UK hails its blue-eyed Sikh soldier
They number just 80 in the 150,000-strong British Army, but Sikh soldiers have become the toast of the fighting force.india Updated: May 15, 2010 00:24 IST
They number just 80 in the 150,000-strong British Army, but Sikh soldiers have become the toast of the fighting force.
Private Ranvir Singh, a reservist with 151 London Transport Regiment, is now the UK government’s ambassador tasked with building bridges with that country’s formidable Sikh population.
He is credited with dispelling rumours about bullying, harassment and racism in the British army and also encouraging young people to enlist.
Singh has been visiting Gurdwaras across England to reach out to the Sikh community and share his experiences in the Army.
The British army website quotes Singh’s Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Adrain Lee as saying, "The work Private Singh has done on behalf of the British Army has been exemplary. At a time when conflicts occur as much over ideals as over territory, ensuring good communication across community groups is critical."
The British army admits that his efforts have been instrumental in improving its relationship with the Gurdwaras and engaging effectively with Sikhs. The Army Community Liaisons Office for London says, "They (Sikhs) now see a face they recognise and that builds up a trust with the Sikh community and the army."
Singh is not the first Sikh to be flung into limelight. Signaller Simranjit ‘Sim’ Singh and Lance Corporal Sarvjit Singh made waves last year after they became the first Sikh soldiers to wear turbans on public duties guarding Her Majesty the Queen and protecting the Crown Jewels.
Iqbal Singh Dhaliwal, who heads the Indian Overseas Youth Congress, told Hindustan Times from Leicester that young Sikhs were increasingly stepping forward to join the British Army.
"Sikhs have integrated well into the army. We are organising a blood donation camp this month for supplies to British troops in Afghanistan," Dhaliwal said.
Private Singh has been a reservist for around four years and was earlier deployed to Bosnia with the 2nd Battalion Royal Gurkha Rifles. There are two female Sikhs in the army.