Posted by: Singh Is King | Saturday, August 18, 2007

Sikhs submit Memorandum on India to EU

Brussels, Belgium – A memorandum was submitted by an 11 member European Sikh delegation to the European Union’s EC Commissioner for External Relations, Mrs Benita Ferrero-Waldner in reference to the ongoing repression and persecution of the Sikh community in India.

The memorandum, signed by representatives of various Sikh organizations across Europe, requested the Union’s intervention in India’s human rights abuses, and supported the right of Sikhs to peacefully campaign for the right to self determination and independence

Text of Memorandum :

MEMORANDUM TO THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION AND EU MEMBER STATES FROM SIKH REPRESENTATIVES ACROSS THE EU

An eleven-member European-wide Sikh delegation has today met with staff responsible for human rights and relations with India at the European Commission.  We have conveyed our concerns about the treatment of Sikhs in India.

The meeting comes on the eve of worldwide protests by Sikhs on the 60th anniversary of India’s independence.  Copies of a publication titled: ‘Why Sikhs shouldn’t celebrate Indian Independence’ has been appended to this memorandum.  The European Commission has been requested to copy this memorandum to the Foreign Ministers of the 27 EU Member States so they can take unilateral as well as co-ordinated action on the eight points detailed below:

EUROPEAN COMMISSION AND EU MEMBER STATES NEED TO:

1) Challenge the continued use of the death penalty in India

Although India’s highest courts have ruled that the death penalty can only be applied in the “rarest of rare” cases there are believed to be as many as 700 people on death row in India.  Professor Davinderpal Singh Bhullar’s case is one of the most controversial and highest profile death penalty cases in recent Indian history.  Almost 12 years earlier Professor Davinderpal Singh Bhullar, a Sikh political activist, was illegally deported from Germany.  Davinderpal Singh was handed over to the Indian authorities on the basis that he had nothing to fear on his return to India.

For 12 years Davinderpal Singh has been forced to live with the mistake by the German authorities.  He was arrested and put in prison as soon as he landed in Delhi, tortured to obtain a false confession, charged and almost 5 years ago sentenced to death by hanging for a crime he did not commit.

When Germany deported Davinderpal Singh to a death-penalty prone country it violated the European Convention on Human Rights. After his deportation, the court of appeal in Frankfurt allowed his appeal and said that he should not have been deported as he would face torture, harassment and death in India and were he to re-enter Germany he would be given asylum.

The verdict of the court of appeal in Germany came too late for Davinderpal Singh. Following international pressure in support of Davinderpal Singh additional charges were brought against him.  However, six months ago the Professor was acquitted and all charges dropped.  Germany and the EU have a moral obligation to ensure the threat of the death penalty by India is immediately withdrawn and the case against the Professor is fully reviewed in accordance with international law, under monitoring by international observers.

Two weeks ago the latest death sentences were awarded to Jagtar Singh and Balwant Singh by the Indian courts.  This has resulted in worldwide protests by Sikhs and leading figures in the Sikh community in Punjab have expressed shock over the death sentences and condemned the Indian authorities for taking this insensitive step and ignoring Sikh sentiments.  The European Commission and EU Member States should press for an immediate withdrawal of the death sentences imposed against Jagtar Singh and Balwant Singh.

2) Expose the false arrest, imprisonment and unfair trials of political prisoners in India

In India approximately 225,000 prisoners are awaiting trial, which is equivalent to 74% of the total prison population.  Recent media reports have highlighted the cases of five people held without charge or trial for over 30 years (55 years in one case).  Many Sikh political prisoners are unnecessarily being held, either without trial or with false charges and without evidence.

On the 14th May this year 62-year-old Simranjit Singh Mann, a Sikh opposition party leader and 20 others were arrested and continue to be detained by the Indian authorities for peacefully protesting against the erection of a statue of the former Chief Minister of Punjab, Beant Singh, who was responsible for the extra-judicial killings of thousands of Sikh youths in the 1990s.

On 26 July another Sikh political opponent, Daljit Singh Bittu, the acting President of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), was arrested and charged with sedition.  He stands accused of raising pro-Khalistan slogans on 31 May.  However, the Indian Supreme Court Judgment in Balwant Singh vs State of Punjab [AIR (1995) SC 1782] has confirmed that raising pro-Khalistan slogans does not amount to sedition.

It is clear that Daljit Singh Bittu has been targeted because of his role in the Khalsa Action Committee (KAC), an umbrella body of Sikh religious organisations, that is leading mass protests against the failure of the Indian authorities to arrest the Sirsa Dera chief who has been attacking the Sikh faith and stands accused of murder and rape.

The European Commission and EU Member States should call for the immediate release of political prisoners that are unnecessarily being held, either without trial or under false charges and without evidence.  There are still over one hundred known Sikh political prisoners that are still being held without trial or on fabricated charges.

3) Demand that India cease its punitive treatment of political and human rights activists

Human rights activists in India have tried to highlight atrocities, including false imprisonment, torture, deaths in custody, extra-judicial executions and disappearances, perpetrated against Sikhs in the last 30 years.  One such activist, Jaswant Singh Khalra, visited his family in the UK just before he was disappeared in September 1995.

He was investigating mass cremations of Sikhs, in which an estimated 50,000 Sikhs were arrested, tortured, and murdered, and then their bodies were declared unidentified and secretly cremated.  He was arrested by the Punjab Police and subsequently disappeared while in police custody.

An inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation reported in July 1996 that nine police officials were responsible for his abduction, and they were subsequently charged with murder. During their trial, which is ongoing, police officers have delayed proceedings and intimidated witnesses, judicial orders have been disregarded, evidence suppressed and members of the Khalra Action Committee (a group of relatives and colleagues formed to pursue investigations into his fate) have themselves suffered intimidation and abuse.

The former Punjab Director-General of Police K P S Gill’s direct responsibility for the torture, disappearance and murder of human rights activist Jaswant Singh Khalra has come to light.  It is now clear he was murdered in police custody. His body was not given to his family. But no one has been brought to justice for his kidnapping and murder.

4) Prosecute those from India involved in torture and crimes against humanity

Article 5.2 of the UN Convention against Torture requires individual EU Member States to prosecute in cases where a person commits acts of torture or crimes against humanity.  In particular where torture has been committed against Sikhs living and residing in the EU or against their relatives Sikhs in Europe will be looking to the European Commission and EU Member States to take firm legal action against human rights violators if the alleged offender enters into the territory of any of the 27 countries.

To enable this to become a reality Sikhs are launching a comprehensive database of all Indian police officers, army personnel and politicians involved in crimes against humanity, such as the torture and genocide of Sikhs.  As Sikhs have been unable to get any justice in India this database of wanted human rights violators will be used to make Europe, Canada, USA and other parts of the world no-go areas for what Sikhs regard as ‘war criminals’.  We are putting in place a comprehensive database that will be supported by a coalition of Sikh lawyers that will mean wanted human rights violators will not be able to escape justice when they leave the safety of India.

5) Exert pressure on the Indian Government to get Amnesty International and the UN Rapporteur on Torture access to Punjab

The European Commission and EU Member States should demand immediate and full access to Punjab to international human rights groups, such as Amnesty International and the UN Rapporteur on Torture.  The Indian Government has denied Amnesty International access to Punjab for almost 30 years and the UN Rapporteur on Torture has been repeatedly denied entry to investigate in Punjab.

Many have concluded that India has much to hide and that it does not want the world to know about the widespread human rights violations against the Sikh community.  The estimated 1 million Sikhs in Europe would welcome an EU fact finding mission to investigate the treatment of Sikhs in India.

6) Push for a UN-led inquiry into the anti-Sikh pogroms of November 1984

What followed the death of Indira Gandhi and the associated conspiracy is the most ruthless and bloody chapter in modern day Sikh history.  Thousands of Sikhs in over 130 cities across India were massacred in the most barbaric method of burning. Encouraged by central government Ministers and MPs with the connivance of the police, mobs were assembled to carry out a four day orgy of killings and plunder.

On hearing of the death of his mother Rajiv Gandhi, who was to become the Indian Prime Minister said “Let us teach these bastards (the Sikhs) a lesson” “go and take revenge; no turban should be seen”.

It was no wonder the government controlled television station Doordarshan and All India Radio began broadcasting provocative slogans seeking bloody vengeance, “khoon ka badla khoon se lenge (we will take blood for blood!)”.  False rumours were spread through the media to incite violence such as – the Sikhs have poisoned the city water supply, a train from Punjab has arrived with dead Hindus and many more.

Sikhs in the Delhi police force were withdrawn and Sikh Soldiers in Delhi were disarmed and confined to barracks.  The remaining police not only stood aside and watched as Sikhs were killed but actively participated in the looting and killings.

Sikhs became the target of organised violence with murderous gangs of two to three hundred swarming into Sikh homes, hacking the occupants to pieces, chopping off the heads of children, raping women, tying Sikh men to tyres set aflame with kerosene and pulling Sikh passengers from public transport to be lynched or burned alive.

The Delhi pogrom has been documented by several civil liberty groups.  One report, called ‘Who are the Guilty?’ which remains banned in India mentions the names of 16 important Congress politicians, 13 police officers and 198 others, accused by survivors and eye-witnesses.

It is clear that the Indian Government intended to teach the Sikhs a lesson. This continued even after the attacks stopped with refugee camps being forcibly shut and the lack of assistance to the injured and needy.

The attacks in November 1984 were state sponsored pogroms; designed and led by leading members of the Congress party to inflict as much harm as possible on the Sikh community. It is estimated that over 20,000 Sikhs were killed during the November 1984 genocide.  This state sponsored terrorism is the true face of Indian democracy.

It would appear that in India the guilty get off scot-free while the victims continue to suffer in pain, anguish and hardship.  There has never been a detailed and determined independent public investigation by the authorities into the events of November 1984 as they would rather sweep it under the carpet. Commissions that have been organised have been no more than whitewashes and cover ups.

Not a single political leader responsible for the genocide of the Sikhs has been convicted.  For over two decades high-ranking members of the Congress party have enjoyed political impunity for this violence.

We call on the European Commission and EU Member States to push for a UN-led investigation to examine the persistent failure of successive Indian Governments to ensure the prosecution of those alleged to be responsible for the killings and destruction.

7) Call for an independent investigation into the killing of 38 innocent Sikhs in Kashmir on the eve of the visit of US President Bill Clinton

On 21 March 2000 on the eve of the visit of US President Bill Clinton 38 Sikhs in the village of Chattisinghpora were massacred.  Kashmiri militants were blamed for the killings, but it has been shown that the killings were the work of Hindu militants.

Recently the former Secretary of State Madeline Albright wrote a book called ‘The Mighty and Almighty.’  The introduction was written by former President Bill Clinton where he wrote: “During my visit to India in 2000, some Hindu militants decided to vent their outrage by murdering 38 Sikhs in cold blood.  If I hadn’t made the trip, the victims would probably still be alive. If I hadn’t made the trip because I feared what militants might do, I couldn’t have done my job as President of the United States.”

President Clinton places the blame squarely on Hindu militants, not on the so-called Kashmiri Muslims that the Indian government tried to blame for the massacre. In 2002, the Washington Times reported that the Indian government finally admitted its responsibility and conceded that the evidence that it used to pin the blame on Kashmiris was false. Reporter Barry Bearak of the New York Times also placed the blame squarely on the Indian government, as did two independent investigations.

8) Support the right of Sikhs to peacefully campaign for the right to self determination and independence

The freedom of Sikhs to exercise their right to self determination is one that many foreign governments find difficult to raise with India.  A paper has been prepared by the international Sikh community titled “Self determination as a human right and its applicability to the Sikhs”.  This sets out why Sikhs believe it is legitimate for Sikhs to have the right to self determination and should be free to campaign for an independent sovereign Sikh State.

There must be an open dialogue at the international level with Sikhs on their right to self determination and that the “territorial integrity” of India can not be used as an excuse if politicians believe in the principles that have been established at the UN.

Those that apply the territorial integrity “limitation” to India should remember:

• The limitation only applies where “States conduct themselves in compliance with the principle of equal rights and self-determination” – India opted out of this defence in 1966 when they put down a “reservation” when ratifying the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  India in effect stated in the UN that the right of self determination only applied to people living outside India.  Three EU Member States – France, Germany and the Netherlands objected to the reservation on the grounds self determination must apply to all people.  The UN has invited India to withdraw this reservation, but India has neglected to respond.  The European Commission and all EU Member States should ask for this reservation to be withdrawn.

• It is now internationally recognised that any government which is oppressive to peoples within its territory may no longer be able to rely on the ground of ‘territorial integrity’ as a limitation on the right of self-determination.  India has lost its ‘territorial integrity’ defence with respect to the self determination of Sikhs given the evidence of the treatment of Sikhs since Indian independence and in particular in the last 30 years.

Avtar Singh

Dabinderjit Singh

Davinder Singh

Gurvinder Singh

Jagdeesh Singh

Jagjit Singh

Jasbir Singh

Jaswinder Singh

Lukhvinder Singh

Mohinder Singh

Ragbhir Singh

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Responses

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