A group associated in the past with terrorism against India and Indian interests said on Friday it will campaign peacefully for Khalistan after Britain lifted a 15-year-old ban on it in a move likely to infuriate New Delhi.
Minister of state in the Home Office John Hayes signed the statutory instrument relating to the Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) Order 2016, lifting the ban on the International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF) on Friday after both houses of British parliament approved a motion this week to drop it from the list of proscribed organisations.
Indian official sources told Hindustan Times they were “disappointed” with the development.
Banned in Britain since 2001, the ISYF continues to be outlawed in India, Canada and other countries. Formed in 1984 as the international branch of the All India Sikh Students Federation, it was associated with several assassinations and kidnappings in the 1980s.
The Home Office said: “The government does not condone any terrorist activity. Deproscription of a proscribed group should not be interpreted as condoning any previous activities of that group. The British Government has always been clear that the ISYF was a brutal terrorist organisation.”
Bhai Amrik Singh, chair of the Sikh Federation (UK) that lobbied to overturn the ban, said: “Successive British governments have maintained the organisation has every right to campaign and lobby for an independent Sikh homeland as long as it does it democratically and peacefully.”
The group said since the ban had been lifted, the ISYF will become an organisation linked to the Sikh Federation (UK), “with its leadership drawn from those youngsters that have an interest in Panthic issues and will focus on youth engagement and development”.
Singh said the Sikh Federation felt vindicated because “there is absolutely nothing wrong with peacefully campaigning for an independent Sikh homeland, Khalistan”.
“The Indian authorities claimed to have ended the armed struggle in Punjab some 10 years earlier in the early 1990s so the ban made no sense in 2001,” he said.