Sikh activists throw UK cops out of West Midlands gurdwara

LONDON: British Sikh activists confronted police at a gurdwara and threw them out, telling them they were not welcome as they were “spying on the Sikh community.”

A video shows Sikh activists from two organisations, Sikh Youth UK and Raids, confronting the police on November 7 at the Gurdwara in Caldmore, Walsall, in West Midlands where the police had set up a stall on Diwali and to recruit more Sikhs into the police force.

In the footage, a member of Sikh Youth UK is shown confronting a turbaned Sikh police officer, saying: “West Midlands Police (WMP) are banned from Sikh spaces. Stop spying on Sikhs, getting Sikhs raided and giving intel [intelligence] to India. WMP provided information on Jagtar Singh Johal which led to his torture.”

Johal has been detained in Punjab since November 4, 2017 accused of involvement in the murder of RSS leader Ravinder Gosain and other targeted killings.

The Sikh protester in the video continues challenging the police: “You are part of the collusion between West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit (WMCTU) and the Punjab Police. You are colluding against the Sikh community. You are disrupting the Sangat. Why are you targeting British Sikhs because we are talking about 1984? There is clearly collusion going on. You are here to recruit more spies to pay them to spy on the Sikh community. We are aware of this so we are asking you humbly and nicely to pack your stall up.”

The police team eventually did pack up their belongings and left.

On September 18, detectives from counter-terrorism unit had searched six Sikh households in the UK, three for items relating to terrorism offences and three for fraud offences.

But Raids claims that these searches were “targeting the homes of human rights campaigners who are actively involved in the ‘FreeJaggiNow campaign’” and that UK police had provided a dossier to Indian police about Jagtar Singh Johal and the Sikh website he was running.

“The UK government and its security agencies have colluded with India in order to target Sikh human rights campaigners who are raising their voice against India’s oppression on minorities,” Raids said.

A spokesman for the Sikh Federation (UK) told TOI: “A decision was taken by a group of Sikh organisations in October that are not welcome at gurdwaras. There is tension in the community and the fact they still came and put up a stall is antagonising the community. The ban will continue until we get clarity on what the 18 September raids were about. We understand they extracted the names of the six people whose houses they raided in the UK from Jaggi by torture in an Indian jail. They took laptops, mobile phones and equipment and none of it has been returned.”

A West Midlands Police spokesman said: “WMP attended a recruitment event at a gurdwara in Walsall, during this event one member of the public had a heated discussion with an officer — following this, it was decided the best course of action was for WMP to leave the event.”

But the police force denied it was banned from Sikh spaces. “Officers continue to be welcomed into gurdwaras,” the spokesman said.

“The searches were part of a long-term investigation by WMCTU into suspected terrorist offences in the UK relating to activity in India, as well as fraud offences. The searches were not part of a joint investigation with the Indian authorities and only UK police staff were involved. The decision to undertake these searches was not directed by the UK or Indian government. West Midlands’ residents suspected of supporting individuals or organisations who are seeking to carry out serious violence overseas, as part of a political or ideological cause, may be committing terrorist offences within the UK. These offences will be investigated.”

The items seized are being examined as the investigation continues and to date no arrests have been made, he added.
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