Sikhs To Boycott Vaisakhi Downing Street Reception Over Massacre ‘Whitewash’

PM David Cameron
PM David Cameron

LONDON, UK—Sikhs could boycott a Downing Street reception with the prime minister, to voice their anger at the UK’s response to a 1984 Sikh Genocide massacre in India, after a report into the disaster found “no evidence” of British involvement.

Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood has penned a report into the 1984 raid at the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar which left 3,000 people dead.

Following the report, David Cameron had said there was “absolutely no evidence” of UK government involvement.

The Network of Sikh Organizations (NSO), headed by Lord Indarjit Singh of Wimbledon, is now calling for Sikhs to snub Vaisakhi gathering at Number 10, in celebration of the Sikh New Year, to voice their concern.

The NSO said via a written statement:

UK Sikhs are deeply disappointed by the UK government’s attitude to Sikh human rights.

While the present government cannot in any way be held responsible for support given by a predecessor government of 30 years ago, the present government’s statement that the assistance then given was ‘only minimal’, was deeply hurtful to Sikhs, and insensitive to others concerned with human rights.

We believe that it will be a betrayal of still grieving families in India, for UK Sikhs to participate in a UK government celebration that not only ignores their trauma and suffering, but also ignores the underlying commitment to human rights central to the festival of Vaisakhi.

The Sikh Federation claimed that the list of invitees at tomorrow’s function had been ‘thinned out’ to exclude those who might want to press the Prime Minister for a commitment to an inquiry, such as Narinderjit Singh, the General Secretary of the Federation.

The Federation, meanwhile, is calling for an independent inquiry into the full extent of the UK’s involvement, describing Sir Jeremy’s review as “limited in scope”.

Campaigners want to know specific support provided by the then-UK government to the Indian authorities and on what basis this was given; to what extent British advice was acted on; and the role the Foreign Office had with regards to its warnings to British citizens about the dangers of traveling to the Punjab in 1984.

The organization’s chair, Bhai Amrik Singh, said: “The Sikh Federation (UK) criticized the internal review before it was published, because the terms of reference for the review were too narrow. We have been asking for a dialogue with the Prime Minister to discuss the merits of an independent public inquiry. The Prime Minister has declined to respond to this request.

“The internal review was a ‘white wash’ to show the assistance provided by the UK government 30 years ago was ‘limited’ and carefully worded so as not to condemn India for the massacre.”

On Tuesday, the All Parliamentary Party Group for UK Sikhs and the British Sikh Consultative Forum will host a parliamentary event in the House of Commons. Both Cameron and Labor leader Ed Miliband are expected to speak at the event.

According to the Sikh Federation, 120 politicians across all parties have so far given their backing to an independent inquiry.

A Downing Street spokesman said: “The Prime Minister is very much looking forward to welcoming members of the Sikh community to Downing Street to celebrate Vaisakhi.”


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