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Sikh debates in UK Parliament

British PM David Cameron’s visit to Amritsar seems to have galvanised British Sikhs and politicians into action, with the second Sikh-focussed debate in less than a fortnight set to open in parliament on Wednesday. Dipankar De Sarkar reports.

world Updated: Mar 12, 2013 23:31 IST
Dipankar De Sarkar

British PM David Cameron’s visit to Amritsar seems to have galvanised British Sikhs and politicians into action, with the second Sikh-focussed debate in less than a fortnight set to open in parliament on Wednesday.

The first debate, on February 28, dealt with Sikh human rights in India, with MPs from all major parties — led by foreign office minister Hugo Swire — supporting a call for the abolition of the death penalty in India.

MPs backed a demand by some UK Sikh groups for India to revoke the death sentences on two men: Balwant Singh Rajoana, charged with the 1995 assassination of Punjab chief minister Beant Singh, and Davinder Pal Singh Bhullar, convicted of killing nine bystanders in a 1993 bomb blast apparently intended to kill former Youth Congress chief Maninderjeet Singh Bitta.

That debate was led by MPs with substantial Sikh constituents. On Wednesday, MPs will discuss discrimination faced by Sikhs in Britain and Europe in a debate initiated by the All Party Parliamentary Group on British Sikhs.

“We will see a debate on schools in Britain and Europe not allowing Sikh student to wear karhas and turbans,” interfaith activist Paramjit Singh Kohli told HT. “Another issue that concerns us is the grooming of young Sikh girls, who are being targeted by Muslim men in college campuses.”

Cameron’s February visit to the Golden Temple and his statement of regret for Jallianwala Bagh martyrs is thought have been partly aimed at winning Sikh support for his Conservative party at the next British general elections due by May 2015.