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Parmjeet

Parmjeet Singh

Paramjeet Singh fled from arbitrary arrest and torture in India in 1999, and in the following year was granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK after a finding of a justifiable fear of persecution if he was made to return to India.

Paramjeet is married and is the father of 4 children age 7 to 11. In December 2015 the family went on a short Christmas holiday to Portugal where he was arrested by Interpol at the request of the Indian government and is now facing extradition proceedings for his forced return to India. It seems that the Indian government had taken exception to his speaking out on human rights abuse in India. Lord Singh, for the NSO, has raised his concerns with the Minister for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and other Sikh groups have also raised concerns with both British and Portuguese governments.

In an interview on 3rd January 2015 with a Portuguese television channel outside the House of Lords, Lord Singh was asked why had Paramjeet Singh after being granted asylum, continued to attack India’s attitude to human rights instead of simply getting on with his own life.

Lord Singh responded that we all have a responsibility to condemn the ill treatment of others, and for Sikhs this responsibility is embedded in religious teachings and is obligatory.

He appealed to the authorities in Portugal not to be used like pawns in a backdoor attempt by Indian authorities to silence criticism of their human rights record, and return Paramjeet to British jurisdiction.

UK government_0

A question on the progress of a government review into funding of extremist interpretations of Islam was the subject of a debate in the House of Lords earlier this week.

A Government review announced by the Prime Minister last year is scheduled to report back by spring 2016. Analysts across government departments are looking into sources of funding, which include those from overseas.

A government commissioned report last year into Islamist organisations concluded:

“Muslim Brotherhood ideology and tactics, in this country and overseas, are contrary to our values and have been contrary to our national interests and our national security.”

In questions in the Lords, Lord Singh of Wimbledon the Director of the Network of Sikh Organisations asked Her Majesty’s government:

“My Lords, when we talk about Islamic extremism, should we not attempt to be more precise in what we are talking about? There are passages in the Koran that might have been relevant to the time when the infant Muslim community was under siege from all sides but may not be so relevant today.”

He went on, “It is important that those passages be put in the context of today. Should the Government not be working with Muslim leaders to that end”

Other contributors to the debate included the Archbishop of Canterbury.

 

 

A question on the topic of counter extremism and Islam was the subject of a debate last week in the Lords.

UKIP Peer Lord Pearson asked Her Majesty’s Government if they would encourage British Muslims “to identify, confront and expose their violent co-religionists”, as part of the overall anti-terrorism strategy.

Lord Singh said, “my Lords, does the Minister agree that much of the conflict in the Middle East and the radicalisation of young Muslims in this and other countries is due to the export of a cruel and medieval interpretation of Islam from Saudi Arabia that has been rightly criticised by Dr Shuja Shafi, the Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain?”

He went on, “should we not be doing much more to help people counter this extreme interpretation of their faith, which is doing incalculable harm to the image of Islam?”

The debate follows from a memorandum published last month by Lord Pearson titled “Shall we talk about Islam.”

Other Peers who participated in the debate included former Chancellor of the Exchequer Lord Lamont, and Lord Paddick the former Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service.

The Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO) is pleased to acknowledge positive steps taken by the government, following its campaigning on the issue of separate monitoring for anti-Sikh hate crime.

A Home office spokesperson said, “Crime motivated by hatred or hostility towards someone because of who they or their religious beliefs are absolutely deplorable.”

They added, “We announced a new cross-Government hate crime plan. We also announced that we will work with the police to provide a breakdown of religious based hate crime as part of the data recorded by the police – this will ensure that in future there is accurate data on crimes committed against people because of their faith and race – including crimes committed against Sikhs.”

Lord Singh who has raised the issue on a number of occasions in the last year said, “NSO persistence in constantly raising this issue with ministers in the Lords and in discussion with the DCLG finally appears to be paying off.”

He went on, “The government now seem to realize the seriousness of race and mistaken identity hate crimes against members of the Sikh community.”

The Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO) expresses disappointment at the government’s continuing apathy on the subject of Sikh victims of hate crime.

In October the government announced anti-Muslim hate crime would be monitored as a separate category across all police forces, providing parity with the recording of anti-Semitic hate crime.

In contrast Britain’s other minority faiths like Sikhs and Hindus are not separately tracked, although the government has given assurances it will address hate crime against all communities even-handedly.

The NSO has learnt that it is likely that Sikh victims of anti-Muslim hate crime in London are being incorrectly recorded as victims of ‘Islamophobic offences.’

The MET does not break down Islamophobic hate crime by faith group.

The NSO is pressing government officials to monitor Sikh hate crime within a separate category, to provide parity with provisions already in place for Jews and Muslims.

In a debate last week which focused primarily on concerns about violence against Muslims post Paris, Lord Singh of Wimbledon said,

“The Minister will be aware of numerous attacks on Sikhs as a result of mistaken identity. While hate crimes against the Muslim community have been monitored by every police force in the country, not a single penny is being spent on monitoring hate crimes against Sikhs.”

He went on, “the American Government are well aware of this problem which Sikhs suffer from and are taking steps to monitor that hate crime. When will the British Government catch up?”

Members of the Sikh community expressed concerns last month over a potential backlash in the aftermath of the Paris terror attacks.

Senior government figures have contacted Lord Singh about a possible backlash against British Sikhs following the Islamic terrorist atrocities in Paris. Lord Singh informed the Head of Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) that attacks on Sikhs, and Sikh places of worship were a real possibility. He gave examples of where right wing extremists in Britain had been unable to distinguish turban-wearing Sikhs from Muslim extremists, and had attacked them. He also spoke to a Minister from DCLG citing other incidents driven by an increase in racism per se, rather than ‘Islamophobia’.

In September 2015 a Neo-Nazi was given life imprisonment for attempting to behead a Sikh dentist in ‘revenge’ for Fusilier Lee Rigby. Lord Singh had previously expressed concern that BBC Newsnight had incorrectly attributed the incident to ‘Islamophobia’. The victim, Dr Sarandev Bhambra, was in fact targeted because of the colour of his skin. In an environment post 9/11 Sikhs have suffered backlash because of both an increase in racism and ‘Islamophobia.’

During a debate this summer Lord Singh raised the difficulty facing Sikhs asking a DCLG Minister, “Does the Minister agree that hate crime is hate crime against any community, and that it should be tackled even-handedly, irrespective of the size of the community?” The Minister agreed, and said “The noble Lord is absolutely right—hate crime is hate crime.”

Despite these assurances DCLG announced last week that hate crime against Muslims was to be separately monitored by every police district in Britain. This provides parity for Muslims with provisions already in place for Jews. Despite the history of violence against Sikhs post 9/11, the government does not currently considered hate crimes against Sikhs worthy of separate monitoring. This inequality needs to be urgently addressed.

Lord Singh informed government officials that earlier this year the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had started to separately track hate crime against Sikhs, Hindus and Arabs. The separate monitoring was given a sense of urgency following the Oak Creek massacre in August 2012, when a white supremacist shot dead six Sikh worshipers in a gurdwara.

He told the Minister Britain should not lag behind the US. The Minister and Head of DCLG said they would urgently follow this up.

The Director of The Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO), Lord Singh has rejected an invitation to the ‘UKWelcomesModi’ reception and dinner hosted by the Indian High Commissioner.

The events being held this Friday are in honor of the Indian Premier Narendra Modi, who is on an official state visit to the UK.

Europe India Forum, organisers of ‘UKWelcomesModi’ have billed the forthcoming welcoming reception in Wembley as “the Diwali event for the family this year”. They aim to bring together, “individuals from the 1.6 million-strong Indian community in Britain- from all backgrounds, generations and regions – to celebrate two great nations with one glorious future.”

Thanking the High Commissioner for the invitation, Lord Singh responded, “Sikhs are delighted that under Mr Modi’s premiership, the widespread killing of Sikhs in 1984 has now been recognised as ‘genocide’.”

He went on, “This is a big step to bringing the Hindu and Sikh communities together, and in this context, as a leader of Britain’s half million Sikhs, I would be grateful for 5-6 minutes with Mr Modi to suggest ways of taking his initiative towards closure, in a way that brings the Hindu and Sikh communities closer together for the benefit of India as a whole.”

The High Commissioners office confirmed there would be no opportunity to discuss issues with Mr Modi, bar a handshake. Lord Singh declined the offer.

In separate developments, the Network of Sikh Organisations can confirm Lord Singh has been in communication with the Labour leader’s office, who confirmed Jeremy Corbyn will be raising the 1984 Sikh genocide with Mr Modi.

Sikh man being surrounded and attacked by mobs in 1984

Sikh man being surrounded and attacked by mobs in 1984

The office for the leader of the Labour Party has said Jeremy Corbyn will be taking up the issue of the 1984 Sikh genocide with the Indian premier during his visit to Britain this week.

The development comes following recent correspondence between Lord Singh of Wimbledon, the Director of The Network of Sikh Organisations, and the Labour Leader’s Office.

Lord Singh informed Mr Corbyn’s office that prior to Mr Modi’s landslide victory, he and his party had placed the blame for the killings of Sikhs on the then Congress government. Furthermore, following appointment to office Mr Modi’s Home Minister described the killings as “genocide”.

He wrote: “According to cables from the American Embassy in Delhi at the time, more Sikhs were brutally murdered by government orchestrated violence in the first three days of November 1984 than the total number of those killed in the long terror years of General Pinochet’s rule in Chile.”

He went on, “Sikhs are acutely concerned that a year after his election, Mr Modi has done nothing to bring identified Congress leaders who urged gangs of hooligans, to kill, murder and burn Sikh men, women and children, to justice. They now freely roam the streets gloating of their achievements to the bewilderment of relatives of those murdered, as well as the wider Sikh community.”

Lord Singh requested Mr Corbyn to ask Mr Modi to help bring closure to the remaining grieving families by setting up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which indicts those responsible for inciting murderous mobs. He said this would allow others to learn lessons, for what David Cameron described last year as “the worst stain on the history of post partition India.”

Mr Corbyn’s office confirmed he would be taking up the issue with Mr Modi when they meet later this week.

Peers discussed Anglo-Egyptian relations following a recent question about the ‘appropriateness’ of President al-Sisi’s visit to Britain.  

Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws (Lab) tabled a question asking Her Majesty’s Government whether President al-Sisi’s visit is appropriate in view of the state of the rule of law and human rights violations in Egypt.  
 
In response, The Earl of Courtown (Cons) said Egypt is important for Britain’s national interests adding, “We must work together on the immediate issues facing us, such as bringing stability to Libya, combating ISIL and countering extremism.”

Appalled by the Minister’s reluctance to speak on human rights abuse, Lord Singh of Wimbledon (CB), the Director of The Network of Sikh Organisations said,
 
“My Lords, we have recently lavished hospitality on the President of China, where, as we heard in the answers to an earlier Question, there are gross abuses of human rights and the ruling clique presumes to tell people how many children they can have.”
 
He went on, “We will shortly be lavishing similar hospitality on Narendra Modi, who until recently was excluded from this country and the United States for possible genocide against the Muslim community in India. We are rushing around trying to sell arms to Saudi Arabia, which is one of the most barbarous regimes in the Middle East.
 
To much laughter and applause he cuttingly concluded that it would be discriminatory to even think of excluding President al-Sisi from these others with questionable human rights records.
 
One Peer commented that he could not say what Lord Singh had said because he had neither the wit nor courage to put government complacency on human rights in such clear perspective.

A Grotesque Challenge to Sikh Teachings on Compassionate Care:

The British Medical Association (BMA), allied healthcare professionals and religious leaders are united in pressing for better palliative care for all. Sikh teachings emphasize the responsibility of society to care for the elderly and vulnerable, whilst making them feel loved and valued members of the community. As Sikhs we should remember the example of Guru Har Krishan, who put the care of victims of a smallpox epidemic in Delhi at greater importance than his own life. The importance of ‘assisted living’ and caring for those around us is central to Sikh teachings.

It is therefore a matter of real concern that Rob Marris MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Sikhs, will be introducing legislation in Parliament in early September, that cuts across Sikh teachings on our collective responsibility to care for all members of society (sarbat ka bhalla), and instead assist vulnerable people to take their own lives. Marris, MP for Wolverhampton South West tabled a Private Members Bill ‘Assisted Dying (No.2)’ in June 2015. This follows on from a similar Bill introduced by Lord Falconer last year, which didn’t get past the third reading in the Lords. Some Peers expressed concerns about the ‘financial incentives’ involved in ending the lives of the terminally ill. The Bill was further described as a ‘breeding ground for vultures.’

Many see the dangers of depressed individuals at a low ebb surrounded by uncaring relatives, feeling morally pressurised to stop being a burden on others by seeking help to end their lives. Hundreds of letters received by Lord Singh from disabled people underline their fear and concern over the proposed legislation. In a debate on ‘assisted dying’ last year, Lord Singh said:

“In attempting to show compassion to a few, it neglects due compassion to many thousands of others. It has created immense fear in vulnerable people that they are being seen as a problem by society, with consequent damage to their sense of self-worth.”

Action Required

  1. All Sikhs should lobby the Chair of the APPG for Sikhs, Rob Marris (whose majority is only a few hundred) to withdraw his ill-considered and demeaning bill. The undeniable strength of the Sikh Federation on the APPG could be particularly helpful.
  2. All Sikhs should lobby other members of parliament not to support a Bill that cuts across our responsibility as human beings and the whole thrust of Sikh teachings to assist vulnerable people to live with dignity and good palliative care.

 

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