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.’

WhatsApp Image 2018-09-21 at 2.00.47 PM

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

5 river flow

How I Became A Poet – J. Kaur 

My name is Jasmine Kaur and I am a poet.

It’s taken me ten years to accept this fact. I still automatically correct people when they
refer to me as one, before having to correct my own mistake. I am definitely a poet.

During my childhood, so few of the writers I came across resembled me or had anything in
common with who I was. This played a role in finding it difficult to identify myself as a poet.
As a child, I used to read a lot, often as a form of escapism. I would write to block out the
reality I was existing in, but I never thought writing would become such an integral part of
my existence later in life.

As a young, ambitious, Sikh Punjabi woman, I have found my voice through poetry. But it
took a while to get here and the journey was not easy by any means. I remember a sleepless
night back in the winter of 2012: I was ploughing through Tumblr and this was the first time
I came across the work of Rupi Kaur. I’d finally found a writer I could relate to in some way
or form. Fast forward two years and Miss Kaur had taken the daunting steps to self-publish
her incredible debut poetry collection Milk and Honey.

Since the age of thirteen I have been battling severe depression and throughout the last five
years of my life, traumatic events occurred that resulted in life threatening consequences. If
I hadn’t picked up a pen and started writing poetry, I don’t think I would be alive and able to
share my experience with you. I used to stay silent regarding my struggle but poetry has
enabled me to lose my fear of being stigmatised. It gave me the opportunity to explore the
darker, more sinister parts of my psyche which I was too ashamed to discuss with a
counsellor or trained professional.

My poetry is my way of expressing my viewpoint on Sikh politics/political struggle, the Sikh
diaspora, Sikh history, female empowerment, human rights, rape/sexual assault, mental
health, taboo subjects in the Punjabi community, and any other issues that are personal to
me. I would fill countless journals but the poetry remained private. However, in 2013
(using Rupi Kaur as my inspiration) I began to upload my poetry onto Instagram. I then
decided to start sharing my work across multiple social media platforms and this sparked my
interest in spoken-word poetry. I haven’t looked back since. It wasn’t until I started sharing
my work publicly that I saw how diverse the world of poetry really is. I have met poets from
all over the world and established a network of friends who are truly dedicated to their
individual political struggle, who I connected with through my poetry.

It is imperative young people get to read work from writers they can identify with, whether
that be writers who look like them, sound like them, or have shared similar experiences to
them. Being a young woman from the Punjabi community, many of the things I say, do and
write are regarded as controversial. I am here to make a difference, to burn each and every
single ivory tower that stands in my way and smash glass ceilings. I am not the woman to
bow down to societal, familial or patriarchal constraints. I want to abolish stereotypes in the
personal, political and professional areas of life for women of colour like myself.
I made a promise to myself that I would one day self-publish my own poetry collection and
this finally came to fruition in 2018. Roses and revolution is a collection of my personal and
political revolutions, which will be available later this year.

I never thought I would become a poet and it definitely did not occur by accident. It was a
combination of different factors – it was a natural process. I strongly believe each Sikh
possesses innate artistic qualities as we hail from the great artists, scholars, poets and
musicians. Sikh scripture is entirely made up of poetry. To be Sikh is to love poetry.

One important piece of advice I have for anyone who wants to share their writing is to stay
true to who you are. I’m saying this from my own personal experiences. Do not exploit
another person’s work. If you use their art as your inspiration, you must give credit where
it’s due. It’s easy to rephrase or copy someone but it’s also harmful and offensive. You
never know the amount of emotional labour that has gone into a writer’s work. Most
importantly, write about what you know. There is no point trying to produce something if it
doesn’t relate to you somehow. Do it for yourself, or for a justified cause you are passionate
about.

Pick up a pen, paintbrush, instrument or whatever your weapon of choice may be and
discover your hidden talent. You never know who you are quietly inspiring.

Roses and Revolution will be coming out later this year. Follow Jasmine Kaur under her
poetry pseudonym fiveriverflow – https://www.instagram.com/fiveriverflow/.

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Sikh PA Statement regarding The Sun’s Front Page 25.09.18

STATEMENT REGARDING THE SUN’S FRONT PAGE ON 25th SEPTEMBER 2018

‘Today, the front page of The Sun prominently featured a story regarding a Sikh accompanied by an article less than 300 words long. It is ridiculous that an article regarding a single individual in an internal disciplinary situation made the front page. This is not front page news, even for the sensationalist Sun newspaper.

‘The MoD have confirmed that this story involves ‘a number of soldiers from the Coldstream Guards’. While pictures of the Sikh soldier and his family have been included, not even the names of the other two personnel have been disclosed. The Sun’s coverage talked only of the Sikh guard’s ‘shame’.

‘In just four months last year more than 200 service personnel tested positive for drugs; how many of them have made the front pages of national newspapers? What are each of their religious affiliations?

‘This exceptional and exclusive coverage, determined by religion, has deliberately ignored what is a more widespread issue involving hundreds of service personnel each year. Almost every Army regiment has had soldiers testing positive for drugs. Selective coverage like today’s only fans the flames of racial and religious intolerance.

‘Last week, Sikh human rights activists in the UK had their houses raided by counter-terror police after pressure from the Indian authorities, according to Indian media. There was widespread concern in the Sikh community that these were politically motivated to disrupt legitimate human rights activism rather than an investigation of criminal acts. Instead of reporting the suppression of those British Sikhs exposing state genocide, The Sun has opted to splash this on its front page.’