Sikhs and people of Sikh heritage are amongst the many being honoured by Her Majesty the Queen in the New Year Honours List of 2022.
Amongst the notable individuals is Bimmy (Virinder) Kaur Rai, who has been a tireless advocate and supporter of the charitable sector for over 30 years. After losing both her parents at the age of 13, she abandoned dreams of going to university so that she could care for her younger siblings and elderly grandfather in Derby. That traumatic experience transformed her outlook on the world, and she considered it her lifelong duty to give back wherever she could. As a direct result, she has volunteered for the last three decades, helping to bring about positive change for several different communities. She receives an MBE.
When asked about her honour, Bimmy said “It is my life’s honour to have been of service to others, a journey of over 35 years of passionately working hard and facing adversity in order to make a positive impact to the lives of others. It is with Waheguru Ji’s (God’s) grace that I dedicate this to my beloved parents and to those who have supported me on this journey of struggle and success, who believed in me and opened up the door of opportunities to allow me to serve”.
Another recipient is Amrit Mann. He is a pioneering philanthropist within the Sikh community, supporting charities and the voluntary sector, the Armed Forces, and arts and heritage organisations. He has sponsored £1.2m worth of meals to the British public and fed over 250,000 individuals, sponsoring landmark community events, exhibitions and talks. He is the Managing Director of Punjab Covent Garden, which was established by his great-grandfather as the UK’s first ever Punjabi restaurant and which remains an iconic institution within the British Sikh community. He receives an OBE.
On hearing the news, Amrit said “I’m really surprised and humbled to have received this honour for services to charity and community. Seva, selfless service for the community has been the ethos of our family business since it was founded in 1946, and I accept this honour not just for me, but on behalf of the generations that came before me who made huge sacrifices, took chances, and shared their spirit with me.”
Charan Singh Sekhon went above and beyond during the COVID-19 pandemic in helping and supporting the elderly, vulnerable, homeless, rough-sleepers and overseas students in the Bedfordshire area. As chairman of SEVA Trust UK, he launched an emergency COVID-19 community support project in March 2020 to help local communities and international students who faced hardships due to the sudden UK-wide lockdown. He receives an MBE.
Charan said “I am incredibly humbled to hear this news and honoured to receive this recognition. It is also a reflection on the collective team effort and enormous support and guidance I received from my colleagues at the Environment Agency, UNISON and our fantastic team of volunteers who work with us that makes SEVA Trust UK, a community charity that we launched six years ago. I must thank my entire family, and the guidance of my parents, who taught me a true meaning of life. There is no better reward than serving the country and the people in line with the concept of Seva gifted by Guru Nanak Dev Ji”.
Jagtar Singh Gill has been active in Sikh and interfaith communities at a local and national level for the last two decades. He helped deliver the £11 million new build Leamington Spa & Warwick Gurdwara and was its General Secretary from 2009 to 2011. He was Secretary General of Sikh Council UK from 2018 to 2019, and since 2019, he has been working with Sikh Assembly. He is a key participant on the West Midlands Mayor’s Faith Roundtable, and he is a philanthropist supporting with funding for new Gurdwara projects and Sikh organisations. He receives an OBE.
Jagtar said “I am humbled that my sewa over the years locally and nationally including at Leamington & Warwick Gurdwara and with the interfaith community has been recognised with this honour. I want to thank all those who have supported me and made this possible. The last year has been a difficult time for everyone and so many people from across our faiths have stepped up to support some of the most vulnerable in society. As a British Sikh I am proud our honours system is recognising the diversity of the UK. Often diverse representation is lacking in UK civic society and I would thank all those working to ensure better diversity and representation at all levels.”
Other recipients of Sikh heritage in the list include:
- Professor Iqbal SINGH OBE – Chair, Centre of Excellence in Safety for Older People. For services to Equality and Inclusion in Healthcare (Blackburn, Lancashire)
- Dr Hindpal Singh BHUI – Inspection Team Leader, HM Inspectorate of Prisons. For services to Custody Facilities during Covid-19 (London, Greater London)
- Dr Japinder DHESI – Lately Team Leader, Cabinet Office. For Public Service (London, Greater London)
- Davinder Singh DHILLON – Chair, The Chattri Memorial Group. For services to the Commemoration of Indian Forces’ Contribution in the First World War (Hove, East Sussex)
- Dr Baljinder Singh DHANDA – Co-Chair, UK Cyber Security Council Formation Project. For services to Cyber Security (Amersham, Buckinghamshire)
- Narinderjit DHANDWAR – Business Relationship Manager, Barclays. For services to the Business and Financial Sectors in the West Midlands during Covid-19 (Walsall, West Midlands)
- Hardip Parkesh Singh LAWANA – Senior Officer, Border Force, Home Office. For services to Border Security and to Workplace Wellbeing (London, Greater London)
- Mandip Kaur SAHOTA – Founder, Strategies and Stories. For Charitable and Public Service (Bradford, West Yorkshire)
- Hardip Singh ATWAL – For charitable service in Annan, Dumfries and Galloway (Annan, Dumfries)
- Sulakhan Singh DARD – Ambassador, British Heart Foundation. For services to Healthcare in the Sikh Community (Leicester, Leicestershire)
- Rabinder Singh DHAMI – Prevention Manager, Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service. For services to Fire and Rescue (Telford, Shropshire)
- Meena HANSPAL – Charity Volunteer, Guru Nanak’s Mission and Vegetarian Rasoi. For services to the Sikh community in Nottingham (Nottingham, Nottinghamshire)
- Ranjeet KHARE – For services to the community in Woodford, London Borough of Redbridge during Covid-19 (London, Greater London)
- Savraj Kaur SINGH – For services to the community in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, particularly during Covid-19 (London, Greater London)
Jasvir Singh OBE, Chair of City Sikhs, said “It’s incredible to see so many hard working volunteers from all communities and backgrounds being recognised for their dedication to serving others. For Sikhs in particular, voluntary service or sewa is a fundamental part of our identity, and with a significant number getting honours this year, it is a real testament to the level of respect with which wider British society regards the achievements of the Sikh community. Congratulations to everyone on the list.”
Notable interfaith allies of City Sikhs who have received honours from the Queen include children’s author Onjali Rauf who receives an MBE for services to Literature and Women’s Rights.