India accused in UK parliament of transnational repression of Sikhs

By
Murtaza Ali Shah
|

LONDON: Britain’s first female Sikh parliamentarian Preet Gill MP on the floor of the House of Commons has accused “agents with links to India” of transnational repression of British Sikhs as well Sikhs living in other Western countries.

In verbal questions to the Home Office, the Labour Sikh MP asked what assessment Security Minister Tom Tugendhat “has made of the effectiveness of steps taken by his department to tackle transnational repression by hostile states”.

Dan Jarvis, Labour MP and Shadow Security Minister for Barnsley Central, also asked a similar question on India’s transnational repression of Sikhs.

The Labour Sikh MP from Birmingham Edgbaston said in the main chamber during home office oral questions: “Transnational repression to silence dissent in democracies is extremely serious and often comes from authoritarian states. In recent months Five Eyes nations have raised concerns about the actions of agents with links to India targeting Sikh activists. Most disturbingly there have been alleged assassinations and foiled assassination plots.

“The US and Canadian authorities have taken the lead at senior levels to publicly call out this challenge to their sovereignty, the rule of law and their democratic values. Will our government show the same courage and strength to publicly defend the democratic rights of Sikh activists in the UK and what assessment has he made of the safety of Sikhs here in the UK.”

The MP was referring to the killing of Khalistani leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar by Indian agents in Canada and the foiled plot to kill Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, general counsel of Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) who is running the Khalistan Referendum. Hardeep Singh Nijjar was running the Khalistan Referendum campaign in Canada.

The government minister Tugendhat responded that the British government is “continually assessing potential threats to individual rights, freedoms and safety in the UK” and uses its intelligence services to mitigate any threats to individuals.

The Minister pointed out the recent national security act included measures to tackle foreign interference, including transnational repression, and the “Defending Democracy Taskforce” was reviewing the UK’s response.

“If there are any specific threats against any British citizen by any foreign power, we will take immediate action. The Sikh community should be as safe in UK as every other community. We have taken all action we believe is appropriate at this stage. We maintain a very close relationship with our Five Eyes partners. We are absolutely clear that when or if the situation changes, and we need to take action, we will do so.”

Preet Gill was one of several cross-party MPs who met the security minister recently to air their concerns following reports of Osman Warnings — a threat to life warnings - being handed out by UK police to several British Sikhs who are campaigning for the creation of Khalistan.

The Sikh Federation said in a statement: “The response from the Minister when asked about the Indian government targeting Sikh activists demonstrated the UK Government lacks the same courage and strength as the U.S. & Canada to publicly defend the democratic rights of Sikh activists in the UK as he cleverly avoided mentioning India in his response.”