LONDON: Sikh organisations in the United Kingdom (UK) have reiterated their long-standing prohibition on Indian diplomats entering Gurdwaras, a restriction initiated following the 1984 attack on Sri Darbar Sahib.
This decision comes in response to the recent denial of entry to the Indian High Commissioner to the UK, Vikram Doraiswami, at Gurdwara Albert in Glasgow by Sikh activists protesting the assassination of pro-Khalistan leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar by Indian state agents. The Sikh groups in the UK have strongly defended their stance, emphasising their dedication to the Khalistan cause.
In a collective statement from various Panthic Jathebandia organisations in the UK, they responded to accusations made against them in the Indian media regarding the incident. While the Indian government condemned the denial of entry to the Indian diplomat, the Sikh groups and Gurdwaras have countered by alleging India’s involvement in the persecution of Sikhs and the recent killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar as evidence of their claims.
Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who served as the Coordinator of Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) in Canada, was assassinated by Indian agents in July, allegedly for his leadership in the Khalistan Referendum campaign in Canada. He was also the President of Canada’s largest Gurdwara, where he was killed.
The Sikh groups have called upon the Indian High Commission to address accusations made by the Canadian Prime Minister regarding their alleged involvement in Nijjar’s assassination in Canada. They have also urged the commission to acknowledge their role in the death of pro-Khalistan activist Avtar Singh Khanda, who passed away shortly after Nijjar’s assassination. The Sikh groups maintain that their practice of refusing entry to Indian officials visiting Gurdwaras is a longstanding demonstration of solidarity with Khalistan martyrs’ sacrifices and is not a recent or contentious development.
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 criminalise 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 emphasises 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 seised 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 emphasise that Gurdwara committees should not use these sacred places for their personal agendas. If there are Sikhs who prioritise 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.”