London: India’s Hindutva government, whilst in seeming paralysis over its humiliating military reverse in the Galwan Valley at the hands of China, has found something to do. In a pathetic attempt to look tough it has designated nine diaspora-based Sikhs to be “terrorists” under its infamous Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (“UAPA””) for “anti-national activities and through their support to and involvement in the Khalistan Movement”, despite there being no armed conflict in Punjab since the mid-1990s. In a busy week it has also arrested several Sikhs in India on trumped-up charges, whilst PM Modi has given Chinese troops a clean chit by declaring they never intruded in the first place.
The contrast says a lot about the cowardice and mentality of a right-wing majoritarian leadership that cannot see how perverse its actions are. But there is a much more important point here for the international community to register. The UAPA itself falls foul of international law by being completely incompatible with the right of self-determination, as enshrined in Article 1 of the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (“ICCPR”). Section 2 of the UAPA defines as “unlawful activity” any action (of whatever nature) which supports the secession of any part of the country or questions its territorial integrity. This directly contravenes the right of self-determination, one that has been accorded the status of a fundamental human right by the international community, pursuant to which the Sikh nation is lawfully and legitimately pursuing independence in its homeland, in the form of a sovereign state of Khalistan.
In yet another breach of the ICCPR, the “terrorist” designation is made without any ‘due process’ in law; there are no charges, no legal defence, no courts involved at all. This lack of due process under the UAPA and other Indian legislation has been castigated by international human rights bodies. Earlier this year Amnesty International counted the UAPA amongst “four Indian laws that should have never existed, let alone be used to stifle dissent and free speech” and, specifically in respect of the government’s ability to designate individuals as “terrorists” in this way, described the process as “being in absolute violation of international human rights law”.
The Council of Khalistan urges the international community to firmly reject this unlawful move by the Indian state and instead to take India to task over it’s appalling record of state terrorism which has been used to suppress the legitimate struggle for self-determination in the Sikh homeland in Indian-controlled Punjab. Some 200,000 Sikh lives have been tragically lost since 1984 by that genocidal policy and it is time the perpetrators were put before an international criminal tribunal. The Sikhs have long since designated them as criminals and will never forget their crimes.
The current potentially catastrophic security crisis in South Asia, developed over decades by India’s aggression towards freedom-loving nations in Punjab, Kashmir, Nagaland, Assam, Manipur – as well as its aggression towards neighbouring states – calls for urgent international action. The key to peaceful conflict resolution lies exclusively with the implementation of the right of self-determination, underpinned by international law. The Sikh nation will not be deterred by the foolish actions of a fascist regime; it will pursue its freedom struggle and bring down colonial rule in Punjab as it has previously done on several occasions over the course of history. Having made its Declaration of Independence in 1986, it will see the struggle through. With Modi’s multifaceted crises engulfing his regime and country, he would be wise to understand that – but is unfortunately unlikely to do so of his own volition. The international community, for the sake of hundreds of millions living in the region, should make him recognise reality and change course.
Amrik Singh Sahota, OBE Ranjit Singh Srai
President General Secretary
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