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Sikhs protest as Manmohan Singh addresses UN

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By Ajay Ghosh

New York: Hundreds of Sikhs protested in front of the United Nations here on September 24, during Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s address to the United Nations General Assembly, demanding that Kamal Nath, his Cabinet Minister for Urban Development, be removed from his Cabinet  for his alleged role in the November 1984 riots that killed thousands of innocent Sikhs across India.

Men, women and young activists, carrying placards seeking justice for the thousands of victims of 1984 riots, participated in the protest.

The protest rally was organized by “Sikhs For Justice (SFJ)” a human rights advocacy group, with the support of management committees of Tri State Area Gurudwaras. The Sikh organizations have pledged to raise at international level the issue of denial of justice to the victims of 1984 riots and the Sikhs right to self-determination as per UN Charter. While the Prime Minister was supporting Palestinians’ right to “self-determination” inside the UN Hall, outside on the streets, the protesters gathered to remind him that they were also denied the same right to self-determination by India.

Media reports here, quoting Attorney Gurpatwant S. Pannun, legal advisor to SFJ, stated that Sikhs were protesting in front of UN to remind the world that India was duty-bound under UN Convention on Genocide to prosecute the killers of November 1984 Sikh riots. Twenty-seven years later, the Singh government had failed to prosecute the perpetrators and instead it was rewarding the killers of Sikhs with Cabinet positions.

Quoting from Manmohan Singh’s speech at the UN in which he said, “India is steadfast in its support for the Palestinian people’s struggle for a sovereign, independent, state of Palestine,” Pannun said that while India openly supports Palestinians’ right to self-determination, it crushes and suppresses the peaceful demand for “self-determination” by Sikhs in Punjab.

According to Pannun, Manmohan Singh was not only protecting Kamal Nath but was also actively working to get him immunity from prosecution before US Federal Court where he was being tried for his role in November 1984 Sikh riots. The Manmohan Singh  government had been sending Démarches to the US Department of State seeking immunity from prosecution for Kamal Nath, Pannun added.  A class action lawsuit has filed against Indian National Congress and Kamal Nath under Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) for their role in the killing of Sikhs in November 1984. The US Court issued summons against Kamal Nath on April 6, 2010 while summons against the Congress Party were issued in March 2011.