It seems far too trivial a matter to have moved beyond the confines of the Sikh community to become a wider news story. A flag on display at an event in Birmingham to celebrate Vaisakhi – the main Sikh festival – caused some controversy by depicting a machine gun alongside the slogan ‘Khalistan Zindabad’.
According to local Labour MP Khalid Mahmood, this was a reference to the Khalistan Zindabad Force, a suspected terrorist group banned in both India and the EU.
But he really does need to check his facts. ‘Khalistan Zinzabad’ is a political slogan meaning ‘Long Live Khalistan’, the independent Sikh homeland that many people have campaigned for decades to create. The phrase was widely uttered in India long before the existence of this particular militant group – one I must admit I’ve never heard of.
The gun, as Sikh leaders have been quick to point out, is an internationally recognised symbol for resistance, revolution and liberation. It is the expression of a feeling, rather than a sign of affiliation with a particular organisation – and it is certainly not a call to bring armed terror to the streets of the West Midlands.
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