January 30, 2016 | By Gurjeet Singh, Sikh Federation UK
London, England: The Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond is tomorrow planning to address Sikh community concerns in an important visit to Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Havelock Road, Southall, one of the largest Sikh Gurdwaras in Europe.
He is expected to address the large congregation, which is anticipated to be slightly larger than normal due to his visit, at around 10am. The Conservative Party is particularly keen to secure more Sikh voters with the London Mayoral elections less than 100 days away. Latest opinion polls put Conservative Zac Goldsmith at 24 per cent and Sadiq Khan the Labour hopeful a long way ahead at 31 per cent.
The address by the Foreign Secretary will come exactly one year after the launch of the Sikh Manifesto at the same Gurdwara. The impact of the Sikh Manifesto has been massive and he is expected to directly address several issues contained in the document that was described by the media as a ‘game-changer’.
Zac Goldsmith has already met with representatives of the Sikh Federation (UK) and Sikh Network to discuss issues contained in the Sikh Manifesto and Sadiq Khan has already promised support on some of the issues and is due to meet Sikh Federation (UK) representatives in the next few weeks.
One thing the Foreign Secretary is sure to remember is the massive campaign led by the Sikh Federation (UK) in 2010 in relation to respect for the Sikh turban at airports during security checks. As the Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond took the bold step that was hugely appreciated by Sikhs of not introducing the new security checking procedures mandated by the European Commission. He went as far as personally writing to the Sikh Federation (UK) to cancel the lobby it was planning in Westminster. Eventually the UK Government working with the Sikh community persuaded the rest of Europe to follow revised security arrangements respecting the Sikh turban that were first successfully trialled in the UK.
The other issue that will be at the forefront of the Foreign Secretary’s mind will be the predicament of UK resident Paramjeet Singh who went with his family for a holiday to Portugal, but was detained by authorities on 18 December on the back of an unreliable Interpol Red Notice. He is threatened with the possibility of extradition to India. Hundreds of MPs from across the political spectrum have written to the Foreign Secretary to express profound concerns, including fellow Cabinet Ministers. Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader has personally appealed to the Portuguese Prime Minister to end extradition proceedings against someone who has been given refugee status in the UK.
The UK Government has made clear to the Portuguese Government that Paramjeet Singh was given asylum in the UK more than 15 years ago in 2000 as his life would be at risk if he was to return to India. The evidence presented to the British authorities on his refugee status was so convincing that he was granted asylum in record speed. This alone provides the basis for the Portuguese Government to stop the extradition proceedings and return Paramjeet Singh to the UK to be reunited with his wife and four young children.
Bhai Amrik Singh, the Chair of the Sikh Federation (UK) said: “The Sikh community is expecting the Foreign Secretary to provide reassurances tomorrow that the Foreign Office is doing all it can to persuade the Minister for Justice to drop extradition proceedings and secure the immediate return of Paramjeet Singh to the UK to be with his family.”
The related issue that the Foreign Secretary is likely to stay clear of is the ‘dossier’ the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi is reported to have presented to David Cameron when he visited the UK in November. This requested action against the law abiding British Sikh community. It is understood the dossier named Gurdwaras (Sikh places of worship), Sikh organisations, Sikh TV channels and up to 200 Sikh activists. One of the activists named in Indian media reports was Paramjeet Singh that has caused much suspicion and disquiet. Fabian Hamilton, the new Shadow Foreign Minister responsible for relations with India earlier this week confirmed he would be challenging the UK Government regarding the ‘Modi’ dossier.
The other issue he will try and avoid is unrelenting calls for an independent public inquiry into UK Government assistance to the Indian authorities in the Indian army assault on the Sri Harmandir Sahib Complex (often referred to as the Golden Temple Complex) in 1984 that resulted in the massacre of thousands of innocent Sikh pilgrims. The Foreign Secretary will be aware that the demand for an independent inquiry has not gone away, if anything it has increased following the General Election in May last year. The new Labour leadership is also much more supportive that could force the issue in the coming months.
What he will be less mindful of is the Sikh Federation (UK) commissioned Phil Miller, the research who discovered the original papers in January 2014 under the 30-year rule, to undertake further work. He has produced a detailed internal report for the Sikh Federation (UK) titled: “Sacrificing Sikhs: the need for an investigation – A review of declassified UK files on India and Sikhs from 1982 to 1985”. This looks at how India successfully used promises of arms deals to pressure the UK Government to take actions against the minority Sikh community in Britain.
This may emerge as a high profile issue before the May elections as there is expected to be some explosive disclosures if the report is made public or served on the UK Government through lawyers. For example, there is prove that a Sikh leader was deported from the UK in December 1984, who was then tortured and imprisoned for several years without trial or charge in India and only released as Amnesty International were about to declare him a prisoner of conscious. It may also call into question convictions of several Sikh activists in the UK in the 1980s when British intelligence are believed to have entrapped Sikhs using agent provocateurs that was claimed at the time by leading QC Michael Mansfield.
(1) Save Our WhatsApp Number 0091-855-606-7689 to your phone contacts; and
(2) Send us Your Name via WhatsApp. Click Here to Send WhatsApp Message Now.