Sikh joins BNP, another recalls his wartime battle to defeat fascists
26 Mar, 2010
A Sikh teacher has in the past week become a member of the far right British National Party after making headlines earlier this year by saying the BNP was the only political party ready to stem what he sees as the expansion of Islamic fundamentalism in the UK.
Rajinder Singh, 78, is shown here minus his customary turban in a photograph issued by the formerly ‘whites only’ BNP, which has been forced by a court to allow membership for blacks and Asians.
The BNP announced his signing on its website.
By contrast, also shown – in a Ministry of Defence picture – is another elderly Sikh, who has challenged the BNP over its use of the Spitfire fighter aircraft in its promotional imagery and has recently told how he battled against fascism as a Royal Air Force fighter pilot in the Second World War.
When he was shot down, Squadron Leader Mohinder Singh Pujji, now in his 90s, reckons his life was saved by the padding in his specially adapted turban, worn as a requirement of his faith.
The young pilot crash-landed his Hurricane aircraft near the White Cliffs of Dover after the plane was crippled in a dogfight over the Channel.
He was helped from the wreckage with severe head injuries but believes the reinforced covering, which had his RAF wings sewn on to it, acted as a cushion and extra protection. He was taken to hospital head covered in blood but after seven days was in the air again.
The story is told on the Kent News website in the run-up to the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain this year.
The RAF ace, who flew Spitfires as well as Hurricanes, plans to release his memoirs this year but allowed Kent News to publish some of the tales he lived to tell. See http://www.kentnews.co.uk/kent-news/Sikh-WWII-RAF-ace
He recalled how a bullet destroyed his cockpit instrumentation over the Channel and how his windscreen was covered in oil. He made it back over the White Cliffs to a landing strip but the plane was engulfed in flames and it was totally wrecked as it hit the ground.
Sqdn Ldr Singh Pujji was convinced the six feet of wound cloth in his turban saved him from worse head injuries.
Born in Simla, India, he signed up for the RAF after reading an advert declaring ‘Pilots needed for Royal Air Force’ in an Indian newspaper. He had learned to fly in 1937 and was one of only eight pilots from the then Empire colony thought good enough for fighter duties.
He went into action in 1940 at the height of the Battle of the Britain against the Luftwaffe bombers that swept in across southern England. He also flew mission after mission escorting RAF bombers across the Channel.
He felt he was fighting a just cause in joining the battle against Hitler. Britain went to war to save Europe and he went to war for Britain, he said. “I saw the people here and had admiration for them.”
He also saw action in Africa, the Middle East, Palestine and Asia – the only man to see combat in five theatres – and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery. His latter career saw him work as a commercial pilot and run an aerodrome for the Indian government.
Last year he made headlines here by challenging the British National Party after it used images of a Spitfire in a political campaign.
Sqdn Ldr Singh Pujji , who lives in Gravesend, Kent, was angered by its use of imagery from the war: “The BNP are wrong to use the Spitfire as representative of their party. They forget people from different backgrounds helped in the Second World War,” he said.
“Even in those days, there were ethnic minorities fighting for the British. I would recommend the armed forces for young people regardless of race.”
‘Wider membership will dilute BNP views”
The teacher, now retired, who has joined the BNP is Rajinder Singh, of Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, who believes it is the only political party that will resist what he sees as the spread of Islamic fundamentalism in Britain.
The BNP changed its rules to allow membership by Asian and black people last month after it was told by Central London County Court to amend its constitution to comply with race relations laws or face legal action by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Mr Singh, who was born in West Punjab, says opening its doors to Asians was a positive move by the BNP that would help prevent the kind of violence caused by partition in India, which caused him to leave the country in 1967 and which had led to the death of his father,
He has written BNP leader Nick Griffin letters of support and even gave him a character reference at his trial in 2006 accused of inciting racial hatred. He votes for the BNP at election time and says he has adopted the British way of life, although he maintains that he still has core Sikh values.
He believes that by opening its doors to non-whites the BNP’s attitude to what constitutes British roots will be diluted for the better.
Rajinder Singh spells out his position – see http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/feb/11/bnp-nonwhites-members-sikh-join
The BNP’s tangled attempts to reconcile its rules with equality laws – see http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/mar/12/bnp-racist-membership-rules-outlawed