BRISTOL, UK—Over 500 people from as far as Manchester and Plymouth filled a Bristol temple to pay their respects to a prominent and well-loved Sikh, who died, aged 67.
Mukhtyar Singh was a voice of Bristol’s Sikh community, and one of the founders of the Bristol Sikh Temple in Fishponds Road.
His son, Kam Bhakerd, 46, told the Post: “He was a highly regarded, prominent Sikh, living in Bristol since 1955. As a father he was a great leader and an excellent influence on the ways of the righteous Sikh life.”
“He didn’t just talk the talk but he walked the walk,” he added.
Mukhtyar was born on June 15, 1948. His family were from Pakistan but moved to Gwalior, India, during the separation of Pakistan and India in 1947.
In 1955, he moved to the UK with his mother and younger brother. He went to St George Grammar School and worked in the engineering industries once he had finished his education.
Bikram Jit Singh Khalsa, the assistant general secretary of the Bristol Sikh Temple, and a nephew of Mukhtyar, said: “It is a very sombre time at the moment. He was one of the very few baptised Sikhs in Bristol.
“He was a scholar and he was very attached to the Gurdwara [temple].
“He was very well thought of and he stood up for the Sikh community,” he added.
Mukhtyar became an Amritdhari Sikh in the 1970s with his mother by his side.
It was after this baptism that he played an active role in the Sikh community.
He set up the charitable organisation Khalsa Heritage Trust and gave lectures at the temple and at schools in the city.
He was also a prison chaplain for Sikh prisoners in the south west and a founding organiser of the Bristol Vasaikhi Mela – a huge Sikh festival that takes place annually in Bristol.
Described as a mediator by his fellow Sikhs, one important incident which demonstrated his hard work for the Bristol Sikh community was last year when a taxi driver had his turban set on fire.
The woman who carried out the religiously-aggravated crime was issued only a caution by the police until a campaign was launched – with the help of Mukhtyar – to urge the police to reexamine the way the case was dealt with. She was eventually taken to court and fined.
The senior project officer for charity Stand Against Racism and Inequality, Bilbir Panesar-Sari, was the case worker for the incident. The charity helped support the campaign.
He described Mukhtyar as someone who “diffused tension between communities in Bristol.”
He added: “If we ever needed any information referencing the Sikh community in Bristol, he was the one to go for advice.”
Mukhtyar spent most of his working life as a transport manager for the Royal Mail. He retired in 2001.
Mukhtyar died on September 18 due to heart failure.
The vice president of the Sikh Temple Easton, in Chelsea Road, was also at the Bristol Sikh Temple to pay his respects.
Tarlochan Singh Bahra, 66, told the Post: “He was a spokesman for the Sikh community and a very good orator.
“Whatever the issue was, he had the knowledge and he believed thoroughly in equality.”
A tribute read at the Westerleigh Crematorium by his son, Kam, said:
“As a father, he taught us about our faith, to be brave, to take responsibility for our actions, and to help other as much as possible.
“He was a man of vast and varied life experience and knowledge, which meant we could talk to him about anything.”
“He leaves behind a flourishing family that will never forget his ethics and reason for his being.”