SINGAPORE: “The Indian government has painted a poor image of the Sikhs in two ways —— by presenting them as antisocial elements and by imposing restrictions on Sikhs abroad wanting to visit their homes in Punjab”, said Mr. J.S. Sehgal, President of the local Central Sikh Temple.
“The Indian government distributed a video cassette recording here which portrayed Sikhs as thief’s, robbers, murderers and killers”, said Mr. Sehgal. “We protested to the Indian High Commission here, but it took no action to check the circulation of the cassette.
“The local Sikhs then took up the matter with the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which asked the Indian High Commission to withdraw the cassette. Under local law, no video cassette can be shown in the country that has not been approved by the Singapore authorities.
“Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s Government has painted the entire Sikh community as bad”.
Mr. Sehgal, who runs a lucrative textile and spare parts business and came to Singapore in 1950 from Ludhiana, said local Sikhs numbering about 20,000 were also unhappy with the Indian government for making it mandatory for them to secure permits from Delhi before visiting their homes in Punjab.
“A lot of Sikhs are being harassed by the authorities in Delhi”, said Mr. Jeswant Singh Bundal, a former President of the local Central Sikh Temple. “Some of them have been made to wait for days at Delhi before being issued the permits. This naturally led to corruption and harassment.”
Mr. Bundal, who works in the Singapore Education Department, said the Indian High Commission took at least three months to issue permits to people visiting Punjab. “It did this only for the VIPs. Ordinary Sikhs are asked to get their permits in Delhi.
“Our argument is that Indian High Commission is better equipped to check the character of a person settled in Singapore for decades. What record do the people in Delhi have about most Sikhs here?” he asked.
Sikhs here said they felt greatly perturbed about the happening in Punjab but could do nothing about them.
Article extracted from this publication >> April 1, 1988