• Monday, March 04, 2024

HEADLINE STORY

Sikhs in UK receive ‘threat-to-life’ notices amid growing tensions

Osman notices issued by West Midlands police have fuelled apprehensions among recipients

FILE PHOTO: Sikh activists shout slogans in support of Khalistan, the name for an envisioned independent Sikh state at a demonstration outside the Indian High Commission in London on July 8, 2023. (Photo by HENRY NICHOLLS/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Pramod Thomas

MANY Sikhs in the UK have received “threat-to-life” notices from the police, intensifying concerns over rising tensions related to the separatist movement in India, reported The Times.

The threat-to-life warnings, known as Osman notices, issued by West Midlands police have fuelled apprehensions among recipients who fear potential connections to alleged assassination plans in the US and Canada by agents of the Indian government.

Osman notices were introduced following the 1988 shooting death of businessman Ali Osman in east London by a teacher who had previously expressed intentions of committing a massacre.

The heightened unease follows the mysterious death of Avtar Singh Khanda, a 35-year-old advocate for a separate Sikh state, in Birmingham last June.

Calls for a formal inquest into Khanda’s demise have amplified amid claims of Indian government interference, the report added.

While West Midlands police concluded a thorough review, asserting no suspicious circumstances, Sikh activists contest the findings.

Allegations of potential poisoning by agents for India have surfaced, necessitating a widespread cover-up, including suspicions of interference with a private autopsy.

Sikh leaders in Britain allege that the Indian administration is suppressing dissent within the diaspora and attempting to silence advocates of an independent Sikh state known as Khalistan.

In response, there are counter-claims that some pro-Khalistan activists in the UK have displayed aggressive and sectarian behaviour.

The issuance of Osman notices, typically associated with warnings for potential victims involved in organised crime conflicts, underscores the gravity of the tensions within the Sikh community.

One recipient of an Osman warning, initially suspecting religious fundamentalists in the West Midlands community, now believes a geopolitical angle is more plausible, particularly following accusations of Indian agents orchestrating a murder in Toronto and planning an assassination in New York.

Sikh community leaders in the UK assert that peaceful protesters calling for Khalistan independence are being targeted by the Indian government, labeling them as enemies of the state.

Jas Singh of Sikh Federation UK expressed heightened concern within the community, with leaders taking protective measures such as avoiding solo travel.

The individual who received the Osman warning, along with his family, remains unsettled, seeking clarity from West Midlands police about the nature of the threat.

Despite being urged to take security precautions, he remains dissatisfied with the lack of additional information from the authorities.

“They’ve just told me to take security steps to protect myself. The police haven’t done anything else,” he told the newspaper.

He mentioned being aware of additional alerts being issued since he, along with his brother and father, received the warnings back in March.

He added, “Something stinks, it doesn’t make sense. If it were the Sikh fundamentalists, they’ve seen us lots of times on our own since then and done nothing. In the context of what happened in Canada, and these international threats, it’s really making me wonder what’s going on.”

The West Midlands police refrained from addressing inquiries regarding apprehensions of a threat originating from the Indian state and did not provide details about how they handle Osman notices.

“We received information that suggested that members of a family may have been at risk of harm. We have processes in place when we receive information about threats to people, and in line with our duty of care, family members were made aware and advice was provided,” a spokesman was quoted as saying.

In November, US prosecutors disclosed that an unnamed Indian agent had recruited Nikhil Gupta to pay a hitman for the assassination of a prominent Sikh separatist leader in New York.

Meanwhile, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau stated in September that intelligence agencies had credible evidence linking Indian agents to the fatal shooting of Hardeep Singh Nijjar near Vancouver. Nijjar was a Canadian Sikh leader advocating for Khalistan’s independence.

Eastern Eye

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