The head of the UK’s largest gurdwara and largest Sikh temple outside India has alleged that extraditing three British Sikh men from the UK to India to face conspiracy to murder charges will “further an existing agenda to divert attention from the ongoing farmers’ protests”.
Gurmail Singh Malhi, president of the Sri Guru Singh Sabha Southall, said “hundreds of thousands of Sikhs in the UK” have protested peacefully this year in solidarity with the farmers of India and extraditing UK Sikhs to India “would be perceived as an attempt to intimidate and strike fear in our community at the time we stand united to defend democratic values and human rights”.
He urged UK PM Boris Johnson to use his upcoming trip to India — now likely to happen in March — to “represent the UK’s concerns for human rights violations” against those taking part in the protest. “Failing to do so in the strongest manner would be failing to represent British values and be a sign of weakness following a Brexit that was supposed to elevate the UK’s position as global leader,” he said.
Three British-born Sikh men — Gursharanvir Singh Wahiwala, his brother Amritivir Singh Wahiwala and Piara Singh Gill — were arrested from their family homes in the West Midlands on December 21 last year following extradition requests from India.
They were brought before Westminster magistrates’ court where they face extradition to India to answer murder and attempted murder charges in relation to the assassination of Rashtriya Sikh Sangat leader Rulda Singh in India in 2009. The Sikh Legal Assistance Board is representing the men. All three are contesting their extradition and have been granted bail. Gursharanvir (37) and Piara (38) were bailed on an £85,000 security, whilst Amritivir (40) was bailed on a £50,000 security. They will next appear at court on January 21.
Their bail conditions include being banned from applying for international travel documents, surrendering passports, being subject to a curfew and electronic tagging. Malhi said the extradition of the men “threatens core British values and calls into question the UK’s commitment to human rights”, especially as British Sikh Jagtar Singh Johal, accused of being involved in the assassination of several Hindu RSS leaders in Punjab, remains in Indian custody where he alleges torture.
He said in a year that Sikhs have served millions of free meals as langar in support of the UK response to Covid-19, these latest arrests had saddened and shocked the Sikh community and “seriously damaged community relations”, and the fact that the arrests coincided with UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab’s visit to discuss the Indian-UK trade deal had left the impression that “freedom of British citizens has been negotiated in exchange of trade”. He described it as a “politically motivated extradition attempt”.