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Tuesday May 28, 2024

Sikhs reiterate entry denial to Indian diplomats across UK Gurdwaras after Nijjar’s assassination

New Delhi condemns UK Sikhs for denying entry to the Indian senior diplomat

By Murtaza Ali Shah
October 01, 2023
The diplomat was approached by Sikh activists outside a Glasgow Gurdwara. — X@nishanchilkuri
The diplomat was approached by Sikh activists outside a Glasgow Gurdwara. — X@nishanchilkuri

LONDON: Upholding the enduring prohibition on Indian officials' visits to Gurdwaras, a restriction initiated after the 1984 attack on Sri Darbar Sahib, Sikh organisations in the United Kingdom (UK) have said that the ban on Indian diplomats from entering the UK Gurdwaras remains in place and their steadfast dedication to Khalistan will continue.

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 UK, Vikram Doraiswami, was denied entry into Gurdwara Albert in Glasgow by a group of Sikh activists protesting the killing of pro-Khalistan leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar by the India 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 Indian senior diplomat but the Sikh groups and Gurdwaras have reacted strongly, saying that India is involved in the genocide of Sikhs and the recent killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar was an example. 

Nijjar was the Coordinator of Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) in Canada and was assassinated by Indian agents in June this year for leading the Khalistan Referendum campaign in Canada. 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 group called upon the Indian high commission to respond to the accusations levelled by the Canadian Prime Minister regarding their involvement in the assassination of Nijjar in Canada. They also urged the commission to acknowledge their role in the death of pro-Khalistan activist Avtar Singh Khanda, who died two days after Nijjar’s assassination, instead of adopting a victim stance in the media, only to evade accountability when faced with on-the-ground challenges.

Sikh groups said that the practice of refusing entry to Indian officials visiting Gurdwaras in their official roles is 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 the three Sikhs as "extremists," "Khalistani goons," and "terrorists" demonstrates how far the Indian media is willing to go to discredit and criminalize Sikh expressions of dissent.

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. 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 emphasizes the visit was a political one.

The statement added: “The Indian high commissioner met with the Scottish First Minister the day before and repeated Indian government propaganda that aims to vilify Jagtar Singh Johal, who has been held in India since November 2017 without clear cause. Given this context, it's apparent that the

The Gurdwara committee anticipated a backlash from Sikhs worldwide regarding the invitation. This is why the visit by Indian officials was kept secret, scheduled for midday on a Friday when only committee members were expected to be present at the Gurdwara.

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. Sikh groups call 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."

The Sikhs taking part in the action described the situation as follows: "Upon arriving at the Gurdwara, only a few committee members were in the lobby, awaiting the Indians. We went upstairs for prayers and later had tea in the langar. Aside from the committee and a few volunteers in the langar, no one else was present. A separate banquet table was set up for the Indians. When we learned of their arrival, we attempted to prevent entry and asked questions. They swiftly departed from the car park.

“The only conflict arose from an overly enthusiastic committee member who falsely claimed to have been assaulted. We request the release of Gurdwara CCTV footage to the sangat (congregation) and ask the committee to refrain from making further baseless allegations. We emphasize that Gurdwara committees should not use these sacred places for their personal agendas. If there are Sikhs who prioritize their personal interests over the Sikh struggle and seek visas, they should approach the Indian embassy like anyone else, rather than turning the Gurdwara into an extension of the Indian consulate. Our support for Khalistan is unwavering, and we will oppose any efforts to fabricate propaganda suggesting Sikh support for the Indian state.”