Jasveer Singh: Dealing UK Sikh Scapegoats For An Indian Trade Deal
These countries will always need trade with India, and India will always need Sikh scapegoats to distract from their own issues
Due to the sensitive and ongoing legal nature of this issue in the UK, and mindful of the judicial system in India, we have protected the identity of the Sikh men covered in this article.
January 21, 2021 | 3.5 min. read
After a dawn raid saw West Midlands Police spend hours rooting through his house, including in his children’s bedrooms, it was only when X Singh was finally in the back of a police van, with the ordeal seemingly coming to a conclusion, that he asked, “what police station are you taking me to?”
“Police station?” the officers laughed, “We are taking you to the airport! You’re off to India and you’re not coming back.”
Thoughts of Jagtar Singh Johal flashed through his mind as the policeman’s words echoed in his ears. X Singh realized the ongoing saga he was involved in with the Indian state had taken a new turn. He knew he may face the death penalty in India.
As he was shown Home Office documents, which revealed Home Secretary Priti Patel had signed an agreement to extradite him to India, it became clear to X Singh what UK officials had discussed with India in their recent and much-publicized trade discussions leading up to Brexit.
Outside of the targeting he faces from the UK police via the Indian state, X Singh has never had any trouble with the law. The exact same can be said of the two other British Sikhs, Y Singh and Z Singh, who faced similar treatment at the hands of the police that cold December morning.
They are typical British Sikhs. Born or raised in the UK, like their football, and enjoy going out with family and friends for pizza. Yet, the three are among a surprisingly large number of British passport holding Sikhs that are accused, without evidence, of crimes by the Indian state.
What X Singh and the two others faced on December 21 was a new twist in a long-running work of collusion between India and Britain to appease Indian nationalists, whilst simultaneously frightening Sikhs into silence.
Specifically, in the case of these three Sikhs, the crime they are accused of is the 2009 assassination of Rulda Singh, a notorious senior figure of Punjab’s RSS branch. The RSS is of course an extremist Hindu nationalist group whose members include India’s Prime Minister.
Indian authorities have been desperate to blame overseas agitators for Rulda Singh’s demise and these three men are their targets. This is a long-used tactic that allows the Indian state to suggest dissent or “anti-national” feelings are not found in India. Instead, Indian state propaganda tries to paint a picture that it is only those in the diaspora that endanger the stability of India’s unity. The truth is that India is full of conflict of both the sectarian and criminal kind and the RSS are deeply tied into this.
Regarding India’s diaspora blame culture, Punjab’s most senior political figure, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, claimed in 2017 a host of crimes were now “solved” upon the arrest of Jagtar (Jaggi) Singh Johal, the Scottish Sikh at the centre of the #FreeJaggiNow campaign. Despite this outlandish statement, said before any trial had taken place, over three years later not a shred of evidence has been presented against him in court, something Jaggi’s lawyer makes no qualms about saying.
This seems to indicate that for India, it is less about proving someone guilty and more about finding a scapegoat.
After two previous investigations failed to find the three UK men guilty of any crime, India appears to have found itself an ally in extraditing them regardless in the form of Priti Patel. Of Gujarati background, Patel has hailed her fellow Gujarati Narendra Modi and previously wrote a public letter of support praising him, the RSS, and their UK branch the HSS. In recent years she has advocated for the death penalty to be returned to England and allegedly considered deporting immigrants to a remote island.
In 1984 it was a trade deal that was considered as a factor in whether the UK should provide Indira Gandhi with advice about how to carry out Operation Bluestar, which to many signaled the initial stages of the Indian state’s Sikh genocide. The UK provided her with military advice, and what happened afterward is well documented.
What happens next, in this case, is still uncertain. However, efforts to extradite X Singh, Y Singh, and Z Singh are being resisted by their team of lawyers, which includes representatives currently also fighting against Julian Assange's extradition. They are working with the Sikh Legal Assistance Board, headed up by Gurpreet Singh Johal - brother of Jaggi of the #FreeJaggiNow campaign. This protective ring has been built by a sangat network that supports people like these Singhs.
Given the growing corporate industrialization of India and the UK’s new need for stronger trade relations with India, this issue is not something that will be going anywhere. In fact, it is likely to start being repeated in the US, Canada, and beyond. These countries will always need trade with India, and India will always need Sikh scapegoats to distract from their own issues. Unless, of course, diaspora Sikhs continue to mobilize against Indian state interference.
The best way to support the fight against India’s extradition attempt is to support the Sikh Legal Assistance Board.
Jasveer Singh hails from Southall, UK, and is the Senior Press Officer of The Sikh Press Association, a position he has held since 2015. In this role, Jasveer works across all sectors of media supporting Sikh organisations and individuals on panthic endeavours. Jasveer previously worked as a freelance journalist which included stints with Sky News, Super Fight League, and more. You can find Jasveer on Twitter at @Jazzthejourno.
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