, churches, telling other people who Sikhs are, as well as trying to learn about other people and see where the commonalities exist.”

Also Read: California Sikh community Raises Money to keep City’s Fireworks Show Alive

 Saturday’s 6K run is the 5th instance of the annual event. The blood drive was added three years ago to the August 5 activities.

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A man completes the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin’s 6k “Chardhi Kala” Run with a high five. VOA

This year, members of the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin had their first float in the 4th of July parade. Though organizers were initially skeptical, Gill said it was well received and prompted non-Indian neighbors to strike up conversations with participating Sikhs.

Devout male followers of the Sikh faith, a monotheistic religion that originated in Northern India, keep long beards and wear turbans, and often are confused with Muslims.

And while some minorities across the country have expressed feeling less safe since U.S. President Donald Trump’s election, Oak Creek Sikhs say the political climate hasn’t affected their community.

“Honestly, nothing has changed,” Navdeesh Toor, an Oak Creek resident and member of the Gurdwara for the past eight years, told VOA.

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People gather in Lafayette near the White House, Aug. 8, 2012 to participate in a candlelight vigil against hate violence. VOA

Toor said that although hate crimes have received more media attention in the past year, which some attribute partly to divisive rhetoric heard during President Trump’s campaign and first few months in office, she doesn’t see any impact on her community.

“A vast majority of Wisconsinites voted for Trump, including minorities and a lot of desis [South Asians] I know,” she said, adding that she didn’t fault her neighbors for voting for “the lesser of two evils” in 2016.

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Regardless of politics in Washington, survivors of the 2012 shooting, along with their friends, family, and fellow members of the Gurdwara, have not lost momentum in their pursuit of engaging the community.

“It’s not just about organizing 5Ks, it’s about… what we’re really being asked to do spiritually,” Kaleka said.

“I think there’s a reason [the shooting] happened, a reason those people who stood up made that sacrifice. This community has really stood up.” (VOA)

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Mahinder Pal Singh: For the First time a Sikh in Pakistan secures a place in the National Cricket Academy

Pakistan's cricketing history has only seen seven non-muslim cricketers representing the country

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Pakistan Cricket Team. Facebook

Lahore, December 20, 2016: Pakistani cricket has seen Christians and Hindus represent the country at home and abroad, but for the first time a Sikh has secured a place in the National Cricket Academy.

Mahinder Pal Singh, who hails from Nankana Sahib (Lahore), is among the list of top 30 emerging cricketers in the country, Geo News reported.

In a video circulating on social media, Singh expressed his desire to make Pakistan proud and thanked his coach and the chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board for having faith in him and recognising his talent.

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Singh said he was proud to be able to represent the entire Pakistani Sikh community and to have secured a place at the Pakistani Cricket Academy.

Pakistan’s cricketing history has only seen seven non-muslim cricketers representing the country.

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Over the years Pakistan cricket has been missing out on on regular international cricketing events on home soil, which has been served as the prime reason for the Pakistani cricket that was facing a dearth of new talent. (IANS)