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Nijjar’s assassination: Sikhs deny entry to Indian diplomats into UK gurdwaras

Hardeep Singh Nijjar was Coordinator of SFJ in Canada and was assassinated by Indian agents in July

October 02, 2023
An image of former Gurdwara President Jathedar Hardeep Singh Nijjar is displayed at the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara temple in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada, on September 19, 2023. — AFP

LONDON: Upholding prohibition on visits by Indian officials to Gurdwaras, Sikh organisations in the UK have said the ban on Indian diplomats remains in place and their steadfast dedication to Khalistan will continue. The restriction was initiated after the 1984 attack on Sri Darbar Sahib.

In a collective statement from Panthic Jathebandia in the UK, hundreds of Sikh organisations reacted to accusations made against them in Indian media after the Indian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Vikram Doraiswami, was denied entry into Gurdwara Albert in Glasgow by a group of Sikhs. They were protesting the killing of pro-Khalistan leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar by the Indian state agents.

A row erupted after the Sikh youth stopped the Indian high commissioner who had to flee the premises. The Indian government has condemned the UK Sikhs for denying entry to the senior Indian diplomat.

The Sikh groups and Gurdwaras said India is involved in the genocide of Sikhs and the recent killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar was an example.

Hardeep Singh Nijjar was Coordinator of Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) in Canada and was assassinated by Indian agents in July this year for leading the Khalistan Referendum campaign. He was also President of Canada’s biggest Gurdwara in British Columbia, where he was killed inside the holy premises. He was a close associate of Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, the General Counsel to SFJ.

The Sikh groups called upon the Indian High Commission to respond to the accusations levelled by the Canadian prime minister regarding its involvement in the assassination of Nijjar in Canada. They also urged the commission to acknowledge its role in the death of pro-Khalistan activist Avtar Singh Khanda, who died two days after Nijjar’s killing, instead of adopting a victim stance in the media so as to evade accountability when faced with on-the-ground challenges.

Sikh groups said the practice of refusing entry to Indian officials visiting Gurdwaras in their official role was not a recent or contentious one. Rather, it is considered a fundamental duty by many Sikhs to demonstrate solidarity with the sacrifices made by Khalistan martyrs.

The Indian media’s characterisation of the incident as an “attack” and their labelling of three Sikhs as “extremists, “Khalistani goons” and “terrorists” demonstrates how far the Indian media is willing to go to discredit and criminalise Sikh expressions of dissent, they said.

Panthic Jathebandia invoked the ban that traces its origins to 1984 when Indian officials were initially barred from entry. They consider this ban as a distinct manifestation of their support and a reaction to the mistreatment of Jagtar Singh Johal in 2018.

The UK Sikh Gurdwaras said: “In February 2018, over 255 UK Gurdwaras reaffirmed their commitment to this ban in reaction to Johal’s unjust detention and harsh treatment.” Later, in September 2018, this ban was expanded to include police officers, influenced by police raids initiated by the Indian government against Sikh activists advocating for Jagtar Singh Johal’s release, they said. In many Gurdwaras worldwide, including Sri Darbar Sahib, strong support for Sikh martyrs is clear. The visit itself may have been arranged via the conservative MSP Pam Gosal, which further emphasises the visit was a political one, they said.

Sikhs said: “Many Sikhs in the UK consider this secret visit as an insult, especially in light of recent revelations affirming the Indian government’s role in the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar."

Currently, support for Khalistan among the diaspora is strong, and the Indian government and media have seized on the Glasgow incident to fuel anti-Sikh sentiments by portraying Khalistan negatively, they said.

Sikh groups called on Gurdwaras not to be utilised as extensions of the Indian consulate. Their dedication to supporting Khalistan remains steadfast, and they are resolute in their determination to thwart any efforts to fabricate propaganda implying Sikh support for the Indian state.