Sunday, January 1

Empire's insult to Punjabis to be taken back

'Punjabis are liars', said British judges. But not anymore! A slur against the community committed over 70 years ago may finally be corrected.

British Judges had called Punjabis liars during the Raj. Now thanks to a petition filed by over a 1000 people including leading politicians and Sikh activists in the UK, the Labour government has officially condemned the controversial statement and is now considering expunging it from legal records.
But this is not enough for Sonia Raj Sood, Indian Supreme Court lawyer who is fighting to have the ruling officially revoked in India. "Tony Blair should say sorry for the comments. I do not want future generations to grow up and find that these remarks continue to remain in the law books of Pakistan, India and Britain," said Raj, who has so far not been able to get the comments revoked in India.
She took her case for expulsion of these derogatory remarks to the Supreme Court of India, which, on July 11 this year, ruled that the matter fell outside its jurisdiction. Few in Pakistan had heard of her legal fight in the Indian court until she landed in Lahore to file a similar appeal in the Supreme Court of Pakistan.During the 1924 murder trial of Bakhshish Singh Vs the Emperor, Judges Scott Smith and JJ Martineau ruled that evidence given by Punjabis could not be taken at face value. "It is well known that inhabitants of the Punjab will not only accuse actual offenders but also include the names of other enemies, hence their declaration is unacceptable as a basis of conviction," they said.This slur has remained on record for 71 years and according to Harmander Singh from the policy think tank, Sikhs in England, it has angered Punjabis for many generations. "It is a blot for the entire Punjabi community, especially those who live in Britain and are proud to be associated with this country," said Singh. "For some time now we have wanted it deleted from the record books, not just here but also in India. It is an unacceptable thing to say," he added.Spearheading the campaign is Labour Peer Lord Ahmed Nazir who helped to organise the petition and put it to the government. In a letter written to Lord Nazir, government minister Kim Howells has distanced the current government and courts from the comments. "It goes without saying that these remarks bear no relation to the policies of this government or the workings of the courts across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. We fully appreciate the huge contribution made by people of Indian and Pakistani origin who live and work in the UK," said Howells.

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