Coinciding with the US visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs on Thursday took 36 Sikhs off its “black list”, which will allow them to come home to the country they fled during terrorism days in Punjab.
Most of these expatriates who took political asylum abroad still have families in Punjab. “It is good news for them that they can now meet their brothers and sisters back home,” said New York’s Richmond hill gurdwara chairman Mohan Singh Khattra.
To come back, they require visa from where they have been living for the past 30 to 35 years. The list kept secret until the early 2000 got importance when the expatriates and political leaders started raising their voice. It’s from Belgium that Modi landed in the US, where he will also meet the Sikhs who on his last visit had asked him to resolve the blacklist issue and let them travel to India. The PM will next go to Saudi Arabia.
No clarity yet
The Centre has not disclosed the names struck off the list, which has cause confusion, since different organisations are circulating different lists. There is no clarity on even the number yet.
These blacklisted Sikhs have been living in the US and Canada in North America; and the UK, France and Germany in Europe. The Indian embassies and high commissions will use gurdwara announcements to make the Sikh diaspora aware of this relaxation.
The “blacklisted” Sikhs include top Khalistan promoters, former militants, those connected to the ideology without a criminal record, and those who sought political asylum contending threat to their lives from the Indian authorities. Most of them fled India in the 1980s and 1990s. The list segregates those with no criminal record, those wanted in terror cases, and whose identity was never established.
Radicals’ plan goes for toss
The relaxation may have taken the steam out of the plan of radical elements in the US to protest against Modi during his ongoing visit.
The Punjab government, Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC), and Rashtriya Sikh Sangat (an offshoot of Hindu radical organisation Rashtriya Swyamsewak Sangh) have been pursuing the issue with the Centre for the sake of including the blacklisted Sikhs in the mainstream.
Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and other leaders from the state have also raised the matter with the PM and before that with the last Congress government. The issue is put before every political delegation on foreign visit.
The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), which runs the Punjab government in coalition with Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is going to benefit from the move in the assembly elections due next year. It will allow them to bounce back from last year’s Panthic crisis.
Vancouver-resident Ripudaman Singh Malik, who faced a long trial in the 1985 Air India bombing case and was acquitted by the Canadian court, is reported to be major beneficiary, as nine members of his family and he have been taken off the black list. “I am yet to get formal communication on the blacklist clearance. I want to visit Punjab and the Golden Temple,” Malik told Hindustan Times over telephone.