India gets a blow from Britain

ISLAMABAD - A suspect wanted in India for his alleged involvement in bombings in Punjab in 2010 is organising a pro-Khalistan rally at Trafalgar Square here next week, according to a UK media report.

Paramjeet Singh Pamma, a Birmingham-based refugee, is among the key organisers of the rally dubbed as a "London Declaration" for a "Referendum 2020" campaign seeking a "sovereign state of Khalistan", the Sunday Times reported.

Pamma is wanted in India for twin bomb blasts in Patiala and Ambala in 2010 and is the alleged mastermind in the killing of Rulda Singh, head of the Rashtriya Sikh Sangat, in 2009.

Pamma, who was granted asylum in Britain in 2000, denies the allegations as "false charges".

He claims that up to 10,000 Sikhs are expected at the Trafalgar Square event next Sunday, many of whom are being bussed to London from other parts of Britain, the newspaper reported.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had issued a statement as news of the rally emerged last month and said it had registered a formal protest with the British government.

"We expect that the UK government will not allow any such group, whose intention is to spread hatred and impact our bilateral relations, to use its country," MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar had said at the time.

However, the UK government had indicated it has no plans of banning the rally, saying "people have the right to gather together and to demonstrate their views, provided that they do so within the law".

The rally is being funded by a US-based group called Sikhs for Justice and is being billed as the first-ever referendum of the global community of around 30 million Sikhs.

"We are doing this rally with the power of the democratic word," Pamma said, adding that he will "die a refugee if we (Sikhs) don't get our own country".

The rally is intended to raise awareness for a non-binding referendum in 2020, calling for the Sikh-majority state of Punjab to be granted independence. Organisers believe a high turnout will put pressure on the UN to ask India to hold a plebiscite.