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Posted at: Jul 11, 2018, 7:53 PM; last updated: Jul 11, 2018, 9:39 PM (IST)

UK takes cautious line on pro-Khalistan SFJ meet

Smita Sharma 
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, July 11

The British High Commission in India on Wednesday reacted cautiously to reports that Sikhs For Justice (SFJ), a separatist organisation, has offered to sponsor youth and political activists from Punjab to travel to London for a meeting on August 12 this year. 

The August meeting is proposed to shape up the ‘London Declaration On Referendum 2020’ campaign seeking a separate Khalistan. Asked if it reflects the UK government policy to support separatist elements, the British High Commission spokesperson in Delhi told The Tribune: "In the UK people have the right to gather together and to demonstrate their views, provided that they do so within the law”. 

Reports citing Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, the legal advisor to SFJ based in New York, suggested that the organisation plans to provide sponsorship letters to participants from Punjab and also arrange free stay for them from August 10-14. The SFJ that has initiated a social media campaign for the meeting at Trafalgar Square has proposed to unveil a declaration advocating for “Sikhs’ right to self-determination for the independence of Punjab”. 

Pro-Khalistan elements on British soil have been a sensitive topic in bilateral ties between New Delhi and London. Earlier in April this year India had lodged a strong protest with UK after the Tricolour was burnt by Khalistani elements at Parliament Square even as Prime Minister Modi was addressing the Diaspora in Westminster. “However, we will not tolerate any groups who spread hate or deliberately raise community fears and tensions by bringing disorder and violence to our towns and cities and the police have comprehensive powers to deal with such activities,” added the British High Commission spokesperson today.  

SFJ that calls itself an international advocacy group has reportedly asked interested students and activists in Punjab to Whatsapp their IDs and passport details to provide them a sponsorship letter to attend the meeting, which would be necessary to obtain a visa.  

“Any visa application would be subject to the normal checks and requirements, regardless of who the sponsor is,” the UK High Commission said.

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