Monday, December 20, 2004

Behzti: The Plot Thickens (more links, and insider updates)

My Sikh friend in Birmingham sent me another missive, updating me on what's happening there regarding the protests at the Birmingham Rep. Needless to say, I support everything he's saying:

I am in Birmingham and have been talking to people who were at the protests on Saturday and I can tell you that the Khalistanis in Britain have scented blood and are not going to step down. They have been inciting people in Gurdwaras and on websites and Punjabi radio stations to come to Birmingham from all four corners of Britain to "protest" outside the theatre. It is the raising of a lynch mob, people are talking about thousands being there, and I can tell you, they have got it in their minds that this is their own personal struggle against the enemies of Sikhism, that they are facing down Aurengzeb, and making the last stand to protect the dharma and the Sikh roop. Having spoken to many of the youth who attended the protest a sense of exhiliration came through that they have the eyes of the world on them, and I asked them specific points about what they would be prepared to do.

People said repeatedly that they would not mind if Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti was killed or at least hospitalised because of this, and when I asked them that if they play was not stopped, would you be prepared to burn the theatre down to the ground and they said yes.

This has been headline national news on every television and radio station in Britain. Needless to say, it has made Sikhs look like fascists and taliban like in their outlook, a disastrous result for a community that has been previously thought of as hardworking, industrious and creative.

This is a good editorial on the whole thing:

Taking a historical view:,3604,1377244,00.html

Just a word about the theatre in question. The Birmingham Repertory has an excellent reputation and is the main cultural centre for the city of Birmingham. There is an immense symbolism in the assault against it. It is not only looked as an assault on this particular play but an attack on a venerable and excellent institution that is a key component in the civic pride of the city. The violence that took place has cast Sikhs in the light of cultural vandals. Unfair, I know, but reflective of what we look like now. We basically lost the high moral ground. The Sikh community leaders speak with a forked tongue. Out of one side of their mouth they are saying they condemn the violence, out of the other they have been preaching hellfire and stoking the flames.

Basically, this whole episode has been, and is being, an absolute disaster for the Sikh community in Britain, making us appear to be a people of taliban sensibilities and attackers and vandals.

So far this morning neither the Sikh leadership nor the theare have compromised and the play is going ahead tonight. I know for a fact that there are going to be an even larger crowd there. They have been stoked up around the country for days by Khalistani activists and I really fear that the violence is going to escalate out of control. I fear for the safety of the theatre, the playwright, and the reputation of Sikhs in Britain, which will not be able to survive a repetition of Saturday night. I am saddedned beyond description by this, and frightened by the smiles on the faces of the young Sikhs I talked to about this, who seemed oblivious to the consequences of their actions and see this as a fulfilment of their personal and collective faith.

I pray that I am wrong. But I am anticipating further trouble. I will keep you updated.

It sounds like things will get worse before they get better. A couple of other links:,,2-1409626,00.html.