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Sikh Woman, Balbir Kaur, Hits Out At Boris Johnson Over Gurdwara Alcohol Gaffe

'Sikhs who vote for him are ignorant of their own religion'.

17/05/2017 18:48 | Updated 17 May 2017

The worshipper who stood up to Boris Johnson after his blundering reference to alcohol in a Sikh temple has branded him “ignorant”.

Balbir Kaur, 62, hit out at the Foreign Secretary over his remarks on Wednesday about free trade of alcohol with India during a visit to a Gurdwara in Bristol, which was described as a “sensational gaffe”.

Speaking after the incident on Wednesday evening, the grandmother said: “How can Boris Johnson help the Sikhs?

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Boris Johnson caused controversy when he made a quip about alcohol during a visit to a Sikh temple
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Balbil Kaur spoke of her anger towards Johnson on Wednesday evening

“He can’t help them. The Tories are the ones that sent spies to bomb the Golden Temple, now they are trying to kill them by pouring drink in. 

“Sikhs who vote for him are ignorant of their own religion. They don’t know about the history of their ancestors.”

The 1984 Amritsar attack saw at least 400 people killed in a six-day armed intervention to expel militants from the sacred Golden Temple in northern India.

But Sikh groups have put the death toll in the many thousands and have alleged British involvement.

Sujata Jana / EyeEm via Getty Images
The 1984 attack on the Golden Temple in Amritsar has led to loud calls for an inquiry from Sikh groups

Former Prime Minister David Cameron pledged a review into the allegations and the Labour Party has pledged a full inquiry in its 2017 manifesto.

Kaur also criticised Johnson for wearing an orange turban to the Nirman Sewak Jatha-Sikh Temple, Bristol, to campaign for Tory candidate for Bristol East, Theodora Clarke. 

She said it was clear Johnson, who despite boasts of being married to an Indian woman, knew nothing about her religion. 

Recounting the moment she took a stand, Kaur, a baptised Sikh, said: “People were trying to get Boris to stop talking about alcohol. 

“Why pick on a community that is anti-alcohol to tell them that we are going to do free trade? 

“My heart was racing, I thought ‘I have got to tell him what I think of it.’ Something had to be said. 

“I just came out with it. When you are a baptised Sikh you have that inner strength.” 

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Johnson wore an orange turban during his visit to the temple in Bristol on Wednesday

A regular volunteer at the temple in St George, Bristol, Kaur said Johnson wearing an orange turban was degrading to the sacred garment, and a practice usually reserved for children who were unfamiliar with the religion. 

She said: “We do that on children so they can understand what young Sikh children will feel.

“Usually these people come from South Devon, they have not met many Sikhs. 

“It is a thing for a child but he is an adult - he’s the Foreign Secretary. He’s doing the negotiations for these alcohol plans.” 

Yet it is believed many in the room agreed with Johnson’s comments about a trade deal with India.

He has previously described the need to “turbo charge” relations with the country.

Not all Sikhs observe restrictions on alcohol and many in the temple were discussing their choice of favourite whisky.

A Conservative spokesman told HuffPost: “He was simply making the point that a free trade deal with for example India could be huge for both sides pointing out that in India billions of litres of whiskey are consumed every year but there is a [tariff of] 120% on imports of scotch whiskey.

“Wouldn’t it be great if we could have free trade.

“One lady expressed her views based on a personal situation but the other 30 attendees warmly welcomed his remarks.”

Steve Pound, Labour’s candidate for Ealing North said of the gaffe: “Once he was a clown, now he’s a calamity.”

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