LONDON - The British government has rejected India government’s demand seeking a ban on a pro-Khalistan group planning to issue a “London Declaration” for a “referendum” on Punjab’s independence from India at Trafalgar Square on August 12.
US-based group called “Sikhs for Justice” is preparing for the event in Trafalgar Square and it’s understood the group has support of many Sikh groups in the UK . ‘Sikhs for Justice’ held a press conference in Southall, London, and announced its plans of “referendum” with the pledge that it will continue to highlight the case of a separate Sikh homeland.
The Sunday Times reported that the event next Sunday in Trafalgar Square has caused a diplomatic rift between the British and Indian governments, with India lodging a formal protest with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). Indian government wrote to the British government that a minority of Sikh hardliners are exploiting free-speech laws in Britain to call for the creation of a separatist state known as “Khalistan”.
The paper reported that the rally is being funded by ‘Sikhs for Justice’ and that one of the key figures linked with the event is a Birmingham-based activist, Paramjeet Singh Pamma, wanted in India for his alleged involvement in bombings in 2010 and for the killing the previous year of Rulda Singh, a political leader who worked for the Hindu nationalist cause.
Pamma, who came to Britain in 2000, denies the “false charges” and said the British police investigated him in 2010-11 which resulted in no action against him and an attempt by the Indian authorities to extradite Pamma from Portugal — where he was arrested on holiday in 2015 — ended in failure.
When asked about the Indian government’s request to ban the rally, a spokesman for the FCO said that in the UK , people have the right to gather together and to demonstrate their views, provided that they do so within the law.
The spokesman said that actions will be taken if laws of free speech are violated or disorder or violence is encouraged in Britain. It’s understood that the Indian government had requested the British government to deny permission for the event. ‘Sikhs for Justice’ hopes that around 10,000 Sikhs will be attending the event in London from all over the UK .
Pamma said 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 are hoping a high turnout will put pressure on the United Nations to ask India to hold a plebiscite, said the Sunday Times.
“On August 12, we will unveil the case for Sikhs’ right to self-determination as guaranteed in the UN Charter and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,’’ said SFJ’s legal adviser, attorney Gurpatwant Singh Pannun.