Friday 27 November 2009

Sikhs Protest Outside White House During PM’s State Visit

Sikhs Protest Outside White House During PM’s State VisitNorth America

Amnesty International Also Raises 1984 IssueWASHINGTON - As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh talked of human rights and the rule of law inside the White House on Tuesday morning, some Sikh protesters blasted Singh on those same issues from across the street.

Sikhs protest Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's policies. Photo: Sikh News Network.

Sikh kids hand out flyer about Sikhs who disappeared during the Punjab counterinsurgency from 1984 to 1995. Photo: Sikh News Network. “India and America are separated by distance, but bound together by the values of democracy, pluralism, rule of law, and respect for fundamental human freedoms,” Singh said at the welcoming ceremony. “Over the years, we have built upon these values and created a partnership that is based upon both principle and pragmatism.”
India’s failure to prosecute the perpetrators of the 1984 anti-Sikh pogroms is testimony to the hypocrisy of the world’s largest democracy, said Amarjit Singh, executive director of the Washington-based Khalistan Affairs Center. And the decade long counterinsurgency that followed in Punjab, which resulted in the killings of tens of thousands of Sikhs, is further evidence that Sikhs should have the right to self determination, he said.
Amarjit Singh and 34 Sikh American organizations placed an advertisement Tuesday in the Washington Times, the area’s second largest newspaper, urging Obama not to accept the civilian nuclear power agreement and asking him to "forcefully" intercede with Manmohan Singh to bring the perpetrators of the 1984 pogroms to justice. He led a group of about 40 local Sikhs who protested with Khalistan placards and megaphones at Lafayette Park. The protest coincided with the end of a joint press conference later that morning.
Ahead of the first state visit of Obama’s presidency, Amnesty International sent a letter to the president on Nov. 18 urging him to press Manmohan Singh to “bring to justice those involved in the mass killings of Sikhs.”
The human rights group also asked him “to make public statements emphasizing that human rights are central to US-India relations” and “to address human rights concerns during your joint press conference.”
Obama did not address human rights in any of his speeches, but he did mention it in answering a reporter’s question.
“We are societies that believe in human rights and core freedoms that are enshrined in our founding documents,” Obama said when reporter, Smita Prakash, asked him why he though the two countries are “natural allies.”
As members of the press left the building, protesters could be heard shouting “Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal.” But Manmohan Singh left with Obama in a motorcade from the opposite side of the White House for a 12:45 p. m. luncheon at the state department. He probably did not hear any of it, a press-office staffer said. The protest lasted until about 3 p. m.
“Just after one year, the Indian prime minister is protesting why Pakistan is not prosecuting the people who are responsible for the Bombay (terrorist attacks),” Amarjit Singh said. “Yes, they should be punished. But what about those, from 25 years ago, those killers of thousands, those who are ministers in Manmohan Singh’s cabinet?”
He was referring to Kamal Nath, union minister for road, transport and highways. Nath’s name appeared in the first FIR (First Information Report), a written document prepared by police when they receive information of a crime. He is accused of leading the mobs that attacked Gurdwara Rakabganj and killed many Sikhs during and afterwards.
He was also referring to Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar, who were members of parliament until April when journalist, Jarnail Singh, flung his shoe at Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram in protest of the Central Bureau of Investigation’s final report in March clearing Tytler of allegedly leading mobs of thousands during the pogroms. Several eyewitnesses were deposed, but he was ultimately exonerated because of lack of concrete evidence.
The Congress Party withdrew Tytler’s candidacy for parliament after intense media attention, and also sacked Kumar’s candidacy to avoid further scrutiny of his role in also leading mobs.
Amarjit Singh said he was not expecting anything more from Manmohan Singh because he is a Sikh. Anybody sitting on the seat of Parliament should do justice. But he was irked that the Sikh prime minister wants to sweep the 1984 issue under the rug.
“Thousands of Sikhs were killed in all those years, and our Sikh prime minister is telling us forget about it, we have enough compensation, it’s not in the interest of the Sikhs to continue with this,” he said, referring to the prime minister’s statement in May that the issue was of “no profit to either the country or the Sikh community.” It’s is the same statement Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi made in 1985 - that a judicial inquiry “would not be in the interest of Sikhs.”
“In front of the white House, the message is that we half-million Sikh Americans, we want the justice should (be dealt) to the people of November 1984 Sikh genocide… Sikhs have not got the justice and nobody has been punished.”
Note: Top photo: Amarjit Singh, executive director of the Khalistan Affairs Center, by Sikh News Network.By Anju KaurSikh News Network staff journalistanjukaur@sikhnn.com © Copyrigt 2001-2009 Sikh News Network, LLC.

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