Sikh cadets a reflection of history

Canada: Having a cadet group called the Surrey Sikhs would fit into a history of loyal military service.

Sikhs have had a long, proud military tradition and using the word ‘Sikh’ to identify a regiment within the Canadian military would prove to be an asset for the forces.

Doing some research on the topic, it becomes very obvious that the Sikh military has existed for centuries and has stood proud in many wars including the Battle of Sargarhi.

The Sikh military tradition dates back to the founders of their religion with the sixth Sikh Guru, Guru Hargobind (1595 to 1644) when Sikhs fought their first battles against Mughal oppression.

Highly skilled Sikh soldiers were later quickly integrated into the British Indian Army and proved invaluable and loyal.

Sikh regiments have served in the British army in battlefields around the world including Sudan, fighting slave traders in central Africa, in Persia and in the Middle East.

More than 65,000 Sikh soldiers fought in the First World War as part of the British Army and more than 300,000 Sikhs fought German and Japanese tyranny in Second World War.

The Gurkhas who reside from the Nepal region of India have been part of the Indian contingent of the British Army for more than two centuries and have proven that defending a multicultural nation can come from a particular ethnic regiment of soldiers.

The Canadian Forces have also proven this with at least 15 regiments that reflect ethnic diversity. For example: Seaforth Highlanders, Canadian Scottish Regiment and Sudbury’s Irish Regiment of Canada, just to name a few.

Building an inclusive, diverse community can be very complex. By allowing cadets from a particular religious faith to form their own unit to perhaps one day serve and protect our nation would definitely be a Canadian thing to do.

I see nothing wrong with their name being called Surrey Sikhs or with this group to exist for that fact.

Looking at some of the past history of the Sikh military, Canada would be a fortunate country to have such a fighting force on its side.

As one letter writer put it: “These people are willing to put their religion on the line for Canada. Particularly when you consider that they would rather wear a turban instead of a steel helmet on the battlefield.”

At times unfortunately I believe the Sikh community in Canada struggles with a perceived image problem.

With encouraging Sikh youth to join the cadets and be passionate about their commitment towards Canada, we will hopefully see positive changes on how this sect is viewed.

Where I identify a larger issue in all of this is when one of the organizers spearheading this discussion commented that “without Sikh in the name the cadet corps wouldn’t have drawn as much interest.”

This points us to a greater issue within the South Asian community.

Our diverse communities need to become more involved in activities that pertain not only to their own culture or religion. To support initiatives such as this should not limit us to reach out to mainstream causes.

In this case I honestly believe diversity can work in isolation and in partnership with the Canadian Forces for the betterment of our nation and in keeping with British tradition.

Let us not allow a name or religion to become a stumbling block for the greater good.

One comment

  1. Below are the comments I posted at Vancouver Desi which also ran this same story:

    “Let us not allow a name or religion to become a stumbling block for the greater good”

    The above applies equally to both sides in the debate.

    Would the name Surrey Punjabi cadets not work for both sides as the Punjab is a region/state in India, and anyone wanting to join this regiment would know that Sikhism is the predominant religion of this region.

    I say Punjabi instead of Punjab only because Punjab, unfortunately, has such a negative/racist connotation attached to it.

    Or, Punjab in the name could be used to help overcome this as we move/progress forward.

    Would it then not be an honour to have this regiment named the Surrey Punjab regiment?

    In response to my replies, people commented on the fact that the lands of shere Punjab had been taken away from the Sikhs and that I needed to learn my history.

    In response I posted the following thoughts:

    The people of the Punjab may not like being part of India. What has happened in the past may not be right (just like the fact that you, me, and every other immigrant is here because someone’s land was conquered).

    The people in the Punjab must live with the reality that geography dictates. The Punjab is a region with a population of 28 million people. India is a country with a population of 1.3 billion people. So, like it or not, if the rest of India does wants to keep the Punjab (and its fertile lands) as part of India, there isn’t much that the people of the Punjab can do.

    The Punjabi people may not like this, but they understand their reality. I think the problem they face is people who are once-removed from that reality (have escaped to the richness of developed countries), are still trying to fight for something they believe in, but the fight itself does not affect them in their daily lives (or the wealth and leisure they get to enjoy in their new “home” countries.

    If the aboriginal people asked everyone in Canada to go back to their country of origin, would you leave?

    Would you fight on the side of the aboriginals to kick out every non-aboriginal (including your own family)?

    Sounds ridiculous right?

    “The strong do as they wish, while the weak suffer as they must.” – Thucydides
    It isn’t right, but that is the geopolitical reality we live with in this world.

    But, back to the original issue, would it not be an honour to shere punjab if the cadets used the name, Surrey Punjab cadets?

    And if that works for both sides, is that not an acceptable win-win?

    In response to a comment:

    Mike, do you believe that Sikhs are better than Hindus?

    And if so, why do you believe this?

    Is this something that is taught in the Sikh religion? Because I don’t think that is what Sikhism is about.

    If anything I have said is completely off base, I would greatly appreciate anyone’s insight on things I have failed to comprehend.

    My responses are in no way meant to offend. They are only meant to share my understanding of reality. Everyone has their own interpretation.

    I think much can be accomplished through dialogue. T he original issue has been expanded quite a bit in this discussion, but I appreciate the back and forth this issue has generated.

    One last off-topic thought:

    If shere punjab were to win its freedom back from India, then what?

    From what I can see, this region would be land-locked.

    How would goods get in and out of shere punjab?

    Would that really be better for the people to be isolated from the rest of the world, unable to trade?

    Would this new border-enforced isolation not give India the leverage to negotiate economic issues to India’s advantage?

    Would the average person in shere punjab really be better off?

    For example, how would oil get into shere punjab?

    Or new cars, trucks, appliances, tv’s, etc.

    And how would the goods produced in shere punjab be exported to the rest of the world?

    Also, how would farm equipment and tractors get into shere punjab?

    Flying all this stuff in and out of shere punjab would be excessively expensive.

    And that would still not solve the most important issue in regards to the local economy, which would be the lack of access to oil.

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