Amid the alarming rise of a chauvinistic and belligerent Hindutva agenda in India, Sikhs and Kashmiris through a memorandum urged the United Kingdom to change its policy towards India.
According to media sources, the memorandum was submitted by a delegation of Sikhs and Kashmiris at 10 Downing Street, the office of the British Parliament, in London.
The Sikh and Kashmiri representatives characterised the Hindutva surge in India as a fascist threat to Christians, Dalits, Muslims and Sikhs alike – a threat which breaches India’s international legal obligations. They said that compelling India to comply with universally accepted legal and humanitarian norms was the key to bringing India back in to line. They cited the hugely authoritative report issued in February by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) which details the numerous constitutional and legal restrictions on minority religious freedoms in India, as well as this week’s open letter by 65 senior Indian civil servants which condemned the rampant ‘majoritarianism’ of the establishment. The delegation called for the implementation of the USCIRF report’s recommendations which include changes to the Indian Constitution (such as the removal of outrageous provisions that deem Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains to be Hindus for the purposes of personal and religious law) and operationalizing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities. The memorandum also heighted the atrocities committed by state and non-state actors aimed at crushing the self-determination movements in Punjab and Kashmir. It called for genocide perpetrators to be punished by the UN established tribunals and for peaceable conflict resolution by holding plebiscites so that the people of those regions could freely determine their own destinies. “An unchecked Hindutva agenda in India makes resolution of those conflicts impossible; hence the international community must require India to formally accept and comply with the right of self-determination as enshrined in Article 1 of the 1966 Covenants on Human Rights,” the memorandum said. India has formally rejected that right – something which the UN and leading member states have said is unacceptable, it added. Lord Nazir Ahmed, Chair of Parliamentarians for National Self-determination, and Lord Qurban Hussain both endorsed the memorandum and joined Sikh and Kashmiri representatives in delivering it to the UK PM’s official residence. They urged the British government to listen to the UK’s massive diaspora communities which want their political representatives to act on their concerns. The memorandum was signed by Amar Singh Chahal, Prof Nazir Ahmed Shawl, Amrik Singh Sahota, Gurdev Singh Chohan and Joga Singh. Importantly, it was also countersigned by Dr Iqtidar Cheema, the author of the USCIRF report which was also formally handed over at the same time.