Sikhs Demand Independence and Release of Political Prisoners
The Sikh Community in the UK celebrated the 26th Anniversary of the Khalistan Declaration with wide support from MPs of all parties and British Muslims who recognise that the “Sikhs are a Nation”
Birmingham: Following the recent massive peaceful protests demanding freedom by their brethren in Punjab, including a total shut down of the state on 28 March 2012, an international Conference at one of the largest Gurdwaras in the UK called for the UN to intervene before the violent Indian response leads the region once again in to turmoil and bloodshed. Already Indian security forces have shot at and killed protestors, as well as rounded up Sikh leaders, in an effort to silence a remarkable revival in the calls for an independent sovereign state of Khalistan.
The Conference marked the 26th anniversary of the Declaration of Khalistan on 29 April 1986 following an historic decision of the Sarbat Khalsa (national gathering) earlier that year. The Indo-Sikh conflict has resulted in the deaths of an estimated 200,000 Sikhs since 1984, caused by Indian security forces and state sponsored mobs. Those guilty of directing the violence have been given immunity despite calls by internationally respected human rights bodies for the guilty to be put on trial. Only last month a prime accused, Sumedh Saini, was made head of the Punjab Police.
The planned hanging of Sikh leader Balwant Singh Rajoana, who has been on death row since 1997, triggered the mass protests in March which have been mirrored by large rallies by the Sikh Diaspora in the UK, US and elsewhere. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and many UK politicians have condemned the execution, which has been postponed because of the international outcry. Sikh nationalists have warned India that the consequences of another ‘judicial murder’ of a Sikh will be huge and India will be solely responsible. The Conference called for the unconditional release of Bhai Rajoana and other Sikh political prisoners.
The Conference, organised by the Council of Khalistan, was addressed by Bhai Rajoana’s sister by telephone. Delivering a special message from her brother which re-affirmed his demand for Khalistan, she urged the Sikh nation to hold firm in resisting Indian oppression. Lord Ahmed, Chair of ‘Parliamentarians for National Self-Determination,’ addressed the Conference in chaste Punjabi and backed the Sikh demand for a UN supervised referendum on Khalistan, citing the exercise of self-determination in East Timor, Kosovo and South Sudan as recent examples of conflict resolution based on this basic tenet of international law.
In a written message Fabian Hamilton MP, Chair of the All Party Group for UK Sikhs, noted that Sikhs have been persecuted in India and called for the international community to act to protect their rights, so that “national self-determination for Sikhs is a top priority as well as the basic rights and protections which should be available for all people regardless of their religion. I also believe that an international criminal tribunal should be used for those guilty of war crimes against Sikhs”.
The Rt Hon John Spellar, MP, a shadow foreign minister, in his message called on both UK Government and European Union action to put pressure on India to pull back from the execution; he also called on the restoration of an atmosphere in Punjab in which peaceful protests, calling for political demands to be met, are allowed without fear of violence or intimidation. Elfyn Llwyd MP, leader of the Welsh nationalists in the UK parliament, confirmed his party’s opposition to the execution and asserted that he would seek action from the UK Government. John Hemming MP’s message of support backed the Conference’s aims, adding to the voice of a number of other parliamentarians who have voiced concerns in recent weeks over the Bhai Rajoana case.
Prabsharandeep Singh, a leading Sikh academic, delivered the key note address which highlighted sovereignty as a key feature of Sikh belief and practice, evidenced by history. Only the illegal annexation of the Sikh Raj in Punjab by the British in 1849 and the subsequent imposition of Indian rule in 1947, both of which were maintained by force rather than the will of the people, have denied the Sikhs their rightful claim to a nation state. The Indians having committed genocide in 1984, lead to the Sikh declaration of independence on 29 April 1986. Liberating Khalistan he said was the single greatest challenge facing the Sikhs and he noted the need for international support. Mohammad Ghalib, President of Tehreek-e-Kashmir, endorsed the Sikh right to independence and asserted the need for Sikhs and Kashmiris to work together to break the stranglehold of a common aggressor.
Amrik Singh Sahota, OBE, President of the Council of Khalistan sought to reassure all Punjabis that Khalistan would, in accordance with fundamental Sikh values provide a secure and progressive environment for people of all creeds, but warned that extremist Hindu thugs, in the form of Shiv Sena, would be uprooted and called for a world-wide ban on the terrorist group. Shiv Sena has been at the forefront of provocations and anti-Sikh violence in Punjab in recent weeks but no action has been taken against it. It has a long history of anti-Muslim and anti-Christian violence, along with affiliated groups such a the Bajrang Dal and other RSS-inspired outfits.
The Conference was also addressed by several other Sikhs, including veteran campaigner Gurmej Singh Gill, Lovshinder Singh Dalewal, Gurdev Singh Chohan, Raghbir Singh and Jaspal Singh representing UK-based Sikh organisations who have committed to the Khalistan cause. In another message from the Sikh homeland, Harcharanjit Singh Dhami, President of the prominent Dal Khalsa party, referred to his memorandum to the UN Secretary General Ban ki-moon delivered last week calling for his intervention to stop the current bout of oppression in Punjab. He thanked the Sikh Diaspora for its role in alerting the world to the plight of the Sikhs and declared “Khalistan is our lifeline”, to be secured though peaceful and democratic means.