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Thoughts on this Anzac Day

Dr AVTAR SINGH GILL

 

 

 

The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (“ANZAC”) was a First World War army corps that was formed in Egypt in 1915 and operated gallantly against superhuman odds during the Battle of Gallipoli.

Sikh soldiers fought alongside its bravest, and gave their all.

This ANZAC Day, celebrated every year on April 25, has particular significance to me as my grandfather Dr Waryam Singh served in the Sikh Regiment with British and ANZAC officers in Egypt, Palestine and Turkey in 1915 and tended to the injured Soldiers including ANZACS, Sikhs and others.

When he attended my MBBS graduation in 1981 in Scotland, I asked him why he joined a war so far away from his homeland in Punjab … a European war (WW1), a war of their making, between European nations and peoples.

“For freedom and human rights,“ he said to me, “so that you can live peacefully, and study freely, prosper … and progress!“

He gave me a 2 volume “History of the Sikhs” and educated me on the origins of the Sikh Regiment.

My grandfather went on say: "We as Sikhs have much to be proud of.  At a time when European powers were doing their own plundering, enslaving Africans and colonising other nations, we were busy creating a freedom force to free and repatriate women and children captured by looting, murdering and marauding Afghan and Arab invaders, who were then selling their captives in the Baghdad markets.

“We endured two holocausts in quick succession … in 1746, and again ih 1762. Our Founding Fathers wrote the Sikh constitution (1704) - long before the US constitution and UN Charter - enshrining Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Belief and Religion, Human Rights and gender equality.

“The same tenets found their way into the US constitution at the end of that century begun so gloriously by Guru Gobind Singh, and in the mid-twentieth century into the Charter of the United Nations (1945).

“So let us honour and remember them every day … Lest we forget."

I am proud of my heritage in protecting human rights and freedoms of human beings every where … a struggle which my ancestors fought and sacrificed so much for … in the same region where US forces are fighting today for the same reasons today.

 

April 28, 2013

Conversation about this article

1: Aman (Surrey, British Columbia, Canada), April 28, 2013, 10:13 AM.

The Sikh soldiers in WWI Gallipoli were given the most dangerous positions and suffered the greatest. They were underneath the Anzacs, who themselves were badly treated by the British.

2: N Singh (Canada), April 28, 2013, 6:58 PM.

Wow! Great words by a great man. Every Sikh man, woman and child should be quoted the words of Dr. Singh's grandfather. He has made me very proud to be Sikh, and turned the conventional portrayal of Sikhs by the desis and their stooges on it head! Bravo!

3: Jagjit Samra (Canada), April 29, 2013, 7:07 AM.

Thanks for sharing your story of your grandfather, Dr. Avtar Singh ji. Makes us all proud. The more I dig into our history, the more I am amazed that how much has been vastly under-appreciated or ignored.

4: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), April 29, 2013, 11:44 AM.

The Sikh Regiment is no ordinary regiment! It has 27 Battle Honours, including for Gallipoli and 15 Theatre Honours!

5: Sarjit Singh Jassal (Perth, Western Australia), April 30, 2013, 9:27 PM.

I have not met or known Dr. Avtar Singh Gill. The two photographs shown are of Sikhs taking part in the ANZAC parade in Perth last year. The Sikhs in Perth commenced taking part on the 90th anniversary of the ANZAC. We had invited six members of of the Dasmesh Pipe & Drum Band from Malaysia to lead the local Sikhs. Three years later we managed to organize our own band and as you can see it is composed mainly of youngsters. Small though it is, it is,very, very popular with the spectators. It is always introduced by the ABC "... and here come the SIKHS!" - the "only marching Sikh Band in Australia!"

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