December 15, 2011 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
London, England (December 13, 2011): Around one hundred and fifty Sikh representatives from across the United Kingdom took part in a lobby at the UK Parliament organised by the Sikh Federation (UK).
Several human rights issues were raised at the lobby, which lasted for two hours, including the case of Professor Davinderpal Singh Bhullar and the continued detention of (Bhai) Daljit Singh Bittu, chairman of Shiromani Akali Dal (Panch Pardhani) since August 2009 and the denial of justice for the Sikh Genocide 1984.
Bhai Parmjeet Singh Gazi, the President of the Sikh Student Federation, had travelled from Punjab to UK to to give a first-hand account on these issues. He said that set norms were ignored at all levels in Professor Devender Pal Singh Bhullar’s case. At pre-trial state, the police tortured him in custody to extract false confession; during trial the judiciary failed to apply set standards of law like “proof beyond reasonable doubt” and at post-trial stage President of India failed to grant clemency, whereas Professor Bhullar fulfilled four out of seven clemency grounds, even on of which is normally considered sufficient to grant clemency.
He said that Bhai Daljeet Singh is arrested and detained due to his political dissent. His detention has resulted in halting the development of political process to secure justice of Sikhs. His detention has no legal base, as the prosecution has drastically failed to furnish even single peice of evidence against him during last two years.
Many senior Sikh leaders of UK, such as Bhai Sukhwinder Singh, Bhai Narinderjeet Singh Thandi and Bhai Gurjeet Singh Samra said that arrest and detention of Bhai Daljeet Singh Bittu due to political reason is particular cause of concern for Sikhs living in Punjab and abroad. They said that Daljeet singh Bittu is a prisoner of conscience and UK Government should use diplomatic means to prevent India from targeting political leadership of Sikhs for their political dissent.
He stressed that “as a general rule genocides are committed by the State or with it’s complicity, leaving prosecution of domestic courts could only insure impunity”, therefore international initiative has become necessary at this stage to secure justice for victims of Sikh genocide 1984.
Fabian Hamilton MP, the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for UK Sikhs, chaired the meeting alongside Dabinderjit Singh of the Sikh Federation who contributed on each of the issues. Fabian Hamilton confirmed he would facilitate meetings in the next few weeks with the National Union of Students and Amnesty International to assist with human rights campaigns involving Professor Bhullar and Daljit Singh Bittu.
Respect for the Sikh Identity was the second main issue and an update was provided on the trial at UK airports of checking the Sikh turban and a strategy for influencing the European Commission to implement similar procedures at airports across Europe. Sukhvinder Singh, an advisor to the Sikh Federation explained developments at the UK and European level.
Harnek Singh, one of the five Managing Directors of the Sikh Federation provided an update on Amritdhari Sikhs right to wear the Kirpan in public places e.g. sporting events and tourist attractions following the victories on the right to wear the Kirpan at the London Olympics 2012 and Lords Cricket Ground. He explained the significance of the Kirpan to an Amritdhari and many politicians agreed there needed to be much better awareness of the Kirpan. Nicky Morgan a Conservative MP confirmed she would be meeting the Tourism Minister later in the week and would take up the issue of the right to wear the Kirpan at tourist attractions, such as the London Eye and Madam Tussauds.
Bavinder Kaur, the Chair of the Sikh Womens’ Alliance, was asked to speak about the need for a stronger political voice for UK Sikhs, the importance of the Sikh Council UK and the need for the Coalition government to move away from dealing with one or two so-called ‘community leaders’. Many of the dozen or so MPs from all three of the main political parties that spoke at the lobby agreed that officials needed to change the way they interact with the Sikh community.
MPs that attended included a number of former Ministers – John Spellar MP, Pat McFadden MP and the former Foreign Secretary Rt. Hon. Margaret Beckett MP. The most significant contribution came from the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Simon Hughes MP, who spoke passionately at the June Freedom Rally in Trafalgar Square, recently visited Amritsar as promised and confirmed that a date for a Sikh delegation to meet the Deputy Prime Minister would be confirmed in early January 2012. He also committed to facilitate a schedule of meetings between the Sikh Federation and Ministers in a number of different Government Departments, including the Home Office and Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
The Chair of the Sikh Federation (UK), Bhai Amrik Singh, spoke at the end to specifically thank Fabian Hamilton, Simon Hughes and other politicians that participated in the lobby.
At the end it was agreed the next lobby towards the end of March 2012 will be combined with a celebration of Vaisakhi and a pledge was made to have senior Ministers and Shadow Ministers from the three main political parties present to answer questions on the sorts of issues raised at this lobby.
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