White House now ‘condemns’ 1984 anti-Sikh violence

Washington DC, US: In response to a petition from the influential Sikh community seeking recognition of violence against Sikhs in India during November 1984 as “genocide”, the White House has said it continues to “condemn” and “work against” violence directed at people because of their religion.

“We continue to condemn – and more importantly, to work against – violence directed at people based on their religious affiliation,” the White House said, but declined to call the 1984 violence against Sikhs as “genocide.”

“US Government efforts to protect the rights and freedoms of all people have long been a feature of our foreign policy,” it said in response to the online petition initiated by New York based rights group Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) last December. The petition received 30,517 signatures, crossing the necessary threshold for a response.

“During and after the 1984 violence, the United States monitored and publicly reported on the grave human rights violations that occurred and the atrocities committed against members of the Sikh community,” White House said.

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It cited the example of the State Department’s Official Country Reports on Human Rights Practices which “covered the violence and its aftermath in detail, with sections on political killings, disappearances, denial of fair public trials, negative effects on freedom of religion, and the government’s response to civil society organizations investigating allegations of human rights violations.”

“Our diplomats regularly report on and speak out against violence against minorities around the world,” White House said.

The annual International Religious Freedom Report also “describes the status of religious freedom in every country, highlights trends and violations, and details the actions that the United States government is taking to improve freedom of religion,” it said.

However, expressing dissatisfaction at the White House response, SFJ legal advisor Gurpatwant Singh Pannun said the “Obama Administration has disregarded its obligations under Article 1 and 2 of the UN Convention on Genocide by failing to take a position on this issue.”

Based on a member nation’s failure to fulfil its obligation under Article 1 of the UN Convention on Genocide, SFJ will approach UN Commission on Human Rights (UNHCR) to recognize the November 1984 violence against Sikhs as genocide, he said.

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