Pruning of Sikh Blacklist

The harm done to relations between the Indian state and the Sikhs by keeping a blacklist far outweighs any perceived security advantage, argues GURMUKH SINGH O.B.E.

By Gurmukh Singh | OPINION |

The aim of the so called blacklist of Sikhs kept by the various Indian state agencies, including Indian Missions abroad, is to discourage separatist Sikh political activism. However, the criteria for inclusion of individuals in this kaali soochi or Averse List and its legality in a true democracy, is questionable. Who decides what sort of political activism is averse to a democracy? Yet, the impression abroad is that this secretive blacklist of Sikh activists in the diaspora has been used to harass genuine community sevadars and human rights activists seeking visas to visit India.

Religious, social and political activism under the broad heading of seva is an integral part of Sikhi living. There are hundreds of community areas in which Sikhs can serve for the wellbeing and betterment of society. So, for example, Sikhs engaged in charity work can easily get into trouble for doing genuine Sikhi seva as did Bhai Ghanayia in the battles of Anandpur. We can say that Bhai Sahib was blacklisted by the Sikhs and reported to Guru Gobind Singh ji!

One can never be sure what exactly is anti-Indian State activism which risks inclusion in the blacklist criteria. Who are the gatherers of such intelligence about individuals? What sort of guidance do they have for reporting activism averse to state interests?

Next, it is a question about the honesty and work ethic of the intelligence gathering personnel who earn their keep by doing such important work, allegedly to defend the integrity of the Indian State. Do they put in the time and effort to get accurate information about individual activists? Regarding work ethic and accuracy of information, one Indian example comes to mind: the Europeans who climbed Mount Annapurna in the Himalayas in 1951, found that the Indian surveyors had drawn fiction maps of the higher altitude areas while sitting at home! The climbers found deep ravines where there were supposed to be mountains!

Someone wrote on a forum: In early 1950s to 1960s for any protests by the Sikhs, thousands of Sikh protestors were arrested illegally! Slowly few were released in many instalments! This list was created by the Congress administration illegally and pruning had been going on. A great good-will gesture []]by Modi administration] must be recognized but one should not forget the illegal creation of the list originally!

The point is that such a politically motivated and arbitrarily collated blacklist can be periodically shortened to please some gullible Sikhs. It becomes a political ploy which serves the interests of officials, the so called interlocutors (middlemen or vicholas!) and the State government.

An Indian reporter wrote that it is never too late to undo the wrongs of the past for the sake of a better future. Yes but the question is the extent to which the wrongs of the past are undone! It will take much more to right the wrongs of 1984 and the following ten or so years of extra-judicial killings of thousands of Sikh youth than the abolition of some doubtful Sikh black list. In any case, the harm done to relations between the Indian state and the Sikhs by keeping a blacklist far outweighs any perceived security advantage.

Gurmukh Singh OBE, a retired UK senior civil servant, chairs the Advisory Board of The Sikh Missionary Society UK. Email: The article first appeared  at The Panjab Times, UK. See here.

* This is the opinion of the writer, organisation or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.



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