Dear President Reagan: Today you will be welcoming Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in the White House. You will, no doubt, extend him all the hospitality and courtesy as this great country has always done to foreign dignitaries.

We earnestly request you to take this opportunity to express your humanitarian concern about the plight of the Sikh minority in India. Your following words at Bitsburg were really inspiring: “never again will the world stand silent before man’s inhumanity to man.”

Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi often feels sour when the Sikhs in America express their concern about the plight of the Sikhs in India. He has to be reminded that he himself and our fellow brethren of South India raise similar cries about the plight of the Tamil minority in Sri Lanka. In the United States the Irish Americans and the Jewish Americans do the same in reference to the situation in Northern Ireland and Soviet Jewry respectively.

The Indian government is guilty of desecration and destruction of the holiest Sikh shrines and massacre of thousands of innocent persons including women and children. Sikh young men have been indiscriminately arrested and tortured, many to their death. Basic human rights have been violated and “Black Laws” enacted to hold a person guilty until he proves his innocence. According to independent press reports: “Thousands have disappeared in the Punjab since the Army operation began. The government has provided no lists of names; families don’t know if sons and husbands are arrested, underground, or dead.” People have been taken from their homes, tied up and shot. Others have been brutally beaten. Thousands, including children as young as two years of age have been held without trial and subjected to inhuman torture. All this has been done for the sole offense of their being Sikh and in the name of so-called secularism, democracy, and unity of the country.

Members of the ruling party and government personnel have encouraged, and in many cases supervised, mob violence against Sikhs. Sikh men have been dragged out of homes, buses, cars and trains, beaten helpless and then burnt alive in the presence of their families. This has been followed by gang rapes of their women. There has been widespread looting and arson directed against Sikh property all over India. An entire religion has been branded “‘terrorist”’ and is being systematically destroyed. Today, Sikhs are being asked to repudiate everything they hold sacred and declare themselves Hindu or to face arbitrary arrest, imprisonment and even death. Every Sikh is suspect. For every act of violence in the country, Sikhs are blamed. Sikhs in India are in mortal danger.

Foreign press has not been allowed into Punjab. Humanitarian organizations have been denied access. The Indian government has denied visas to concerned U.S. Congressmen and members of the British Parliament. A reporter is being prosecuted for “embarrassing” the government by telling the truth. Mischievous and absurd accusations that the CIA had a hand in the Sikh agitation and in Mrs. Gandhi’s assassination are made to create mistrust and hatred in the minds of the Indian people against the Sikhs and the United States.

Sikhs all over the world have sought peace and justice for members of their faith in India. In response the Indian government has placed restrictions on travel to Punjab. The persecution has been intensified.


The Sikhs have always been extremely law-abiding and have had a religious commitment to freedom of worship, and protection of the weak and the oppressed. Only two percent of the population of India, they constituted 80 percent of those who laid down their lives during the nonviolent struggle for freedom. Killing innocent people is against their religious beliefs. A Sikh cannot be a terrorist. There have been no cases of Sikh mobs attacking Hindus in the entire history of India. In Punjab villages, the Sikhs have been assuring their Hindu neighbors of protection though, ironically, they themselves have been the targets of wholesale oppression.

Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, the Sikh leader who achieved martyrdom while defending the Golden Temple, appealed to the Sikhs to look to their religion for solace. Reversing the steady erosion that had been going on for over thirty years, thousands of Sikhs returned to the fundamental values of prayer, service and sacrifice and sought confirmation in their faith. The government saw the resurgence of the Sikh religion as a threat and, treating it as organized revolt, carried out a sinister campaign of vilification. Confirmation in the religion was described as “taking an oath to commit acts of terrorism.” For over two years, the government orchestrated terror. Thugs hired to commit planned crimes so that the Sikhs could be blamed. The entire sequence of events is said to have been designed and executed under Soviet advice.

Sant Bhindranwale insisted he did not want a separate Sikh state. In his words: “How cans a community which has contributed so much to the freedom of the country want it fragmented? We want to stay in India but want to be treated as equal citizens.” Still the government labeled him a “separatist.” He preached nonviolence, tolerance, self-discipline, and peace. Still the government called him an “extremist.” He never hurt anyone nor did he condone hurting any innocent person. Still the government called him a “terrorist.” He certainly was an “extremist” in as much as he was a devout Sikh. He urged all Sikhs to return to the basic principles of their faith to give up intoxicants, to read the scriptures, to have faith in God, to go through the confirmation ceremony and not cut their hair, to bear arms as required by their religion not to hurt anyone but to be ready to fight oppression and injustice, to be united and to live in peace and amity with people of other religions.

The well planned and rehearsed June 1984 invasion of the Golden Temple and other shrines, the massive cordon and search operations following it, the army rule in Punjab since then, and the massacres since Mrs. Gandhi’s death constitute a sequence of tragedies planned and perpetrated by a fascist government against a minority religion.

Pope John Paul II said the other day: “Violence directed against the dignity of man is intolerable and unworthy of man. if we remain silent, the clamor of violence will stifle the cry of the people who call for peace and justice.” The government of India has unleashed just such despicable and dehumanizing violence against the dignity of the Sikh people. The free world needs to act before an entire religion is destroyed.

We most earnestly request you to look into the matter. The violence against the Sikhs must stop. We have to aid the victims and rescue those trapped in India’s jails and torture chambers. Physical? Safety of people belonging to the Sikh faith must be ensured. Sikhs 10 the United States and other countries must have the freedom to visit the historical shrines of their religion. It is imperative too that those guilty of crimes brutal army rule and is treated as hostile by the Indian government, a Sikhs in other Indian states are regarded as hostages, the Sikhs do not feel safe anywhere in India. Utter lack of government concern for safety of Sikh life and property has strengthened that feeling. It appears that the constitution of Punjab as an independent state in the international community of nations is the only guarantee of their religious freedom. The Sikhs constitute an economically stable democratic state and serve as an effective bulwark against communist expansion in that region.


Yours Sincerely,

Didar Singh Bains President,

World Sikh Organization

Article extracted from this publication >>  June 14, 1985