Sikhs Join Forces
Yesterday all prominent Sikh organisations, Gurdwaras from across the UK and the youth gathered at Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Havelock Road, Southall to discuss the Sikh response and plan of action for the visit to the UK of Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi in mid-November.
In what could prove to be a historic move all Sikh organisations, Gurdwaras and the youth unanimously endorsed the detailed strategy prepared and presented by the Federation of Sikh Organisations (FSO). Those gathered had different political perspectives yet they were all impressed with the proposed strategy without a single voice of dissent. Even those with limited ambitions for the Sikh community and often start from the position of compromise had to admit there was nothing in the strategy that could be questioned.
There have been many rumours in the last few weeks about Sikhs trying to set up meetings and negotiate, including talk of Narendra Modi possibly turning up to a Gurdwara. Those that have been making such suggestions were told in no uncertain terms that the key issues that needed to be addressed by the Indian authorities were those set out in the strategy. Namely:
Release of Sikh political prisoners
Justice for the Sikh Genocide of November 1984
Prosecution of police officers involved in human rights violations in Punjab
Returning rare and priceless items stolen by the Indian Army in June 1984 from the Sikh Reference Library
Compensation for Sikhs farmers in Gujarat forced to leave and prosecution of those responsible for violent attacks against them
UN-led inquiry into the 1984 Sikh Genocide orchestrated by the Congress Party
Application of self-determination to the Sikhs, and the legitimate demand for a Sikh homeland
The written strategy clarified some issues like getting rid of blacklists were a non-issue in the wider context of things. It was clarified and accepted by all concerned that what must clearly be on the table is the legitimate demand for a separate Sikh homeland with the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives and dropping this item was not negotiable.
It was agreed the detailed communications strategy set out by the FSO for raising awareness of the Sangat, UK Government, opposition parties, backbench politicians, the general public and international community through the media should be immediately implemented. It was agreed a Sikh perspective on the two general issues below where there is expected to be widespread criticism of Narendra Modi before and during his visit should also be widely communicated:
Oppression of religious and ethnic minorities in India
Narendra Modi’s responsibility for the Gujarat 2002 massacre of at least 2,000 Muslims
Media reports of the outcome of the meeting at Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Southall have already had quite an impact in terms of raising the awareness of the Sangat. The Indian High Commission now also realise that they have been speaking to those who have little clout or influence in the grassroots of the Sikh community or little experience in operating in Panthic circles.
The various forms of protest already being organised ranging from Parliamentary meetings to mass demonstrations on the 12th and 13th November that have been planned by non-Sikh organisations that will be supported by large numbers were shared as part of the overall strategy. A further formal announcement about demonstrations from the FSO to Gurdwaras and the Sikh community is expected after the 24 October.
It was suggested individuals that have been in contact with the Indian authorities should be given time to explore what if any progress they could make on the key issues approved at the meeting in advance of Narendra Modi’s visit. Those present reluctantly agreed to allow a three week period until 24 October for exploring possibilities, but it has been made clear this was also an ultimatum for the Indian authorities. Individuals were told they had no mandate to make decisions on behalf of the Sikh community and they must remain accountable for their actions.
It was made clear Sikhs are not afraid to meet, but this must be at the highest levels with the Indian authorities and they must be prepared to discuss each of the key issues set out above. If needed Sikh representatives from across the globe can be invited. The FSO made clear the ball is firmly in the court of the Indian authorities. Many think they will run away from the key issues and decline to meet to discuss what Sikhs have put on the table. The next few weeks will show if the Indian PM lacks the courage to rise to the challenge set by UK Sikhs.