April 11, 2018 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
London: The Sikh Federation UK has written a letter to British Prime Minister Theresa May ahead of the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to UK visit for Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). Theresa May has been urged to take up the issue of growing ‘Hindu radicalisation’ and intimidation, harassment, forced conversions and violence against religious and ethnic minorities, including the Dalits.
Full Text of the Letter reads as follows:
Prime Minister’s Office
10 Downing Street
10th April 2018
Dear Rt. Hon. Theresa May
Concerns of the UK Sikh community, to raise at the meeting next week with Narendra Modi during CHOGM
When Narendra Modi first came to the UK as Indian Prime Minister in November 2015 the Sikh community following a long tradition of opposing all oppressive regimes and leaders with a dubious human rights record raised a number of serious concerns with the UK Government, MPs and the mainstream media. At Annex A we provide details of some of those concerns with an update.
However, to deflect attention away from these concerns and growing ‘Hindu radicalisation’ it was widely reported in the Indian media, following briefings by Indian officials and to our disappointment that a ‘dossier’ on ‘Sikh radicalisation’ of British Sikhs was on the agenda when David Cameron and Narendra Modi met. This so-called dossier inappropriately maligned certain Gurdwaras, individuals, Sikh TV channels and Sikh organisations in the UK.
Although the UK Government has denied the existence of the ‘dossier’ the high profile arrest of one of those named, Paramjit Singh from Birmingham when he visited Portugal with his family within a matter of weeks of Modi’s visit and a failed attempt to extradite him to India led to significant suspicion on the tactics being deployed by the Indian authorities.
Also the Centre for Research and Evidence on Security Threats (CREST) funded by the UK Government in response commissioned a project ‘Investigating Sikh Radicalisation in Britain’. This was published in November 2017 and in effect concluded the term ‘Sikh radicalisation’ was totally inappropriate and should not be confused with ‘Sikh activism’ that should be viewed positively. The report concluded ‘there is no threat to the British state or to the wider British public from Sikh activism as there is no conflict with ‘the West’ or with Britain’.
Prior to Narendra Modi’s attendance at next week’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) Indian officials appear to have again briefed Indian media to suggest Narendra Modi will again raise the issue of ‘Sikh radicalisation’ when he meets you on 18 April. We hope you will tell him in no uncertain terms that many of the issues reported in the media are internal matters for the UK and British Sikhs who are supported on these issues by UK politicians from across the political spectrum.
Politicians and governments across the globe rightly view Sikhs as vibrant, law abiding, hard working, loyal and responsible citizens that contribute massively to the economies of the countries in which they live and see through such underhand tactics targeting a minority. It is time for such actions to be publicly called out.
Following Narendra Modi’s last visit we were subsequently assured some of these concerns were taken up though diplomatic channels as the UK Government, unlike the Indian regime do not see the benefit of ‘megaphone’ diplomacy, especially given the British colonial past and continued Indian sensitivities. However, following the recent appalling treatment and attempts to undermine the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau for having Sikh Ministers in his Cabinet and being a friend of the Sikh community during his visit to India and the abduction and torture of British citizen, Jagtar Singh Johal, many believe it is now right for Narendra Modi and the Indian regime to be publicly challenged during and after CHOGM.
Narendra Modi should be prepared to respond to some difficult questions about the extreme Hindutva agenda regarding the killing and treatment of religious minorities and Dalits in India and the growth of Hindu radicalisation across the globe. The direction in which Narendra Modi is taking India needs to be checked as a matter of urgency.
We would welcome a meeting with leading Sikh organisations after CHOGM to discuss our concerns. This letter has the support of over 200 UK Gurdwaras and Sikh organisations and is being copied to the leader of the Opposition, the Foreign Secretary, Home Secretary, their counterparts and other leading politicians.
Supporters of this letter:
· Federation of Sikh Organisations, including the Sikh Federation (UK)
· Khalsa Human Rights
· Various Sikh youth groups and organisations
· The Sikh Network
· Over 200 UK Gurdwaras
Annex A – Update of serious concerns that should be raised with Narendra Modi and the Indian Government
Narendra Modi and the ruling party have clear Hindutva objectives and are encouraging Hindu radicalisation across the globe
Narendra Modi trained with the ultranationalist right wing Hindu group, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The RSS is a Hindu nationalist paramilitary group that has been involved in extreme violence, including acts of terrorism and been banned several times in India. This includes when RSS member Nathuram Godse assassinated Mahatma Gandhi in 1948. The most recent ban was in 1992 after the demolition of the Babri Masjid.
There have been numerous examples of forced conversions since Modi came to power in May 2014. In January 2015 President Obama while speaking in Delhi criticised the Modi led BJP government by making a plea for freedom of religion to be upheld in India. In a veiled threat President Obama warned without freedom of religion India could break up. In 2015 we pointed out that the BJP government led by Modi presented a significant threat to religious and ethnic minorities in India with the declaration by right wing Hindu groups that they will ensure India becomes an exclusive Hindu State by 2021.
Oppression of religious and ethnic minorities in India
In 2016 the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, the US government’s religious-freedom research agency delegation was prevented from visiting India to assess religious freedom conditions. However, they have reported right wing Hindu groups, the RSS, Shiv Sena, Sangh Parivar, and Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and their sympathisers continue to perpetrate numerous incidents of intimidation, harassment, and violence against religious minority communities and Hindu Dalits. These groups have been allowed by the Modi led government to convert Muslims and Christians to Hinduism by force and have been attacking and interfering in the Sikh faith to try and secure its assimilation.
Members of the ruling party that have ties to Hindu nationalist groups implicated in religious freedom violations, use religiously divisive language to inflame tensions. These issues, combined with longstanding problems of police and judicial bias and inadequacies, have created a pervasive climate of impunity in which religious minorities feel increasingly insecure and have no recourse.
Narendra Modi blamed for Gujarat 2002 massacre of at least 2,000 Muslims
Narendra Modi is described as a man either responsible for mass-genocide or the saviour of India’s Hindus – depending on your point of view. Britain imposed a 10-year diplomatic boycott of Narendra Modi after he was accused of failing to stop the sectarian murder of at least 2,000 Muslims in Gujarat in 2002. An internal British report at the time described the violence as pre-planned with the support of the state government.
It led to a de facto travel ban imposed on Modi by the UK, the US and some European nations, as well as the boycott by all but junior officials. In 2005, Modi was refused a US visa as someone held responsible for a serious violation of religious freedom.
Modi, who was the chief minister of Gujarat at the time and was severely criticised for not doing enough to stop Hindu mobs who went on a spree of raping, burning and murdering. He is on record as saying he felt the same pain over the bloodshed as a passenger in a car that has just run over a puppy. In August 2012, Maya Kodnani, a former aide to Modi and State Minister, was handed 28 years in jail for her part in the murder of 97 people.
Three of those killed in Gujarat in 2002 were British Muslims visiting India on holiday. Their car was stopped by a mob at a road block when they were returning to Gujarat after a visit to Jaipur. The three men and their driver were all set ablaze with petrol and burnt to death.
Human Rights Watch have accused the Gujarat authorities of harassing rights activists rather than pursuing justice for the victims. Sikhs champion human rights and cannot turn a blind eye to the actions of someone termed ‘the Butcher of Gujarat’ for the injustices of 2002 even though many governments have done this since Modi became the Indian PM.
There were also specific Sikh issues raised in November2015 where the Indian government has failed to adequately respond. Instead additional concerns have arisen
Returning rare and priceless items stolen by the Indian Army in June 1984 from the Sikh Reference Library
These included rare and priceless manuscripts of Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Hukamnamas carrying signatures of the Sikh Gurus, documents related to the Sikh Raj and Sikh contribution during the independence movement and books on Sikhi and our history. There has been no progress whatsoever on this issue since November 2015 despite close political links between the Akalis and BJP and the matter being taken up again in writing by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (or SGPC) in 2016 and 2017.
Release of Sikh political prisoners
When Modi came to the UK in November 2015 there were 84 known Sikhs political prisoners languishing in India’s prisons some had been in prison for over 25 years. One of the first steps for resolving political conflicts is the release of all political prisoners and a general amnesty for those that have cases pending. Some Sikh prisoners, including several senior citizens, have been released, but only after legal action suggesting the present Indian government has no interest in resolving the political conflict with Sikhs. The Indian authorities have instead been making additional arrests of younger Sikhs, including British citizen, Jagtar Singh Johal. Over 60 Sikhs have been arrested in the last 12 months with the number of Sikh political prisoners at around 150.
Abduction and torture of British citizen Jagtar Singh Johal who has been held for 160 days without charge or access to medical care
By the time you meet Narendra Modi, Jagtar Singh Johal, a 31-year old British national from Dumbarton would have been detained in India without charge for over 160 days. Jagtar’s access to medical and legal services has been severely restricted and there have been allegations of torture made against the Indian police. Constituents have written and raised serious concerns with around 250 MPs regarding Jagtar.
Jagtar travelled to India to marry his fiancée in October 2017. On 4 November, while out shopping, he was seized by plain-clothes officers, hooded and abducted. Following a brief court hearing he was held incommunicado by Indian police for nine days in an undisclosed location and he was denied all access to lawyers, British consular staff and family members.
On 10 November Jagtar was secretly presented in court while his lawyer and British consular staff were outrageously left outside the courtroom waiting to be called. They were informed after he had been presented before the court and had left the courtroom. Subsequently witnesses reported that Jagtar had great difficulty standing or walking and had to be assisted by the police officers escorting him in and out of the courtroom supporting Jagtar’s claim of third degree torture.
When he first briefly met his lawyer in the courtroom on 14 November Jagtar made allegations of third degree torture between 5 to 9 November. This included leg separation and electric shocks to his ears, nipples and genitals. He has told lawyers that police also forced him to sign blank pieces of paper, believed to be for the purpose of forging confessions from him.
After considerable lobbying British consular staff were eventually able to meet Jagtar on 16 November, some 12 days after his abduction, torture and interrogation. However, two senior police officers remained in the small interrogation room to prevent a private conversation. The experienced consular officer present assessed and concluded that Jagtar was prevented from fully opening up about his mistreatment and to show signs of torture, but was declared ‘vulnerable’. To date the Indian authorities have unacceptably prevented Jagtar having private access to British consular staff.
For a large part of his detention Jagtar has been in police as opposed to judicial custody. In police custody apart from third degree torture he has been abused and mistreated. Sleep deprivation techniques, constant verbal abuse, solitary confinement, use of hand-cuffs 24-hours a day and misinformation about his family and the British authorities have been used to mentally exploit and demoralise Jagtar.
UK Parliamentarians have been told Jagtar’s treatment is ‘unconstitutional’ and Britain has warned of ‘extreme action’ against the Indian authorities. He has been repeatedly denied an independent medical examination. His case is extremely serious, but has become farcical and trial by media. He has been brought to court over 30 times and has been taken in and out of judicial and police custody.
Justice for the Sikh Genocide of November 1984
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’. Sikhs in the Diaspora have had some successes in the US, Canada and with officials at the United Nations to have the 1984 Sikh Genocide recognised and the campaign continues, although the Indian authorities oppose others calling it a genocide.
Earlier this year Congress leader, Jagdish Tytler revealed in an interview that he accompanied Rajiv Gandhi when the latter drove through the streets of Delhi on 1 November 1984 monitoring/supervising the killing of innocent Sikhs. This came as a huge shock in India and led to a video subsequently being released showing Jagdish Tytler confessing to killing of over 100 Sikhs in November 1984. The Narendra Modi led BJP Government need to be challenged to see if they are serious about ‘meting out justice’ or if this is simply lip-service to secure votes.
Prosecution of police officers involved in human rights violations in Punjab
To resolve the political conflict with the Sikhs international admission of the truth around widespread human rights violations by India is essential. For over 30 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. If India wishes to be taken seriously on the international stage it must allow the truth to emerge by removing such restrictions, allowing independent investigations followed by prosecutions.
Compensation for Sikh farmers in Gujarat forced to leave and prosecution of those responsible for violent attacks against them
In 2010, the Narendra Modi-led Gujarat government had over 20,000 acres of land belonging to Sikh farmers in Gujarat confiscated. These Sikh farmers migrated there about five decades ago. They were being uprooted under a law enacted by the Gujarat government that stopped Sikhs from owning land in the state. The Sikh farmers won their case in the Gujarat High Court but the state government challenged the order in the Supreme Court. In the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls, Narendra Modi had assured that no Sikh farmer in Gujarat would ever be evicted. However, since the May 2014 elections attacks by land mafia and goons have increased and charges have brought against Sikh farmers for defending themselves. These attacks have forced many to flee the land they had successfully made their home. No progress has been made since November 2015 on compensating Sikh farmers forced to leave Gujarat.
UN-led inquiry into the 1984 Sikh Genocide orchestrated by the Congress Party
Backing for a UN-led inquiry into the atrocities committed by the Congress Party in June 1984, the killings and disappearances in the months that followed and the systematic and deliberate killing of innocent Sikhs in November 1984. The UN inquiry should also look into the use by the police of criminals, goons, gangsters and smugglers to impersonate Sikh ‘militants’, widely known as Black Cats. The BJP Government has to date demonstrated in the last four years it is not serious on establishing the truth and providing justice for the 1984 Sikh Genocide.
Application of self-determination to the Sikhs and the demand to re-establish a Sikh homeland, Khalistan
Acceptance by India of the general principle that self-determination is a basic human right founded in international law and it applies to the Sikhs. Withdrawal of India’s ‘reservation’ at the UN Human Rights Council that self-determination does not apply to the people of India. Internal self-determination by Sikhs since 1947 has been violently rejected and crushed with state terror so remedy via external self-determination is possible. The persecution of Sikhs in 1984 and in the years that followed and the lack of justice to date is the basis on which the Sikhs continue to raise the legitimate demand for an independent Sikh homeland, Khalistan.