On January 16 2017 human rights advocacy group Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) held a press conference at the Sikh Missionary Society in Southall, supported by Sikh political activist organisation Dal Khalsa UK, about their campaign to challenge the SYL Canal.
SFJ will file a case against the government of India before the International Tribunal in Hague for depriving the people of Punjab of their rivers waters resulting in the “Econocide” (economic homicide).
The SYL (Sutlej Yamuna Link) Canal is a water redistribution project which diverts water from Punjab’s Sutlej river into neighbouring states. As of November 10th 2016 the SYL Canal project was given the green light. This diversion is something the people of Punjab have long since protested. A breakdown of the issues around the SYL Canal can be found here (via Indian Express news).
SFJ legal advisor and respected human rights lawyer Gurpatwant Singh Pannun led the press conference, discussing the campaign. The international Sikh community of India and the diaspora are being encouraged to sign up to vote to give their opinion on the issue via www.PunjabWaterReferendum.org. Once registration and voting has been completed (due before the end of 2017), it is estimated it will take approximately three months for a case against the Indian government to be built.
Gurpatwant said, “The dispute is about Punjab’s waters. Since the Indian system has failed to resolve the Punjab water dispute, International court is the only forum available to the people of Punjab. We will be filing a case against based on econicide of the Sikh community in the state of Punjab. This is against international laws and against the constitution of India.
“This will not be the first time that a case against India on the water dispute will be filed before an international bodies. In 1960, Indus Water Treaty between India and Pakistan was brokered by the World Bank and in 2010 Pakistan brought ‘Indus Waters Kishenganga Arbitration’ before the international tribunal”, added Pannun.
The move to take the Punjab Waters issue before the international tribunal in Hague is being backed by Punjab based All India Sikh Students Federation (AISFF), European and North American organizations including Sikh Council UK, Dal Khalsa, Akhand Kirtani Jatha, Sikh Relief, Kesri Lehar and several Gurudwara management committees.
Gurcharan Singh of Dal Khalsa UK stated, “The Indian regime is weaponising natural resources such as water. They are willing to create famine through this to crush political descent and human rights concerns of the people of Punjab and surrounding areas.
“The Indian regime has begun using a more aggressive approach than ever seen before. The water rights issue is a new form of attack on each region, as the land of North India has become so barren, it is dependent on mountain water. By weaponising this natural resource, the fascist Indian government can use it against the people for their own will.”