June 3, 2017 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
by Gurjeet Singh
OVER 25,000 TO GATHER TO REMEMBER VICTIMS OF 1984 SIKH GENOCIDE
Over 25,000 Sikhs from across the UK will gather in central London on Sunday 4 June to commemorate the 33rd anniversary of the June 1984 attack on the Sri Harmandir Sahib Complex, often referred to as the Darbar Sahib Complex.
Sikhs will gather in Hyde Park between 11am and 1pm. This will be followed by a protest march through central London before holding a massive freedom rally in Trafalgar Square between 2-5pm. The theme of the annual event is Truth, Justice and Freedom.
Truth will focus on the need for a judge-led independent public inquiry into UK involvement in the attack and anti-Sikh measures against the British Sikh community and activists following pressure from the Indian authorities in return for trade. Further details will be revealed about the ongoing legal action and political campaign for an independent public inquiry to get to the truth of UK involvement.
The Labour Party has committed in its 2017 General Election manifesto to hold an independent public inquiry into the actions of the UK Government. A senior figure in the Labour Party is expected to address the 25,000+ Sikhs gathered in Trafalgar Square a few days before the General Election on 8 June and confirm the inquiry will also address restrictions imposed on British Sikhs in the UK.
Justice will focus on the need for a UN-led investigation into the 1984 Sikh Genocide. Those gathered for the event will be told using the definition of Genocide in Article 2 of the UN Convention on Genocide 1948 the series of events in June 1984, the killings and disappearances in the months that followed and the systematic and deliberate killing of innocent Sikhs in November 1984, separately and collectively constitute Genocide.
The Sikh Federation (UK) will disclose at the rally in Trafalgar Square they have been lobbying the five permanent members of the UN Security Council for a UN-led inquiry into the atrocities committed by the Indian authorities in 1984.
Freedom will focus on the right to self determination being a basic human right founded in international law and absolutely fundamental to the protection of individual rights. Those gathered will be told 70 years ago in 1947 and despite a number of extant Anglo-Sikh friendship treaties Britain illegitimately divided the Sikh homeland during the disaster of Partition and created India and Pakistan.
For more than 35 years the Sikhs made substantial efforts aimed at securing greater rights within India. The demands for greater autonomy for Punjab were not only violently rejected by the Indian State but have been crushed with Indian state terror. India has refused to change its Constitution and have legal safeguards for the culture, language and religion of the Sikhs and lost the right to rely on the territorial integrity argument by oppressing the minority Sikh community.
Those present will be told that following the recent criticism of India at the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the Narendra Modi-led Indian Government at the UN Human Rights Council that UN member states have an appetite to push for accountability and change.
On 6 June a written submission will be presented to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – UK, US, UK, France, China and Russia. It will be communicated that international law and the experience of the Sikhs over the last 70 years is the basis on which Sikhs have a legitimate demand for an independent state.
The UK Government will be pressed that it has a historic, legal and moral responsibility towards the Sikhs to help through diplomatic means and respect for international law to resolve a conflict that still continues. There will also be a push for UN rapporteurs and independent experts to carry out independent investigations into the torture, disappearances, false encounters and extra-judicial executions.
– Gurjeet Singh is National Press Secretary of the Sikh Federation (UK).
In 1984 up to 150,000 Indian army troops were sent to Punjab, the Sikh homeland, equipped with helicopter gunships and tanks. Punjab was cut off from the rest of the world. 24-hour curfews were imposed, all telephone and telex lines cut, all Indian journalists were expelled and orders to shoot on site were widely carried out. As the Christian Science Monitor stated on 8 June 1984 ‘the whole of Punjab, with its 5,000 villages and 50 major cities, was turned into a concentration camp’.
Attack on Darbar Sahib, codenamed as “Operation Blue Star”, in June 1984 resulted in over 125 other Sikh shrines being simultaneously attacked on the false pretext of apprehending ‘a handful of militants’ lodged inside the Sri Harmandir Sahib or Darbar Sahib Complex in Amritsar. The Indian army unleashed a terror unprecedented in post-independence India. Tanks let loose a barrage of highly explosive shells, which destroyed the Sri Akal Takht Sahib, the temporal seat of the Sikhs. The timing chosen for the attack was when Sikhs were marking the Martyrdom of the Fifth Guru, Guru Arjan Dev Ji when it was known tens of thousands of Sikh and non-Sikh pilgrims would be in Amritsar. Thousands of innocent pilgrims – men, women and children were killed, some shot at point blank range with their hands tied behind their backs with their turbans. An estimated 11,000 pilgrims never returned to claim their shoes.
Operation Woodrose was launched concurrently by the Indian army in the countryside when tens of thousands of Sikhs, overwhelmingly young men aged 15-35, were detained for interrogation and subsequently tortured and many killed. According to Dr. Sangat Singh, Joint Intelligence Committee, about 100,000 youth were taken into custody within the first 4 to 6 weeks of the operation and that many of them were not heard of again. The operation continued for another 8 to 10 weeks and ended in September 1984. For 33 years UN rapporteurs and independent experts as well as Amnesty International have been denied access to Punjab to investigate widespread allegations of torture, disappearances, false encounters and extra-judicial executions.
In November 1984 we had the systematic killing of an estimated 30,000 innocent Sikhs across India. Most were burnt alive in 18 states and in over 130 cities across India. Sikhs on public roads were burnt alive, dragged out from trains and lynched on the railway platforms and set on fire. Property worth millions was looted and destroyed. Hundreds of Sikh women were gang raped by goons, police officers and civil administrators. Small children were ruthlessly killed by pulling their legs apart while their mothers were being raped. More than 300,000 Sikhs were displaced and rendered homeless. Hundreds of Gurdwaras and the living Guru of the Sikhs, the Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the Sikh scriptures was burnt and desecrated in a systematic and planned way across India.
There was widespread shock in January 2014 when papers released under the 30-year rule revealed that the UK Government had directly assisted the Indian authorities in helping to plan the Indian army assault on Sri Harmandir Sahib that led to the massacre of thousands of innocent Sikh pilgrims.
David Cameron, the Prime Minister immediately asked the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, to carry out an internal review. However, before the report was published and presented to Parliament with unprecedented speed, concerns were publicly expressed about the narrow terms of reference for the review. In particular the review had inherent limitations as it only examined files and documents available from December 1983 through to June 1984.
Cabinet papers in the months before December 1983 when defence-related sales to India were discussed were ignored. Similarly, Cabinet papers from November 1984 were brought to the attention of the Cabinet Secretary and clearly showed the British cabinet were under pressure from India with respect to trade of £5bn.
Details of the specific British military advice given in February 1984 have not been revealed, nor has the reason why the UK Government agreed to advise the Indian government on how to attack the Sikhs’ holiest shrine. More recent disclosure of Cabinet Office and Foreign Office papers show how India continued to use potential arms sales to force the UK Government to try and curb activities of British Sikhs and further SAS support was offered by Britain to the Indian authorities immediately after the June 1984 massacre of Sikhs. Of considerable concern is information looked at by the Cabinet Secretary in January 2014 remains deliberately withheld and is the subject of ongoing legal proceedings. The lack of openness strongly suggests they have something incriminating to hide and are worried about the reaction of Sikhs across the globe.
The 2014 internal review has been proved to be incomplete and unsatisfactory. It has now been revealed deliberate omissions were needed to safeguard Britain and India with respect to the treatment of Sikhs and many questions remain unanswered including the extent to which Parliament was misled in 1984 and 2014.
The legal and political campaign for an independent public inquiry to get to the truth of UK involvement continues. In June 2014 the Scottish Parliament voted for the UK Government to conduct an independent, fair and transparent inquiry. The Labour Party has committed in its 2017 election manifesto to hold an independent public inquiry into the actions of the UK Government around the time of the June 1984 Indian Army attack on Sri Harmandir Sahib and the systematic killing of Sikhs in India in November 1984, as well as into restrictions imposed on British Sikhs in the UK. The Labour leader in the election campaign said: “this is our opportunity in this manifesto to elect a government that is absolutely serious about uncovering the truth of what went on their on that terrible occasion.”
The Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh in late December 2014 referred to what happen to the Sikhs in November 1984 as ‘Genocide’ and that ‘justice would be meted out to the victims only when the perpetrators of the crime are punished’ and ‘that until these persons are punished, victims will not get relief’.
33 years later there have been no independent inquiries in India into what happen in June 1984 or what followed. India’s judicial system and ten commissions have failed to bring justice to the victims of November 1984. After nearly 33 years the organisers and perpetrators of the Sikh Genocide roam free, instead they have been promoted and held positions of power.
Using the definition of Genocide in Article 2 of the UN Convention on Genocide 1948 the series of events in June 1984, the killings and disappearances in the months that followed and the systematic and deliberate killing of innocent Sikhs in November 1984, separately and collectively constitute Genocide.
The five permanent members of the UN Security Council are being lobbied for a UN-led inquiry into the atrocities committed by the Indian authorities in 1984 and for UN rapporteurs and independent experts to carry out independent investigations into the torture, disappearances, false encounters, extra-judicial executions and use by the police of criminals, goons, gangsters and smugglers to impersonate Sikh ‘militants’, widely known as Black Cats.
Self determination is a basic human right founded in international law on which other human rights depend. The UN Human Rights Committee has stressed that the right of self-determination is absolutely fundamental to the protection of individual rights. The UK Government working with other permanent members of the UN Security Council has a historic, legal and moral responsibility towards the Sikhs to help through diplomatic means and respect for international law to resolve a conflict that still continues.
India has lost the right to rely on the territorial integrity argument by oppressing the minority Sikh community and has failed to respect the political and human rights of the Sikhs in the Indian Constitution. Demands for greater autonomy for the Sikhs have been violently rejected and crushed with Indian state terror.
International law is the basis on which Sikhs have raised the demand for an independent state. The classic mechanism for implementing the right to self-determination is the use of a plebiscite. The Sikhs have not of course been offered the opportunity but it is interesting to note that the former UK Indian High Commissioner, Kuldeep Nayar has admitted that if, after the horrors of 1984, the Sikhs were given a plebiscite they would have gone for an independent state.