On Thursday 31 October 2019 the City of Ieper and the In Flanders Fields Museum organized a short event to say thank you to Mr. Bhupunder Singh. Since 1999, he brought many Sikhs to Ieper.
Please find below the speech which mayor Emmily Talpe held at this occasion:
"Dear Bhupinder Singh Holland,
Sat Siri Akal !
It is a great honour to welcome you here in the old council room of the Ypres Town Hall. It is not the first time you are here, because this is also the place where many years ago you presented your book on Sikhs in the First World War and listing the names of all Sikh martyrs who died in that conflict.
Today is another auspicious occasion for the City of Ypres and In Flanders Fields Museum want to officially thank you for your enduring friendship with our town and for you continuous efforts in keeping the memory of the Sikhs who died in the First World War alive, and this now since more than 20 years !
We still remember vividly how at Vaisakhi 1999, on your initiative, the 300th anniversary of the birth of the Khalsa was celebrated here in Ieper. On that occasion one hall of the Cloth Hall was during three days transformed in a Gurdwara while in what is now the reading room of the museum’s Research Centre, Langar was organized. And many local people got acquainted with your religion and enjoyed meeting Sikhs during commonly sharing food. In addition to a special Last Post, a monument on Sint-Elooisweg in Hollebeke was inaugurated in collaboration with the city and IFFM. This was the first memorial in our country for the Indians who fought here during the First World War. Finally, an exhibition on the Indian Army Corps was organised for the first time. Together with some friends you were personally responsible for hosting that exhibition.
Since then you have made sure that every year an extensive and noticed delegation of Sikhs participated in the poppy parade. Where they initially came mainly from Belgium, the Netherlands and France, you used your contacts so that more and more Sikhs from the United Kingdom participated in the poppy parade. You also regularly brought over prominent Sikhs from India, Canada and the United States to Ypres.
Bhupinder Singh, you are a much sought-after guest at commemoration ceremonies in Belgium and abroad, about which you keeps reporting via social and other media. In 2014 Belgian TV chain Canvas reported how you visited Ieper and what the city means for you and your people. You never fail to promote our town during interviews and meetings.
It is not without interest to mention that you do this selflessly and that you joined the idea of Ypres as a City of Peace and Reconciliation. At your invitation a Muslim mayor of a British city was already a guest at the unveiling of the memorial in 1999, and you also travelled to Pakistan to talk about the soldiers from undivided India during the First World War.
Finally, dear Bhupinder Singh, you do not fail to create opportunities for others to talk about Ieper as well, and our researcher – your friend Dominiek - was invited at your suggestion to hold a guest lecture at the prestigious Khalsa College in Amritsar.
If Ypres is known today in Punjab and among the Sikhs in the western world, and if hundreds of Sikhs visit the Menin Gate every year, it is first and foremost thanks to you, and the presence of Belgian friends here is a testimony to the appreciation we have for your efforts. We sincerely hope you will continue to promote Ypres as a place of remembrance for the Sikhs for a long time to come. As a sign of our appreciation, we present you with a gift and with an official letter thanking you for all you have done.
In a couple of days you will leave again for Punjab where you will be received by Captain Amarinder Singh, Chief Minister of Punjab. This important politician and leader is the son of the last Maharajah of Patiala and the grandson of your namesake, Maharaja Bhupinder Singh, who has visited the trenches here during the First World War. Some years ago, Amerinder Singh published a book on the Indian Army in the First World War and during the preparation of this book, he has also visited Ieper. Please, do remember him of his visit to our town, and convey him our best wishes."
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