Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Written Evidence

Written evidence submitted by the Sikh Federation (UK)


  1.  This written memorandum on South Asia has been submitted following a request by the Foreign Affairs Committee. The Sikh Federation (UK) is pleased the Committee is holding an inquiry into:

    —  Political and economic developments in India and its growing importance.

    —  Relations between India and Pakistan, and the question of Kashmir.

    —  India's role in the region and its links with its neighbours.

    —  India's contribution to the international system, including to the United Nations and other multilateral fora, such as the non-proliferation regimes.

    —  The roles of the United Kingdom and the European Union in South Asia.

  2.  The written evidence submitted by the Sikh Federation (UK) brings a British Sikh perspective to an important area as Sikhs and their homeland are often overlooked. When India and Pakistan were being created less than 60 years ago the UK Government offered the Sikh leadership an opportunity for outright Sikh independence. At that time the Sikh leadership were persuaded to throw their lot in with India on the basis of certain promises. Immediately after Indian independence Sikhs refused to sign and accept the Indian Constitution due to Sikhs being betrayed, a lack of separate recognition in the Constitution and widespread discrimination against the Sikh people and Panjab.

  3.  Therefore, when the Foreign Affairs Committee is considering this subject area in the context of UK foreign policy it is vital the British Sikh view is represented as we are the largest Sikh community in the world outside Panjab. Also due to strong Anglo-Sikh relations that extend to over 150 years the UK Government has a moral and historic responsibility to consider the Sikhs right to self determination and the desire to regain their lost sovereignty.

  4.  We are hopeful the Foreign Affairs Committee will recognise the interests of the British Sikh community and will invite the Sikh Federation (UK) to give oral evidence as part of this enquiry.


  5.  At Annex A is a paper titled Self-Determination as a Human Right and its applicability to the Sikhs. A version of this paper was first published in March 2005 by the Panjabis in Britain All Party Parliamentary Group. In considering the India/Pakistan situation and Kashmir it is important that the right to self determination in general and more specifically of the Sikhs is seen as an integral part to the determining the foreign policy agenda of the UK and EU.


India is the only country that did not support the resolution at the UN General Assembly regarding the protection of human rights while countering terrorism

  6.  India was the only country not to vote in favour of the UN General Assembly resolution on the protection of human rights while countering terrorism. We understand the UK Government expressed its disappointment that the resolution could not be adopted by consensus.

  7.  In our opinion India's unilateral opposition to the protection of human rights while countering terrorism highlights a fundamental weakness in India's respect for and approach to human rights. The Sikh community has suffered enormously in the last twenty five years due to India's complete disregard for human rights using the excuse of countering insurgency in Panjab.

India continues to fail to ratify the International Criminal Court

  8.  India has failed to accede to the Rome Statute which established the International Criminal Court (ICC). We fully agree the ICC represents a major advance in international justice and the fight against impunity for perpetrators of international crimes. We applaud the lobbying exercises carried out by the EU urging states to ratify the Rome Statute.

  9.  However, the British Sikh community regards the failure of India to ratify the Rome Statute as most disappointing and another example of India's refusal to accept international law, which they breached with the massacre of tens of thousands of Sikhs in June and then in November 1984 and the continued abuse of human rights for the last twenty years. Many accept these wrongdoings constitute the most serious international crimes since Indian independence.

Human rights violations by Indian security forces continue in Panjab and Kashmir and the UN and international human rights organisations continue to be denied access to Panjab

  10.  Credible reports of human rights violations by Indian security forces operating in Panjab and Kashmir continue to emerge. India's failure to allow Amnesty International and the UN Rapporteur on Torture access to Punjab since 1978 is a cause for grave concern. These issues have been raised publicly by MPs in Parliament in the last two years via Early Day Motions (Annex C) and Parliamentary Questions (Annex D).

India defies the UN and EU and ends the moratorium on the death penalty

  11.  Despite the EU lobbing strongly against the executions, India last year ended the long-standing moratorium on the death penalty. British Sikhs find India's position on the death penalty totally unacceptable and the ending of the moratorium as a most backward and retrograde step.

  12.  We are submitting this memorandum on the eve of a three-day visit by the Indian Prime Minister to the UK (commencing on 10 October 2006) followed by a two-day India-EU summit in Helsinki to secure trade and investment for India. The EU is India's largest trading partner with about 25% of Indian exports coming to EU countries. The EU also provides the most foreign investment to India. Last year two-way trade between India and the EU totaled about €38 billion. Given the level of trade we expect the EU, including the UK, to exercise maximum pressure on India on accepting the decisions of the international community.

  13.  The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is very much aware of the death penalty imposed on the Sikh activist Professor Davinderpal Singh Bhullar who was returned to India from Germany. This matter has been raised by many Parliamentarians in the UK and at the EU level. As British Sikhs we are deeply concerned with the case of Professor Davinderpal Singh Bhullar and expect the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to use greater pressure on India on the issue of the death penalty and the specific case of the Professor (Annex D). There are around one hundred Sikh political prisoners that are known to British Sikhs that are still languishing in Indian jails, some have been held for many years without yet being charged or convicted.

  14.  This submission should be read in conjunction with our submission on 19 August 2005 to the Home Office consultation document, "Exclusion or Deportation from the UK on Non-Conducive Grounds" where we indicated we are "committed to support measures that prevent all acts of terrorism in the UK, such as those which took place in London in July 2005 and acts of terrorism targeting innocent civilians that take place abroad. We welcome any measures that would prevent such attacks or which would lead to the prosecution of those responsible for planning and committing or supporting such crimes". However, we believe a move to allow restrictions in all places of worship as opposed to targeting specific Mosques where the Muslim community has requested support is wrong in principle and may result in unexpected difficulties.


  15.  In Annex E we draw your attention to reports and press statements recently issued by:

    —  US State Department

    —  Human Rights Watch

    —  Amnesty International

    —  Human Rights Advisory Group to the Panjabis in Britain All-Party Parliamentary Group

  16.  Our aim is to highlight the UK Government, EU and the international community have still to undertake a rigorous expose of the human rights violations in India.


  17.  Ignoring the needs of the Sikh Nation given our history and Anglo-Sikh relations in any debate on India, Pakistan and Kashmir would be doing a great disservice. It must be remembered that India and Pakistan have only existed as independent countries for less than 60 years. The UK Government has a moral and historic responsibility to consider the Sikhs right to self determination and our desire to regain our lost sovereignty. Given the ever tense relations between India and Pakistan many informed commentators would argue it is in the interests of world peace if there was a strong and powerful Sikh homeland that would create a buffer between these two countries.


  The Sikh Federation (UK) is a non-governmental organisation. It is based on the "miri-piri" principle, the Sikh principle that temporal and spiritual goals are indivisible.

  The Federation has expanded its work into Europe and is striving to provide the Sikhs with a much needed voice at an international level. Next year it will be seeking consultative status with the United Nations.

  The Federation's aims and objectives are to work closely with each of the main political parties in the UK to promote relevant issues set out in the Sikh Agenda for the UK Government.

  The Federation currently has around 75 branches with individual members in towns and cities throughout the UK. Over 180 member organisations have affiliated to the Sikh Federation (UK) including Gurdwaras and groups working with young people, women and older people.

  The Sikh Federation (UK) is in a position to claim and justify itself as one of the most important Sikh organisations in the UK.

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