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UK says it knows strength of Sikh feelings on 1984 events

The South Asia department in the foreign office wrote to the Sikhs for Justice reiterating Britain’s tradition of people gathering to freely demonstrate and express their views.

punjab Updated: Aug 19, 2018 09:12 IST
Prasoon Sonwalker
Prasoon Sonwalker
Hindustan Times, London
UK,Sikh,1984
Britain’s foreign office on Friday aid it encourages countries to ensure that their laws meet international human rights standards. (Reuters)

Britain’s foreign office on Friday said it acknowledges the strength of feelings in the Sikh community over the events of 1984, and said it encourages countries to ensure that their laws meet international human rights standards.

The South Asia department in the foreign office wrote to the Sikhs for Justice, the US-based advocacy group behind the August 12 rally at Trafalgar Square, reiterating Britain’s tradition of people gathering to freely demonstrate and express their views.

The letter was in response to the group’s communication alleging human rights violations and concerns in the Sikh community, and seeking a meeting to discuss such issues. New Delhi wanted London to deny permission to the event.

India’s demand was rejected, but there was tight security for the event after Indian high commissioner YK Sinha told home secretary Sajid Javid on August 9 of “adverse impact” on bilateral relationship if there were violence or incidents such as mutilating India’s flag.

The foreign office letter does not promise a meeting, but says: “The British government acknowledges the strength of feeling in the Sikh community regarding the events of 1984, including the events at the Golden Temple in Amritsar.”

“We encourage all states to ensure that their domestic laws meet international human rights standards. This includes the need for any allegations of human rights abuses to be investigated thoroughly, promptly and transparently. Moreover, we do encourage all involved parties to resolve any differences through dialogue,” the letter stated.

Noting the August 12 event, the letter pointed out that there is a balance to be struck while allowing demonstrations. “Protestors’ rights need to be balanced with the rights of others to go about their business without fear of intimidation or serious disruption to the community,” the letter stated.

SFJ’s Gurpatwant Singh Pannu said the foreign office response was “very encouraging” and added that the group would continue to engage governments on self-determination and its demand to hold a “referendum” to determine the status of Punjab.

The August 12 event was attended by many supporters from outside the United Kingdom. Frontline UK-based Sikh organisations, including pro-Khalistan groups, did not actively support it, even if they did not openly oppose it.

First Published: Aug 18, 2018 21:06 IST