Jasveer Singh: Sikhs Baffled By Claim Of “Pro-Khalistan Extremism” In Review Of UK’s Prevent
"The review included one sole paragraph on alleged “extremism” within the Sikh community, added as a footnote without any data or specifics to support the claims."
February 16, 2023 | 4 min. read | Original Reporting
A claim in a government-commissioned independent review of Prevent, a counter-extremism initiative meant to identify people that may commit acts of terror and regularly panned for embedding discrimination in its broad definition of extremism, stated the initiative should be “mindful” of “Pro-Khalistan extremism” in the UK.
The review was done by William Shawcross, a journalist by trade with an Eton-Oxford background who has also worked for The Sunday Times, BBC and the UK Charity Commission.
The review included one sole paragraph on alleged “extremism” within the Sikh community, added as a footnote without any data or specifics to support the claims. The statement on Khalistan included that “the current threat is low.”
Many Sikhs have suggested that the report mimics Canada’s Public Safety Terror Report in 2018, which flagged “Sikh (Khalistani) extremist ideologies and movements” as a threat without providing any evidence. The reference to Sikhs was later removed after community protests and the failure of the government to explain why Sikhs were added. That report had come on the heel of Justin Trudeau’s trip to India, where he faced pressure to crack down on Sikh advocacy.
In a press release regarding the UK’s Prevent report, a community legal and political advocacy group, Sikh Federation UK, stated the inclusion of alleged “Pro-Khalistan extremism” along with the omission of Hindutva (Hindu extremism) despite evidence of its growth in the UK showed “British politicians” were acting on “pressure being applied by the BJP Indian government.” The statement was made to “appease…the Indian government,” they added.
Sikh Federation UK’s Principal Adviser, Dabinderjit Singh, highlighted how the government would be better off turning attention to the genuine threat of Hindutva in the UK.
“This reference to Sikhs contrasts with a deliberate oversight by William Shawcross of Hindu nationalism, known as Hindutva, in Britain that recently reared its ugly head in widespread violence and terror in Leicester.”
The review by Shawcross has been widely criticised, with Amnesty International UK saying it is “deeply prejudiced” and “has no legitimacy” due to bias from Shawcross and his history of “bigoted” comments.
The review’s sole paragraph on Sikhs also claims there is a “false narrative…that the UK government is colluding with its counterpart in India to persecute Sikhs”. However, Sikhs argue there are at least three incidents in recent memory that contradict this claim.
Findings from journalist Phil Miller showed Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government provided advice to India for their 1984 invasion of the holy Sikh site Sri Harmandir Sahib, leaving thousands of civilians dead, seen as the beginning of India’s Sikh Genocide.
Claims by Indian media that “diplomatic pressure” was behind the UK’s counter-terror raids on five Sikh men in 2018, which has been linked by famed human rights lawyer Gareth Peirce to the torture of Scotsman Jagtar Singh Johal, also show real impacts of collusion they argue. The outcome of the raids was a charge for a Charities Commission breach against a man who had never actually worked for a charity. The charge has still not been taken to trial five years later and remains in limbo.
Finally, community activists point to findings from the human rights NGO Reprieve which show UK intelligence facilitated India’s capture and subsequent torture of British Sikh political prisoner Jagtar Singh Johal.
Along with the above, arbitrary mentions of Sikh “extremism” by MPs Priti Patel, Boris Johnson, and Bob Blackman, who was found to be taking money from Indian nationalist support groups, with little to no evidence to support such claims, have suggested to Sikhs that the Indian government is lobbying the UK government frequently with trade deals being held as leverage.
Sikhs believe they are being targeted for their advocacy on community causes and the general awareness they have brought to India’s human rights record. Indian government’s efforts to claim there is a Sikh extremism problem have crept into UK policing as well, evident from West Midlands Police’s Matt Ward’s comments on the issue.
Another report on the issue, which is more widely accepted by local Sikh groups, is the CREST review of “Sikh Activism in Britain” by Dr. Jasjit Singh. The report is the product of various meetings with Sikh groups and a lengthy review of specific incidents within the community. The findings of the CREST review showed there was no Sikh threat to the public.
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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