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Outrage as top Foreign Office official meets with Chief Minister of Punjab, without mentioning Jaggi

NOTE – Since this story broke, Foreign Office secretary Sir Simon Mcdonald further upset the Sikh community by tweeting about the ‘golden mosque’ of Amritsar, in what was an obvious mistake in reference to Sri Darbar Sahib, often called the Golden Temple.

Supporters of the #FreeJaggiNow campaign were left outraged today after learning the chief civil servant at the UK Foreign Office met Punjab’s Chief Minister (CM), without mentioning the case of Jagtar Singh Johal, the Scotsman currently detained by Punjab authorities.

Social media was awash with messages asking why the case of Jagtar Singh, currently detained in India for over 160 days without any charge and having been denied both a private meeting with British consulate and an independent medical, was not raised.

The meeting was revealed on Twitter this morning, after both Punjab’s CM Captain Amarinder and Sir Simon McDonald, Permanent Secretary at the Foreign Office, tweeted images about their meeting. This was the first the #FreeJaggiNow team, who have been pushing for further UK government intervention in the case of Jagtar Singh Johal, learnt of the meeting.

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Speaking with the Sikh Press Association, Gurpreet Singh, brother of Jagtar and one of the leads of the #FreeJaggiNow campaign, said ‘This morning I found out from Twitter of all places that the most senior official at the Foreign Office, Sir Simon McDonald, is currently in Punjab, where my brother Jagtar Singh has been in custody without charge for nearly six months.’

Jagtar Singh, currently being held in Nabha prison, was approximately only 13 miles from the location of McDonald and Amarinder’s meeting, allegedly in Patiala. Despite this, it seems the Foreign Office delegation that went to meet Punjab officials did not raise the issue of Jagtar Singh’s detainment at all.

Gurpreet added, ‘I am outraged that the Foreign Office has sent its most senior official to Punjab behind my back, not to talk about a British citizen’s human rights, but about post-Brexit trade in Chandigarh. While at the residence of Captain Amrinder Singh in Patiala, Sir Simon was less than 15 miles from Nabha jail, where my brother languishes in custody without charge, without an independent medical examination, and without private consular access.’

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Jagtar Singh’s local MP, Martin Docherty-Hughes of the Scottish National Party, also tweeted out his thoughts, stating he hoped ‘there was discussion on the case of Jagtar Singh Johal’, whilst also using the hashtag #transparency. Only last week Gurpreet Singh also highlighted the lack of transparency in what is actually being discussed between UK and Indian authorities in regards to his brother, after Prime Minister Theresa May told stated she discussed the Scotsman’s situation with her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi.

‘For months, I have been petitioning the Foreign Office to intervene in his situation and secure his basic human rights. In this, they have failed. Is that why I was not told that the Head of Britain’s Diplomatic Service is visiting Punjab? That my family and I were not informed about this trip is an insult, and a clear sign that the British government does not care about one of its own citizens. While Sir Simon is busy tweeting pictures of himself having a good time in Punjab, my family and I are in agony. And it seems as if he doesn’t care.’

The lack of transparency as well as a perceived lack of action by the UK Government has only added to mistrust felt by supporters of the #FreeJaggiNow campaign, who were promised ‘extreme action’ by the Foreign Office in November 2017. This sentiment is also being echoed among many within the Sikh community, who feel the treatment of Sikhs and other minority communities in India, is overlooked in favour of trade relationships. Calls were even made by the National Sikh Youth Federation for Sikh orgs to boycott the upcoming central London Trafalgar Square Vaisakhi celebrations, until the UK government shows it’s support in challenging India’s human rights violations.
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‘This kind of thing will only add to the belief that Sikhs and anyone else looking to challenge the plethora of human rights abuses by the Indian state does not have the support of our own UK government in holding them to account. Nevertheless, we will remain steadfast in our campaign to highlight the mistreatment of Jagtar Singh by both Indian authorities and the British, as we continue to do all we can to bring him.’

NOTE – Since this story broke, Foreign Office secretary Sir Simon Mcdonald further upset the Sikh community by tweeting about the ‘golden mosque’ of Amritsar, in what was an obvious mistake in reference to Sri Darbar Sahib, often called the Golden Temple.

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