16th January 2018, Leicester (United Kingdom): Onkar Thandi, who is a member of the Guru Nanak Sikh Temple in Leicester (UK charity number 254837), claims the trustees covered-up racism at the Temple, by using charity money to defame Onkar, exploit prominent personalities, blackmail three newspapers and pay for unjustified legal expenses. Onkar states, “Despite being aware of the trustees’ breaches of legal duties, the Charity Commission [regulator of charities] has refused to remove them, so I’ve applied to the High Court for permission to start charity proceedings, as the trustees must be removed to secure the welfare of charity beneficiaries and charity money”.
Racism was practiced and condoned at the Temple
Following the Sikh custom of serving ‘Langar’ (free food) to eligible visitors, the Temple runs a ‘free kitchen’ service, which often attracts non-Sikhs, who are vulnerable, needy and homeless. Onkar claims, “Between early 2015 and September 2016, the trustees recklessly ignored verbal complaints, a complaint letter, an online petition and four newspaper adverts, about a Temple employee named Joginder Singh, who frequently mistreated non-Sikhs, and refused to serve Langar to eligible non-Sikhs, which breached Articles 5(m) and 21 of the Sikh Code of Conduct”.
The White woman incident
Referring to an incident that took place on 1st July 2016, Onkar states, “That evening, Joginder called a homeless White woman a “dirty woman”, and told her that he doesn’t respect her, which made her cry, so I confronted him and filmed the incident on my phone. My video shows Joginder panicking and switching off the lights, before he lies twice and hides in a room. As we [the petitioners] were sick and tired of complaining, we uploaded the video onto YouTube to expose Joginder and the trustees”.
The Trustees defamed Onkar in two newspapers
In retaliation, the trustees used charity money to publish a dishonest statement in two national newspapers [Des Pardes and Punjab Times], in which they falsely identified Onkar as being a member of an anti-Sikh group, which was using the social media to cause problems at the Temple. Onkar asserts, “To counter the trustees’ serious harm to my reputation, and the unwarranted harassment that I suffered, I was forced to publish petition adverts in four newspapers, which had cost me over £3,000”.
The Trustees exploited prominent personalities
The trustees further covered-up racism, by using charity money to exploit prominent personalities from Leicester. Onkar explains, “On 1st September 2016, the trustees arranged a meeting at the Temple, which was attended by local councillors, religious leaders and the Chief Superintendent Andy Lee [police], who were all duped into thinking, that my allegations of racism were false, whilst they enjoyed refreshments that were funded by the charity, for this blatant cover-up exercise.
In a statement submitted to the Birmingham High Court, [trustee] Amrik Gill claimed, “The unfounded attacks by the Claimant [Onkar’s allegations of racism] were roundly condemned [by the prominent personalities] and a motion passed that an attack [Onkar’s attack] on one religion [the Sikh faith] is an attack [Onkar’s attack] on all religions”. Essentially, Amrik has admitted that the trustees slandered me to the attendees, who accepted that I’d caused problems at the Temple, to attack the Sikh religion [Onkar is a member of an anti-Sikh group], which is untrue.
Cunningly, the trustees invited the Mercury [Leicester Mercury newspaper] to photograph the meeting, and to unduly apologise for publishing my truthful petition advert, as they [the trustees] knew that this would trick Temple members into thinking my allegations of racism must be false, because the prominent personalities wouldn’t have taken a photograph with the trustees, and the Mercury wouldn’t have apologised, if the trustees were in the wrong.
As intended by the trustees, the Mercury’s report [and photograph] turned Temple members against me, and I was insulted, ridiculed and harassed to the point that I had to stop attending the Temple, after which, I was compelled to create Panjabi podcasts and a Panjabi news report, in a last-ditch attempt to clarify the truth of the matter to Sikhs across Leicester, and salvage what was left of my reputation”.
The Trustees blackmailed three newspapers
In January and July 2017, the trustees used charity money to instruct Rich and Carr Solicitors to send baseless legal notices to three Panjabi newspapers that published Onkar’s petition adverts. Onkar explains, “the blackmail letters [legal notices] denied my true allegations of racism, claimed my petition adverts were highly defamatory, and threatened the newspapers with defamation proceedings, if they failed to publish front-page apologies and pay substantial damages.
The trustees knew that my petition adverts were truthful, so they had no reason to demand the apologies and damages. Consequently, the trustees committed the criminal offence of blackmail, under section 21 of the Theft Act 1968, as they made unwarranted demands [for undue apologies] with menaces [threatening baseless legal action for defamation], with a view to make a financial gain [receive undue damages], which would have caused a financial loss to the victims [the three newspapers].
In February 2017, the three newspapers rightly refused to meet the trustees’ unlawful demands, but the trustees harassed them, by sending another legal notice in July 2017 and instructing their representative Gurmit Kang to send intimidating email threats. In Gurmit Kang’s email dated 11th August 2017, he boasted about consulting top defamation solicitors Carter-Ruck, attached an incomplete draft of a defamation claim, as well as, the proposed apology wording, to force the newspaper into apologising, but this didn’t work, as the newspaper stood its ground, refused to be bullied and put Gurmit Kang in his place, in it’s email response [to Gurmit Kang]”.
The Trustees used charity money to pay for unjustified legal expenses
In a statement submitted to the Birmingham High Court, trustee Amrik Gill clarified that since April 2016, the trustees have spent £4750 of charity money on legal expenses. Evidently, some of this money was spent on consulting Carter-Ruck [top defamation solicitors], with which, Amrik claims to have exchanged, “40 emails and telephone calls”.
Onkar argues, “The trustees are the ones who first defamed me [in newspapers], which caused me to publish the truthful petition adverts [in the same newspapers], so on what basis did the trustees use charity money to consult Carter-Ruck, with regards to suing me for defamation, when they’re the one’s who defamed me? I firmly believe that the trustees had conspired to start a defamation claim against me, purely to teach me a lesson [for opposing and exposing the trustees’ wrongdoings], through causing me to suffer further financial losses”.
In June 2017, Onkar started a High Court claim against the trustees, which sought their removal for breaches of duties. Onkar claims, “Instead of immediately resigning, the power-hungry trustees again instructed solicitors [using charity money], and drafted a dishonest defence, which shamelessly stated, “It is denied that Joginder Singh ever mistreated non-Sikh visitors”, which is untrue based on my video [footage] alone, because it proves that Joginder had mistreated the White woman, to the point of crying, on that day.
By blackmailing newspapers, consulting Carter-Ruck and defending my High Court claim with a dishonest defence, the immoral trustees used thousands of pounds [of charity money], to pay for unjustified legal expenses, simply to cover-up racism and their gross mismanagement of the Temple".
Five Trustees lied to the High Court to claim undue legal costs
Onkar claims five trustees have lied to the High Court to claim thousands of pounds, in undue legal costs from Onkar, as he clarifies, “[trustee] Amrik Gill claimed that between April and August 2016, he’d spent fifty hours, on examining my videos and podcasts, for which he wants me to pay him £950. This is a lie, because my video [news report] and podcasts were released after 7th September 2016, so how could Amrik have examined them, before they were even released? Shamelessly, four other trustees have also claimed £2,280, for the exact same reason. I’ve fully disputed their bogus bill of costs, and I will expose their lies at the upcoming hearing”.
The Trustees ‘re-elected themselves’ for another six years
Onkar states, “In accordance with the Temple’s Constitution, an election was due to be held in June 2017, but anticipating that they [the trustees] would lose [due to their bad track record], the trustees held a ‘secret’ election at the Annual General Meeting, to which approximately, two-hundred pre-selected ‘voters’ [The trustees’ friends, relatives and supporters] were invited, to ‘elect’ the trustees, for a whopping six years [for two full terms, not the usual one term allowed by the Temple’s Constitution]. Evidently, the trustees are power-hungry people, who will do anything to retain control of the Temple and charity money”.
The Trustees are unfit to be charity trustees
Referring to the Temple’s President, Onkar states, “Despite being a local councilor, who is responsible for serving many non-Sikhs in his constituency, Ajmer Basra recklessly ignored the mistreatment of non-Sikhs at the Temple, over an eighteen-month period, which alone proves that he is unfit to be a trustee. The rest of them [the trustees] are equally bad, for dishonouring Sikh teachings and breaching the Sikh Code of Conduct, through covering-up racism and engaging in dishonest and immoral activities [harassment, defamation, blackmail, abuse of charity money and lying to the High Court], so they must be removed and disqualified”.
Charity beneficiaries and charity money are at risk
Onkar states, “If the trustees can stoop to harassing, defaming and claiming undue legal costs from me, which is what they have done, what’s stopping them from harming others [charity beneficiaries], who oppose their [the trustees’] wrongdoings and mismanagement in the future?
Moreover, on 28th December 2017, the trustees announced in the Mercury [newspaper] that they plan to rebuild the Temple at a significant cost of £5 million pounds, most likely because they want to improve their well-deserved bad reputations. As the trustees have already squandered thousands of pounds of charity money [by paying for unjustified legal expenses], how can they be expected to manage a project of this scale?
Also, I’m extremely worried that [trustees] Ajmer and Amrik will steal charity money to defend my ongoing defamation claim, which is against them personally [they’re not allowed to use charity money to defend the defamation claim]. Considering that Amrik has already tried stealing money from me [by claiming undue legal costs], and Ajmer had authorised the unjustified legal expenses from charity money, which in my view, equates to having authorised theft from charity funds, how can they, or any of the trustees for that matter, be allowed to continue handling charity money?”
The Charity Commission is not an effective regulator
On 30th September 2017, Onkar had sent a bundle consisting of over four hundred pages to the Charity Commission, which fully detailed and evidenced the trustees’ breaches of the Temple’s Constitution, the Sikh Code of Conduct and the Charity Commission’s regulations. In his application, Onkar had requested that the Charity Commission either removes the trustees, or gives Onkar permission to start charity proceedings.
Onkar alleges, “Unbelievably, on 14th December 2017, the Charity Commission refused to remove the trustees and failed to authorise charity proceedings, for absolutely irrelevant reasons, which suggest that the case manager who’d dealt with my application, hadn’t even read the key material for consideration. Consequently, I’ve applied to the High Court for permission to start charity proceedings, and a hearing is due to take place shortly. Having completely mishandled my complaints, the Charity Commission has failed to ensure the trustees’ compliance with the charity’s governing documents, and therefore the Charity Commission is not an effective regulator”.
1. To view the short-6-minute news report (Panjabi audio & English text) about the problems at the Temple, please click: YouTube
2. To view the full-20-minute news report (Panjabi audio & English text) about the problems at the Temple, please click: YouTube
3. To view the online petition page and/or petition posts, please click: Change.org
Onkar, who takes full responsibility for the content, has written this press release. The media is welcome to email Onkar with questions, as he will endeavour to respond by email.
Onkar Singh Thandi
Press release distributed by Pressat on behalf of Onkar Singh, on Tuesday 16 January, 2018. For more information subscribe and follow http://www.pressat.co.uk/