In a first, Britain is trying to de-link “faith “ with the pro-Khalistan movement on its soil, a significant step that recognises the need to end the political legitimacy enjoyed by the extremists having a free run so far trying to subvert the British system spreading hate, terror and divisive agenda.
The threat has come home to bite with Colin Bloom, appointed as the Faith Engagement Adviser by the UK government in 2019, warning the country can no longer turn a blind eye to attempts being made by certain pro-Khalistani groups to circumvent the democratic order, inflate influence, legitimise dubious positions using the “Sikh” label to lobby political bodies, masquerade as human rights activists, thereby presenting a false appearance of legitimacy.
In the latest report, Bloom reviews the British government‘s engagement with faith and warns against any move that can inadvertently legitimise the Khalistan extremists by “government or parliamentary engagement” - a mistake made by successive governments both in Britain and Canada that are facing subversive activities, tensions, hate and intimidation on their soil.
Bloom goes back to the genesis of the pro-Khalistan movement in the 1980s to question the motive of the extremists by digging holes in the “territorial claim” of establishing an independent state of Khalistan, the physical borders of which are largely shared with specific parts of Punjab in India.
“Interestingly, this territorial claim does not include the part of the Punjab located in Pakistan. It is not entirely clear if the motivation for these extremists is faith-based or not,” says Bloom. The report goes on to explain why faith is far removed from such claims.
It is clear that the Rishi Sunak government can clamp down on pro-Khalistani outfits like Babbar Khalsa International, International Sikh Youth Federation and other feeder groups if the British system delinks their support base from any religious ideology or faith - rather recognise them as subversive forces against the core values of Britain of freedom and tolerance. The BKI was proscribed by the UK government in March 2001 - the same time when Al Qaeda was listed as a terrorist organisation. But the ISYF was de-proscribed by the UK government in 2016 following an application to remove them from the list of terrorist organisations.
Colin recommends the government plug the gaps in its policy and review various steps to help clamp down on violence or religious-based sectarianism. The writing on the wall is clear. Turning a blind eye has the potential to psychologically damage children and adults, as well as compromise the safety and security of faith communities in the UK. This is why Bloom stresses the need to “distinguish extremist agendas of power, control and subversion from mainstream Sikh communities.”
The report documents several instances where arsonists have carried out reprisal attacks for inter-faith marriages, abduction, torture and murder of Indian leaders besides attempts to subvert the British state.
The latest worry, according to Bloom, is the misuse of social media to push online videos inciting violence, retribution and the glorification of dead pro-Khalistan militants and AK47 machine guns.
UK’s communications regular, Ofcom has been taking steps to suspend and revoke licences of broadcasting channels that propagate hate and incite violence in the last two years. The need for the UK’s counter-terror bodies to investigate the glorification of pro-Khalistani extremists has been flagged in the report.
Bloom draws from the experience of the Canadian government in tackling the pro-Khalistani extremists where attempts made by the latter to speak against them led to a backlash in 2018.
The 2018 Public Report on the Terrorism Threat to Canada allegedly came under fire for flagging pro-Khalistani extremism as a threat, and references were removed to allay religious sentiments. The point is buttressed by the Bloom report which shows the way forward for the British government in tackling the threat.
The report gains significance at a time when the recent attack on the Indian Mission in London by a Khalistan mob brought the issue centre stage exposing how radical separatist Amritpal Singh, on the run in India for a month before his arrest, was being supported by the UK, US and Canada-based extremists. There has been a long pending demand by New Delhi not to allow foreign soils to be used by extremists to spread unrest, a concern which is now being shared in Britain.