Key interlocutor in Narendra Modi government- overseas Sikh group talks hails scrapping of blacklist
One of the key interlocutors in talks between overseas Sikh groups and the Narendra Modi government on Saturday welcomed the slashing of the number of individuals on the so-called “blacklist” from 314 to two, hoping the move will spur talks to resolve issues.
A senior official of the Union home ministry reportedly revealed the change following a review of threats posed to India by the individuals based in the UK, US, Europe and elsewhere. The change will enable them to secure visas and “Overseas Citizen of India” cards.
Jasdev Singh Rai of the Sikh Human Rights Group, who interacted with Modi during his November 2015 visit to London, said scrapping the list meets one of the three preconditions discussed at the meeting to resolve outstanding issues of overseas Sikhs.
He said: “The removal of the ‘adverse list’ is a major step and will come as a relief to many individuals and families who had sought refuge in western countries from the oppression of the 1980s and 1990s. It is a welcome step and paves the way towards building trust.”
“The order to prevent Indian high commissions and embassies from holding local lists is a substantive step as many people were not on the central list but were being harassed at embassies due to local issues”, London-based Rai added.
Rai, who has since 2015 held several rounds of talks with Indian functionaries, including BJP leader Ram Madhav, hoped that the process of releasing political prisoners held in Indian jails would also be expedited to fulfil the second of the three pre-conditions.
According to him, there was a five-point framework for a dialogue to resolve issues between overseas Sikhs and the Indian government since the 1984 Operation Bluestar — three pre-dialogue conditions and two broad agendas as the basis of dialogue.
The three pre-conditions were removal of the ‘blacklist’, release of political prisoners, and tendering an apology to the worldwide Sikh community “for the attack on Darbar Sahib in June 1984,” he said.
“The two broad agenda items for a dialogue remain — the supremacy of Akal Takht and the institution of the status of Darbar Sahib with no legal or political shadow over it, and an open-ended dialogue with all issues that rose from the attack on Darbar Sahib, without any restrictions from each side,” Rai added.
He said some progress has been made on the issue of anti-Sikh riots in Delhi with the incarceration of former Congress leader Sajjan Kumar, some political prisoners had been released and some police officers have been prosecuted for extra-judicial killings during the 1990s.
The British capital has long been the base from where pro-Khalistan leaders and groups have functioned. Over the years and decades, while the Khalistan issue ceased to be a factor in India, its leaders and supporters based in the UK and elsewhere continued to face the ‘blacklists’.
It was against this backdrop that the first engagement during Modi’s visit in November 2015 was with a delegation of overseas Sikhs, which was described by Rai as a turning point in the relationship between overseas Sikhs and the Indian state since Operation Bluestar.