The Hush Post: After Sikh separatists in Canada called for a ban on Indian officials and diplomats entering gurdwaras in official capacity, the Indian High Commission in Britain defied a similar ban on Indian diplomats entering gurdwaras issued by the pro-Khalistan Sikh Federation UK (SFUK).
In UK gurdwaras, a draft declaration banning entry of Indian officials, to be signed by the gurdwara committees, has been circulated in gurdwaras in the UK and some countries of mainland Europe for a discussion on the ban. “Eight regional gurdwara councils across the UK and organisations like the Sikh Council (UK) are also to be approached to encourage gurdwaras, who are members, to become signatories to the declaration,” a statement said.
The seniormost Indian origin MP in Britain, a former minister and Chair of the powerful Home Affairs select committee, Keith Vaz, while talking to an Indian newspaper condemned the SFUK announcement, stating, “This is an extraordinary decision and one that is deeply concerning. I hope those who made it will reflect on what they have done and review it immediately. All places of worship in the UK should be open to all.”
SFUK is the evolved form of the International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF). It was banned by the British Government in 2001 under the UK’s Terrorism Act. This restraint was lifted in 2016 when Theresa May, now PM, was Home Secretary. The reason given in the House of Commons for lifting the ban was “There is now not sufficient evidence to support a reasonable belief that the ISYF is currently concerned in terrorism as defined by Section 3(5) of the Terrorism Act 2000.”
However, in 2012, Sikh extremists tried to assassinate Lt Gen KS Brar (retd) and his wife. In 1984, the officer had commanded Operation Bluestar to flush out terrorists from the Golden Temple in Amritsar.
The SFUK is also wary of Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh’s “connect with your roots” initiative launched in London in September 2017, aimed at countering the disinformation the younger generation of Sikhs come across in Britain.
Another grievance of the hardliners is the alleged lack of progress in granting amnesty to those who indulged in terrorism in Punjab, contrary to an assurance given by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to local Sikh leaders during his 2015 London visit. Sikh extremists based in Canada have been agitated over the arrest of UK-based Jagtar Singh Johal, detained in Punjab on suspicion of being involved in “targeted killings” in Jalandhar, Ludhiana and Khanna.