Britain’s first turban- wearing MP Tanmanjit Singh Dhesi today congratulated the organisations and individuals demanding that the remains of Maharaja Duleep Singh were brought back to Punjab.
He, however, sounded cautious in making any commitment over the issue.
Talking to reporters here after he was honoured by over a dozen religious, social and voluntary organisations, including the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), Dhesi said it was a complicated matter involving legalities.
“Besides, some are supporting it while others are opposing it,” he said.
This was Dhesi’s first visit to Phagwara after becoming a member of the British Parliament.
His parents, Jaspal Singh Dhesi and Dalvinder Kaur Dhesi, live in Phagwara, though their native village is nearby Raipur.
Dhesi’s uncle Paramjit Singh Raipur is an SGPC member.
“I congratulate all those who have brought the matter into the ‘lokan di kacheri’ (people’s court), but I will make any commitment on it only after all the facts and views come to light,” said Dhesi.
However, he added in the same breath, “We too are considering the issue seriously.”
Even after 124 years of the death of Maharaja Duleep Singh, the king of Punjab who was dethroned by the British, a controversy rages on over whether his remains should be brought back to the state from England for cremation as per the Sikh rites.
Singh, who was forced to spend the better part of his life in exile, lies buried at the Elveden Church in Suffolk in eastern England.
A recently released film, ‘Black Prince’, had rekindled the debate that his remains be exhumed and brought to Punjab for cremation.
On the issue of GST exemption to ‘langar’ (community kitchen), Dhesi said the demand was for the Punjab MPs and MLAs to raise both with the state and central governments.
“As a Sikh, I am in favour of GST exemption to both the langars at the Golden Temple and Bhagat Puran Singh Pingalwara,” he said.
Batting for an effective mechanism to address the issues of NRIs, Dhesi said the non-resident Indians faced problems related to land disputes and marriage among others.
“As a representative of the Punjabis, especially Sikhs, I will keep raising these matters at appropriate forums,” he added.
Addressing the gathering, Dhesi went down the memory lane and shared his memories of schooling in Raipur and association with Phagwara as a boy.
Asserting that he would become a “loud voice” for the Punjabis and Sikhs in the House of Commons, Dhesi said he would keep raising the issues confronting the diaspora.
“It is tragic for the Sikhs living in France that they have to remove their turbans for getting photographed and their children cannot go to schools wearing turbans, while over 80,000 turbaned Sikhs had laid down their lives for that country’s independence,” he said.
Dhesi also expressed concern over the alleged hate crimes against the Sikhs in the US.
Claiming that he had come to Punjab with a message of love and amity, he described himself as a “well-wisher of Punjabis”.
Bibi Jagir Kaur, former SGPC president, and local MLA Som Parkash feted Dhesi with a ‘siropa’ and sword.