Why a rally for 'Khalistan 2020' this Sunday is raising tension amongst UK Sikh groups
By Barfi Culture Team
8th August 2018

A rally planned for this Sunday in London to campaign for Khalistan, an independent homeland for Sikhs, is already causing controversy among Sikh groups.

It has also prompted criticism of the MP Preet Gill, who was today accused of "serving Indian government’s objectives".

The background

Sikhs For Justice (SFJ), a New York based group, are holding a 'Khalistan 2020 Referendum' rally on August 12th in central London.

SFJ say: "The aim of the event is to spread among the world community an awareness about Sikh peoples' right of self-determination and its endeavors to hold a referendum in Punjab for realization of this fundamental political right."

In other words, they hope the 'Referendum' in 2020 will put international pressure on the Indian government to offer Sikhs a vote on Khalistan.

The Indian government had earlier called on the UK to ban the event but the Metropolitan Police said it had no credible reason to stop a peaceful political rally from going ahead.

But the rally did get a surprising endorsement from the Green Party MP Caroline Lucas.

The controversy

First the Sunday Times reported last weekend that one of the organisers, Birmingham-based activist Paramjeet Singh Pamma, was wanted in India in involvement over the murder of a Hindu nationalist leader.

Pamma denies the "false charges" as being politically motivated.

The Sunday Times story prompted a sharp rebuke from the Sikh Federation UK. It sent out a press release saying: "India needs to accept the long standing demand for a Sikh homeland is gaining political support."

But it also dismissed the SFJ rally as "nothing more than an unofficial opinion poll" and added it was just a "small step to raise awareness on the treatment of Sikhs by the Indian authorities".

Later, on a Facebook discussion, Jas Singh from the Sikh Federation UK said many Sikh groups globally were "yet to be convinced by this campaign" and it was a "dead end".

That view was echoed by the Sikh MP Preet Gill, who is close to the Sikh Federation UK, in a letter to a constituent:

"History shows us that non-binding referendums have very little impact on governments of the United Nations, and run the risk of lacking credibility, wasting significant resources and building false expectations."

She would not be attending due to "other commitments", she said, adding that the Sikh Federation UK and the Sikh Council were also "publicly silent" on the London rally.

Preet Gill MP's letter prompted a rebuke from Sikhs For Justice today.

Its UK coordinator Dupinderjit Singh said: "We respect every MP’s views on non-binding referendum and its impacts, however, in the case of MP Gill, she is using scare tactics to coax her voters into abstaining from participation in Aug 12 event which openly serves Indian government’s objectives."

He added: "The question that needs to be answered by Preet Gill is whose interests she really represents: her constituents - the UK Sikhs? Indian government?"

Organisers say they have been contacting Gurdwaras across Europe and hope to have as many as 10,000 Sikhs at the event on Sunday.

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