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David Cameron comes up short in his visit to India – British Sikhs

February 20, 2013 | By

London, United Kingdom (February 20, 2013): On the one hand British Sikhs are delighted British Prime Minister David Cameron has today made the effort to make an hour-long visit and pay his respects at Darbar Sahib, the Golden Temple Complex.

Prime Minister David Cameron at Sri Darbar Sahib (Amritsar)

The Prime Minister before leaving India said he had been moved by his visit to the Golden Temple. The Sikh Federation (UK) wrote to David Cameron on 12 February suggesting this would be the case.

He said: ‘Today was fascinating and illuminating — to go to the place that is so central to the Sikh religion. I am proud to be the first British prime minister to go and visit the Golden Temple and see what an extraordinary place it is — very moving, very serene, very spiritual. It was a huge honour and a great thing to be able to do. I learnt a lot.’

‘In coming here, to Amritsar, we should also celebrate the immense contribution that people from the Punjab play in Britain – the role they play, what they give to our country. What they contribute to our country is outstanding.’

‘It is important to understand that, to pay respect to that, and to seek a greater understanding of the Sikh religion. And that is why the visit to the holy temple, the Golden Temple, was so important.’

In addition, as the first serving British Prime Minister to visit the scene of the Amritsar massacre of 1919 we welcome his statement that:

‘This was a deeply shameful event in British history – one that Winston Churchill rightly described at the time as monstrous. We must never forget what happened here. And in remembering, we must ensure that the United Kingdom stands up for the right to peaceful protest anywhere in the world.’

UK PM David Cameron at Sri Darbar Sahib (Amritsar)

However, much has been written whether during his visit he has done enough to encourage Sikhs to vote Conservative in the UK in constituencies such as Wolverhampton South West during the next General Election. Whilst some Sikhs might be taken in by photographs of David Cameron in Amritsar, the vast majority will look at his actions and that of the Conservative-led Coalition.

He would have been in the right and expected by British Sikhs to mention India’s own massacre in Amritsar in more recent times in June 1984 when the Indian Army used tanks and artillery to attack the Harmandir Sahib Complex and kill thousands of innocent Sikh pilgrims.

The Conservatives need to realise this is far more important than the 1919 massacre given the majority of British Sikhs are born in the UK and the events of 1984 are very fresh in their minds and many of those who perpetrated those killings of innocent Sikh pilgrims have not been punished.

Given the way the Indian Prime Minister ambushed David Cameron in their joint press conference yesterday about the UK helicopter firm AgustaWestland he should have used the opportunity to reach out to British Sikhs and demonstrate the UK will not be constantly blackmailed by threats to trade deals by India.

David Cameron also failed to publicly condemn India for two hangings in the last three months and the growing trend to hang others despite many letters from UK MPs prior to his visit to condemn India for moving in this direction. A debate is planned in the main Chamber of the UK Parliament on 28 February for the Abolition of the Death Penalty in India and this failure to publicly raise the issue will be exposed by opposition MPs.

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