Report by Hardam Singh Azad

NEW ORLEANS; “What hurts the Victims most is not the cruelty of the oppressor but the silence of the bystander” were the words spoken by Mr. Elie Weisel that apply to the Sikh dilemma today. Mr. Amolak Singh of the World Sikh Organization from New Orleans, Louisiana organized a Sikh demonstration and rally on August 16 to stir the soul of some American bystanders.” Dr. Hardam Singh Azad (President of the Sikh Association of America), along with many dedicated Sikhs from Houston, joined hands with the WS.O organizers to make this Sikh rally a success. Mr. Surinderpal Singh Kalra who is the Director of Administration for W.S.0 (U.S.A) flew in from Chicago for this event.

Mr. Kalra (seen next to Dr. Azad on the stage), Sardar Balwant Singh (seen holding the Akal Takhat poster), and Mr. Manohar Singh Mann (holding the Sikh torture photograph) took tums in leading the group with suitable slogans. Miss Devinder Kaur (daughter of S. Balwant Singh, seen holding the “Khalistan the Sikh Homeland” poster), Mr. Kalra, and Dr. Azad addressed the gathering from the stage. Devinder eloquently addressed the media as an American born Sikh.

Mr. Kalra covered the recent black deeds of India to educate the audience on the issues. Dr. Azad focused on the long history of Sikhs in the U.S. and their continued contributions in many fields. He emphasized that the “American way” and the “Sikh way” are entirely compatible making them as natural friends. Dr. Azad thanked the many republican leaders who have voiced their support for the Sikh cause and urged the others to join the crusade for liberty and justice for all throughout the world.

Mr. Kalra read out the following press release.

Today, August 16, 1988, is an important day in the history of New Orleans where the representatives of the freedom lovers have assembled to discuss important strategies.

We, the Sikhs who are the victims of atrocities of the Indian Government, have chosen this occasion to make an appeal to Americans and their leadership to support us in this situation of crisis when we have been deprived of all the basic human rights and freedoms by the Indian Government.

‘Sikhs in India have always been loyal and productive citizens. Although Sikhs constitute only 2% of the population, Sikh farmers produce more than 80% of the wheat and rice. Until recently, Sikhs made up 30% of the army. During India’s struggle for independence from the British, at least 80% of those who sacrificed their lives for liberty were Sikhs.

Now the Sikh people are branded terrorists and the government of India has attacked them, challenging their right to a separate and distinct religion, invading their holy shrines, sabotaging their economy and denying them basic human rights.

Punjab, the historic Sikh Homeland, was an independent nation before being forcibly annexed by the British during their rule of India. After achieving independence from Britain in 1947, the leaders of the Sikh Nation agreed to enter into a contract with India ‘on certain terms. Because the terms of that contract have been violated repeatedly, the Sikh Nation considers it void and the Sikh people are demanding independence.

In December 1987, the U.S. Congress unanimously recognized the violation of human rights of the Sikhs by the Indian Government, Amnesty International in its 1987 report condemned the misuse of the so-called antiterrorist acts and preventive detention laws, as well as the murder of dissidents.

The violations cited by Amnesty include; arbitrary arrest and detention; torture and other inhumane treatment; political killings and disappearances; denial of freedom of religion; restriction of movement inside and outside the country; denial of free elections.

Free press has been banned in Punjab since the end of May 1984. Human rights groups are refused entry and even the International Red Cross was told its services were not needed.

Four years ago the Indian army, under the direction of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, launched a brutal attack on the Sikh’s most holy shrine, the Golden Temple. The action, allegedly intended to rout a handful of separatists, resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent pilgrims assembled to celebrate a holy day. Pictures released later show piles of innocent men, women, and children lying in pools of blood.

In November 1984, Gandhi’s Sikh bodyguards, enraged by her attack on the shrine, assassinated her, Hindu rioting broke out that left thousands of Sikhs dead, billions of rupees’ worth of Sikh businesses in ashes, and countless orphans and widows, many of whom had been raped by the mobs. Witnesses allege that the riots were instigated by leaders of Indira Gandhi’s Congress Party and aided by police.

Article extracted from this publication >> August 26, 1988