Ist turbaned Sikh, Ist Kaur enter UK Parliament | SNE


JALANDHAR: Punjabis had something to cheer in the chaos that followed the UK parliament election results on Friday. Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi became the first turbaned Sikh MP while Preet Kaur Gill  became the first Sikh woman to enter the UK parliament.

The UK parliament now has four Punjabi origin MPs, all from the Labour Party, with sitting MPs Virendra Sharma and Seema Malhotra retaining their seats. Interestingly, three of them have their roots in Jalandhar.

“Credit to the Labour Party leadership for taking the bold step of giving Sikhs the opportunity to fight for winnable seats,” said Amrik Singh, chair of the Sikh Federation UK.

Another turbaned candidate Kulip Singh Sahota lost from Telford to Lucy Allan from the Conservative party with a thin margin of 720 votes. Dhesi had won the Slough seat with a margin of around 7,500 votes in 2015 but this time the lead increased to 16,998 votes.

The victory reverberated in his village, Raipur, around 15km from Jalandhar, as people started thronging his relatives — grandfather Sarwan Singh Dhesi and uncles Amrik Singh Dhesi and Paramjit Singh Raipur. Raipur is a Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) member.

The entire village appeared to be in celebration mode. Gill, 44, who was a Labour councilor in Sandwell, won from Birmingham Edgbaston. She replaced party MP Gisela Stuart, who joined the ‘leave’ campaign in the Brexit referendum.

Gill is also a board member of the Sikh Network, a collective of community activists and professionals in the UK. Both Dhesi and Gill are second generation Sikhs in the UK. Interestingly, they are distantly related as Gill’s sister is married to Dhesi’s cousin.

Malhotra’s family had migrated during Partition from Rawalpindi to Delhi while her mother hailed from Jalandhar.

Apart from fielding Sikh candidates, Labour had also promised to hold an independent public inquiry into actions of the UK government around the time of June 1984 when Operation Bluestar took place as well as into the restrictions placed on Sikhs in the UK. This has been a strong demand of the community after declassification of secret documents in 2014 which suggested that British help was sought by the Indian government in Operation Bluestar. Dhesi’s father Jaspal Singh, who runs a construction company in the UK, was president of Gurdwara Guru Nanak Darbar at Gravesend for many years.

It is the largest Gurdwara in the UK spread over 805 acres. Gill has her roots in Khera village near Jalandhar. Her father Daljit Singh Shergill had emigrated to the UK in 1962.

“She last visited us in February to attend my son’s wedding,” said her first cousin Avtar Singh, an agriculturist. Virendra Sharma, a London School of Economics graduate, has his parental house is in Jalandhar city. His father late Lekh Raj Sharma was a senior Congress politician. He has retained his seat by getting 70.3% votes – as he polled 24,124 votes while his rival from conservative party got just 9,630 votes.

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