Interview ~ Jagmeet Singh Viral BBC Disruptor

"The biggest way I am certain this has caught the attention of the Western world is through the amount of media cov...

THE INCIDENT

This weekend Jagmeet Singh of Basics of Sikhi (a non-profit religious educational platform) was on BBC's Sunday morning talk show hosted by Sian Williams. 

After ending a brief discussion on the subject of marriage the host moved to the next segment of the show. Jagmeet Singh stood in front of the camera and said, "I have to say Sikhs are being killed in the Punjab and nobody is reporting it." 

Host Sian Williams repeatedly tried to silence his interjection while he reiterated the important issue, "Thank you sir, could you show respect, though, to the other people that are here? You've had a good say-" "-I do, but the thing is Madam, you're not actually reporting the facts of what actually reporting the facts of what needs to be [reported]. This is a non-issue and we're discussing this. I respect you."

The interaction seemed both tense and polite. This incident is now being widely spread on social media and various news outlets. Jagmeet is now something of a folk icon for Sikhs raising a voice about injustice.

INTERVIEW WITH JAGMEET SINGH

Recently we got a chance to speak with Jagmeet to share his thoughts:

SN: Jagmeet Singh ji, Wahiguru ji ka Khalsa, Wahiguru ji ki Fateh

Jagmeet Singh: Vaheguru ji ka Khalsa, Vaheguru ji ki Fateh

SN: You are now a very well recognized face on the internet for what happened during Sunday’s morning show. You are now that Sikh guy who interrupted Sian Williams. Can you tell us what was going on in your mind when that happened?

Jagmeet Singh: The segment of the show I was involved in was centered around interfaith marriages in Gurdwaras.  They had me on the show as my wife is a Spanish native who converted into Sikhi and they wanted me to provide an anecdotal perspective.  The way the subject was being handled was not complete. They kept cutting me off so I couldn't say all of what I wanted to say. I wanted portray how sacred Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji is.  Maharaj is everything for us and it was my intention to convey this.  I thought if I can get them to understand the difference between our living Guru and the holy books of other religions then they may understand why we can't tolerate any level of disrespect to the King of Kings. We don't have a problem with interfaith marriage but we do hold certain vows and ceremonies on a high standard especially because one is bowing and committing to Guru Ji. The couple are renouncing all other faiths and breaking alliances to any other prophets or spiritual paths.  A Sikh must not break anyone from their faith, hence to have a Christian, Muslim, etc partake in an Anand Karaj, then that would be a disservice to them and pure falsehood as per Sikhi.

SN: So before the interruption you couldn’t get to the heart of the matter?

Jagmeet Singh: Exactly. The show was run unprofessionally from the start as the segment previous to mine ran over 10 minutes, cutting ours short.  If they would have told me we have much less time I would have made my point from the start.  I was rudely cut off by another guest mid-sentence when talking about Punjab and they refused to give me a chance to finish my point.   The marriage issue has to do with disrespect of Guru Granth Sahib Ji and the protests in Punjab have everything to do with disrespect of Guru Granth Sahib Ji and that’s what I wanted to make clear, drawing a parallel, which would highlight the dire situation in Punjab, while explaining the wedding protesters motivations, in the UK and around the world.  When they went to the next segment I felt disappointed, I couldn't come on live television and not talk about the thing all Sikhs are facing and feeling right now. Sikhs live and die for Maharaj.  They are not  simple a book and this point is at the heart of what is going on all around the world.  If you watch the clip back you will notice that there is a 25 second delay from when the host started introducing the following segment to when I stood up and spoke up.  During this 25 seconds, I felt the pain of our Panth and new I must act now or forever feel a coward.  It was my only chance and I felt I had to take it.  To be more honest, in that moment, I felt Guru Ji took over and I was just a passenger.  I don’t have the courage to do what I did, only our Guru can do that.  

SN: A google search with your name will turn up many results saying you disrupted the show. Are you a disruptor?

Jagmeet Singh: If I'm a disruptor, I am Dhan Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s disruptor. It’s all Kirpa, it’s all grace.  I pray deeply for Guru Ji to give my life some purpose and beg Him to use me in anyway He wants.  I am the puppet, He is the animator.    

SN:  Do you think this has helped bring attention to the western world about what's happening in the Punjab?

Jagmeet Singh: I had a great talk with Samantha Rea who interviewed me for VICE. She was amazed to find out about atrocities against and oppression of Sikhs. She is an investigative journalist by trade was so shocked she said, “Sikhs have had it worse than the Jews!” Yet Sikhs are not as well recognized and it is about time that we are. There’s a well known UK journalist called Jon Gaunt who told Jasveer Singh of the Sikh Press Association that he thought Sikhs were treated well in India, so upon being told on his radio show about the Sikh genocide of 1984 and everything since he was shocked! Hence  #SikhLivesMatter is really important.

The biggest way I am certain this has caught the attention of the Western world is through the amount of media coverage; articles on the BBC, Independent, Vice Magazine, Washington Post - these are major news outlets that have millions of readers. There is no doubt that through this  the awareness of what is happening will have grown. Journalists around the world have noticed the movement, supported largely through social media. Some are saying there has been more coverage in the first two hours after my TV appearance than there was in the previous 30 years. If anything, this further proves this was the actions of our Guru, not me. Sikhs are mere tools of their Guru and if I have been utilised in such a way than it is a blessing and I am humbled.

 

We've had #SikhLivesMatter trend constantly in the last three days, with over 20,000 tweets using the hashtag. Two days ago it jumped to number 4 trending topics on twitter. I hope we can make it number 1.

SN: Incidentally the BBC did do an article on you after the event, on BBC Trending. So it looks like you got the result of having them report on the issue.

Jagmeet Singh:  Within one hour of the story going up online on the BBC it was in the top five of the most read articles on the site, eventually reaching number two.  As I said before, if what I did has gotten more people to realise what the Indian government is really doing then I feel it was a worthwhile action. You know, we defend any people who are oppressed, we serve langar to everyone, we stand up for people. That’s Khalsa. Now for the sake of Punjab we need to stand up for them.

SN: What would you like to see the Sikhs and media doing that they haven't been.

Jagmeet Singh: I request everyone to keep sharing #SikhLivesMatter. Keep sharing images, articles and opinion, let's show the world that Sikhs are united and we are speaking for one cause. We have to end the silence on the persecution of Sikhs. I'm a nobody, who am I to say anything to anyone. It is all the Guru. If it's Maharaj's will we will continue making great progress as we have already. I do believe if we keep offering good quality content to major news sources they will eventually accept it. It’s proven now. Let’s work together, inspire each other, keep chardi kala and always do our best.

SN: Final comments or messages.

Jagmeet Singh: I just want to say that a thank you. I've learned so much about Sikhi from SikhNet and Basics of Sikhi. Also, I would like to recognize the Sikh Press Association for making it possible that this story made it into mainstream publications. Thank you. It's all Maharaj's Kirpa.



MEDIA PICKS UP SIKH ISSUES

After the event there was a surge in UK media covering the interruption:

Yahoo news UK branch reported on the protests and killings: Sikh Killings: Jagmeet Singh disrupts BBC Sunday Morning Live to protest 'media blackout'

International Business Times carried the same report: Sikh Killings: Jagmeet Singh disrupts BBC Sunday Morning Live to Protest 'media blackout'

Metro News of the UK gave a succinct recap including comments from Basics of Sikhi: Guest disrupts BBC's Sunday Morning Live by throwing on-air protest about Sikh killings

The UK news source 'Independent' reported on Jagmeet and the BBC not covering the Punjab story:

The Independent later in the day reported again on the subject with comments from Sikh Press Association: Jagmeet Singh: Sikh charity calls on British media to provide coverage of treatment of Sikhs in India

The Telegraph depicted the live incident play by play: BBC presenter Sian Williams threatens to take panellist off air after protest about Sikhs in Punjab disrupts show

Vice UK reported the desecration, the apparent lack of media coverage and also conducted an inclusive interview with Jagmeet Singh: Is There Really a Media Backout on Sikh Deaths in India? ***link to our article on it***

So the incident succeeded in getting UK news to report on the subject. 

Even world news agency 'Real Time News' carried it: BBC presenter Sian Williams threatens to have guest Jagmeet Singh thrown out after on-air protest about Sikh in Punjab disrupts show

Indian news also picked it up:

NDTV: Panelist Disrupts Live BBC Show Over Alleged Violence Against Sikhs

Hindustan Times: Sikh panelist disrupts BBC live show to protest Punjab violence

Media247: Sikh man disrupts BBC TV show over killings

ukmalayalee.com: Guest disrupts BBC's Sunday Morning Live by throwing on-air protest about Sikh killings

Golkonda News: Sikh panelist demands BBC to cover violence in Punjab 

ABP Live: BBC presenter threatens to expel Sikh man from show after on-air interruption

American news giant Washington post made a report including 1984, the BBC petition and the significance of what he is bringing up: #SikhLivesMatter Sparks a Fierce Debate in Britain

Notably the BBC itself reported on the issue. Today they posted an article about the morning show incident followed by information including protests, Muslim support, a petition, 1984, Sikhs being overlooked in the media and the increasing political atmosphere in India and #SikhLivesMatter:

'Sikh Lives Matter' - Says a New Global Protest Movement

If Jagmeet wanted the BBC to report on the issue, he got what he wanted.  

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THE BIGGER PICTURE

The following is to give some more background to his off subject interjection:

That there are human right violations occurring in the Punjab is not a new situation. Sikh organization Ensaaf (meaning 'Justice' in Punjabi) two years ago released a short film documenting a former Punjab police officer, Jaswant Singh Manak who explained his experience of being present during unlawful killing of Sikh youth and unresponsive judicial dealings of such cases.

About 30 years ago the Indian army stormed the Golden Temple complex. This would be the equivalent of having an aggressive army action at The Vatican. Though this was unavoidably reported in media throughout the world, what wasn't seen as prominently was the human rights violations that occurred surrounding the famous attack. 

Official reports have Sikhs deaths during that event as less than 500 however another source gives the number as 5,000 civilian deaths.

It is very well accepted in the Sikh community that Sikhs have been targeting by the government and police especially after this event. One Sikh took it on himself to chronicle these events in a legally acceptable way. There was many cases of Sikhs being killed or disappearing under the hand of the police. Bhai Jasvant Singh Kalra took it upon himself to compile thousands of such cases from the early 80's to the mid 90's. According to his daughter, Navkiran Kaur, he found more than 6,000 such cases only from 3 cremation grounds, only in one city. In 1995 he himself was abducted by the police and was likely killed. Here is the official list of 2,097 unclaimed deceased Sikhs

Ask the average American if they know what happened in Tibet, they may have an idea. Ask the same person if they know about tragedies in the Punjab and you are almost certain to get a blank response. For many Sikhs there is a disheartening silence from the world community to bring these human rights violations to light. 

Last week thousands of Sikhs were peacefully protesting and police blasted water cannons, beat people with batons, and opened fire. Official reports say 2 Sikhs were killed and 50 were injured, though locals believe the number must be higher than that. With hate-crimes occurring towards Sikhs in the U.S., Canada and the UK, a long history in the Punjab Sikhs tend to view such killings as part of a larger picture. Jasveer Singh from Sikh Press Association says told the Washington Post, "What Jagmeet did in pushing for coverage of what's going on in Punjab isn't about the deaths that have occurredSikh killings have been happening since the 70's, there was a haloucast in the 80's and there has been consistent deaths up till now. It's an ongoing and terrible situation.  

It is this history we have to keep in mind to understand why Jagmeet Singh interrupted the BBC morning show.

 

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