Brits urge International Intervention to Protect Indian Minorities
On 25 April 2015, I addressed a very impressive conference at the Council Chambers of Birmingham City Council. The conference brought together various religious and ethnic communities across UK and several noted experts to reflect upon the plight of religious minorities in India. My speech was focused on how Modi Government is ignoring India’s numerous problems, ranging from human rights violations, attacks against minorities and violence against women to the rise of communalism under the current Hindutava government of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). I briefed my audience how millions of Muslims, Sikhs and Christians who have faced ever increasing aggression since 1947 see a bleak future under hegemonic secular state in which their human rights, whether individual or collective, can only be guaranteed by effective international action underpinned by international law. The conference also heard that forcible, illegal denial of the right of self-determination in Punjab and Kashmir has cost hundreds of thousands of lives, to the genocide of Sikhs in 1984 and Muslims in 2002 and the attacks on Mosques, Gurdwaras and Churches.
The conference was Chaired by Lord Nazir Ahmed and coordinated by Mr. Ranjit Singh Srai, a human rights activist. Fabian Hamilton, a member of the House of Commons and a senior UK Labour Party politician in his statement called on India to end its “unacceptable” rejection of the right of self-determination as laid out in the 1966 International Covenants on Human Rights so that peaceful democratic outcomes to the conflict in Kashmir and Punjab could emerge. John Hemming a Member of Parliament from Birmingham called for international action to punish those guilty of the genocide. Charlotte Hodivala a candidate for House of Commons from Conservative party assured the gathering that she would take up their concerns if elected to Parliament on the 7th May.
Rev. Dr Joshva John, a scholar from Queens Foundation said that a new Hindu government in India is radicalizing the Indian society. All traditions of Christianity are affected by persecution in India, but Christian converts from a Hindu background and non-traditional protestant groups are suffering most. At the top level the influence of fundamentalist Hindus has increased. Hindu radicals have started monitoring Christian activity in much detail. Many of them have planted spies in churches. Reports on pastors and church members beaten because of allegations of conversion are frequent; sometimes Christians are even killed.
Open Doors, a campaigning organisation to protect persecuted Christians sent the Conference a message stating that the situation in India, which is on its ‘watch list’, has – as predicated – taken a turn for the worse since the election of Hindu fundamentalist BJP leader Narendra Modi as PM. It called for the UK to prioritise human rights and the rule of law in all trade, aid and diplomatic engagement with India, as well as raising the issues at bilateral and multilateral levels, to help safeguard the minorities.
Professor Gurdarshan Singh Dhillon, a former professor of Punjab University Chandigarh said that the Sikh community suffers from intense feelings of deprivation and injustice. The political stalemate in Indian Punjab Continues. After having created a semblance of what it calls peace and public tranquillity through repression, the Government no longer thinks creatively of political and judicial solutions to the problems of Sikh community.
The American Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee stated in its written statement that the alarming rise of ‘Hindutva’ extremism in India, epitomised by the huge BJP victory in the 2014 national elections, poses a major challenge to religious groups who have for many decades already been subject to oppression and even genocide.
Roopinder Kaur a speaker from the U.S. gave a chilling account of how her 83 year old father Bapu Surat Singh – who is on hunger strike in India to protest at India’s refusal to release Sikh political prisoners – has been forcibly fed by Indian security forces. They have isolated him from the Sikh masses and illegally detained and tortured his son.
The conference unanimously adopted the following resolution:
A: Urges the UK’s political parties, Foreign office officials and the new Government that will be formed after the general elections on the 7th May 2015 to take forward the proposals put forward at this Conference to protect the human rights of national and religious minorities in India. The sizeable Sikh, Kashmiri and Christian diaspora communities in this country want their political representatives to put human rights and the rule of law at the heart of all trade, aid and diplomatic interactions with India. Included in that agenda should be:
- Recognition of and respect for the right of self-determination as set out in the 1966 International Covenants on Human Rights, so as take forward the only possible means of peaceful conflict resolution in Kashmir, Punjab, Nagalim and elsewhere;
- Release of political prisoners, including prisoners of war in armed conflict initiated by Indian military forces, where those armed conflicts have come to an end.
- Establishment of an international criminal tribunal to punish those who have carried out genocide against the minorities in India, given the complete failure of the Indian judicial system to act despite India’s obligations under the Genocide Convention 1948
- International condemnation of the ‘Hindutva’ movement that seeks to threaten, intimidate and marginalise national and religious minorities in India. The recent attacks on Christians and churches as well as the dangerous ‘ghar vapsi’ scheme betray the fascist tendencies of an insipid and wholly destructive phenomena which the world can well do without.
B: Salutes the sacrifices of all those who have laid down their lives in noble pursuance of human rights so that their people can live with dignity and freedom in their own homeland, and honours those who have been the victims of the massive, systematic breached of those human rights over recent decades in India.
C: Calls on the international community to recognise the struggle for national self-determination by the Sikhs in Punjab and the Kashmiri people as not only the lawful and peaceful means to conflict resolution but also the means to achieving enduring peace and security in a region that is otherwise likely to be the theatre of major international conflict. Indian belligerence towards the Sikhs and Kashmiris as well as to neighbouring states must be tacked by international efforts at the bilateral and multilateral level. The UN itself must engage with this process and firmly deny India a permanent seat in the UN Security Council until Indian complies with its fundamental obligations under international law.