Washington, DC- Voices for Freedom and other human rights groups met with the Department of State and the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) to voice the concerns of the American Sikh community regarding the current situation developing in Panjab, India. Also in attendance were Sikh community leaders from around the United States. Memoranda explaining the details of the plight of the Sikh community of India were distributed to each office.
This month, in the village of Bagari and in numerous other places in Panjab, Sikh holy scriptures were desecrated. During a peaceful protest by the Sikhs in Panjab against the desecration on October 14, 2015, two Sikhs—Gurjeet Singh and Krishan Avtar Singh—were shot and killed by the Panjab police. The police were trying to disrupt the peaceful protest, thus violating the protesters’ Freedom of Speech and Expression, as well as their Right to Assembly, which are both enshrined in the Indian constitution.
Timeline of the current Crisis in Panjab
On October 12, 2015, peaceful protests began protesting in Panjab after more than one hundred pages from the Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the eternal Sikh guru, were torn and scattered around the village of Bargari in Panjab. In response to the lack of police action in this case, Sikh protesters gathered and began a peaceful sit-in, reciting prayers, or meditating, in nearby Kotkapura. On October 14, 2015, Panjab Police reportedly sanctioned the use of teargas, water cannons, and brute force against this group of protesters. Two protesters were shot and killed by the police, sparking outrage among state residents as well as the international community.
The Sikh community continues to wait for details to emerge regarding this incident and what action will be taken to investigate the killings of two unarmed protesters.
While protests continue in the Indian states of Panjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh, the international Sikh diaspora is taking their indignation to the streets as well. On October 22, 2015, twenty protesters were arrested outside of the Indian Embassy in London during a peaceful protest by Sikhs that turned violent. One police officer was injured.
Two petitions have been launched in response to the lethal shootings of the protesters in India. One calls on the White House to condemn the Indian government for killing the unarmed protesters, and the other asks the British Broadcasting Corporation to report on the incident given its presence in India. Collectively, over 90,000 individuals have signed the petitions thus far.
Voices for Freedom condemns the Indian government’s use of violence against unarmed, peaceful Sikh protesters. We stand with the victims, their families, and the protesters in Panjab and around the world. We will continue to post updates as new developments of emerge.
Legal Counsel, Civil and Human Rights
Voices for Freedom