By: Pramod Thomas
SIKH members of Labour have complained to the party against shadow development secretary Preet Kaur Gill after she sent a series of WhatsApp messages undermining victims of sexual violence within gurdwaras, according to a report.
In the messages, Gill said that those who are calling gurdwaras unsafe are using a ‘very dangerous language’ and urged them to submit written apologies to their places of worship, the Guardian reported after reviewing those messages.
The MP posted a series of messages on the WhatsApp group, Sikhs in Labour, following the release of a report by UK charity and victim support service Sikh Women’s Aid (SWA) which found that Sikh women in Britain were abused by faith leaders.
“Where is your Evidence guru ghars (Gurdwaras) are not safe??? This is outrageous you should apologise to the sikh community,” she wrote in one of the messages.
“Calling guru ghars unsafe is very dangerous language. Please submit a written apology to guru ghars.”
The Labour MP for Birmingham, Edgbaston, even alleged that victims of rape at one gurdwara had been in consensual relationships with their accused attacker.
The SWA survey of 839 Sikh women in Britain has revealed that close to two-thirds of them had experienced domestic abuse.
The charity’s report also warned about lack of protection for women offered by gurdwaras.
Besides, the SWA revealed that it advocated for several cases where sexual abuse and misconduct were alleged to have taken place in gurdwara and faith settings.
“I was very surprised by her comments, as there are genuine concerns with safeguarding at UK gurdwaras. Her messages were even more surprising given Gill [a former social worker] comes from a child protection background,” Labour councillor Nav Johal, who was a member in Sikhs in Labour, was quoted as saying by the Guardian.
According to the Guardian report, some in the community view Gill’s latest messages as an evidence of her conservative religious beliefs, contrary to Labour’s liberal ideology.
Those who criticize her claim that her views could risk damaging relations with India.
Following the findings of the survey, SWA co-founder Sukhvinder Kaur said that everyone should ‘hang their heads in shame’ at the level of abuse that has been allowed to go unchecked in the community.
“Though we cannot comment on leaked WhatsApp messages, Preet would never downplay abuse or violence,” said a Labour spokesperson.
The newspaper report said that a dossier of evidence was recently handed to the Home Office about Gill’s links to hardline Sikh nationalists, who argue for an independent state in Punjab.
It included photographs of the MP taking Keir Starmer to her local gurdwara and posing with him for a photograph in front of a gallery of pictures of Sikh nationalists.
Among them was Labh Singh who was once accused of masterminding India’s biggest ever bank heist in order to fund the Khalistan Commando Force and Sukhdev Singh Babbar, the former leader of Babbar Khalsa International, which investigators believe was responsible for the bombing of an Air India flight in 1985 that killed 329 people.
However, the Home Office has not taken any action on the dossier, the Guardian report said.