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Is British Labour Playing with Punjabi Fires with Khalistan?

The Labour Party in the UK finds itself at the centre of a growing controversy involving Pro-Khalistan Extremism (PKE). This extremist movement seeks to establish Khalistan, an independent Sikh state in India's Punjab region, and has a history of both political advocacy and violent actions. Notable violent incidents attributed to PKE in the UK include the brutal murder of Tarsem Singh Toor in Southall (1986), the Dormers Wells High School mass shooting (1987), the shooting of Jaswant Singh Thekedar in London (2005), and an assassination attempt on Lt-Gen Kuldeep Singh Brar in London (2012). Recent developments suggest that PKE extremists are attempting to infiltrate British politics, particularly targeting the Labour Party.



In 2020, PKE extremists collaborated with Members of Parliament to create the impression that Sir Keir Starmer, Labour's then newly appointed leader, supported their call for an independent Khalistan. This perception was bolstered when Starmer was photographed with the Sikh Manifesto, a radical document crafted by leading Khalistanis in the UK. The Sikh Federation UK (SFUK), which serves as the secretariat for the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for British Sikhs in the Houses of Parliament, has been publicly glorifying acts of PKE terrorism.


SFUK has celebrated incidents such as the Dormers Wells High School mass shooting, raising alarms about their influence within political circles. In light of these disturbing trends, Labour’s Deputy Leader, Angela Rayner, has pledged her support for a new inquiry into British actions during Operation Blue Star, an effort to remove Khalistani extremists from Sikhism’s holiest shrine, the Golden Temple.


In a tweet, Rayner said, “Today we mark the 40th anniversary of the raid on the Golden Temple. Labour stands with the Sikh community in calling for an inquiry into the historic role Britain played. A Labour government will work to determine the best way to find out the truth.” This statement was seen as a propaganda victory for the Sikh Federation UK and similar groups.


In 2014, the British government conducted its own inquiry, the Heywood Review, into allegations of British military advice to India during the crisis. The review concluded that the Special Air Service (SAS), Britain’s premier special forces unit, played little to no role in Operation Blue Star.


Pro-Khalistan extremists have a history of violent actions both in the UK and internationally. The 1980s saw hijackings of Indian Airlines flights by Dal Khalsa, a Sikh extremist group with a branch in the UK. More recently, in March 2023, Khalistani separatists stormed the Indian High Commission in London, removing the Indian national flag and intimidating Sikhs who do not support Khalistan. Shootings and assassination attempts have also occurred in the UK, but these terrorist acts have failed to penetrate the public consciousness due to the greater threat posed by Irish republican terror from the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in the 1980s and radical Islamist terror during the US-led Global War on Terrorism (GWOT).



Pro-Khalistan Organisations


The Sikh Federation UK (SFUK), established in 2003, promotes Sikh issues in the UK but is recognised for its support of Khalistani secessionist activities. It has roots in the banned International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF), designated as a terrorist organisation in multiple countries. SFUK organises rallies and events advocating for Khalistan. Another significant organisation, Sikhs for Justice, is also active in the UK, contributing to fundraising, propaganda, and recruitment efforts for the Khalistan movement.


Government and Community Concerns


The UK government, through reports like the Bloom Review, has expressed concerns over the rising influence of pro-Khalistan extremists within the British Sikh community. These elements often use coercion and intimidation to advance their agenda, not reflecting the broader Sikh community in the UK.


Preet Gill MP and Smethwick


Preet Gill MP has been linked to a Khalistan-supporting sect in Smethwick that does not follow mainstream Sikhism, according to Lord Singh. The Guru Nanak Gurdwara in Smethwick, identified as a centre for Khalistan extremism, features a hall dedicated to Khalistani extremists with photos of designated terrorists. In 2020, PKE extremists, alongside Labour’s Preet Gill MP, invited Sir Keir Starmer to pay homage to Khalistani terrorists at this gurdwara, sparking further controversy.



As the Labour Party navigates these turbulent waters, it must carefully consider the implications of associating with groups linked to PKE. The potential for political gain must be weighed against the risks of endorsing extremism and alienating the broader Sikh community in the UK. The question remains: Is Labour playing with Punjabi fires, and if so, at what cost to the UK and India?



(The views expressed are solely of the writer of this essay).

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