UK police deny working with Indian intelligence over 'extremism' raids, Sikhs unconvinced
By Barfi Culture Team
22nd September 2018

Counter-terrorism police in West Midlands have emphatically denied working with Indian intelligence officials over the raids conducted on Sikh activists this week.

As more details emerge over what happened, Sikh activists have privately told Barfi Culture they were shocked and surprised by this week's events.

Briefly, what happened?

On Tuesday, West Midlands police conducted raids at homes in Coventry, Leicester and Birmingham. We have learnt that raids took place in West London too.

The raids were conducted by the West Midlands Counter-terrorism Unit. They said no arrests were made and that while the searches had been concluded, the investigations would continue.

There was no indication these raids were targeted at Khalistani Sikh activists. But the WM police statement mentioned "allegations of extremist activity in India," which sent off alarm bells at Sikh organisations.

After some Sikhs publicly confirmed their houses had been raided, the Labour MP Preet Gill and the Sikh Council asked WM Police for a meeting.

So what do we know now?

The Sikh Council UK, in a statement sent to Barfi Culture today, said WM Police reassured them that:

- The operation was "based on intelligence gathered in the UK", not Indian intelligence.
- There was no Indian or UK government involvement.
- Warrants were issued by UK courts, following scrutiny
- Police were not aware of websites being taken down.
- They define "extremism" as advocacy of or support for religious or political violence.

Sikh Council UK's Jagtar Singh said: "We have relayed concerns to West Midlands CTU (counter-terrorism unit) in connection with this case and are reporting back the responses received. There are naturally concerns and fears within the community in the circumstances and we continue to monitor developments."

Huffington Post's Amardeep Bassey also reports that:

- Up to 70 officers took part in the coordinated operation.
- An army bomb disposal squad was called to a Coventry address after fireworks were discovered.

Latest reactions

The Sikh Press Association asks How Punjab Police, as reported by the Indian Express, knew the identity of some targets if British intelligence didn't share information with them? (See Update 2 in our story earlier).

"It is incredibly worrying to learn that Indian media outlets are citing British police forces as a source of information that should not be available to them. Are these Indian outlets just speculating and using West Midlands Police as their cover? If so, West Midlands police must publicly condemn them, and should do so with full support of the UK government," said Sikh PA's Jasveer Singh.

Some Sikh activists are also concerned that information gathered by British intelligence will be shared with Indian police.

The National Sikh Youth Federation (NSYF) said: "[We are] deeply concerned that the personal data and legally privileged information of Sikh activists will be shared with Indian security forces placing the lives of Sikhs in Indian-Occupied East Punjab in extreme danger."

"If it wasn’t clear before it should be absolutely clear now that the primary motivation of the Indian state is to silence Sikh dissent by presenting long standing Sikh political grievances with the Indian regime and support for Khalistan as extremism and terrorism."

The Labour MP Preet Gill, also chair of the Sikh APPG in Parliament, said earlier she would raise the issue with the Home Office and the police. She has not said anything since.

The Sikh Federation UK spokesperson Bhai Amrik Singh said in a statement today: "Following comments of Punjab police officers the Sikh community and lawyers are in no doubt these raids are linked to a search for evidence against Jagtar Singh Johal."

They also said they may challenge the legality of the raids in court.

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