Massacre in Kashmir: Sikhs in North America
Ask Clinton, UN to Help Find Killers
A P Kamath
Sikhs across North America, ranging from moderates to militants, are asking
the American government and the United Nations to intervene and ensure that the murderers of 35 Sikhs in Kashmir are arrested and prosecuted.
The demands were made last weekend in many gurdwaras and at a rally
attended by nearly 1,000 Sikhs and a handful of Muslims in Vancouver, and will be repeated on April 2 at a memorial service to be held in Bethesda, Maryland.
The memorial service will also serve as a fund-raiser to help the bereaved families. In the last 10 days nearly $ 100,000 have reportedly been collected at a number of gurdwaras and cultural associations
'Given the probability that the crime would not have taken place if the US
president was not visiting India,' Dr Rajwant Singh, president of the Sikh
Council on Religion and Education, wrote to Bill Clinton, 'it is appropriate for the US to tell the government of India our (American) interest in their effort to apprehend and prosecute the criminals.'
In Vancouver, members of the International Youth Federation and Babbar Khalsa blamed the Indian government for the massacre and urged the United Nations to investigate the crime. Several demonstrations and memorial services are expected to be held in the next few days in a number of North American cities with a visible Sikh presence.
SCORE is one of the organizations behind the April 2 memorial. Its leader,
Dr Rajwant Singh is well-known in Washington area for his role in organizing
interfaith dialogues. Dr Singh suggested to Clinton that the 'US participation in the hunt for those that planned and carried this awful crime must be technical and moral.'
'Therefore it is absolutely essential that the American ambassador to India
visit the area in which the massacre took place to express US outrage at
this crime and to pledge full co-operation with the Indian authorities in
their efforts to bring the perpetrators of this crime against humanity to
'Our government cannot be a mere spectator in the face of this savage act
of terrorism,' he wrote.
He urged Clinton to 'use your good offices to press upon the Government of
India to immediately launch a judicial inquiry to investigate and the
findings be made public.'
While the SCORE leader desisted from blaming New Delhi for the murders, he
nevertheless said that Sikhs have become 'the innocent victims in the
maneuvering and posturing between different groups and contending factions
seemingly bent on an armed clash.'
He asserted that it was a shame that the Sikh community 'should be targeted
for political purposes, and that the massacre should take place right next
to the Sikh temple.'
'It is sad that the Indian government, which claims it has fought hard to
protect the land, has failed to protect the people,' Dr Singh said.
Pro-Khalistanis, led by the likes of Gurmit Singh Aulakh, are contacting sympathetic members of Congress including Dan Burton (Republican, Indiana) to place resolutions in Congress against New Delhi.
In Vancouver, the protest on Sunday was led by Amrit Singh Rai of the ISYF
and leaders of the New Westminster Sikh Temple. A handful of Muslims,
who joined the protest, alleged Sikhs and Muslims had lived peacefully in the
Kashmir valley and hence, New Delhi engineered the attack.
Many demonstrators held signs supporting the creation of Khalistan.
One protester told the media that New Delhi was trying to convince
Clinton that Pakistan is a terrorist country and 'to create hate and riots
between Sikhs and Muslims.'
The Vancouver demonstration was one of the biggest events of its kind in
recent years. The aggressiveness during the protest reminded many observers
of the Sikh protests in the mid 1980s and early 1990s when the demand for
Khalistan was strongly backed by a significant number of Canadian Sikhs.
The Vancouver Sun said among the participants in the rally was
Satinderpal Singh, the ISYF international leader, who was based in Pakistan for
many years. Some participants were not happy to see Kim Bolan reporting the
news. Bolan, who has covered Sikh stories for the Sun for over a decade, was given police protection last year after fundamentalist Sikhs demonstrated against her reportage and she received death threats.
'Be careful,' she quoted Joginder Singh Johal, president of the New
Westminster Sikh temple, as saying. 'You had (sic) better write a good story about this.'
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