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(Above): Hamid Nehal Ansari

(Above): Hamid Nehal Ansari

British lawyer and NSO Deputy Director Jas Uppal has been a leading campaigner in the case of missing Indian national Hamid Nehal Ansari, who has been unlawfully detained by Pakistani authorities.

Ansari’s mother Mrs Fauzia Ansari (based in Mumbai) first instructed Ms Uppal in her son’s case in November 2012. For years the Pakistani authorities had denied knowledge of his whereabouts. However at the beginning of this year it was confirmed that he was in fact in Pakistani Army custody and had been convicted by a military tribunal for ‘espionage.’

The case began when 28-year-old Mr Ansari, an MBA graduate who taught at the Mumbai Management College, traveled to Pakistan looking for opportunities. According to reports Mr Ansari had befriended a Kohat-based woman through social media and had crossed over into Pakistan. He had been staying in a hotel in Kohat, when on November 12 2012; police along with officials from the Intelligence Bureau arrested him.

This is not the first time Indian or Pakistani authorities have arrested citizens of each other’s countries under the pretext of ‘spying’ allegations.

Ms Uppal has raised Ansari’s case at the highest level, and in 2014 made personal representations before the UN on the matter.

She is optimistic that Ansari will be released and repatriated back to India. Ms Uppal said: “Hamid was naive to cross the border into Pakistan without the valid supporting travel documents; indeed his actions were illegal. However, Hamid was arbitrarily detained without trial in excess of three years during which time, the Pakistani authorities failed to notify the Indian authorities that they are holding their national as they required to do so under international law, Conventions and protocols.

She went on: “I formally complained to the UN on behalf of Mr and Mrs Ansari as well as raising the matter with both the Indian and Pakistani authorities.”

Mrs Ansari said, “It’s not that he is alone in pain and suffering the punishment of loosing his freedom, but the entire family is in trauma.” She told the NSO her family have been living in despair for the last four years, with a hope they will see their son again. So far she has been unable to obtain a visa to travel to Pakistan.

Earlier this year a 24-year-old Pakistani journalist Zeenat Shahzadi who had been working on the Ansari case was abducted. Human Rights groups and her family accuse Pakistan’s security agencies for her disappearance.

For further information contact info@nsouk.co.uk or Justice Upheld help@justiceupheld.org.uk

Capt. Kamal Bakshi with his parents before the 1971 Indo-Pak war,

Missing POWs: Capt. Kamal Bakshi with his parents before the 1971 Indo-Pak war.

The Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO) has pledged its support for two British women in their quest for answers in relation to the case of their missing relatives who were detained during the 1971 Indo-Pak war.

Over four decades on, Mrs Niki Kumar and Mrs Rajwant Kaur Singh have been provided with no information as to the whereabouts of their missing brothers – Captain Kamal Bakshi, and Flt. Lt. Gurdev Singh Rai. Despite their tireless campaigning, they have been met with silence from both Indian and Pakistani authorities.

However Jas Uppal from Justice Upheld, a human rights group (affiliated to the NSO) who have been campaigning on the issue is hopeful. In 2012 the group were instrumental in securing the release of a 76 year old detained unlawfully for 36 years in a Pakistani prison. Ms Uppal says there are at least 54 other missing prisoners of war (POWs); some of whom she believes may still be alive. She has issued a petition in the Indian Supreme Court seeking an Order for answers.

Meanwhile, Ms Uppal has made representations to a number of British politicians. In January, Hilary Benn (Shadow Foreign Secretary) asked the Foreign Secretary if any representations had been made on the matter to Pakistani authorities. Although Mr Hammond acknowledged Britain’s role in reminding states of their obligations to abide by International Humanitarian Law, he said: “We regard establishing the fate and whereabouts of combatants, and arranging for the release of any surviving combatants as a bilateral issue for India and Pakistan to resolve.”

A few days later Minister of State Hugo Swire wrote to Cabinet member Priti Patel, in which he said the issue was a “bilateral matter” for India and Pakistan. Although Mr Corbyn’s office has been informed of the matter, they have not (at the timing of writing) taken any steps to raise the issue further. Although they expressed interest, Mr Corbyn’s office said, “It may not be his first priority.”

Lord Singh, the NSO’s Director has taken up the case. He has written to Baroness Scotland of Asthal – the Secretary General of the Commonwealth nations, and the High Commissioners for both India and Pakistan.

In his letter to Baroness Scotland, Lord Singh writes:

“The families of the POWs have been pleading for information for the last 45 years and there is reason to believe some prisoners may still be alive.” He went on, “in any event their families should not have to live with their continuing heartache and uncertainty.” Lord Singh has requested Baroness Scotland’s help in the matter in order to “bring closure” to the families.

Jas Uppal said: “This is a humanitarian issue of significance importance; these Officers were captured and detained as prisoners of war. The latter status affords them protection under international Conventions including the prescribed requirement of detailed records of their respective detention.”

She went on, “two of the kin of the Indian POWs are British nationals who urgently need the support of their Government to ascertain the fate of their kin. The British authorities helped and intervened in Shaker Aamer’s case; they have a good diplomatic ties to both India and Pakistan, therefore Britain is the best placed to mediate in this situation.”

Captain Kamal Bakhsi’s sister Mrs Niki Kumar said: “My parents were given hope that the politicians would resolve various issues and the prisoners of war would be released. They grew older and frailer, but never gave up hope. They were deeply religious, which helped them bear the tragedy. We had young families so we were distracted, my mother cried everyday of her life, father put up a brave front, he did not show his emotions.”

Mrs Kumar’s parents have since passed away, however she is determined to continue pursuing her brother’s case until there is some form of resolution. Virendra Sharma MP who initially raised the case with Mr Corbyn’s office said: “Any suggestion that loved ones are being kept from their families is extremely troubling. I have raised this issue with the FCO and inside the Labour Party. I hope that Mrs Niki Kumar and Mrs Rajwant Singh can both find the truth out, whatever it is, about their brother’s fates and seek some solace in that.”

 
[Ends]

Links for editors:

http://www.justiceupheld.org.uk/
http://www.tribuneindia.com/2006/20061217/spectrum/main1.htm
http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2016-01-18/22899

For media inquiries please contact info@nsouk.co.uk or alternatively help@justiceupheld.org.uk

Sikh temple in Britain vandalised with anti-Muslim message

Sikh temple in Britain vandalised with anti-Muslim message

Police to report religious hate crime according to religion: Sikhism will be a category

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) have confirmed that Police forces in England and Wales will be reporting on religious hate crime according to religion, and this will include Sikhism.

Proposals set out by the Prime Minister will be implemented this year on a voluntarily basis from April 2016, however DCLG have confirmed that all Police forces will have to disaggregate their hate crime figures by religious hate crime from April 2017.

Over the last year the NSO has raised the plight of Sikh victims of hate crime, who have been incorrectly logged as victims of ‘Islamophobic crime’. Lord Singh of Wimbledon has expressed his concern with Ministers and spoken about them in a number of debates in the House of Lords. In January, following the NSO’s campaigning it was revealed that 28% of victims of ‘Islamophobic hate crime’ recorded by the MET in 2015, were in fact not Muslim at all. They comprised of Sikhs, Hindus, Christians and victims of no recorded faith.

Greg Clark, Secretary of State for DCLG recently wrote to Lord Singh, the Director of the Network of Sikh Organisations.

He said, “I understand your concerns about Sikhs being the victims of anti-Islamic attacks. In response to increased attacks on mosques and gurdwaras, the Prime Minister announced in October that new funding will be made available for the security of all faith establishments, with more details expected over the coming months.”

He went on, “This builds on existing funding for anti-Semitic attacks on synagogues. In addition to Tell-Mama which measures incidents of anti-Muslim hatred, my department is proud to fund True Vision which allows people of all faiths and backgrounds to report hate crimes.”

Lord Singh of Wimbledon said, “The government has responded positively to the NSO’s campaigning on this issue, and this is an important development not just for Sikhs, but all communities who suffer from religiously motivated hate crime.”

He added, “Greg Clark has shown the government’s commitment to treat all religious based hate crime with parity. This has not been the case in the past. We anticipate some Police forces will optionally report anti-Sikh attacks from this April onward.”

Free speech has been challenged at a number of British universities over the last few months

Free speech has been challenged at a number of British universities over the last few months

The suppression of free speech in universities was the subject of a debate in the Lords this week following a question tabled by Baroness Deech.

A spate of recent disruptions at Goldsmiths, Kings College and Canterbury has put into question the notion of free speech in universities. Baroness Deech asked the government what measures were being taken to “ensure freedom of lawful speech at universities.” She pressed the Minister to speak with vice-chancellors to ensure free speech would be upheld.

Last year a video emerged of a Muslim reformer being heckled and aggressively interrupted by Muslim students at Goldsmiths. Earlier this year police were called to Kings College following reports of violent protest against a speech being given by Israel’s ex secret service chief. The meeting organised by the Israel society was brought to a halt by violent pro Palestine protesters.

The Minister agreed with Baroness Deech and said Universities have a clear legal duty to ensure legal views can be heard, challenged and debated.

Lord Singh of Wimbledon, the Director of the Network of Sikh Organisations said, “My Lords, debate should always be conducted in courteous terms but does the Minister agree that words such as “antisemitism” and “Islamophobia” and those relating to any other type of religious phobia should not be used as shields to stifle legitimate debate?”

The Minister responded thus, “we absolutely want to support students and universities in ensuring that legitimate, lawful debate and the challenging of ideas happens in our universities.”

Houses of Parliament

Palace of Westminster

A question on how the government intends to respond to resolutions made at the European Parliament and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe condemning the actions of IS as genocide was the subject of a debate in the Lords earlier this month.

Lord Alton of Liverpool (who asked the question) said it was futile for Britain to be a member of the 1948 genocide convention if it, “declines to name this horrific cruelty for the genocide that it is.” He described the horrors perpetrated by IS, including the forced conversion, abduction, systemic executions and enslavement of Christians and Yazidis.

Lord Singh of Wimbledon, the Director of the Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO) said, “My Lords, when a few months ago I asked for government support for an international inquiry into supposed genocide against the Sikh community in India, I was told, in a very short reply, that it was solely a matter for the Indian Government. That was not a very Christian sentiment.”

He went on, “would the Minister agree with the sentiments of the Sikh guru who gave his life defending the right of followers of another religion to worship in the manner of their choice? Human rights abuses against anyone are the responsibility of us all, and the Government should take every measure to bring those guilty of them to justice.”

The Earl of Courtown responded thus, “My Lords, the noble Lord refers to a Question that my noble friend Lady Anelay answered. We will of course take careful note of what the noble Lord said, including how important it is that people have the freedom to worship in their own faith.”

 

Parmjeet

Parmjeet Singh

Paramjeet Singh fled from arbitrary arrest and torture in India in 1999, and in the following year was granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK after a finding of a justifiable fear of persecution if he was made to return to India.

Paramjeet is married and is the father of 4 children age 7 to 11. In December 2015 the family went on a short Christmas holiday to Portugal where he was arrested by Interpol at the request of the Indian government and is now facing extradition proceedings for his forced return to India. It seems that the Indian government had taken exception to his speaking out on human rights abuse in India. Lord Singh, for the NSO, has raised his concerns with the Minister for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and other Sikh groups have also raised concerns with both British and Portuguese governments.

In an interview on 3rd January 2015 with a Portuguese television channel outside the House of Lords, Lord Singh was asked why had Paramjeet Singh after being granted asylum, continued to attack India’s attitude to human rights instead of simply getting on with his own life.

Lord Singh responded that we all have a responsibility to condemn the ill treatment of others, and for Sikhs this responsibility is embedded in religious teachings and is obligatory.

He appealed to the authorities in Portugal not to be used like pawns in a backdoor attempt by Indian authorities to silence criticism of their human rights record, and return Paramjeet to British jurisdiction.

UK government_0

A question on the progress of a government review into funding of extremist interpretations of Islam was the subject of a debate in the House of Lords earlier this week.

A Government review announced by the Prime Minister last year is scheduled to report back by spring 2016. Analysts across government departments are looking into sources of funding, which include those from overseas.

A government commissioned report last year into Islamist organisations concluded:

“Muslim Brotherhood ideology and tactics, in this country and overseas, are contrary to our values and have been contrary to our national interests and our national security.”

In questions in the Lords, Lord Singh of Wimbledon the Director of the Network of Sikh Organisations asked Her Majesty’s government:

“My Lords, when we talk about Islamic extremism, should we not attempt to be more precise in what we are talking about? There are passages in the Koran that might have been relevant to the time when the infant Muslim community was under siege from all sides but may not be so relevant today.”

He went on, “It is important that those passages be put in the context of today. Should the Government not be working with Muslim leaders to that end”

Other contributors to the debate included the Archbishop of Canterbury.

 

 

A question on the topic of counter extremism and Islam was the subject of a debate last week in the Lords.

UKIP Peer Lord Pearson asked Her Majesty’s Government if they would encourage British Muslims “to identify, confront and expose their violent co-religionists”, as part of the overall anti-terrorism strategy.

Lord Singh said, “my Lords, does the Minister agree that much of the conflict in the Middle East and the radicalisation of young Muslims in this and other countries is due to the export of a cruel and medieval interpretation of Islam from Saudi Arabia that has been rightly criticised by Dr Shuja Shafi, the Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain?”

He went on, “should we not be doing much more to help people counter this extreme interpretation of their faith, which is doing incalculable harm to the image of Islam?”

The debate follows from a memorandum published last month by Lord Pearson titled “Shall we talk about Islam.”

Other Peers who participated in the debate included former Chancellor of the Exchequer Lord Lamont, and Lord Paddick the former Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service.

The Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO) is pleased to acknowledge positive steps taken by the government, following its campaigning on the issue of separate monitoring for anti-Sikh hate crime.

A Home office spokesperson said, “Crime motivated by hatred or hostility towards someone because of who they or their religious beliefs are absolutely deplorable.”

They added, “We announced a new cross-Government hate crime plan. We also announced that we will work with the police to provide a breakdown of religious based hate crime as part of the data recorded by the police – this will ensure that in future there is accurate data on crimes committed against people because of their faith and race – including crimes committed against Sikhs.”

Lord Singh who has raised the issue on a number of occasions in the last year said, “NSO persistence in constantly raising this issue with ministers in the Lords and in discussion with the DCLG finally appears to be paying off.”

He went on, “The government now seem to realize the seriousness of race and mistaken identity hate crimes against members of the Sikh community.”

The Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO) expresses disappointment at the government’s continuing apathy on the subject of Sikh victims of hate crime.

In October the government announced anti-Muslim hate crime would be monitored as a separate category across all police forces, providing parity with the recording of anti-Semitic hate crime.

In contrast Britain’s other minority faiths like Sikhs and Hindus are not separately tracked, although the government has given assurances it will address hate crime against all communities even-handedly.

The NSO has learnt that it is likely that Sikh victims of anti-Muslim hate crime in London are being incorrectly recorded as victims of ‘Islamophobic offences.’

The MET does not break down Islamophobic hate crime by faith group.

The NSO is pressing government officials to monitor Sikh hate crime within a separate category, to provide parity with provisions already in place for Jews and Muslims.

In a debate last week which focused primarily on concerns about violence against Muslims post Paris, Lord Singh of Wimbledon said,

“The Minister will be aware of numerous attacks on Sikhs as a result of mistaken identity. While hate crimes against the Muslim community have been monitored by every police force in the country, not a single penny is being spent on monitoring hate crimes against Sikhs.”

He went on, “the American Government are well aware of this problem which Sikhs suffer from and are taking steps to monitor that hate crime. When will the British Government catch up?”

Members of the Sikh community expressed concerns last month over a potential backlash in the aftermath of the Paris terror attacks.

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