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London, Thursday (05th April 2012): Lord Howell of Guildford responds to the Director of The Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO) Lord Singh, who raised concerns about the case of Balwant Singh Rajoana by tabling a question to Her Majesty’s Government. The question was initially raised in the House of Lords on the 27th of March 2012.

“Lord Singh of Wimbledon to ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they intend to discuss with the
government of India their commitment to human rights following the sentence of capital punishment
in the case of Balwant Singh Rajoana; and if so, what matters they intend to raise.” [HL16673]

London, Thursday (29th March 2012) Lord Singh the Director of The Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO), has raised concerns about the case of Balwant Singh Rajoana by tabling a question to Her Majesty’s Government. The question was tabled in the House of Lords, last week.
“Lord Singh of Wimbledon to ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they intend to discuss with the
government of India their commitment to human rights following the sentence of capital punishment
in the case of Balwant Singh Rajoana; and if so, what matters they intend to raise.” [HL166~5]
For reasons of protocol, Lord Singh was not able to include that Balwant Singh had been in jail, whilst on death row for 16 years
Recent reports indicate that the Indian state has granted a stay of execution. The hanging, which was scheduled for this Saturday, would have been India’s first capital punishment for eight years.
The South Asian Director of Human Rights Watch, Meenakshi Ganguly has also condemned the Indian death penalty, further to the news of  the planned execution by the Indian state.

London, Sunday (March 18th 2012): In a recent letter to Lord Indarjit Singh, the Director of The Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO), the Ambassador to Poland, Robin Barnett confirms he will review Mr. Shaminder Puri’s case. Mr Puri is a Gursikh geophysicist working with the UN in Poland. In 2010 the Polish Border Guards on grounds of security began a policy of asking Sikhs to remove their turbans and place them on the conveyor for inspection. Mr. Puri fell foul of the Border Guard’s policy. The Ambassador, Robin

Barnett writes:
“The Embassy was aware of this issue. However, I personally took over in Warsaw only last year. We will look into this matter and get back to you as soon as possible.”

The NSO’s Polish campaign began August 2010, following a terse plea from Mr. Puri. With the help of UK gurdwaras and other Sikh organisations, the NSO took advantage of a Prime Minister led Polish trade delegation to India to get the Indian government to criticise the Polish behaviour. The lobbying was effective. External affairs minister Preneet Kaur outraged by the behaviour of the Polish authorities towards her fellow Sikhs made her feelings known to the Polish Prime Minister in no uncertain terms, leading to the Polish authorities grudgingly halting their harassment of Sikh visitors to Poland.

Further to detailed discussion between the NSO, Shammy Puri Secretary General of a scientific organisation working with the UN in Poland and other Sikhs in Poland along with advice from human rights lawyers Bindman and Partners, it was decided to ventilate the issue in the Polish courts direct, rather than approaching the European Court of Human Rights. The NSO have also supported Mr. Puri financially and The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (HFHR) took up his case pro bono. The case has gone to appeal against the decision of the first instance court, which dismissed all of Mr. Puri’s claims in December 2011.

London, Sunday (March 18th 2012): In a recent letter to Lord Indarjit Singh, the Director of The Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO), the Ambassador to Poland, Robin Barnett confirms he will review Mr. Shaminder Puri’s case. Mr Puri is a Gursikh geophysicist working with the UN in Poland. In 2010 the Polish Border Guards on grounds of security began a policy of asking Sikhs to remove their turbans and place them on the conveyor for inspection. Mr. Puri fell foul of the Border Guard’s policy. The Ambassador, Robin Barnett writes:

“The Embassy was aware of this issue. However, I personally took over in Warsaw only last year. We will look into this matter and get back to you as soon as possible.”

The NSO’s Polish campaign began August 2010, following a terse plea from Mr. Puri. With the help of UK gurdwaras and other Sikh organisations, the NSO took advantage of a Prime Minister led Polish trade delegation to India to get the Indian government to criticise the Polish behaviour. The lobbying was effective. External affairs minister Preneet Kaur outraged by the behaviour of the Polish authorities towards her fellow Sikhs made her feelings known to the Polish Prime Minister in no uncertain terms, leading to the Polish authorities grudgingly halting their harassment of Sikh visitors to Poland.

Further to detailed discussion between the NSO, Shammy Puri Secretary General of a scientific organisation working with the UN in Poland and other Sikhs in Poland along with advice from human rights lawyers Bindman and Partners, it was decided to ventilate the issue in the Polish courts direct, rather than approaching the European Court of Human Rights. The NSO have also supported Mr. Puri financially and The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (HFHR) took up his case pro bono. The case has gone to appeal against the decision of the first instance court, which dismissed all of Mr. Puri’s claims in December 2011.

[ENDS]

Notes to Editors.

1. The Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO) is a registered charity that links more than 100 Gurdwaras and other UK Sikh organisations in active cooperation to enhance the image and understanding of Sikhism in the UK.
2. The trade delegation met Manmohan Singh in New Delhi on the 7th of Sep 2010, by which time the NSO managed to get more than 50 letters of concern to Preneet Kaur
3. The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (HFHR) is a major Human Rights organization in Europe.

The NSO is pleased to announce that its Director Dr Indarjit Singh OBE CBE has been honoured with a Life Peerage and will sit as an independent Lord in the House of Lords.

Many will know that Dr Indarjit Singh played a central role in the Mandla case,in the early 80s, which established an important degree of protection for Sikhs to wear the symbols of their faith. Earlier, he played a significant role in articulating the outrage felt by Sikhs by the tragic events of 1984 in radio and television broadcasts and articles and correspondence in UK and newspapers and journals, including paid adverts in the Times and Guardian, as well as articles in French and Arabic papers. His achievements are many but one that that is a particular source of pride to him, is being introduced at a recent conference in Estonia as ‘the man who brought Guru Nanak to the breakfast

Dr Indarjit Singh is the Vice Chair and founding member of the Inter Faith Network UK, a national body promoting inter faith understanding, and is Head of the Sikh Chaplaincy Service, which works for the pastoral care of Sikhs in prisons. He is also the co-ordinator of pastoral care for Sikhs in hospitals and in the Armed Forces, and a trustee of the World Congress of Faiths.

Dr Singh has represented the UK Sikh community on national occasions, including the Remembrance Service at the Cenotaph and the annual Commonwealth Day Service at Westminster Abbey. In 2008 he became the

first Sikh to address a major conference of at the Vatican, when he gave a keynote address on the need for respect and tolerance between world faiths. He has served on the British Medical Association’s Medical Ethics Committee; and was a member of a working group which advised the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for International Development on issues of third world debt and poverty relief.

Since 1984, Dr Singh has been a regular contributor to ‘Thought for the Day’ on Radio 4’s Today Programme, and has made frequent World Service. He has a First Class Certificate in Mine Management and has worked on mining and engineering projects in the UK, India and Dubai.

He received the UK Templeton Award for promoting religious understanding in 1989 and, in 1991, the prestigious Interfaith Medallion awarded jointly by the BBC and the Council of Christians and Jews for services to religious broadcasting. He is the recipient of several honorary doctorates and was awarded the OBE in 1996 and the CBE in 2009.

When asked about his feelings on the award of a life peerage, Indarjit commented: “I’m delighted to be the first turbaned Sikh in Parliament. It gives me a new opportunity, to do what I have always tried to do; to work with people of all beliefs to increase tolerance and understanding and work for greater social and political justice in society.” He added: “As Sikhs we have a glorious history of commitment and sacrifice for uplifting ideals. It is important that we see this as inspiration to work for a better present and future, not simply for ourselves, but for all people in line with our Gurus’ teachings. The mantra of today’s times to look after ourselves, because we are important, is creating a selfish and fragmented society. We saw the worst features of this in the recent riots. As Sikhs we see a wider society where the focus is away from an unhealthy obsession with self to the needs of wider society I would like, in my small way to work with like-minded people to reverse this trend. Sikh teachings are a unique blueprint of how to move in this direction.”

1. The Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO) is a registered charity that links more than 100 Gurdwaras and other UK Sikh organisations in active cooperation to enhance the image and understanding of Sikhism in the UK.

The Network of Sikh Organisation

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