January 9, 2018 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
London: The Indian authorities are clearly worried by the growing worldwide restrictions on Indian officials in Gurdwaras when on official visits. The restrictions include no platform, acknowledgement, meetings or recognition in Gurdwaras.
Following the move initiated by management committees of Sikh Gurdwara Sahibs in Ontario (Canada), various Gurdwaras in USA and England have also announced to grant no access to the Gurdwara Stage to Indian officials and diplomats and reserve the right to allow their entry when they visit the Sikh Gurdwaras as representatives of Indian state. Similar announcement was also made by various Gurdwara Committees in British Columbia and Alberta provinces of Canada.
It has been made clear individuals irrespective of their faith visiting Gurdwaras in a private capacity as part of the Sangat and following religious protocols face no restrictions in any Gurdwaras, the Sikh Federation UK said in a statement issued on Monday (Jan. 8).
“The Indian authorities and politicians facing these restrictions have been deliberately and falsely suggesting what is being proposed is a total ban on visiting Gurdwaras looking for some sympathy and to confuse the situation and show the Sikh community in a negative light”, the statement reads further.
The reaction of the Indian authorities, officials, politicians and media has been one of fear, desperation, scaremongering and spreading false information, said the Sikh body.
“On the one hand it has been reported India has dismissed the warning of restrictions terming it a ‘knee jerk reaction’ by a ‘fringe’ pointing to the strengthening relation between the Indian authorities and the Sikh diaspora. However, on the other hand it has been so worried by the restrictions that the Indian authorities have started spreading false news via the Indian media”, said a representatives of the Sikh Federation UK.
The Sikh body said: “[i]n one classic item of fake Indian news in the Tribune dated 6 January under the headline ‘Indian diplomats in UK defy Gurdwara visit ban by radicals” the Indian High Commission in London and the Indian media has demonstrated it has sunk to new lows of falsehood”.
“The first serious mistake in the media report is that any right minded person will know you can not defy something that has not been formally approved and introduced. It was widely reported on 5 January that the proposed restrictions and declaration by Gurdwara Management Committees was to be discussed by the Federation of Sikh Organisations (FSO) at a meeting in the West Midlands on 7 January with an effective date for the formal adoption of the restrictions in January to be determined”, the Sikh Federation UK noted.
“The news item went on to claim the Indian High Commission in London “today defied the ban on Indian diplomats when a minister at the mission visited a Gurdwara in Southall and met members of the Sikh community.” The Tribune used a picture of Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara, Park Avenue, Southall strongly suggesting this was the location for the visit. This was the second serious mistake as the Vice President of the Gurdwara has told a journalist from a punjabi vernacular published from Punjab that this was fake news as no one from the Indian High Commission had visited the Gurdwara and he was outraged the newspaper had used a photograph of the Park Avenue Gurdwara”.
“This was a clear attempt by the Indian High Commission and Indian media to try and cause confusion and divisions in the Sikh community by spreading lies and reinforces why there need to be restrictions on Indian officials visiting and interfering in Sikh matters”, said Sikh Federation UK.
Bhai Amrik Singh, the Chair of the Sikh Federation (UK) said: “The Indian authorities, politicians and the media should be ashamed of scaremongering by spreading lies about the Sikh community and our religious institutions.”
“Their behaviour is inexcusable, supports why restrictions are necessary and explains why the number of Gurdwaras willing to impose restrictions continues to grow and spread across the globe.”
“It is possible to envisage in the near future an uninvited Indian government official being asked or removed by police from a Gurdwara.”
The Deputy High Commissioner in London Dinesh Patnaik has been reported as saying “a Gurdwara is a place of worship, it should not be politicised.” However, the Indian authorities and politicians have demonstrated by their own statements and actions via the Indian media that formalising the worldwide restrictions was long overdue, said Gurjeet Singh, Press Secretary of the Sikh Federation UK.
“This morning the Indian High Commission showed how annoyed it was with the decision to impose restrictions on them when Deputy High Commissioner, Dinesh Patnaik was forced to come on live radio on the BBC Big Debate programme. However, he was challenged by the BBC presenter on the abduction and detention of Jagtar Singh Johal, embarrassed for showing limited knowledge of the Piri-Miri concept and criticised for his controversial Hindutva views”, he added.
The Sikh Federation (UK) has also written to Keith Vaz MP who has previously been supportive on a range of Sikh issues who is quoted in the Tribune and has been asked to clarify his comments given a number of Gurdwaras in Leicester have already agreed to the ban. Keith Vaz is expected to be summoned to the Gurdwaras to explain his comments if what has been reported is accurate.
“On Friday we hoped the ban would extend to over 100 Gurdwaras in the UK and over 300 across the globe. The Tribune article has backfired with the FSO yesterday aiming to extend the ban to 150 UK Gurdwaras. In the USA 96 Gurdwaras approved the ban and the worldwide ban in the Sikh diaspora is now likely to exceed 400 Gurdwaras”, the Sikh body added.