Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi speaks to IP Singh about Op Bluestar, his party’s agenda on his India visit
You have made history by becoming the first turbaned Sikh MP in UK and this has been celebrated in UK, Punjab and among the Punjabi diaspora. Your maiden speech has been widely watched. How do you see this?
This is all thanks to the constituents of Slough who reposed faith in me. The responsibility of being the first turbaned UK Sikh MP weighs heavily on my shoulders. I am conscious that I am being watched keenly, and if I don’t conduct myself properly, it will reflect on all turbaned Sikhs and other minority communities. I will try my level best to ensure that people of Slough have reason to be proud of their MP.
I am clear that we have to work for all, whether they voted for me or not, in accordance with the philosophy of Sarbat Da Bhala (welfare of all) propounded by the Sikh Gurus. My parents inculcated this concept in me right from childhood and working for all comes naturally to me. Cultural diversity should be respected and celebrated. I have travelled to several parts of the world to know more about diversity.
You have become an MP in UK at a young age without the aid of any family legacy. How do you see this vis-a-vis politics in India ?
There are a lot of people who have the potential to serve. It depends on the system. I am very proud that British Parliament reflects diversity. It has more elected women members and those from minority communities than ever before. People here should focus on electing good candidates. It’s not always that a party wins, individuals also do.
What’s your take on UK’s immigration policies?
Harsh immigration policies have damaged UK. Some good students are going to other countries. We are in favour of having immigration rules which benefit Britain. We are losing talent as well as economic activity. This is due to the negative policies of the Conservative government. There is a need to make the immigration process fair. We do want managed immigration, but it should remain fair, and talent should flow in to ensure the right balance. Good students should not be kept out.
You were born and brought up in UK, but are quite proficient in Punjabi
Elders in the family were of the view that I should be acquainted with Punjabi language and culture. I was four-and-half years old when I was first brought to Punjab. I was enrolled in the primary school at our ancestral village of Raipur Pharala for a couple of months and studied at Shivalik Public School, Mohali, for four years and spent a year at Dashmesh Academy, Anandpur Sahib, before returning to UK. I studied mathematics with management studies at University College London, and applied statistics at Keble College, Oxford University. Then I took up history and politics of South Asia and its connections with Great Britain during my MPhil at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge University.
Now my kids are following the same pattern. One has already returned to UK after studying here for a few years and the other is here these days. My kids are very comfortable with Punjabi. We converse in Punjabi at home as they learn English at school.
What is your take on many schools in Punjab not allowing students to converse in Punjabi?
Everybody has his/her own thinking. If you replace your mother tongue with something else (language) then it’s the biggest tragedy. It is not as if you can boost you progress by giving up Punjabi and adopting some other language. There is no need to unlearn your mother tongue to learn other languages. If a person like me can learn eight languages, so can others.
What do you have to say about the role of UK in 1984 around the time of Operation Bluestar?
I am very thankful to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and deputy leader Tom Watson that they included the issue in the election manifesto. Conservative want to whitewash the 1984 happenings, but we are determined to bring out the truth. Our citizens have every right to know that what happened in 1984. When these documents came out, Watson played a very big role in highlighting the issue. It’s rather the agenda of the entire Labour party as it is important not only for British Sikhs but for people of UK to know what happened at that time of the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s government.
Unless people get to know the truth, they will always suspect something underhand. So, we need to establish the real picture. Conservative Party-led government had earlier ordered an inquiry in this regard. But it was “an eyewash”. Neither anything came out of that inquiry nor any document was released. That is why the demand for independent inquiry is growing to put pressure on the UK government If the UK government makes any delay in ordering an independent inquiry, then it will be called “justice delayed, justice denied”.
What about curbs on articles of faith in some counties?
It is a sad that Sikhs cannot freely wear ‘kirpan’ or turban in many countries. Over 80,000 Sikh soldiers laid down their lives in order to liberate France. And now that very country does not allow turbans.
There is no use finding fault with the EVMs now when the party leadership committed a historic blunder with regard to the overall strategy in the elections. First, it should look within to find out reasons that stopped AAP’s march to power,” Chandigarh-based The Tribune quoted Mann as saying.
17 Nov 2018
18 Nov 2018