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

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