By Gurmukh Singh OBE | OPINION |
The British Government resisted pressure from India and allowed a peaceful Sikh rally in Trafalgar Square on Saturday 12 August, 2018. This historic even was organised by Sikhs for Justice and was part of the campaign for an unofficial independence referendum for Punjab in 2020.
The massive rally was peaceful, well organised and Sikh Referendum 2020 for the creation of a Sikh state was formally declared. In addition to those who attended, hundreds of thousands of Sikhs in the UK and the diaspora would have watched this event on their TVs or on the Internet. Videos will continue to do the global rounds many times over.
Personally, I remain confused and ignorant (un-educated) about how the Referendum 2020 will work. However, three legal experts in international law who gave their views which took into account the historical background to the Sikh case, convinced me that the Sikhs for Justice from America appeared to have done their legal homework.
Regardless of personal biases and apprehensions, I agree with the response to Indian objections by the Sikh Council UK in a Press Statement: This is a matter of the exercise of civil liberties and democratic freedoms in this country and we welcome the defence of these values by our Government. This is not the first time the British Government has been subject to pressure from Indian authorities to cancel public gatherings by Sikhs in this country. Disclosures from the national archives show warnings about the threat to bilateral relations and trade have been familiar themes in respect of these matters in the past and continue to cast a disturbing shadow. (Sikh Council UK Press Statement of 12 August 2018).
It is quite remarkable that even now, the India establishment is not asking the vital question why these types of moves for self-determination are picking up in India and in the Indian diaspora. It is possible that India itself is trapped in a colonial time warp. As someone observed: The Sikhs expect empathy and solutions that the colonial institutional framework of post colonial India is not constructed for, hence unable to deliver. About this 2020 Referendum rally, one thing is certain regardless of its wisdom or longer term impact: it has highlighted the frustration and resentment that has continued to fester among worldwide Sikhs since 1984.
Some leading UK Sikh organisations, whilst sympathetic, were missing from this rally. Confusion continues. This is a question and a challenge for the Sikhs for Justice. Was sufficient background consultation done to persuade other Sikh organisations to join or was it just assumed that others would follow their lead? I watched one earlier Sikh TV show and felt that there was too much heated criticism of those who were hesitant while a softer conciliatory approach, as adopted in a second show on the eve of the rally, would have delivered even greater Sikh solidarity.
The overall message is to win more friends in India and seek popular support for change. The choice should be there for diverse Indian people to decide own future which may not necessarily be separation but union of a disunited India still under a sort of colonial style administration.
Gurmukh Singh OBE, a retired UK senior civil servant, chairs the Advisory Board of The Sikh Missionary Society UK. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The article first appeared at The Panjab Times, UK
* This is the opinion of the writer, organisation or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.
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