Washington, DC – The Sikh congregation in the Greater Washington area expressed their gratitude to the Government of India when the top Indian diplomat in the US paid a visit to the Sikh Association of Baltimore Gurdwara on Sunday, October 13.
Addressing the congregation, Indian Ambassador Harsh V. Shringla said, “It is important to note that in India, there is no support for this so-called ‘Khalistan Movement.’ We had Sikh President, Sikh Prime Minister, Sikh Chief of Army Staff, every possible high position in India has been occupied (by Sikhs).”
Without naming Pakistan, Ambassador Shringla commented, “Of course, you are also aware, a small number of people who are working with the country which is inimical to India.”
One of the major concerns of the Sikh community has been to bring to book the main perpetrators of the anti-Sikh riots in 1984 and Ambassador Shringla in his address mentioned, “(Most) have been arrested, and they have been brought to justice.
“As we know the anti-Sikh riots have been exploited by pro-Khalistani elements based abroad for mobilizing support for anti-India activities,” cautioned Shringla, noting, “To address the concerns of the wider Sikh community in this regard, a Special Investigation Team (SIT) has been constituted by the Government, to re-investigate 186 cases filed in the anti-Sikh riots of 1984, to ensure justice for the victims. The investigations have been expedited leading to charge sheets being filed in some cases, and the conviction of one accused.”
The Ambassador disclosed that the Government of India earmarked additional compensation of Rs. 5 lakh ($7021.24) each to the 3325 victims of the 1984 riots throughout India.
The Government has also released an amount of Rs. 2.16 crores ($303,308.93) to Government of Punjab for disbursement to the 40 ‘Jodhpur Detainees’ (Sikh individuals who were detained following Operation Bluestar in 1984) on humanitarian grounds on June 27, 2018.
Welcoming the ace diplomat, leaders of the Sikh community praised the efforts made by the Indian government in recent times to address the grievances of the community. The community leaders presented Shringla with a ceremonial sword, a scarf and a thank you note.
“It was my privilege to welcome Indian Ambassador Harsh V. Shringla to the Sikh Association of Baltimore Gurdwara. His words of encouragement and praise for the Sikh community were deeply appreciated by the congregation,” said Baljinder S. Shammi, Chairman of the Sikh Association of Baltimore Gurdwara, adding, “I appreciate that Indian government has taken a good decision to grant a special dispensation to release nine Sikhs prisoners from various jails.”
Echoing his sentiments, Jesse Singh, a trustee of the organization said, “We are grateful to the Government of India for releasing the Sikh prisoners and mitigating sentences of others.”
In addition to already released prisoners, Ambassador Shringla noted, “There have been long standing requests of the Sikh community and representative bodies to release various prisoners linked with erstwhile militancy currently in jails in India. These requests are under active consideration of the Government.”
Rattan Singh, President of the Gurdwara thanked the ambassador for his kind words and working with the community.
“A pleasant surprise to have the honor to welcome Indian Ambassador Harsh V Shringla at the premises of Sikh Association of Baltimore Gurdwara. We look forward to working with him and the embassy to highlight Indian culture and interests” said K. S. Soni, President, Sikhs of America.
Recalling the recently held Houston ‘Howdy Modi’ event, Indian diplomat noted. “For the first time in the history of India-US relations, it brought together the Prime Minister of India (Narendra Modi) and the President of the United States (Donald Trump) under the same platform to address the Indian-American community of over 50,000 people.”
Ambassador Shringla highlighted the “discontinuation of Local Black Lists at Indian Missions and Posts abroad, and a comprehensive review and revision of the Central Black List for foreigners, as a result of which the names of 312 Sikhs holding foreign citizenship have been removed from the Black List.”
“Steps have also been taken for the facilitation of political asylees of Sikh origin as well as their family members to obtain passport and miscellaneous consular services, in cases where they have obtained foreign passports, to obtain the necessary visa and OCI services to enable them to visit India,” noted the Indian top diplomat.