October 21, 2010 | By Gurtej Singh
Attorney Pannun further added that President Obama’s visit to Darbar Sahib (Amritsar) would have given a tremendous push to key Sikh issues such as separate religious identity of Sikhs, massacre of Sikhs at Darbar Sahib (Amritsar) by the Indian Army and his visit would have been seen around world as a gesture of support to suppressed religious minorities. No other world leader is more capable to understand the plight of India Sikhs than President Obama who himself comes from a community that had suffered discrimination and injustice, added attorney Pannun.
President Obama, has played right into the hands of Indian lobbyists who have successfully thwarted his visit to Darbar Sahib (Amritsar). The refusal by President Obama to visit Darbar Sahib exposes hollowness of Obama’s claim of respect for religious diversity, and undermines the so called “world leader” stature of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who is a Sikh.
In his January 19, 2008 statement, President Obama stated that he will be a President who will “respond forcefully to all genocides”, however, President Obama’s refusal to visit Darbar Sahib (Amritsar) has become another instance where he failed to fulfill his electoral promise and caved in to the Indian lobbying.
According to attorney Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, legal advisor to SFJ, any electoral promise aside, Article 1 of U.N Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948) requires the United States President to take all actions necessary to prevent and punish acts of genocide. The obligation to act on the issue of every Genocide, added attorney Pannun, is neither absolved because of the economic status of the country where the Genocide was committed (i.e. India) nor is it mitigated by the number and status of victims (i.e. Sikhs).
SJF backed and supported by hundreds of Sikh Gurdwaras across America approached President Obama in September 2010 in Philadelphia and urged him to show solidarity during his visit to Darbar Sahib (Amritsar), where thousands of innocent Sikh pilgrims were ruthlessly murdered by the Indian Security Forces in this very Temple, the Vatican of Sikhs, in June 1984. President Obama’s visit to Darbar Sahib (Amritsar) and SFJ’s campaign was going to expose the gross human rights violations and murders committed by the Indian Army in the same very Darbar Sahib (Amritsar) in June 1984. Unfortunately President Obama who himself comes from a minority community, caved in to the pressure of lobbyists and cancelled his visit to Darbar Sahib (Amritsar) instead of standing with an oppressed minority of India.
According to Attorney Pannun who practices human rights, refugee and asylum law in the United States, such efforts on part of Indian lobbyists are not new or surprising because since June 1984, Indian Government has consistently blocked and disallowed visits to Punjab by foreign human rights organizations in order to cover the atrocities perpetrated against Sikhs in India. He further added that most recently members of United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCRIF) who wanted to visit India to investigate the state of affairs viz`-a-viz´ Indian Christians, were denied visas by the Indian Government. In April 2009 Amnesty International was forced to close its office in New Delhi, making India the only democracy in the world without the presence of even a single international human rights organization.