How worried should British Sikhs be about the threat to their lives from forces acting on behalf of the Indian government? The question has arisen after it was revealed that some Sikhs have been issued with ‘threat to life’ warnings by West Midlands police. Such warnings – called ‘Osman warnings’ – mean there is credible intelligence of a death threat or risk of murder but not sufficient to justify an arrest.
The warnings by British police follow claims of murder and an assassination attempt on activists in Canada and the United States last year. This has fuelled speculation that Sikhs are being targeted by India because of their support for the formation of an independent state of ‘Khalistan’ in the Punjab. India has always denied the claims.
The police have not provided any detailed information about the latest warnings or said anything about a potential link to the Indian state. One of those notified by police claims it could be linked to his openly expressed hostility to Narendra Modi’s government. He told the Times newspaper that he had ‘posted stuff on Twitter and Instagram against the regime’ and ‘an Indian government connection would make sense…’. That is just speculation. Even so, it is understandable that some in the Sikh community see a link between the warnings here and recent events in the United States and Canada.
Whatever the truth, there is no denying that Sikhs in Britain are increasingly worried for their safety. The Federation of Sikh Organisations is backing a legal challenge by the family of a separatist campaigner, Avtar Singh Khanda, who are calling for an inquest into his death in June. He died within days of being admitted to Birmingham City Hospital: the official cause of death was acute myeloid leukaemia, a type of blood cancer.