Jaswant Singh Khalra legacy inspires Berlin forum

Khalra had discovered the remains of thousands of Sikh youth who had mysteriously disappeared in the 1980s and 1990s when the darkness befell Punjab whilst its people struggled for their freedom to practise their religion or belief.

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UNITED SIKHS International Legal Director Mejindarpal Kaur touching on human rights advocate Jaswant Singh Khalra’s (insert) legacy at the Annual Forum of the International Partnership on Religion and Sustainable Development (PaRD) in Berlin on Oct 18. (Main photo source: PaRD/GIZ, Maurice Weiss)

By Asia Samachar | Germany |

The legacy of Sikh human rights advocate Jaswant Singh Khalra made a presence at an international forum on religion and sustainable development.

UNITED SIKHS International Legal Director Mejindarpal Kaur invoked Khalra’s legacy at the Annual Forum of the International Partnership on Religion and Sustainable Development (PaRD) in Berlin on Oct 18.

“Today, this story reminds us that when darkness threatens to obscure the truth, the light of freedom of religion and belief stands as a formidable challenger. We gather here in recognition that this light is pivotal to our mission of promoting sustainable development through religious diversity,” she told the participants.

Khalra paid with his own life when he was abducted and killed by the Punjab police in 1995.

In her speech, Mejindarpal drew upon Khalra’s poignant anecdote to illuminate the profound connection between freedom of religion and belief and the mission of PaRD.

“…when the sun was first setting… as the distance narrowed to the horizon, the light on earth was diminishing. This made way for darkness to creep over the land. The people were afraid that when the sun would finally set, darkness would be permanent,” she began, quoting the powerful story of the encroaching darkness and the brave lantern that challenged it.

The narrative set the stage for an exploration of Khalra’s legacy, who had unearthed the remains of thousands of Sikhs who mysteriously vanished during Punjab’s dark times.

Khalra had discovered the remains of thousands of Sikh youth who had mysteriously disappeared in the 1980s and 1990s when the darkness befell Punjab whilst its people struggled for their freedom to practise their religion or belief.

His courageous pursuit of truth had revealed the atrocities committed during those dark times.

Mejindarpal Kaur linked Khalra’s legacy to the event’s theme.

The connection between Khalra’s fearless pursuit of truth and the importance of religious diversity in achieving sustainable development set the tone for the discussions that followed at the PaRD Forum.

The conference continued to explore how freedom of religion and belief is not merely one aspect of their work but the very foundation upon which all their endeavors rest.

In her speech, Mejindarpal had sought to emphasise that the legacy of individuals like Jaswant Singh Khalra, who himself disappeared in 1995 and was subject to extra judicial killing in Punjab, continues to inspire efforts to create a more inclusive and just world where individuals can practice their faith freely, without fear or prejudice.

PaRD comprises 165 members, eight religions and as many governments, six multilateral entities, and 10 academics.

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