After a unanimous decision to overturn the ban was agreed in the House of Commons, Labour MP Andy Burnham stated there was a belief the decision to ban the ISYF was “…based on diplomatic pressure from the Indian government, rather than direct evidence of terrorism”.
On March 15th the British government took the first steps towards removing Sikh political activist organisation International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF) from a list of banned organisations after 15 years.
A government statement on the overturning of the ban said “The secretary of state has now decided that there is insufficient information to conclude that the group remains concerned in terrorism.”
Originally banned under the Terrorism Act of 2000 as an organisation allegedly affiliated with acts of terrorism, years of lobbying from Sikh political organisation the Sikh Federation UK finally saw the ISYF ban reviewed this year, ultimately leading to an overturning of the decision in parliament this week, with the decision to become official on March 18th.
Dabinderjit Singh of the Sikh Federation UK stated, “No organisation has ever had their ban lifted in this way, this is the first time the Home Secretary has agreed to lift such a ban, but it did follow a legal challenge. The problem with the ban was that it meant thousands of people could be seen as criminals overnight.”
“In 2001 when the ban took place in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, people from all parties objected. The ISYF made an application to be removed from the list the same year but one crucial thing happened during this time, and that was 9/11. The political atmosphere at the time became such that no Home Secretary was ever going to remove the ban.”
Listen to Dabinderjit Singh speak to BBC Asian network here – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03msfk0.
Jasveer Singh Gill of the Sikh Press Association stated on the issue, “For too long the separatist movement for Khalistan, which has huge support from the Sikh diaspora, has been portrayed as a militant movement fuelled by a religious divide. Calls for Khalistan actually have deep-rooted political and socio-economic foundations which go back decades, if not centuries. It is only fair this movement is viewed objectively for what it is, and the lifting of the ban on the ISYF goes some way towards making this happen. The Sikh Federation UK have done a great job by pushing this through.”
A social media statement from the National Sikh Youth Federation (NSYF) reads, “The UK government has taken a step in the right direction with the lifting of the ban on the ISYF. Sikh activists will continue to develop the conversation around Sikh Raaj and Khalistan. It’s time for more healthy debate and grass roots activism.”
See below for MP quotes.
Pictures and quotes provided via Sikh Federation UK (@SikhFedUK).