September 23, 2015 | By Gurjeet Singh, Sikh Federation UK
London, UK: Participants at the Sikh Federation (UK) Annual National Sikh Convention and those watching live on TV across Europe over the weekend were told there is much speculation in the Sikh community about a possible meeting or a visit to a Gurdwara in the UK by the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi as he prepares to visit between 12-14 November.
Interestingly Dr Manmohan Singh was the last Indian Prime Minister to visit the UK in 2006, almost 10 years ago and although being a Sikh there was little noise of his desire to visit a Gurdwara and directly engage with the Sikh community in the UK. Perhaps as he represented the Congress Party who are held directly responsible for what took place in June and November 1984 that Sikhs abroad have made clear they will never forget.
However, even senior Akali leaders, Parkash Singh Badal and Sukhbir Singh Badal the Chief Minister of Punjab and his Deputy have not dared try and visit a Gurdwara here in the UK in there many visits over the last three decades. This is because Sikhs in reality hold them responsible for encouraging the Indian army action in June 1984. But also abetting and protecting police officers and others responsible for disappearances, torture and fake encounters and for thwarting all efforts for justice for the people of Punjab as this helps them retain power.
They are rightly the first ones in the firing line when we talk about much of what is wrong today in Punjab. If they wanted they could have helped Sikh political prisoners like Professor Davinderpal Singh Bhullar with the help of their BJP partners in the Centre. Instead they have chosen to promote and protect people like Sumedh Saini, the current Director General of Punjab Police who is well know for gross violation of human rights. He currently is going through a trial for abducting and killing three members of a family from Ludhiana. In reality few Sikhs abroad are prepared to invite either of the Badals to a Gurdwara or defend their current and past actions.
What is therefore interesting is why all the self created hype around Narendra Modi and the possibly he may try and visit a Gurdwara or meet with Sikhs in November. Some Sikhs encouraged by the Indian High Commission are clearly taken in by this rock star like or Bollywood celebrity and want to simply be pictured with him. Others who think they are possible ‘king-makers’ are just trying to make a name for themselves with the Indian authorities on the back of his visit. They are in for a shock as on the one hand they have no idea what if anything Modi is willing to do with regards to legitimate Sikh demands and on the other the heightened strength of Sikh feelings around Sikh political prisoners with the campaign led by Bapu Surat Singh.
These same opportunists have chosen to forget Modi’s clear Hindutva objectives and direct connections with the ultranationalist right wing Hindu group, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The RSS has an objective of attacking the Sikh faith so it leads to its eventual assimilation and is driving a campaign to convert Muslims and Christians to Hinduism. They also fail to appreciate Sikhs have been taught by our Gurus to champion human rights. Sikhs should not therefore turn a blind eye to the actions of ‘the Butcher of Gujarat’ and simply leave it to others to highlight the injustice of 2002.
Narendra Modi’s high profile UK trip in November presents an opportunity to raise the above matters and present legitimate Sikh and human rights concerns in the mainstream media. The Sikh Federation (UK) publicly made clear at the Convention it is more than willing to sit around the table with Modi to discuss the most important Sikh demands, but has no time for ‘king-makers’ or those that would simply be happy if their names were removed from a blacklist.
A Panthic meeting has been called for 3 October at Sri Guru Singh Sabha in Southall that will establish the most important Sikh demands and the approach to take. However, the ‘king-makers’ worried no doubt by the feelings expressed at the Sikh Federation (UK) Convention and tough line that is likely to be taken on 3 October are apparently falling over themselves to meet with the Indian High Commission in advance.
At the weekend the Sikh Federation (UK) made clear that when the Indian army attacked the Sri Harmandir Sahib Complex in June 1984 this laid the foundation stone for a separate Sikh homeland, Khalistan. The Indian state made that decision not the Sikhs and the BJP who are now in power in India are on record as supporting and even encouraging and wanting that attack sooner. If Modi now wants a dialogue with the Sikhs let it be about what happen to the Sikhs in 1984 and how that permanently changed the relationship between the Indian State and the Sikh Nation.
Many issues were mentioned at the weekend, such as, seeking the return of articles stolen from the Sikh Reference Library, the Sikh Genocide in 1984, Sikh political prisoners and human rights abuses that have gone unpunished. It is undeniable that the origins of all of these can all be traced back to the demands for greater autonomy, the Dharm Yodh Morcha and the actions of the Indian State in 1984.
Those at the Convention were also reminded not to forget Narendra Modi is all for conversions of minorities and India becoming a country exclusively for Hindus by 2021. If this is what Modi is working towards, then he must be prepared to sit down and discuss Sikhs having their own homeland.
A Sikh homeland will not be a sovereign nation just for Sikhs, but will allow all who live there to be respected and encouraged to practice their faith. It will allow us to protect Sikhi, the Sikh way of life and identity given to us by our Gurus across the globe wherever Sikhs choose to live. Equally important is that a Sikh homeland will allow the universal message of our Gurus to be shared and disseminated in a way that has never been possible in the modern era. There is little doubt that as the teachings of the Guru Granth Sahib Ji are understood more will accept Sikhi through their own free will.
So the clear message given to Narendra Modi at the Convention was if you want to have a genuine dialogue with us in the UK cut out the middlemen. Talk to those who represent and are accountable to the Sangat and not those who would sell us out or make the same mistakes as Sikhs did in 1947. Also if Narendra Modi wants to change the relationship with Sikhs he should show some goodwill before he comes to the UK by releasing all Sikh political prisoners and promise those guilty for the Sikh Genocide in 1984 will be punished. He should also have the courage to talk to us about our rightful claim for re-establishing the Sikh homeland. What we do not want to discuss are petty matters like getting rid of the blacklist and we are definitely not interested in photo opportunities with him or building our personal profiles.
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