Director Gurinder Chadha has been honoured with the Sikh Jewel Award for 2017 for her immense contribution to British cinema.
Chadha, whose films include Bhaji on the Beach, Bend It Like Beckham and Bride and Prejudice, received the award from the defence secretary Michael Fallon at the Vaisakhi Dinner organised by the British Sikh Association at the Lancaster Hotel on Thursday (23) night.
The High Commissioner of India to the UK, Y K Sinha, who was the guest of honour, was also present on the dais. Chadha’s latest film, Viceroy’s House tells the true story of the final five months of British rule in India and coincides with the 70th anniversary of the Independence of India and the founding of Pakistan.
Receiving the award, Chadha said: “Some people use religion to divide – that is the theme of my film – and also the atrocities inflicted on us. It is a fair film.”
Jasminder Singh, OBE, chairman and founder of Edwardian Hotels, Jagjeet Singh Sohal, a writer, broadcaster ad communications consultant, and Khalsa Aid founded in 1999, also received the Sikh Jewel Awards.
In his address, Sinha said: “We were really touched when we saw the films screened on the occasion depicting the sacrifices made by Indian soldiers, mostly Sikhs and Gurkhas in the two world wars, winning more laurels than others.
“Sacrifices made by Sikhs are always remembered in India. The Government of India and the people of India gratefully acknowledge the contributions made by Sikhs.”
Fallon said he would be visiting India next month and “utilise the opportunity to have greater defence cooperation between Britain and India.”
“Sadly, the contribution of over a million Indian soldiers in each great war is not taught in British schools and if it were, there would be a better understanding about our shared history,” Dr Rami Ranger, CBE, chairman of the British Sikh Association, said.
He urged the defence secretary to convey “our request to the education secretary that the contribution of Commonwealth countries in preserving our freedom is taught in schools, especially in the wake of Brexit when we will need to revisit and renew our tried and tested bond of friendship with these allies.”
Ranger also asked Virendra Sharma, MP and councillor Julien Bell, leader of the Ealing Council to grant the association the opportunity to erect a befitting memorial in Southall to pay tribute to a community for its supreme sacrifices for our freedom.
The British Sikh Association also signed the Armed Forces Covenant alongside Fallon, to formally recognise the strong ties between the Sikh community and the armed forces.
Fallon said “a diverse military is a strong military which is why we’re committed to making sure our forces better represent the society they serve – this Covenant signing is yet another demonstration of this.
“Sikhs have a rich history with the armed forces, from their unsurpassed courage at the Battle of Saragarhi, 120 years ago, to the hundreds of thousands of Sikhs, who fought for Britain during the First and Second World Wars. We will work with the Association to ensure that tradition continues,” he added.
170 Sikhs currently serve in the Royal Navy, Army and the Royal Air Force, with many more around the UK serving as reservists.
Ranger said that the “covenant demonstrates our commitment as citizens of the United Kingdom to our illustrious Armed Forces, whilst at the same time recognising their round-the-clock, 365 days a year commitment for our freedom.”