High Commission of India organised Baisakhi celebrations on April 30, 2017 at Northolt, London. This was done in this special year, as part of the larger celebrations being organised by the Government of India in the 350th year of Guru Gobind Singhji’s Birth Anniversary globally, flagged off by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi at Shri Patna Sahib earlier this year. This event was the first major public event targeted not only to the Punjabi and Sikh population in the UK but also to spread the message of peace, social coherence and valour embodied by the revered 10th Guru of Sikhs.
The event organised with financial assistance of Ministry of Culture, Government of India, was a tremendous success in all its aspects. It saw the participation of 14 Gurudwaras from all over London which pitched in with volunteers and a rich array of Langar items for all visitors. Between 18,000 to 20,000 people turned up throughout the day, a fact illustrated by the fact that at one time, more than 1800 cars were parked at the arrangements made for visitors. The Langar alone served more than 15,000 people throughout the day.
What was interesting to note was that the event drew such a tremendous amount of support from Indian community organisations even outside the Sikh community. In true celebration of essence of social harmony during Baisakhi, close to sixty stalls put up catered to India in all its diversity. The predominant theme, of course, remained of the richness and warmth of Punjabi culture traditions.
The cultural programmes, performed at two different stages at the venue, saw some of the best names in the UK and India performing. These included Punjabi Spiritual Music, Bhangra and Giddha performances, and some eminent names like Jasbir Jassi, Channi Singh OBE, Angrez Ali, etc.
In addition to the cultural performance, the Mission also organised Gatka (Punjabi martial arts) competition in which more than 120 experts participated. This, and Kabbadi performance by small children aged 5-7 years, were performed off stage and were witnessed and appreciated by thousands of people. In addition, turban tying, teaching classes for Bhangra and Giddha, face painting, Henna painting, Dhol performance by small children, and many free contests and attractions for children were also arranged. What was also a mark of the popularity of this first-time event was the participation of the Royal Army, Navy, Air Force and the Metropolitan Police Sikh Association (MSPA), Sikh Scouts, as well as many charity organisations at the event.
It is heartening to note that no untoward incident took place given the size and scale of the event organised. Adequate arrangements were made to ensure health and safety of all attending. The Mission also organised free shuttle service to facilitate travel to the venue for those using public transport.
The event was covered live by almost all ethnic Indian Media, especially the Radio channels. There were also correspondents from major news channels from the UK and Indian Media.
The event also was attended by Members of Parliament, Lords, Mayors and Councillors from all over the UK. High Commissioner Mr. Y. K. Sinha (donning the traditional Sikh Turban) greeted the entire Indian community, in particular, the Punjabi and Sikh community, on this historic year. He also thanked all Gurudwaras and community organisations that partnered in making this day-long event a great success. High Commissioner also stated that such an event should be conducted every year to celebrate the spirit of Baisakhi together with everyone.