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'A champion of the working classes'
Updated 2:01pm Monday 20th January 2014 in News
JUST hours before he died Del Singh was doing what he always did – helping others.
A friend has revealed that the popular Southampton politician and humanitarian had e-mailed her about his plans to take part in a charity event that aimed to help Palestinian refugees.
But less than 24 hours later Satvir Kaur heard that Mr Singh had been killed in a terrorist attack.
He was one of 21 people, including another Briton, who died in Afghanistan last Friday when the Taliban targeted a restaurant in the capital, Kabul.
Witnesses said customers tried to hide under tables as one attacker detonated a suicide vest at the reinforced entrance to the restaurant, allowing two accomplices to enter and open fire with AK- 47s. The Taliban claimed it was in revenge for an American airstrike that killed a woman and seven children.
Middle East experts said it was the deadliest violence against foreign civilians in Afghanistan since the war started nearly 13 years ago.
Mr Singh’s Malayan advisor Gnana Nagarajah was also among those killed in the attack which has been condemned by world leaders.
Southampton councillor Ms Kaur and Mr Singh exchanged a series of e-mails on the day of the explosion.
The two politicians had been good friends for five years.
They were both members of the Labour Party and attended the same Sikh temple, the Gurdwara Tegh Bahadur in St Marks Road, Southampton Mr Singh was arranging a group of friends to join him in this year’s Bethlehem Marathon, having supported a similar event in Gaza in 2012, when he died.
He offered to be Ms Kaur’s running partner in a bid to persuade her to take part.
She told the Daily Echo: “He was just the usual Del – very chirpy, a man on a mission.
“If there was one person to save the planet it would be Del Singh.”
Describing her friend’s passion for the Middle East she said: “He was totally committed and dedicated his life to social justice and human rights. That’s all he wanted for that region, for people to live with opportunity and not be suppressed,” she said.
Mr Singh was also known his work with the homeless, the unemployed and other under-privileged members of the community.
Ms Saur added: “He was really good at bringing people together and a real champion of the working classes.
“A lot of communities in Southampton knew of Del and really respected him – he was a pioneer for change.”
Mr Singh is thought to have been one week into a month-long visit to Afghanistan when he was killed.
Ms Kaur said he had visited the country before as part of his campaign to ensure that aid got to the right place.
She added: “It’s sad to lose anyone like this but he was doing what he did best, trying to defend human rights, trying to fight for social justice, trying to get people aid.”
The other Briton who died in the atrocity was Simon Chase, a father-of- two who had been living with his fiancée in Northern Ireland.
The former soldier is believed to have been working as a bodyguard for a Danish policewoman.
Senior UN officials, Afghan dignitaries and restaurant staff were also killed in the blast.
Del was a good guy, who wanted to make a difference
“HE was the good guy that wanted to make a difference.”
That was how Del Singh’s partner described him as family and friends struggle to come to terms with his loss.
His younger sister Dishi Phangurha said she believed that life would never be the same again.
Dishi, 34, spoke of Del’s love for his family and support for his three sisters Dishi, Ruby, 26, and Bally, 39, and the fun times they had as siblings.
Despite all his achievements, she said her brother remained modest and shy.
Management consultant Dishi and Del, who lived with mother Kulvir, 62, and sister Ruby at the family home in Northumberland Road, St Mary’s, had planned to move the family to Bugle Street in a few weeks’ time.
The family, who attend the Singh Sabha Gurdwara, in Cranbury Avenue, have been receiving tributes from across the world.
Speaking from the family home, Del’s partner of four years Komal Adris, 35, said: “He was such a friendly and happy person. One of those people that would light up a room – he had this real infectious humour.
“He was just such a humble guy.”
Komal said Del never forgot his roots, despite travelling all over the world.
She added: “He spent time in these far-flung places, but he loved Southampton.
“He used to love coming home because of his family.”
Komal said Del had worked in conflict areas like Kosovo, Libya and Sudan, and had been going to Afghanistan for around six years.
“He genuinely was one of those idealists that wanted to make the world a better place,” she said.
The family also told how he had been slightly injured from an explosion in the weeks before the attack and had even celebrated his 39th birthday in the same Kabul restaurant only a few weeks before.
“I think we’re still coming to terms with it,” said Komal.
“I still think we might get that phone call that they have made a mistake and he’s going to turn up. It’s inconceivable that somebody who’s done so much for everybody throughout his life should end so quickly and in that manner as well.
“We have always been worried about where he goes for work because they are always volatile regions, but at the same time we’re so proud of him.
“You just imagine that he’s got so much positive energy it should counteract anything negative and the universe will take care of him.”
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