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U.K. Parliamentarians, U.N.P.O. Hail Self-Determination


The Sikh Times, London, May 14, 2006

Photo: (L to R) Navkiran Singh (sitting, extreme left), advocate and general secretary, Lawyers for Human Rights International (L.H.R.I.), Punjab; Jaspal Singh Dhillon (standing, left, brown turban), former partner of Jaswant Singh Khalra and vice president, Dal Khalsa, Punjab; Ajit Singh Bains (standing, right, red turban, red tie), former judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court and chairman of the Punjab Human Rights Organization (P.H.R.O.); Ranjit Singh Srai (sitting, extreme right), administrative secretary, P.N.S.D.

On May 11, 2006 parliamentarians and national representatives from Westminster, Europe and Asia met in the Houses of Parliament for the launch of Parliamentarians for National Self-Determination (P.N.S.D.), with the right to self-determination being the central theme and common denominator.

The Conference was chaired by Lord Nazir Ahmed who spoke on South Asia Independence Movements and emphasised how nationalist movements are bound together by shared challenges and objectives, with the right to self-determination being the internationally recognised means to attain their respective goals. As chair of P.N.S.D. Lord Ahmed emphasised that the pursuit of self-determination must be achieved through peaceful measures and that non-violent means must fundamentally inform the debate and struggle for the right to self-determination.

U.N.P.O. General Secretary Marino Busdachin highlighted in his speech how a novel approach to the concept of self-determination is needed, to depart from the 'trap of self-determination' and transform the understanding of the concept. Mr. Busdachin underlined that self-determination, rather than being perceived as the cause for conflict, must be seen as a tool for the effective prevention and resolution of conflict. He called for a renewed discourse and appealed to parliamentarians, representatives and activists alike to rethink both strategies and actions, in order to re-launch a strengthened, legitimate and more effective quest for self-determination and the resolution of long-standing conflicts.

Other participants and speakers attending and invited to the conference included: Lord Judd; Lord Rea; Rt. Hon Elfyn Llwyd (M.P. and leader, Plaid Cymru); Simon Hughes (M.P. and chairman, Liberal Democrats); Kashmir Singh (L.L.B., L.L.M., general secretary, British Sikh Federation); Khalid Mahmood (M.P., Labour); Douglas Carswell (M.P., Conservatives); Daniel Hannon (member, European Parliament, Conservatives); Rh. Raising (Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagalim); Pete Wishart (M.P., S.N.P. Group); Frans Welman (Naga Support Center, Amsterdam); Ghulam Mohammad Safi (former secretary general, All Parties Hurriyat Conference, Kashmir); Nazir Quarashi (World Kashmir Freedom Movement); Zafar Khan (Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front); Estella Schmidt (Peace in Kurdistan Project); Oinam Bhogendra Singh (Human Rights Alert, Manipur); Mukul Hazarika (Assam Watch); and Zymer Salihi (Kosovo Islamic Centre, U.K.).

Kashmir Singh described the benefits of an independent Khalistan, as against the economic, social, religious and political disadvantages the Sikhs are currently having to endure in their homeland.

Jaspal Singh Dhillon, vice president of the Dal Khalsa based in Punjab, referred to the Sikh national gathering at Amritsar in January 1986, which unanimously declared an independent Sikh state, Khalistan, and said that remains the Sikh nation's freely determined goal to be secured by peaceful and democratic means in accordance with international law. He called on those concerned about human rights to protect human rights activists by taking up their cases, such as that of Sharmila Devi, a young lady from Manipur who was arrested as she protested against the Indian Special Powers Act (which has provided the Indian army immunity from prosecution for actions such as rape, torture, and murder in Manipur). She continues to be held in detention without access and is being force-fed as she enters her fourth year on hunger strike.

Ajit Singh Bains, former judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, gave insight into the background of the Sikh nationalist movement including details on how the Indian state had sought to crush it via human rights abuses including extra-judicial killings of Sikh activists on a mass scale.

Navkiran Singh, an eminent practising lawyer from Punjab, who is defending many Sikhs currently charged with sedition for simply calling for Sikh self-determination by peaceful means, pointed out that this persecution was politically motivated as the Indian Supreme Court has ruled that merely calling for Khalistan by peaceful means is not a crime but must be permitted if democracy and free speech is to have any meaning.