INTERNATIONAL SIKH CONFERENCE AND UK SIKH PARLIAMENTARY ADVISORY GROUP VOWS TO TAKE FORWARD STRUGGLE FOR NATIONAL SELF-DETERMINATION
An international conference in Birmingham, UK to mark the 22nd anniversary of the Declaration of Khalistan in 1986 saw a united call from leading Sikh organisations to step up their campaign to secure self determination for the Sikhs in their homeland. Following on from last week's endorsement of Khalistan by the Jathedar of Sri Akal Takht Sahib, the Conference raised the demand for a UN supervised plebiscite in Punjab, so that the Sikhs can democratically and peacefully demonstrate to the world their commitment to adhere to the historic 1986 decision taken by their national body (the Sarbat Khalsa) to establish an independent sovereign Sikh state. High profile backing for their struggle was delivered by leaders of other nations that are also being denied freedom by the colonialist, Hindutva-based entity that India has become.
A separate meeting of the Sikh Advisory Panel of the cross-party Westminster group 'Parliamentarians for National Self-Determination' (PNSD) endorsed the Conference resolutions and agreed to ramp up its campaign to win international support for Sikh self-determination and to bring to justice those within the Indian ruling elite that have wantonly carried out systematic and massive human rights abuses in order to suppress the Sikh freedom struggle. The Advisory Panel received substantive engagement from local parliamentarians on the issues it has raised with them and resolved to lobby for effective action at UK, EU and UN levels.
Khalistan Day Conference
Justice (ret'd) Ajit Singh Bains, Convenor of the Punjab Human Rights Organisation, in a key note address to the Conference, said the Sikhs faced grave threats to their very identity which was being deliberately eroded by a calculating Indian establishment. From the genocidal assault on the Sikh nation over the last 25 years, the constitutional categorisation of their religion as part of Hinduism, the worsening economic deprivation, the theft of their precious natural water resources in defiance of accepted riparian law, deliberate demographic changes in Punjab, marginalisation of the Punjabi language and culture to the blatant suppression of Sikh political activism, India has a complete stranglehold on the nation and its territory. He urged the Sikhs to take a unified and principled stand in their struggle for freedom and said that if they did so, no power on earth could stop the establishment of Khalistan.
Prithipal Singh of Dal Khalsa International pledged to step up his already significant efforts to expose, on the international stage and especially at the UN, India's shameful human rights record. Khalistan he said was the birthright of the Sikhs who would not rest until they secured that freedom which the Sarbat Khalsa had freely determined as the nation's destiny. Simranjit Singh Mann, President of Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) - who has been denied his passport by the Indian courts unless he agrees not to raise the demand for Khalistan when abroad - took part in the proceedings by telephone. He said the Sikh struggle for Khalistan will be pursued by peaceful and democratic means to its successful conclusion, so that the dreams of the tens of thousands of Sikhs who have laid down their lives for the cause would be realised. He derided those puppet Sikhs who, having once themselves demanded a sovereign Sikh state in a written memorandum to the UN Secretary General, have now backed down under Indian intimidation and become allied to the fascist forces of Hindutva.
Professor Tim Kaping of the Naga Support Centre, UK delivered a powerful message of friendship and goodwill from the top leadership (Qhevihe Chishi Swu) of the NSCN, which is itself currently engaged in a peace process with India aimed at securing Naga self determination in Nagalim. The Naga leadership spoke of their admiration for the "indomitable revolutionary spirit of the people of Khalistan and the resolute stand they have taken for keeping alive the torch of freedom". They did not espouse enmity with India or any other party but condemned "any state which uses military might to crush the legitimate movements of the dominated nations for self-determination as colonial".
Gulam Mohammad Safi, a representative of Syeed Ali Geelani of the All Party Hurriet Conference from Indian-occupied Kashmir, urged the Sikhs to stand firm in their quest for freedom and to be wary of traps that India will lay to frustrate them. He spoke of his admiration for shaheed Sant Jarnail Singh Bhinderanwale who was able to give the Sikhs direction at a crucial time in their history.
Dr Mukul Hazarika of Assam Watch also said Sikhs should be wary of India's tactics and duplicities in dealing with nations who wanted nothing other than to peacefully enjoy their right to freedom, security and control over their natural resources. The Assamese have also had recent experience of India's refusal to engage in meaningful dialogue, as well of course as its reliance on state terrorism and notorious draconian laws like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (condemned by the UN itself) to defeat their political struggle.
Lord Nazir Ahmed, Chair PNSD, spoke of the legitimacy of the Sikh nation's struggle for Khalistan and the urgent need to hold India to account for the atrocities against a proud and enlightened nation. He said the UK Parliament should establish a commission to investigate India's systematic abuses against the Sikhs, Kashmiris, Nagas and others; it is clear that India itself will not deliver justice and it therefore falls on the international community to step in.
Avtar Singh Sanghera of the 'Kar Seva Committee' which has carried out extensive work on Sikh Gurdwaras in Pakistan compared the treatment of Sikhs in that country (where the Sikh Anand Marriage Act was recently adopted) to the humiliation heaped on Sikhs in India which refuses to scrap Article 25 of its constitution (which brands Sikhs as Hindus for the purposes of personal law and religious classification). There was no doubt he said that Sikhs have no future as a nation without establishing Khalistan in their homeland, in line with the historic decision taken in 1986. Kashmir Singh, Gen. Sec. of the British Sikh Federation, said that all minorities will be safe in Khalistan as the Sikhs had an unwavering belief in egalitarian principles and human rights. The country he said would have huge economic potential and would serve as a beacon for the entire sub-continent. The international community should welcome the break up of another multi-national and artificial state which has lost its legitimacy, just as it has done with the Soviet empire and former Yugoslavia.
Sukhvinder Singh, of the Sikh Federation, UK urged Sikhs to intensify their efforts to raise awareness amongst the international community about the violation of Sikh human rights in India, as well as the sound legal and democratic basis for Khalistan. This is particularly important given the Indian propaganda machine's new attempts to malign the Sikhs and their cause. Gurmej Singh Gill praised the organisers for marking this key event in Sikh history and thanked fellow freedom loving nations for their support and solidarity.
Manmohan Singh Khalsa, founder member of Dal Khalsa International, said that Sarbat Khalsa's decision was a befitting response to Indian aggression and that Khalistan was the only means by which Sikh aspirations could be met as a member of the global community of nations.
Amrik Singh Sahota, OBE, President of the Council of Khalistan which organised the Conference, expressed his gratitude to the participants and said it would send an important message to the Indian state - no amount of repression will end the Sikh's lawful and democratic struggle for freedom. The Sarbat Khalsa's decision on 26 January 1986 and the Declaration of Khalistan on 29 April 1986 were forever part of the Sikh nation's heritage and each passing day reinforces our resolve that independence is the only way forward for the Sikhs.
PNSD Sikh Advisory Panel Annual General Meeting
The Sikh Advisory Panel meeting was chaired by Lord Ahmed, Chair of PNSD and attended by representatives of all the leading UK Sikh organisations pursuing the struggle for self-determination for the Sikh nation.
PNSD has provided a platform at Westminster for a number of nations seeking to exercise self-determination - a fundamental human right recognised as such by the UN- by exclusively peaceful and democratic means. It promotes this as a process based on international law and as a crucial means of conflict resolution. PNSD, as does the UN, recognises the critical nexus between the denial of self-determination and the systematic abuse of individual human rights. Respect for both collective and individual human rights are seen by it as key to a just and equitable world order.
A number of important messages were received from local parliamentarians who were invited to share their views as to how to address the numerous human rights concerns that had been raised with them by the Advisory Panel.
John Spellar MP's message, in relation to the massive human rights abuses suffered by the Sikhs in India since 1984, spoke of the "considerable number of atrocities" that took place and noted that "these events are still deeply felt by the community and there is a strong and legitimate feeling that those responsible at all levels should be brought to justice". It is important he said "not only in the Sikh community, but also for the state of India as it faces up to aspects of its past".
Khalid Mahmood MP in his message to the organisers said all UK parliamentarians should uphold self determination as a means to deliver civil liberties and fundamental human rights to protect the very identities of peoples around the world. He said that the Sikhs, as a nation, were fully deserving of that approach and added that he fully endorsed the Panel's call for international action to bring those guilty of rights violations to be brought to justice in view of the impunity which has protected them to this day.
A message from Roger Godsiff, MP said "self determination and the respect for human rights is the cornerstone on which all civilised societies are based and we must be prepared to speak out and to take international action through the UN and other international forums to try and ensure that all countries in the world observe these two principles".
In a statement issued to the Advisory Panel by John Hemmings, MP said that it was important to consider how minorities are treated by majority communities across the world and that self-determination is relevant to this. In terms of those who campaign for self-determination he stressed that "self determination does not give any country the right to oppress minorities".
Malcolm Harbour, MEP wished the meeting success and pledged that he would ensure that Sikh human rights concerns were raised at the EU's bodies dealing with foreign affairs and human rights.
The Sikh Advisory Panel's activities over the last year were reviewed, including participation in numerous PNSD events at Westminster, organising a briefing to the head of the India Desk at the UK Foreign Office on the legitimacy and history of the Khalistan cause and participation in key briefings to UN bodies and NGOs at the UN in Geneva.
Plans for future activities of the Panel were discussed and will include continuing to raise awareness of the causes of the Indo-Sikh conflict and the means to resolve it - ultimately a UN sponsored plebiscite in Punjab. An independence referendum, held under international supervision, is the only democratic way forward towards a settlement of the conflict as India has shown no willingness to engage with the Sikhs by way of bilateral settlement. It has defied the UN's own human rights bodies by refusing to accept that the right to self-determination, as enshrined in the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which it has acceded to, applies to any nations or peoples in its territory.
The example of Kosovo is a clear precedent of how the world can successfully intervene to protect human rights. The meeting warmly appreciated a message of support from Mehmed Stublla, an Imam of the UK Kosovo community: "In a momentous year for the people of Kosovo, when we secured the freedom that is our birthright, I am delighted to extend my goodwill to your gathering on Khalistan Day to commemorate the historic decision taken by the Sikh Nation in 1986 to establish a sovereign state in the Sikh homeland, in accordance with your right in international law. We have, like you suffered oppression as the hands of a state which has lost its legitimacy to govern your people by systematically violating their basic human rights. I wish your people every success in their noble struggle for freedom".
In addition, protection of individual human rights as well as the bringing to justice of those guilty of genocide against the Sikhs will be a key focus for the Sikh Advisory Panel. Next year will be the 25th anniversary of the November 1984 anti-Sikh pogroms in India, which saw 10,000 butchered in three days of state sponsored carnage - it will be a milestone in the continuing scandal that allows the perpetrators to walk free. Justice Bains spoke of the immediate need to abolish the use of the death penalty which has been used disproportionately against minorities even where the evidence against the accused was poor. Concern was also expressed for Sikhs who continue to be arrested and detained on false charges of terrorism, despite the armed conflict in Punjab subsiding some 16 years ago. The use by the discredited Punjab Police of false sedition charges to arrest, detain and silence Sikh leaders in Punjab who merely call for Sikh rights to be respected was also condemned - it was agreed that this needs to be exposed at international level to show how the democratic rights of the Sikhs have been denied, whatever India's tall claims to democratic credentials might be.
Members of the Panel and the organisations they represent were congratulated for their efforts. In particular there was deep appreciation for Justice Bains, who has been illegally detained by Indian security forces for his work as a leading human rights defender in Punjab. As a leading member of the Panel, he had travelled to the UK specifically for this key meeting and was able to welcome new members Sukhvinder Singh (Sikh Federation, UK) and Pritihipal Singh (Dal Khalsa, Switzerland). They join existing members Balbir Singh (Kar Seva Committee), Amrik Singh Sahota, OBE (Council of Khalistan), Chain Singh (SAD(Amritsar), France), Kashmir Singh (British Sikh Federation), Manmohan Singh (Dal Khalsa).
The meeting fully endorsed the Resolutions unanimously passed earlier in the day by the congregation at the Khalistan Day Conference. These are set out below:
1. Today's Panthic gathering affirms its commitment to the establishment of a sovereign independent Sikh state pursuant to the decision of the Sarbat Khalsa of 26 January 1986 and in accordance with international law. In taking forward our just struggle we salute the sacrifices made by hundreds of thousands of Sikh martyrs who have laid down their lives in the face of the genocidal policies of the Indian state.
2. Given the investigations and reports carried out by numerous human rights organisations, we urge the UN Human Rights Council and other UN organs to take effective steps to deal with India's systematic and massive violations of human rights including extra-judicial killings, secret cremations, illegal detentions, torture and state sponsored pogroms and to give severe punishment to the war criminals responsible for these atrocities as well as to ensure that India, as a serial violator of human rights, is not given a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.
3. Today's gathering welcomes all Sikh participants as well as the representatives of the other nations, such as the Kashmiris, Nagas and Assamese, who have today joined us and pledged to align with us in defeating oppression and colonialism and who, through their representative panels, will work with PNSD's Sikh Advisory Panel in the UK Parliament to advance that cause.
4. This conference calls on the Indian Government to immediately re-deploy and relinquish control of Sikh army units to Punjab and to withdraw all Sikh forces from regions where the Indian state is oppressing our fellow nations as an occupying force. The Sikh army should take over security in Punjab from the discredited Punjab Police, so that the Sikh human rights can be properly protected.
5. Today's gathering heartily congratulates the Government of Kosovo which has this year secured freedom and independence its people in accordance with their right of self determination, established the world's newest sovereign state and given great hope to other aspirant nations across the world.
6. This gathering warmly welcomes the recent public assertion of Jathedar Sri Akal Takht Sahib, Singh Sahib Joginder Singh Vedanti Ji, of the Sikh nation's right to establish Khalistan and indeed the certainty of that outcome. We warn the BJP's servants Badal, Makkar and others not to take any action or the security forces to intimidate the Jathedars and call on the UN to stop political suppression in Punjab and, under its supervision, procure a plebiscite in the Sikh homeland to allow the Sikhs to demonstrate to the world their freely determined wish to establish Khalistan.
7. This gathering urges the Western media to treat with great caution the false propaganda of Indian agencies which have sought, in order to distract attention from India's appalling human rights record and suppression, to portray the peaceful and democratic struggle of the Sikhs to establish Khalistan as a terrorist movement. We condemn those journalists who recently have blindly accepted this racist and completely defamatory falsehood.
ISSUED BY RANJIT SINGH SRAI, ADMINISTRATIVE SECRETARY, PNSD
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