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Report shows Khalistanis growing under the nose of UK government

NewsReport shows Khalistanis growing under the nose of UK government

NEW DELHI: In what is likely to come as a watershed event as far as UK’s soft-spot for Khalistani elements is concerned, a recently released investigative report by the United Kingdom has brought out the dangers that the country is facing from Khalistani groups and how these “tiny minority” attracts disproportionate amounts of attention and stokes divisive sentiments in the more than five lakh strong Sikh community in the UK.
The said report, titled “Does government do God” was written by Colin Bloom, who is the “faith advisor” to the Government of UK after it was commissioned in October 2019.
The 165-page report, which is being described as the most sweeping review of the government’s relationship with religion in a generation, took three years to publish. It saw five Faith Ministers, four Secretaries of State for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and three Prime Ministers.
The report, which has mentioned “Khalistan” 33 times, has stated that along with other such entities, pro-Khalistan extremist groups have grown under the nose of the UK authorities. According to official sources, the report was “watered down” from its original findings on the extent of Khalistani penetration in society so as not to enrage the pressure groups that support the Khalistani groups. Despite this, it is the first such report that has spoken in detail about how Khalistani groups and sentiments are being “inadvertently legitimized through government and parliamentary engagements” by successive governments in London.
During his investigation, Bloom recorded the testimony of a witness who stated that these groups were trying to brainwash the youth to cause divisions and hate in India. “Some Sikh extremist groups are using places of worship to fund or getting funds under the name of faith and spearheading hate,” the report quotes the witness. Another witness spoke about how “Some Sikh organisations (are) openly glorifying hate and terror and posing threat and putting our freedom under risk.”
Bloom has said that the government should now “clearly define and investigate extremist activity and identify where this exists within the Sikh community, take steps to develop a more nuanced and comprehensive understanding of subversive and sectarian Sikh extremist activity.”
“Government should
ensure that unacceptable and extremist behaviours are not inadvertently legitimised by government or parliamentary engagement,” the report states.
According to Bloom, the Khalistani lobby was artificially inflating their influence and legitimising dubious positions or tactics by using the “Sikh” label to lobby political bodies.
“By circumventing democratic order, some groups compete for power by masquerading as human rights activists, presenting a false appearance of legitimacy. The use of various aliases which attempt to divert public attention away from a central umbrella organisation is a common strategy used to subvert the British political order. This strategy has also historically been used by white supremacist groups where members and activists belong to more than one organisation, and some Islamist terrorist groups such as Al Ghurabaa, first proscribed in 2006, with several more aliases proscribed since.” Al Ghurabaa is a Muslim organization which was banned in July 2006 for supporting terrorism.
Significantly, Bloom has also written about how Canada too is facing the threat of Khalistani elements. “This subversive way of working is not unique to the UK. Canada is also experiencing a similar phenomenon, as explained in the 2020 report by the public policy think tank the Macdonald-Laurier Institute. In particular, the report (by the think tank) highlights the historic roots and continued efforts of ‘thugs and political hustlers’ attempting to disrupt and jeopardise both Canadian and Indian political orders. The report’s foreword also highlights how the ‘2018 Public Report on the Terrorism Threat to Canada’ allegedly came under fire from Sikh activists who objected to the use of language, accusing it of criticising certain Sikh groups. Following this pressure, the public report was modified to exclude specific terms associated with the establishment of an independent Sikh state (such as Khalistan),” the report by Bloom reads.
It then goes on to recall how, “the former Premier of British Columbia (Canada), Ujjal Dosanjh, was allegedly threatened and severely beaten for speaking out against Sikh extremists and terrorists. He stated that he and others who spoke out faced a ‘reign of terror’ that included beatings, arson, and threats of kidnapping and death. Testifying at a public inquiry in 2007 into the bombing of Air India flight 182, Dosanjh said most mainstream politicians and police officers viewed the problem as an internal dispute among immigrants, with no consequences for anybody else”. “I believe that the institutions of our society were unable to understand or comprehend it to any great degree at that time and were not able to deal with it … and we were left to fend for ourselves,” writes Bloom in what is perhaps an indication of how the same might be faced by British politicians in the near future.
Bloom has stated that “In light of this, it is vitally important that the government develops a more comprehensive understanding of the tactics and methods some Sikh activists employ to divert public attention away from their subversive agenda. This reviewer (Bloom) agrees with the 2019 Commission for Countering Extremism report that a more balanced approach is required which is not limited to a narrow focus on extremism or terrorism, but recognises the nuance of Sikh communities and the rising tensions within it: “The current ‘one size fits all’ approach taken by government to counter issues of ‘fundamentalism’ and ‘extremism’ fails to sufficiently understand nuances within various communities.”
The report states that it suspects that proscribed Sikh groups were getting help from parliamentary entities. “It is difficult to prove given the complex structures and multiple aliases of various groups, but conversations with academics and political figures have given this reviewer grounds to suspect that there is at least overlap of membership between some Sikh groups operating in the UK and proscribed (or previously proscribed) groups. In particular, this report recommends that the MPs who are in the All-Party Parliamentary Group for British Sikhs consider the findings of this report. The parliamentary authorities must do what they can to ensure that the parliamentary estate is not unwittingly hosting organisations and individuals who have been linked to bullying and harassment at best, and subversive behaviours at worst, which are antithetic to the parliamentary estate’s own values of truth, justice, peace, tolerance and democracy. The right to hold certain beliefs should always be upheld, as should the right to freedom of expression of those beliefs. But the government must take extra care to ensure that the beliefs and subsequent behaviours of individuals or organisations do not conflict with or undermine democratic order.”
“Government must allow for the proper level of engagement with British Sikh communities, but it must also impede the advance of subversive groups which attempt to fracture majority Sikh communities and negatively affect the stability of our society. It is important that the government neither overlooks nor fails to be discerning when it comes to concerns regarding extremist ties when selecting the individuals and groups responsible for representing British Sikhs at official and political levels.”
The report mentions how, during the evidence gathering process while preparing this report, Bloom encountered people who were not willing to go on record due to fear of Khalistani elements and their supporters.
“As part of the evidence gathering for this report, politicians, public figures, academics and officials provided evidence, some of whom are high profile. Because of their fear of retribution, they spoke under the condition of anonymity, but their stories were all very similar. At times they have felt disparaged, victimised, harassed or threatened by aggressive Sikh activists who do not hesitate to abuse or bully anyone who either criticises them or does not follow or support their opinion. Many have been intimidated and called ‘traitors’, ‘impure’, ‘nastic’ (infidel) and ‘patits’ (heretics). Members of different political parties who have served in public office have given examples of how they felt pressured to do what these activists wanted, and how some Sikh activists claim to have power over not only the ballot box, but also the selection processes of different local parliamentary and political bodies. One public servant said they would ‘live in fear’ of retribution if they were to speak out against the ideological narrative of the activists. Others have confirmed that investigations into this type of extremist behaviour, which this report aims to present, are long overdue,” it reads.
Bloom found that these Khalistani elements, whom he described as “small, extremely vocal and aggressive minority of British Sikhs” who promote an ethno-nationalist agenda, have been known to support and incite violence and intimidation in their ambition to establish an independent state called Khalistan, the physical borders of which are largely shared with specific parts of the Punjab state in India.
“Interestingly, this territorial claim does not include the part of the Punjab located in Pakistan. It is not entirely clear if the motivation for these extremists is faith-based or not,” it found.
“Sikh extremists and their supporters often upload videos and other materials onto social media platforms such as Facebook, iTunes and YouTube which contain alarmingly dangerous and offensive imagery, language and the glorification of extremist behaviour. There are videos that incite violence and hatred towards Muslims, Hindus and even other Sikhs who disagree with the minority extremist ideology. To avoid publicising such material, the details are not included here. But this reviewer has been provided with examples, including very professionally curated and filmed music videos which depict the graphic abduction, torture and murder of Indian leaders, and multiple other videos inciting violence, retribution and the glorification of dead pro-Khalistan militants and AK47 machine guns,” Bloom found.
“Some YouTube channels which spread such material have subscribers in the tens of thousands. In February 2021, Khalsa Television Ltd, which served Sikh communities in the UK, was fined £50,000 by Ofcom for failing to comply with broadcasting rules. The channel aired a music video indirectly calling for violence (including murder) and a discussion programme which provided a platform for views that amounted to indirect calls to action that were likely to encourage or incite crime or lead to disorder. The discussion programme also included a reference to proscribed terrorist organisation Babbar Khalsa, which could be taken as legitimising and normalising its aims and actions in the eyes of viewers. Ofcom took the decision to suspend and eventually revoke Khalsa Television Ltd’s broadcasting license following multiple breaches of broadcasting rules: ‘This was the third time within four years that this licensee had been found in breach of our rules on incitement to crime due to programmes inciting violence.’ This involved promoting violence, including murder, as an acceptable and necessary form of action to further the pro-Khalistan cause. But crucially, there is no sign that YouTube or the UK’s counter-terrorism bodies have investigated the explicit glorification of violence and terrorism being promoted by Sikh extremists on YouTube channels and social media platforms,” the report reads. “Ofcom” is the UK’s communications regulator.
As per the report, there were instances of activities of several Sikh groups and banned groups “overlapping”. “These subversive, sectarian and discriminatory activities do not reflect the true nature of the majority of British Sikh communities, who, for the most part, are the ones adversely affected by this behaviour. There have been previous attempts to curtail this sort of activity. For example, Babbar Khalsa International was proscribed in 2001 under the Terrorism Act 2000. Babbar Khalsa International is known for its use of violent force and planned terrorist attacks, which has led to multiple arrests of suspected members in India, Canada and the United States over the last 20 years.”
“However, International Sikh Youth Federation, which has also allegedly been responsible for assassinations, bombings and kidnappings targeting Hindus, moderate Sikhs and Indian government officials, was de-proscribed by the UK government in 2016 following an application to remove them from the list of terrorist organisations in the UK. The International Sikh Youth Federation has been banned in multiple countries and is still listed as a terrorist entity in Canada. As this report has previously stated, several members of Sikh communities believe there is overlap between some Sikh groups operating in the UK now, and proscribed (or previously proscribed) groups. This is extremely difficult to prove given the complex structures and multiple aliases of various groups. But nevertheless, this reviewer urges the government to investigate and reconsider some of its previous conclusions regarding the activity of these groups.”
“This reviewer does acknowledge that it would be difficult to proscribe specific groups unless they meet the clear threshold for terrorist behaviour. But this leaves a significant policy gap that must be plugged. Government needs to take steps to define and deal with the subversive and sectarian behaviour described in this chapter, which in the opinion of this reviewer should be viewed as harmful extremism, to ensure it cannot continue or be emulated by other faith-inspired ethno-nationalist groups. Democratic order, the fabric of our society, and the ability of faith communities to live cohesively and peacefully is at risk if this is not addressed,” Bloom stated.

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