U.S. Lawmaker Ilhan Omar Expresses Concern Over Human Rights Violations in Punjab
Akal Takht chief Giani Harpreet Singh said that the demand for Khalistan by Sikhs is equivalent to the call for establishing Hindu Rashtra in India.
By Rakesh Raman
U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) has expressed deep concern over increasing human rights violations in the Indian state Punjab, which has a large number of people belonging to the Sikh minority community.
Ms. Omar urged the U.S. administration to protect the human rights of all, particularly the rights of all religious and ethnic minorities.
In a statement released on March 30, 2023, Rep. Omar – who represents Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives – said that she is profoundly concerned about the human rights situation in Punjab, India.
“The Indian government has enacted a draconian communications shutdown, arrested hundreds, and blocked the Twitter accounts of civic leaders, journalists, including the BBC Punjab and a Canadian Member of Parliament,” Ms. Omar said in her statement.
She adds that the ongoing trouble in Punjab has unmistakable echoes of the crackdown in Kashmir, and the sweeping response to the farmer’s protests in India. For many Punjabis and Sikhs, she says, it also bears unmistakable echoes of the brutality against their community in 1984.
Thousands of Sikhs were murdered in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots after the assassination of Indian prime minister (PM) Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. In revenge, hooligans killed Sikhs mercilessly, raped Sikh women, and looted the Sikh properties during the massacre particularly in India’s capital New Delhi.
After the 1984 pogrom, Sikhs have been demanding a fully autonomous state called Khalistan in Punjab. The demand for Khalistan has gained intensity under the current government of Punjab chief minister (CM) Bhagwant Mann who is an illiterate and incapable politician.
The Khalistan movement is a Sikh separatist campaign that seeks to create a homeland for Sikhs by establishing a sovereign state, called Khālistān (‘Land of the Khalsa’ or the Land of Purity), in the Punjab region.
Recently, Akal Takht chief Giani Harpreet Singh said that the demand for Khalistan by Sikhs is equivalent to the call for establishing Hindu Rashtra in India. Located in the Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) complex in Amritsar, Punjab, the Akal Takht is the highest temporal body of the Sikh community.
In his speech on March 27, 2023, Giani Harpreet Singh said that the stringent laws such as the National Security Act (NSA) are being used to arrest Sikhs who demand a separate Sikh state Khalistan. He added that the same laws should also be applied to those who give open calls to make India a Hindu Rashtra.
In fact, the government of PM Narendra Modi is accused of making India a Hindu Rashtra where other minorities like Sikhs, Muslims, and Christians will be persecuted and will not enjoy equal rights.
In the ongoing unrest in Punjab, the government of CM Bhagwant Mann – in collusion with the Modi government – is incarcerating Sikhs arbitrarily under the NSA and other harsh laws.
The Bhagwant Mann government has also unleashed police terror on peaceful protesters – including men, women, and senior citizens – who are demanding the release of Sikhs who have been arrested illegally.
The protests against the Bhagwant Mann government are not only being held in Punjab, but Sikhs are protesting in different parts of the world against his repression of innocent Sikhs.
Since Punjab is facing an unprecedented turmoil under the Bhagwant Mann regime, many Sikhs demand a properly governed state Khalistan so that peace and prosperity could be brought back to Punjab.
As a journalist and human rights defender, I (Rakesh Raman) sent a detailed petition on March 24, 2023 to the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres and other international authorities to protect human rights of the people in Punjab.
The petition under the title “Case of Arbitrary Deprivation of Liberty, Human Rights Violations, and Ethnic Cleansing in Punjab, India” urged the UN officials and other lawmakers to save Sikhs from persecution and harassment perpetrated by police and state administration.
Subsequently, U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar raised the issue of human rights in Punjab. “We hear a lot about how our relationship with India’s government is based on mutual values of democracy and human rights, in spite of their quadrupling trade with Russia since the invasion of Ukraine.We hear this in spite of their constant violations of human rights,” Ms. Omar said in her statement.
“With right-wing authoritarianism on the rise across the globe, the United States should stand unequivocally for the protection of universal human rights, in particular the rights of all religious and ethnic minorities,” she adds.
Last year (2022), Rep. Omar had introduced a resolution to condemn human rights violations and violations of international religious freedom in India, including those targeting Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Dalits, Adivasis, and other religious and cultural minorities.
The resolution called on the U.S. Secretary of State to designate India as a Country of Particular Concern under the International Religious Freedom Act, which has been recommended by the independent, bipartisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) for the past three years.
However, the U.S. administration is being run by dishonest politicians. The U.S. – which is the self-styled promoter of democracy in the world – has been downplaying the demise of democracy in India. The U.S. leaders frequently hobnob with PM Modi and his colleagues despite their regular criticism of Modi’s autocratic idiosyncrasies.
The U.S., in fact, exploits human rights abuses in India for its commercial interests, as the U.S. believes that India is a big market for its products and services.
Now, in order to protect the human rights of people in Punjab, the world community must get its act together and press the Modi government in India as well as the Bhagwant Mann government in Punjab to strictly follow the universal human rights laws.
By Rakesh Raman, who is a national award-winning journalist and social activist. He is the founder of the humanitarian organization RMN Foundation which is working in diverse areas to help the disadvantaged and distressed people in the society.