UNITED NATIONS, N.Y.: The Dag Hammarshjold Plaza in front of the headquarters of the World Body turned into a sea of saffron, in spite of the pouring rain, on June 9, as Sikh men and women supporting saffron turbans and dupattas protested the continuing desecration of the Golden Temple since June, 1984 by the Indian Security Forces, and the presence at the U.N. of the Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
Gandhi was at the United Nations to address the special session of General Assembly on nuclear disarmament. He unveiled an “Action Plan” which called on the international community “to negotiate a binding commitment to general and complete disarmament”.
The Sikhs, most of who came from the city and its suburbs, as well as from New Jersey, Boston, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Washington, and other areas on the east coast, overflowed the Plaza opposite the U.N. All but a token 50 representatives were moved by the police and organizers to another site on 47th street near the ‘World Body.
- Jagjit Singh Mangat, President of the Sikh Cultural Society and member Council of Khalistan told World Sikh News that Gandhi speaking on nuclear disarmament was rather ionic. He pointed out that India exploded a nuclear ‘device in May, 1974, instead of following nuclear disarmament policy. “We are here to show the world that India is a double faced liar. Sikhs are being systematically killed by the security forces in the so called nonviolent country,” he said adding that nothing short of Khalistan, an independent Sikh State would satisfy the aspirations of the Sikhs.
The World Sikh Organization President, Dr. Manohar Singh Grewal in a press release said, “The recent happening of May, 1988, in Amritsar, Punjab, is another example of the Indian government’s policy of oppression. This is a reminder of June 6, 1984, when Indian Armed Forces attacked and desecrated the Golden Temple and 37 other major Sikh Shrines, on a major Sikh Holiday. Several thousand innocent Sikh men women and children were massacred in cold blood.
Under the excuse of “flushing out a few armed militants the Indian government have again resorted to the most barbaric and inhuman attack on the Golden Temple. This and the several previous invasions of the Sikhs holy shrines are apparently part of the government’s design to strike at the root of Sikh religion and tarnish the sanctity of their holy places.
The government of India has promulgated an ordinance prohibiting Sikhs to bear arms while Visiting religious shrines, this is a direct interference in the religious rights of the Sikhs, and is in violation of Nehru Tara Singh Agreement of 1953. Guru Gobind Singh the Tenth Divine Master ordained Sikhs to bear arms all the time. It is their inalienable religious right to do so and cannot be taken away by any governmental authority.
What we are seeing in the Punjab tantamount to a policy of apartheid on religious grounds: a person’s freedom is now predicated upon his faith and is confidential on agreeing with the official policies of the Indian government.
To defame the Sikhs the Indian government is pursuing self-defeating policies. For instance:
* Police stages encounters against Sikh youth. (Amnesty International 1987).
* Interference with the U.S. Justice and Canadian Intelligence Depts. (New York Times, March 22, 1988; Toronto Globe and Mail, Sept. 12, 1987).
* The government has recruited hard core criminals known as “The Red Brigade” to kill innocent people, loot banks and blame it on Sikh militants to portray them as terrorists and to turn public opinion against the militants. (India Abroad, April 1, 1988, Ottawa Citizen and India Today).
* Planting of Russian weapons in Sikh temples for adverse publicity and to seek excuse for armed entry in Sikh temples. (The Observer of London, Indian Parliament revelations).
The Sikhs today are fighting a desperate battle for their survival. Systematic, planned and widespread violation of human rights and denial of civil liberties have driven even the moderate Sikhs to take up a militant role to fight for their rights.
The Sikhs want to live with dignity, honor, and preserve their distinct identity. The Indian government has always betrayed Sikhs, and have not fulfilled any of the promises made or even accords signed with the Sikhs. Having failed to get justice from the Indian government, the Sikhs have been left with no other choice but to devote their energies to the creation of a sovereign state of KHALISTAN which shall satisfy all religious, social, cultural, political, and economic aspirations of the Sikh nation.
Dr. Gurmit Singh Aulakh of Council of Khalistan, said while speaking to the protesters, “In the past, those who tried to destroy us, have themselves been destroyed. Such is our history. India has recently imposed martial law in three of Punjab’s districts. It has increased the size of its occupying police and paramilitary forces. It is constructing a barbed wire fence between India and Pakistan. It sends out killer squads of self-conferred criminals and murderers to roam the streets of our towns and villages, who proudly boast of the number of Sikh men and women they have killed” all this he said made Khalistan inevitable.
- Baldev Singh, Secretary of the Sikh Cultural Society, said “India was playing a double game. “On the one hand Gandhi is talking about nuclear disarmament and on the other they are developing nuclear weapons as well as ballistic missiles”, he said.
Baldev Singh, a former Deputy Speaker of Punjab Assembly, said that on November 9, 1987, India voted against a resolution to declare South Asia as a Nuclear Free Zone. 95 countries, including U.S., voted for the resolution and only 3 including India voted against it. Reacting to the continuing persecution of the Sikhs and their human rights violations in India, he said, “Every time they attack the Golden Temple by desecrating the sanctity of the premises, they rub salt in our wounds and further strengthen the resolve for Khalistan.
The protesters marched from the United Nations to the Consulate General of India where they rallied and then dispersed.