Jagtar Singh Hedges

#FreeJaggiNow statement on Matthew Hedges’ release

Earlier today (26.11.18) overseas British prisoner Matthew Hedges was pardoned from his imprisonment just one week after being convicted as a spy and handed a life sentence last in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This came after intervention from the Foreign Office and British consulate, as emphasised by Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt in a public statement.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Hunt is yet to even name Jagtar Singh Johal, British Sikh political prisoner, who has been detained in India for over one year now, and has completely ignored requests to meet Jagtar Singh’s family. This situation prompted public outcry against Hunt’s contrasting treatment to Jagtar Singh and his family.

Here Jagtar Singh’s brother Gurpreet Singh, a lead of the Free Jaggi Now, reacts to the Matthew Hedges’ release in regards to his own brother’s situation.


 

 

Today the world saw that through swift and decisive intervention from the Foreign Secretary, Matthew Hedges has been pardoned from his imprisonment in UAE and will be returning home.

The fact that supporters of the #FreeJaggiNow campaign saw this happen before our eyes after a year of constant campaigning has only led to more hurt and frustration regarding Jaggi’s situation, something evident through a reaction seen on social media.

 

I know exactly what Matthew’s family has been going through, for I have been going through the same myself. I welcome the fact that tonight, one less family is suffering the hell I am.

 

Jeremy Hunt’s actions over the past week have proved that the government does have considerable influence in aiding innocent Britons overseas. Every effort has been put in for a British citizen named Matthew Hedges; nothing has been done for a British citizen named Jagtar Singh Johal.

You can come to your own conclusions as to why.

 

I have asked the Foreign Secretary several times for a meeting to discuss Jagtar’s detainment. These requests have been consistently denied and ignored. But he met Matthew’s wife, and rightly praised her for her fortitude. What makes Mathew Hedges’ family more important than mine to the Foreign Secretary?

My brother has still not been granted private consular access. Despite putting himself in incredible danger to tell the government of his torture, this government has not even been able to secure him an independent medical examination. In April, the Permanent Secretary at the Foreign Office visited Punjab where my brother was being held but decided to totally ignore the tortured British citizen detained just miles away.

Nobody can call what Jagtar is going through a fair legal process. It has been more than a year since the Chief Minister of Punjab boasted that the authorities had all the evidence against Jagtar. Yet despite 70 shoddy judicial hearings no evidence of any kind has been presented against my brother. The Foreign Secretary has spoken out against the lack of evidence against Matthew Hedges while remaining silent on the lack of evidence against Jagtar.

 

In all this, Jeremy Hunt has clearly demonstrated the government’s double standards.  I ask all those celebrating Matthew Hedges’ release to now turn their attention to the plight of my brother. Together, if we all speak out, maybe we can see our government give a British Sikh prisoner the same treatment Matthew Hedges has received.

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Film on Sikh boxer set for November 30th premiere

Tiger, a biopic based on former amateur boxing champion Pardeep Singh Nagra’s battle to fight boxing’s beard ban, is set for release across North America on November 30th. Starring Mickey Rourke and Prem Singh, the film is seen as a historic breakthrough for Sikh art, with its retelling of a modern day tale of Sikh principal being put before individual ambition in the face of Western discrimination.


 

The film is to be premiered in California, New York, Ontario and British Columbia on November 30th and shown throughout the week. Details;

New York, all day screenings at Regal E-Walk Stadium 13 & RPX from November 30th onwards. Tickets available here.

Los Angeles, all day screenings at Cinemark 18 from November 30th onwards. Tickets available here.

Toronto, all day screenings at Cineplex Courtney Park from November 30th onwards. Tickets available here.

Vancouver, all day screenings at International Village from November 30th onwards. Tickets available here.

Note, the websites are being continually updated. If there is no link for Tiger, please check later.

 

Tiger - poster

In 1999 Pardeep Singh Nagra, became the Ontario amateur boxing flyweight champion. His achievement of winning the prestigious title presented him with an opportunity to possibly compete in the Olympics.

However, an obstacle was placed before his efforts in taking his boxing career further, one that would challenge his commitment to his faith.

As a practicing Sikh, Pardeep Singh wore a turban and kept his kes (unshorn hair), something mandated as part of Sikh practice. Amateur boxing across the world has had a beard ban in place since its inception, something upheld still to this day by AIBA (Amateur International Boxing Association). Despite the huge opportunity placed before him, Pardeep Singh recognised the long history of Sikh fortitude and sacrifice that came with the keeping of the distinct physical Sikh identity.

For this reason, Pardeep Singh decided to take on another fight, this time, outside of the ring. What came next was a courtroom battle between Canada’s boxing association and Pardeep Singh, one of the very few (and possibly at the time only) Sikh boxers competing at an elite amateur level, which is usually a precursor for a successful professional career.

This courtroom battle was fought simultaneously with his in-ring battles, both of which were inspired by his Sikh faith. Pardeep Singh Nagra changed boxing forever, and Tiger is the tale of how he did it.

Trailer

 

Website: Thetigermovie.com

Twitter: @TigerMovie2018

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tigermovie2018/

Instagram: @tigerthemovie

Two men convicted for role in 1984 Sikh Genocide

A court in India has convicted and sentenced two men for their roles in the 1984 Sikh genocide.

The two men, Yashpal Singh and Naresh Sherawat, were respectively given the death sentence and life imprisonment for their role in the killing of Sikh men 24 year-old Hardev Singh and 26 year-old Avtar Singh 34 years ago. The verdict was announced inside Delhi’s Tihar Jail where the men were being detained due to security concerns about their safety.
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The convictions were made stemming from a special investigation unit assigned in 2015 to look into cases around the Sikh genocide. Eye witness testimony was crucial in convicting both men for their part in the mob killing of the Sikh men in Mahipalpur. However, Sikh eye witness testimony has not been taken into consideration for countless other possible convictions, including most famously the role of politicians such as Jagdish Tytler (caught on film talking about his role in the massacres), Sajjan Kumar and Kamal Nath.

The special investigation team have probed 60 cases out of the total 293, with this being the first where they have succeeded in getting a conviction. The team filed “untraced report” in 52 cases whilst the others are being investigated, including some which name Congress politician Sajjan Kumar.

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Sikhs across the world have continually sought justice for those impacted in the genocide, which saw an estimated 30,000 killed in state facilitated mob attacks across the nation. The attacks also left approximately 300,000 Sikhs displaced/homeless, whilst the toll of women raped and property looted remains unaccounted. These figures come from grassroots investigation undertaken by Sikh groups and are supported by various Sikh organisations, such as the WaheGru Foundation, Sikh Relief, Sikhs For Justice and more.
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Media across the world describe the genocide as ‘riots’ and suggest the death toll to be approximately 3000. The Sikh Press Association categorically reject both suggestions. ‘Riots’ downplays what was a targeted and systematic massacre against Sikhs across India, whilst the figure of 3000 comes from an Indian government survey only conducted in Delhi, a year after the genocide had taken place, something which no media outlets seem to be pointing out. The Sikh Press Association continue to push for a more balanced narrative in regards to language and facts about the 1984 Sikh genocide.

Sikh PA senior press officer Jasveer Singh said of the case, “It is very disappointing that the general understanding in the media of what occurred in 1984 is still so skewed. The fact that the prosecution themselves outright called what occurred in 1984 a genocide in this very case, yet headlines still say ‘riots’ speaks volumes about how far most journalists have looked into this case. There is a regurgitation of the same narrative pumped out by the Indian state, themselves complicit in this genocide, that has continued since 1984. The Sikh Press Association remain determined to have media outlets, particularly those in the west where there is more press freedom, to report on the 1984 Sikh genocide in a more balanced way.”

The 1984 Sikh genocide massacres started after India’s Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her own Sikh bodyguards for her role in the infamous Indian army assault Operation Blue Star, an attack on revered holy Sikh site Sri Harmandir Sahib, on one of the Gurdwara’s busiest days of the year; commemoration of the shaheedi (martyrdom) of Guru Arjan Dev Ji. The attack was aimed at removing Sant Jarnail Singh Khalsa Bhindranwale, a Sikh educator, activist and community leader, from the complex along with his supporters. Sant Jarnail Singh, a revered Saint of the Sikh faith, was perceived as a threat to the government for his promotion of Sikh sovereignty and support of devolution of government powers.

Yashpal Singh’s death punishment in the anti-Sikh riots is the first since 1996 when Kishori Lal, a butcher, was sentenced to death in at least five cases by lower courts. The Supreme Court later changed Lal’s conviction to life in prison.

Ironically, this life sentence is the same sentence many Sikh political prisoners have received for their roles in pushing for a free Sikh homeland – Khalistan – following the genocide which made many Sikhs feel India was no longer a safe nation for the community. Many of these Sikh political prisoners are still in jail despite being elderly and having served 20+ years in jail. A point of contention for Sikh activists is the fact these prisoners were also largely sentenced based on the now defunct TADA (Terrorist and Disruptive Activities) law, described as ‘draconian’ by human rights advocacy organisations and consequently removed in 1995.

Whilst the likes of Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder and Union Minister Harsimrat Badal welcomed the convictions, many Sikhs will not be celebrating the verdict, expressing the sentiment that justice delayed is justice denied.

 

Free Jaggi Now - Nov 14 Parliament meet, crowd

Sikh mass Parliament lobby and meeting summary

Sikhs came to Parliament yesterday to discuss several community concerns with MPs as part of a Sikh Federation UK organised mass lobby.

The mass lobby saw Sikhs contacting their local MPs in Central Lobby before heading to hear an update on community concerns from MPs. The session in Committee Room 14 in the Palace of Westminster was chaired by SNP MP Martin Docherty-Hughes who is the local MP of Jagtar Singh Johal, the Scottish Sikh currently detained in India at the centre of the #FreeJaggiNow campaign.

Throughout the session Hughes was joined by numerous MPs including Labour’s Preet Kaur Gill and Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, as well as other MPs whose constituencies contain large Sikh populations.

Martin Docherty-Hughes spoke extensively about the case of his constituent Jagtar Singh Johal, who he described as not just a Sikh but a son of the rock of Dumbarton. He voiced concern that activists connected to the #FreeJaggiNow had been targeted in police raids, calling them a ‘grave cause for concern’. He updated Sikhs on how the resignation of Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary set back efforts to pressure the government saying, ‘We’ve found ourselves back at the start with the new Foreign Secretary.’

 

‘The position of British citizens like
Jaggi is undermined by trade deals with India’

 

 

That morning he raised a Point of Order with the Speaker, asking his advice on getting the Foreign Secretary to fulfil his commitment to Jagtar Singh. He said that an urgent question will be tabled in upcoming days in the hope that a senior Foreign Office minister is compelled to come to the House of Commons. The MP for West Dunbartonshire said that he was receiving support from the APPG on Deaths Abroad and Consular Assistance, citing as an inconvenience the fact that there is no legal obligation for the government to take specific measures to assist its citizens abroad.

Regarding Jagtar Singh’s case, he said there were now three main points he was pushing for: openness, transparency, and due process. He said: ‘I am not telling the Republic of India how to run its judicial system, but I will hold the UK government to account in its relations with other states […] my duty as Jagtar’s MP is to constantly raise this.’ Docherty-Hughes also mentioned the impact of Brexit, saying: ‘Brexit for me does play a part in this situation. The position of British citizens like Jaggi is undermined by trade deals with India, resulting in a detrimental impact on due process for British citizens in India.’

Hughes said that senior Foreign Office officials were caught in trilemma between advocating justice for British citizens abroad, Brexit considerations, and the rule of international law. The brother of Jagtar Singh, Gurpreet Singh addressed Sikhs from across the country and MPs, reminding them that it has been a year since the Chief Minister of Punjab claimed to have had the evidence against Jagtar Singh. Since then, no evidence has been presented.

 

‘The Indian government doesn’t have a legal process for Sikhs and other minorities’ 

 

In more recent developments, he said it was appearing as if India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) are seeking to take Jagtar Singh’s cases out of Punjab to Delhi. The NIA have for weeks not provided prosecution witness statements to Jagtar Singh’s hearings, leaving them to be adjourned for two weeks at a time. ‘The Indian government doesn’t have a legal process for Sikhs and other minorities there,’ said Gurpreet Singh. He emphasised his thanks to the Sikh sangat, saying that the support he had received was overwhelming. Referencing the #FreeJaggiNow campaign he said: ‘I’ve received the love of a mother and the love of the sister […] for as long as we’re united, we can achieve anything.’

Also in attendance was Josie Fathers, a representative from the charity REDRESS which uses the law to get justice and compensation for tutor survivors. She has been working on Jagtar Singh’s case for the past year and said that REDRESS has been engaging with the UN special rapporteur on torture regarding Jagtar Singh’s testimony of torture. She said: ‘We have been asking for an independent medical examination and an independent investigation for Jagtar. We are calling on the UK government to do more, and are emphasising the obligations on the UK government.’

Several MPs stressed that while they could not intervene in the Indian judicial system, there were questions to be asked of what the British government is doing for the welfare of one of its citizens. Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi assured Sikhs present that Jagtar Singh’s case was ‘not an issue that’s been left to the side’, adding that he was working towards securing ‘fair legal access and representation’ for Jagtar Singh. Pat McFadden, Labour MP for Wolverhampton SE said: ‘There is a legitimate and proper role for UK MPs to ask questions of the government here.’ Emma Reynolds, Labour MP for Wolverhampton NE said: ‘[Jagtar Singh’s torture] really brings home what we’re up against […] we will keep up that pressure on the government.’

 

‘The Indian government has for too long been allowed to get away with these abuses in Punjab’

 

Other MPs had harsher words: John Spellar, Labour MP for Warley said: ‘It is simply not acceptable for the Indian government to behave in this manner. We need to be holding India to the standards they proclaim to keep.’’

MP for Birmingham Perry Barr Khalid Mahmood offered the following advice to the Indian government: ‘The Indian government has for too long been allowed to get away with these abuses in Punjab […] If India wants to be seen as the largest democracy in the world it must behave as one.’

Solidarity with the campaign to get justice and truth for Jagtar Singh was offered by other Labour MPs including Valerie Vaz and Kate Osamor. Dabinderjit Singh, advisor to the Sikh Federation, explained a West Midlands Police internal briefing note had come into the possession of The Sikh Federation which contained briefing lines for senior offices regarding the raids on homes of five Sikh activists and their connection to Indian authorities. ‘All five Sikh activists raided by West Midlands Police in September are linked to the #FreeJaggiNow campaign, bringing up the very real question of whether their information was extracted from Jagtar Singh after torture. It seems the Indian government doesn’t have any evidence against Jaggi so are pressuring the UK authorities to find some on their behalf’ said Dabinderjit Singh. For more on this uncovered internal briefing, read here via Sikh Siyasat.

Gareth Peirce, a highly respected human rights lawyer notable for her involvement in the Guilford Four, spoke of the connection between Jagtar Singh’s case and the raids, voicing her concern and citing historical precedent: ‘That combination is a classical reproduction’ before going on to highlight a ‘paper trail’ which showed collusion between Indian authorities and the West Midlands Police. She said that she understands that Jagtar Singh was shown pictures of individuals taken in West Midlands, which could only have come from UK police. She described the warrants of the raids as ‘curious’ for specifying electronic items and data and evidence of sympathy for organisations banned in India, asking ‘What’s that about? What relevance does that have to criminality here?’ She put the questions outlined in the West Midlands Police internal briefing note to the head of the West Midlands Police Counter Terror Unit but has received ‘not a single answer’ from him. You can see more from Gareth Peirce from a video by Raids Organisation UK, a Sikh community led group that work on highlighting anglo-Indian collusion against Sikh activism, stemming back to the 1980s.

There were also extensive discussion regarding the upcoming Offensive Weapons Bill which would have implications for larger kirpans. Dabinderjit Singh stressed that concerns had been raised over the many uses of larger kirpans including as royal insignia for the Guru Granth Sahib (the Sikh scriptural Guru); ‘its use in gatka (Sikh martial arts) and the Amrit Sanchar ceremony (Sikh initiation ceremony into the Khalsa army); and at nagar kirtans (Sikh processions) and I could go on and on, are all vital parts of Sikh practice and impossible without kirpans.’

Preet Kaur Gill updated Sikhs on progress regarding this, saying that an amendment would be put forward, and that following a meeting with the Home Secretary Sajid Javid there is a willingness to sit down and get an agreed amendment. Updating Sikhs on the census Sikh ethnic box issue, Preet Kaur Gill expressed concern that discourse concerning this issue did not appreciate the provision of public services. She stressed that this move was not about theology, but about the data available for public authorities to provide for Sikhs in each community. She urged Sikhs to write to their MPs and press for them to contact the Cabinet Office minister David Lidington and recommend to him that the government adopts the Sikh ethnic box.

Other issues were raised such as the recent unveiling of the Sikh soldier war memorial in Smethwick and widespread condemnation of its vandalism. Labour MPs also reminded Sikhs that the party is committed to an independent public inquiry into British involvement into the events of 1984 in Punjab.

NOTE - This is a stock image and not a picture of the actual raids mentioned in the article.

How does the Indian media know who was raided? – UK Sikh home raids story update

An Indian newspaper claims West Midlands Police worked on Indian state direction and gave out confidential information in regards to raids on Sikh activists. Sikh organisations believe information on those targeted was extracted through the torture of Jagtar Singh Johal, the Scottish Sikh detained in India without charge. WMP are yet to address the Indian media accusations or answer questions from the Sikh community on this issue.

Read on for more, including quotes from the National Sikh Youth Federation, Sikh Press Association and MP Preet Kaur.


UPDATE (19.11.18)

Sikh group say ‘WMP spying on us’ for Indian govt to ‘silence the call for an independent homeland’

An article in the Huffington Post UK posted today highlighted thoughts from Sikh orgs on the continued ban on West Midlands police from Gurdwara stages.

Read the article in full here.

 

 


UPDATE (15.11.18)

Summary on UK Parliament mass lobby, including lawyer statement on UK raids

On November 14th dozens of Sikhs from across the UK came together for a mass lobby in regards to several Sikh issues, including the actions of the West Midlands Police and their raids of Sikh activists.

Read our summary via the link below of the main points from this day of lobbying and meeting thereafter, including a statement from Gareth Peirce on a ‘paper trail’ connecting the Indian authorities and the West Midlands Police.

https://www.sikhpa.com/sikh-mass-parliament-lobby-and-meeting-summary/

 


UPDATE (13.11.18)

WMP to be exposed for operation with Indian authorities targeting Sikhs

A confidential West Midlands Police briefing is to be exposed at a meeting in parliament tomorrow. The news (first aired out on 14.11.18 in India, so 13.11.18 in the UK due to the time difference) comes just before the mass lobby in parliament which will press the UK government on concerns about the raids. Read the full story via the Sikh Siyasat link below:

https://sikhsiyasat.net/2018/11/14/british-authorities-to-be-exposed-during-lobby-for-underhand-involvement-of-jagtar-singh-jaggis-torture/

 


UPDATE (08.11.18)

WMP made to leave Gurdwara on recruitment drive

A West Midlands police recruitment drive taking place inside a Gurdwara was politely halted by Sikh activists yesterday evening.

A video circulating on social shows activists asking ‘humbly and politely’ for WMP reps to leave based on the agreed upon ban – decided by a conglomerate of Sikh organisations – on the force due to their involvement with Indian authorities which saw them raid five Sikh activists in September, leading to no arrests and only the confiscation of electrical equipment, much of which is yet to be returned.

Note; this incident has since been covered by national media. Read a report and see a video on this incident here.

 


UPDATE (02.11.18)

Mass lobby announced

 

A mass parliament lobby by Sikhs highlighting five issues including the raids on Sikh activists has been announced for the afternoon of November 14. Read the full story here.

 


UPDATE (27.10.18)

Raids Organisation formed

A new organisation has been formed by members of the Sikh community to highlight the partnership between the UK and India in regards to suppressing Sikh activism. Raids Organisation UK formed to highlight Anglo-Indian collusion against Sikh activism, such as the #FreeJaggiNow campaign and awareness campaigns in regards to the 1984 Sikh Genocide and its precursor Operation Blue Star.

You can follow the group here.

 


UPDATE (22.10.18)

WMP to be asked to explain relationship with Indian authorities

Sikh Federation UK say West Midlands Police ‘could be asked to clarify about sharing of information with foreign intelligence agencies.’

A meeting held by the Sikh Federation UK saw news released that WMP and UK authorities could be asked to explain their relationship with intelligence agencies, after information from the raids on five UK Sikh activists found its way into the hands of Indian media.

The Sikh Press Association hope to be able to share any update from WMP as soon as it comes out. Thus far, WMP have rejected Sikh PA’s calls for a press conference to discuss concerns about the raids before the public.


UPDATE (14.10.18)

Sikh Council UK make public statement on UK raids on homes of Sikh activists

Following a press release on the situation, Gurmel Singh of the Sikh Council UK spoke out publicly in regards to the actions of the UK authorities and the targeted raids on Sikh activists. Watch a video of the speech here.


UPDATE (09.10.18)

Information on raids put out by WMP is ‘contradictory’ claims MP

Britain’s first female MP and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for British Sikhs has said that there are unanswered questions concerning the raids on the houses of Sikh activists in Britain. Preet Kaur Gill directly addressed the fact that ‘the information being put out in the public domain is quite contradictory’. She referenced the various references in Indian media to the raids and the Sikh activists involved and contrasted them with the lack of information and denials coming from West Midlands Police.

Preet Kaur also articulated the concerns of the British Sikh community that the raids were connected to the lack of progress in Jagtar Singh’s case in Punjab, India. It has been nearly a year since the British citizen was detained by police in the Indian state where he says he was tortured. She said:

‘The fear in the community, when I’ve spoken to many of the organisations, is that because there’s been no charge on Jagtar Singh Johal in India, are these raids to try and build some kind of evidence?’

Preet Kaur is set to raise the issue with the Home Secretary Sajid Javid.


UPDATE (08.10.18)

British Columbia Sikh Gurdwaras Council write to British High Commissioner to Canada regarding #5SinghsUK raids

A representative group of one of the biggest Sikh diaspora communities in the world have spoken out about the UK raids on Sikh activists, speaking on the ‘shock’ of the Canadian Sikh community about the targeted raids. Check out the full statement here.


UPDATE (27.09.18)

WMP banned for Sikh events and establishments

A conglomerate of Sikh organisations (titled below) have come together to enforce a ban on West Midlands police (WMP) from using Sikh establishments or events for official representation.

The organisations are the Sikh Federation UK, the Sikh Network, the National Sikh Youth Federation, Sikh Youth UK, Shiromani Akali Dal UK, Rajoana TV, the Federation of Sikh Organisations and the Free Jaggi Now campaign. This means recruitment drives and talks from staff on official West Midlands police duty are no longer allowed at Gurdwaras or events such as Nagar Kirtans. With a strong Sikh population in the West Midlands, the presence of WMP on recruitment drives or using Sikh platforms to reach out to the community has been a familiar sight. This will no longer be the case for the foreseeable future, until the issue of WMP colluding with Indian authorities to raid the homes of Sikh activists has been addressed. Thus far, WMP have failed to address the claims made in Indian media that they were acting upon direction from Indian authorities.

Following the raids, although countless property has been seized by the police, no arrests were made and no explanation about the actual basis of the raids has been given.

 


UPDATE (26.09.18)

Indian media releases names of Sikh activists raided, pointing towards WMP leak

The outrage about an obvious link between Indian intelligence and the actions of British police forces grew after Indian media released all five names of the Sikhs targeted in raids.

For both legal and ethical reasons, the Sikh Press Association will not repeat the identity of the individuals nor the publications which divulged their name.

The Sikh Press Association again contacted West Midlands Police about this, as they are the only organisation specifically named as working on behalf of the Indian state, who again simply stated no information on the raids has been given out.

The situation leads to only two possible possibilities; 1) WMP and other British authorities conducted the raids based upon direction from the Indian state, or 2) WMP have a leak that is providing confidential information to Indian sources, leading to Indian authorities taking credit for perceived moves against anti-Indian ‘extremism’.

The Sikh Press Association has directly requested an opportunity for the Sikh community to sit with and question WMP and all police forces involved.

 


UPDATE (25.09.18)

The Hindustan Times have reported (23.09.18) an NIA (National Investigation Agency) official claiming “The raids were the result of diplomatic pressure created by India on the UK.”

Sikh PA senior press officer said of this latest statement, “It is incredibly bold of Indian state reps and Indian media to continue to openly tout their influence on UK police forces. Meanwhile, we are still seeing UK establishments blindly ignore this, whilst also avoiding questions and requests for clarification on the situation.”

 


UPDATE (23.09.18)

Sikh activist raided speaks out

National Sikh Youth Federation spokesperson Shamsher Singh, one of those who was raided, explains his thoughts on why Sikhs were targeted and how this is reflective of Sikh history. Watch here.

The raids have now been linked with the current situation of Jagtar Singh Johal, the Scottish Sikh that has been detained by Indian authorities for just under a year, without any evidence or even witnesses presented against him. Read Sikh Siyasat’s report on this here.

 


Original article from 21.09.18

Members of the Sikh community are questioning how Indian media have gotten hold of details about police raids on UK Sikh homes earlier this week, after outlets named two individuals allegedly impacted.

Concerns have arisen about how the outlets may have gotten hold of such sensitive information after West Midlands Police were said to have been the source of the information, something which they have denied to the Sikh Press Association.

 

For both legal and ethical reasons, the Sikh Press Association will not repeat the identity of the individuals nor the publications which divulged their name.

 

Somebody described as ‘a top Punjab police officer’ has been quoted by an Indian media outlet as saying: ‘We have received confirmation from WMCTU [West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit] that the residences of both […] and […] were searched. There was, however, no confirmation on any arrests yet.’

However, on Friday afternoon West Midlands Police confirmed to the Sikh Press Association its policy of only naming individuals once they have been charged. According to Sikh PA sources, it is against British police protocol to name anyone involved in a case unless they have at least been arrested and it is of public interest.

During one of the raids, which occurred across the Midlands and in London, property of a National Sikh Youth Federation activist was confiscated. Electronic items such as laptops and hard-drives were seized by officers. The group has warned that ‘sharing NSYF information with Indian security forces investigating “extremist activity in India” places the lives of associates and their family members in direct danger of further harassment, torture, and extrajudicial murder’, based on the long history and current actions of Punjab police and Indian authorities which involves torture and fake encounters murders.

 

A further statement from the National Sikh Youth Federation addressed the issue of the leaked name:

‘This information makes it abundantly clear that Indian state security forces have not only instigated UK police actions, but are also abusing international legal mechanisms by circumventing the procedures of the UK police and their own integrity to vindictively target Sikh activists by leaking information to the Indian media.

‘The National Sikh Youth Federation is deeply concerned that the personal data and legally privileged information of Sikh activists will be shared with Indian security forces placing the lives of Sikhs in Indian-Occupied East Punjab in extreme danger.

‘If it wasn’t clear before it should be absolutely clear now that the primary motivation of the Indian state is to silence Sikh dissent by presenting long standing Sikh political grievances with the Indian regime and support for Khalistan as extremism and terrorism.’

 

The reaction of Indian media towards the raids has prompted criticism from the Sikh Press Association, for both a lack of evidence and non-use of important facts in regards to allegations of ‘Sikh extremism’ in the UK.

Sikh Press Association senior press officer Jasveer Singh said, ‘It is incredibly worrying to learn that Indian media outlets are citing British police forces as a source of information that should not be available to them. Are these Indian outlets just speculating and using West Midlands Police as their cover? If so, West Midlands police must publicly condemn them, and should do so with full support of the UK government.

‘On the Indian media’s side, we should not expect much. There is a proven history of anti-Sikh propaganda that is spewed out from various outlets, all of which lack evidence, context, and are usually clearly biased against Sikh activism. The best example of this is the 2015/16 Sikh extremism fake dossier scandal, the outcome of which no Indian outlets – bar Sikh Siyasat – covered. In regards to the raids, whilst Indian media accuse the UK of harbouring Khalistani extremists, a peer reviewed CREST approved report which clears suggestions of this nature goes unmentioned by them. Even when reaching out to our Indian media contacts, we get messages back (see image below) which say journalists there are under government pressure not to cover stories which may expose their wrongdoings. The only thing we can do is ask UK media not to follow suit and republish their hyperbolic content.’

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Widespread scepticism regarding the raids in the Sikh community led Britain’s first female Sikh MP and Chair of the APPG for British Sikhs Preet Kaur Gill to say on Thursday: ‘There is speculation that the police raids have political motives and targeting those activists who are outspoken on the 1984 Sikh Genocide issue. If this is the case it is totally unacceptable.’ She added that she would be raising this matter with the Home Secretary Sajid Javid, and in a meeting with the Chief Superintendent of West Midlands Police.

The belief that the Indian state may be behind the raids has been echoed by many, including journalists, respected humanitarians and activists across the world.

Sikh PA will continue to provide updates to this story as more information comes out.

GNG War statue graffiti

Statements on vandalism of Sikh soldier statue

Sikh Federation UK ask “Was it racism?” whilst Guru Nanak Gurdwara Smethwick request anyone with information to go the police.


Sikh organisations have come together to condemn the vandalism of a newly erected Sikh World War 1 soldier statue outside Smethwick Gurdwara.

The three-metre (10ft) bronze statue was unveiled on 4 November, a week before the centenary of the armistice, but it was found on Thursday night/early Friday morning to have been sprayed with the words “sepoys no more”.

The term “sepoy” refers to Indian soldiers serving in British or other European armies. The words “of the great war” from the statue’s title were also covered with a black line with “1 jarnail” graffitied next to it.

Sepoys no more graffiti

The Sikh Federation UK said of the vandalism, “Sikh Federation (UK) condemn the senseless and cowardly act of vandalism to deface the newly erected WW1 monument to the Sikh sacrifices ‘Lions of the Great War’. Was this an act of racism? ‘Sepoy’ was a phrase originally used derogatorily by the British because it denoted a relatively untrained local militia man.”

A statement from Guru Nanak Gurdwara Smethwick, who funded the statue, said, “We are aware of the vandalism that took place on the Lions of the Great War Monument site today and condemn this despicable and cowardly act.”

Jatinder Singh, President of Guru Nanak Gurdwara (GNG) Smethwick was extremely disappointed with the actions of the vandals but remained resolute.

“There was some vandalism to the back wall overnight which is very disappointing. The graffiti was cleaned off and the matter was reported to the police.

Working with the council we won’t allow this vandalism to undermine the very strong message created by this new monument and the overwhelmingly positive reaction to its unveiling.

What makes this incident particularly distressing, is the complete disregard and lack of respect for the significance of the statue and inscriptions, installed recently to commemorate the losses felt by many South Asian families who lost their dear ones during the First World War and mark 100 years since the end of the Great War.”

GNG Smethwick have advised anyone who witnesses vandalism or other anti-social behaviour taking place to report any incidents to the police as soon as possible.

Sikhs at War, an organisation dedicated to documenting and highlighting the Sikh contribution to the World Wars, called the act “utterly shocking and despicable”.

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Sikhs to lobby MPs over community concerns

Sikhs from across the country are planning to converge on Westminster for a mass lobby of MPs.

The mass lobby has been organised by The Sikh Federation UK on Wednesday 14th November from 12pm in Parliament.

After meeting in the central lobby, attendees will then proceed to Committee Room 6 to hear an update on the raiding of the homes of Sikh activists in Britain in September.

In the run up to the lobby, over 150 MPs have been contacted by Sikhs about five issues of community concern:

  • The need for a Sikh ethnic tick box in the Census 2021
  • Amending the Offensive Weapons Bill to ensure there are no restrictions on the Sikh community on the sale, possession and use of the large Sikh Kirpan
  • The absence of a suitable response to the Sacrificing Sikhs report supporting an independent public inquiry on UK involvement in the 1984 Sikh Genocide and anti-Sikh measures taken against Sikhs in the UK
  • The first anniversary of the torture and imprisonment of Jagtar Singh Johal, the 31-year old from Dumbarton
  • The police raids on the homes of five British Sikh activists in Birmingham, Coventry, Leicester and London

Following a legal case in 1983, Sikhs have been recognised as a separate ethnicity in the UK. There is currently a campaign to have this reflected in the next census so that information on Sikhs is available when it comes to the provision of public services.

Regarding the Offensive Weapons Bill, many Sikhs have expressed concern that the community has not been adequately consulted with regard to the Kirpan – a sword worn by Amritdhari (Initiated) Sikhs. the Home Office failed to consult representative Sikh organisations in formulating its policy equality statement released in June 2018 alongside the bill.

There has also been a lack of response to ‘Sacrificing Sikhs’ – the report commissioned by the Sikh Federation UK into British government involvement in the attack on Sri Darbar Sahib in 1984. The report contained a number of damning findings include the fact that Parliament was misled. Many in the Sikh community are demanding an independent public inquiry into UK involvement in the 1984 Sikh Genocide, a position which the Labour party has formally endorsed in its manifesto.

Sunday 4th November will mark the one year anniversary of the abduction and detention of British citizen Jagtar Singh Johal in India. He has been tortured and denied both an independent medical examination and private consular access. He has faced trial by media and has had over 60 court hearings, none of which featured any evidence against him. Three UN rapporteurs have formally raised his case with the Indian authorities and at the UN Human Rights Council.

Following the raids on the homes of British Sikh activists in September, many questions have been left unanswered. All of those targeted were campaigning for the release of Jagtar Singh Johal in India. During the raids, family members including young children and elderly relatives were harassed. The personal details of the activists – none of whom were arrested – were printed in the Indian media, along with quotes from an Indian security official saying that the raids were as a result of Indian diplomatic pressure on British authorities.

The Sikh Federation UK have provided a template letter which Sikhs can use to write to their local MP, asking them to take action on the above points.

 

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Nari Kaur (far right) is a volunteer for SWAT Youth.

Sikh charity worker selected as one of the ‘Women of the Year’

A volunteer for Sikh ethos organisation SWAT Youth was handpicked as one of 400 guests to attend a ‘Women of the Year’ national lunch, highlighting outstanding female individuals across the UK.

Nari Kaur Sohal, a sevadaar (selfless volunteer) of Sikh Welfare Awareness Team (SWAT) Youth, was invited to the lunch at the Intercontinental Hotel (London) meet on October 15th, where all invitees are considered award winners for their outstanding community contributions.

Nari Kaur is a dedicated sevadaar that helps SWAT Youth run their programmes for children and young people that revolve around Sikh education and general well being. A SWAT Youth statement on the nomination for their sevadaar noted, “Whilst Seva is done from the heart and not for the recognition we cannot overlook this great milestone for Sikh Welfare Awareness Team Youth to have our first Sikh woman sevadaar recognised.”

Women of the Year has recognised, celebrated and inspired women of all backgrounds for over 60 years and continues to shine a light on extraordinary women through an annual lunch, lectures and on-going foundation work.

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Sikh anger worldwide as Twitter blocks 1984 Sikh genocide site

Sikhs across the world have been left shocked and angered at a Twitter block of a prominent Sikh human rights website.

Twitter, one of the world’s most popular social media platforms and most visited sites, is currently blocking any tweet containing a link to www.1984sikhgenocide.org   

The website is a portal from Sikh advocacy group Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) which allows constituents to send pre-drafted emails to their political representative (e.g. Congressmen and Senators in the US, MPs in the UK etc.). More than 25,000 emails have been sent via the website.

This is part of a campaign launched by SFJ on October 21st urging various governments to recognise November 1st as Sikh Genocide Remembrance Day. Through tests, the Sikh Press Association has confirmed the block is nothing to do with a word filter or a webpage security issue.

Twitter has also suspended the personal account (under his own name) of SFJ Legal Advisor Gurpatwant Singh Pannun. Gurpatwant Singh also has his work account which still exists. He said, “This is yet another example of trading human rights for business considerations wherein Twitter has blocked tweets about SFJ’s Sikh genocide commemoration campaign on the behest of Indian authorities”.

This action has sparked the anger of Sikhs across the world who have accused Twitter of suppressing legitimate human rights activism.

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Pav Singh, author of 1984: India’s Guilty Secret, issued a warning to Twitter via a tweet saying: “Indian authorities having been blocking the truth about #1984SikhGenocide for 34 years. @Twitter @TwitterSupport don’t follow suit. Never compromise over Human Rights & Freedom of Speech despite govt pressure.”

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Rahul Tripathi, a journalist at the Indian Express, tweeted on Thursday morning: Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba met with reps from #Facebook, #Google, #Twitter, #Whatsapp, You Tube, Instagram to prevent misuse of social media sites by undesirable elements / miscreants to spread rumours, cause unrest, incite cyber crimes.” He added: Gauba asked social media gaints [sic] to take steps & nominate India based grievance redressal officers, develop a monitoring mechanism for time bound preventive & to remove objectionable contents from public view & prompt sharing of information sought by agencies. #lynching.”

It seems likely that the blocking of such a high-profile Sikh genocide website is connected to the Home Secretary’s meeting, although this has not been confirmed.

Twitter have not yet responded to the online tweets about the block, leading to Sikhs being urged to contact Twitter via an online complaint form, which can be accessed here.

Andrew Ayre

Sikh Federation UK slams ‘half-truths’ from senior British diplomat on Sikh community meetings

The Sikh Federation UK has hit back at British Deputy High Commission Andrew Ayre over his ‘half-truths’ following an interview he gave to the Times of India.

The British Deputy High Commissioner in Chandigarh, India met with several Sikh organisations in Britain on 25th September during a trip to the UK. According to the Sikh Federation UK, there was no discussion about a separate Sikh state, the 2020 Punjab referendum, nor the police raids of Sikh activists’ homes at that meeting. Yet the title of the Times of India piece featuring the interview was titled ‘There’s no legal basis for a separate state: Andrew Ayre’

Instead there was what has been described as a lengthy conversation about the human rights situation in India and an acknowledgement from the Deputy High Commissioner that it is ‘dire’. The Sikh Federation made clear in the meeting that the Foreign Office had totally and consistently failed by excluding India from its annual report on human rights.

Jagtar Singh, a Scottish human rights activist, has been imprisoned in India for nearly a year. The Deputy High Commissioner visited him in prison in Punjab, and then discussed what was said in that meeting at the 25th September meeting despite Jagtar Singh authorising him to discuss it with only his family, his MP and the Sikh Federation. Ayre was rebuked by Jagtar Singh’s family when he met them on 28th September who also told him he lived in ‘an ivory tower in Chandigarh and was ignorant to the long-term suffering and experiences of ordinary Sikhs in Punjab’. In the interview the Deputy High Commissioner said that he saw no evidence of Sikhs being mistreated in Punjab.

Chair of the Sikh Federation UK Bhai Amrik Singh said:

“The interview by Andrew Ayre in The Times of India is an absolute disgrace. He has become a mouthpiece for the Indian state and as far as British Sikhs are concerned he cannot be trusted to represent our interests.”

“He has not had the decency to apologise to the family of Jagtar Singh Johal for a serious breach of confidentiality and shown with his latest outburst he has no sense of compassion or understanding for the plight of Sikhs in Punjab.”

“Foreign Office Ministers have emphasised the need to avoid ‘megaphone diplomacy’ when it comes to India. However, this interview shows it remains a priority for British diplomats that have double standards to keep India happy at the expense of the Sikh minority in the UK and Punjab.”

The full statement from Sikh Federation UK can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/SikhFederationUK/posts/1928091370612406