As the Khalistani elements are planning to exploit the ongoing farmers’ protests in India to create anarchy, Khalistan-sympathising parliamentarians in the Western countries, especially those in the UK and Canada, are supporting them by attacking India at the diplomatic front.
A similar name that has been questioning the Indian government is British MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi alias Tan Dhesi. He very recently made a tweet on 11th February on a campaign ran by him and stated – “Over 100,000, incredibly from all 650 #UK constituencies (inc 3K+ from Slough), signed online petition; adding to 100+ MPs who wrote to PM. Given arrests of journalists and activists like #NodeepKaur, need Parliament debate ASAP on #FarmersProtest –largest protest on the planet.”
Earlier, Sikh Federation UK had launched a signature campaign to urge the UK government to pressurise the Indian government on farmers protests. In fact, this was one single sub-set of his multi-pronged attack on India.
However, the leader who talks about ideas of civil liberties and libertarian principles is himself facing allegations of promoting hatred towards certain communities in the UK. A couple of sources have claimed that Dhesi has not only been promoting an anti-India rhetoric, rather his actions suggest that he has also been a promoter of anti-Semitism in the UK.
In September 2019, he pressurised the British PM to apologise for his age-old comment on Muslim women wearing burqa. In return, what Johnson did was an eye-opener as he replied to Dhesi – “What we have yet to hear from anywhere in the Labour Party is any hint of apology for the virus of anti-semitism that is now rampant in their ranks. I would like to hear that. I would like to hear that from the hon. Gentleman (Tan Dhesi).”
In the very next week, Dhesi refused to support Jew MPs Ivan Lewis and Ian Austin – a parliamentarian hailing from a Holocaust survivor family, who were criticising the poor handling of anti-semitism by the Labour Party leaders.
Comparing the indifference towards the two MPs raising the issue of anti-semitism with Dhesi’s attack on the British PM, The Times of Israel commented – “They were loudly rudely mocked and dismissed by the same Labour MPs…”
Moreover, Dhesi shares a strong bond with Pakistani origin Labour MP Afzal Khan, who is believed to be having deep hatred towards Jews. Both of them have been allegedly promoting anti-semitic sentiments within the Labour Party.
A closer look at his parliamentary record and analysis of statements made by him reflect that possibly, he has been pushing an anti-Semitic narrative since a long time. Dhesi also moved an ‘Early Day Motion’ in the British parliament on 22nd March 2019 against ‘Israeli Occupation of Golan Heights’ which demanded the House of Commons to “urge the UK Government and European partners to oppose the new position of the US Government recognising the Golan as Israeli territory” besides asking the House to make several other anti-Israel commitments.
One might argue that these statements and actions might be simple policy decisions taken by a parliamentarian on the basis of his political preferences and judgment. However, an analysis of ‘The Register of Members’ Interests’, which “provides information about any financial interest which a Member has, or any benefit which he or she receives, which others might reasonably consider to influence his or her actions or words as a Member of Parliament”, presents an eye-opening fact.
It is mentioned in the Register that Dhesi received funding from the organisation Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) in August 2018 as part of a sponsored trip to the West Bank and Israel. Though it might appear as a part of a common lobbying or advocacy campaign engaging parliamentarians.
In 2017, the parliamentarian representing Slough also attacked the current Home Secretary Priti Patel for her support to Israel and sharing an article, he tweeted – “Priti Patel wanted to send aid money to Israeli army, No 10 confirms.”
This tweet is very similar to the baseless rhetoric propagated by Dhesi in the House of Commons on 3 rd February 2021 that “UK made weapons may be used in repressing the ongoing farmers protests in India.”
A geopolitical expert working on the Arab region argued that this could very well be seen as Dhesi’s tacit support to the anti-Israel BDS (Boycott, Disinvestments, and Sanctions) movement. The world is well aware of Pakistan’s hatred towards the Jew community and it has also emerged as an epicentre of the BDS campaign in the recent past. One should realise that eminent scholars like Clifford Smith, Director of the Middle East Forum’s Washington Project, have pointed out that there are attempts by Pakistan to expand the scope of the BDS campaign and target India over Kashmir as well.
“Hence, it might not be entirely illogical to argue that Dhesi’s anti-Israel stand as well as his redundant attacks on India over Kashmir and Khalistan could be triggered by the Pakistani ISI”, added the expert.
On the lines of statements and parliamentary interventions made on Israel, Tan Dhesi has been attacking India in an identical pattern. Through a spoken intervention made in the House of Commons on 3rd March, titled “recent violence in India”, he selectively tried to portray that only minorities have been targeted in the CAA related unrest and alleged the Indian government of persecuting the minorities.
Similarly, through another spoken contribution made on 27 th November 2018, he demanded the British government to pressurise the Indian government for the release of Khalistani terrorist Jagtar Singh Johal.
An analysis of questions asked by Dhesi highlights that his prime objective has been to bash India. Very recently, reiterating his commitment to save terrorist Johal, he asked a question from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to enquire, “what assessment he has made of whether Jagtar Singh Johal has been subjected to torture during his detention in India?” Dhesi has reiterated this question multiple times in the House of Commons, since the very initial days of his tenure.
However, critics began directly questioning Dhesi’s intentions after an anti-India question asked from the Secretary of State for International Trade on 3rdFebruary 2021. In the question titled ‘Arms Trade: India’, he asked the UK government – “whether the Government is taking steps to ensure that no UK made weapons or arms are exported to India where such weapons may be used in repressing the ongoing farmers protests in that country.”
A legislative researcher we spoke to argued that at rare occasions only parliamentarians ask such bizarre questions. In case they do, there is certainly something fishy going on and one could sense that a strong lobbying has been done behind such interventions. “In countries like India and the UK, where Parliamentary Standing Committees as well as Shadow Ministers play a major role of watchdogs of ministries, the possibility of Pakistan pushing Dhesi in its campaign to jeopardise India’s military interests through bulwarking the trade deals between Indian and the UK cannot be ruled out. Similar attempts are being made through Khalistanis based in the US and Canada”, he added.
Dhesi has also asked at least half a dozen questions on ongoing farmers protests in India and has been trying to pressurise the Secretary of State to attack the Indian government. In addition, he has also asked over two dozen questions attacking India, precisely focussing on Punjab. His actions and words reflect that he has not only been supporting Pakistan on the Khalistani agenda, rather in an attempt to please his Pakistani friends, he went to the extent of attacking India over a sensitive issue like Kashmir. He also brazenly praised an article published on 5th August 2020 in The Guardian. Local leaders argue that Dhesi is inflicting equally severe damages to the British democratic setup by politicising the places of worship and promoting extremism in the community. According to media reports, the administration of Gurdwara Sri Singh Sabha in Slough, a powerful Khalistani centre has promoted the candidature of Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi. Earlier, he had also addressed the community members in the hall of places of worship that display huge Khalistan banners. Local peace activists as well as community members have been raising concerns over the failure of the UK Charity Commission to take action on these developments.
Dhesi is not a new Khalistani sympathiser and has been calculatedly trying to cultivate a negative image of India in the UK. He has been very close to the Sikh Federation UK – the new avatar of the proscribed terrorist outfit International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF). Similarly, he has been a strong proponent of ISI funded campaign ‘Referendum-2020’ and in 2018, he made scathing attacks against India at a ‘Referendum-2020’ rally organised by extremist outfit Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) and its leader and ISI proxy Gurpatwant Singh Pannun.
However, there is much more to be dug out behind hate mongering propagated by Dhesi. An analysis of the population figures depicts an interesting picture. According to the data 2011 census data of the UK government, the share of Muslim population in Slough, represented by Dhesi, was 23.3% and Sikhs constituted 10.6% of the total population as compared to a meager 1.1%, Hindu, 0.5% Buddhists, and 0.1% Jews. Besides, the break-up of data suggests that the Muslim population is dominated by the Muslims of Pakistani origin, who constitute 17.74% of the total population, amongst whom the ISI enjoys a strong hold.
The region represented by Dhesi has a strong concentration of Muslim and Sikh population as the average population of Muslims in England and Wales is 4.8% and the Sikhs constitute around 0.8% of the total population.
Pollsters believe that it is easy for a candidate to bag the support of a vote bank valuing one-fourth of total vote share just by peddling anti-India rhetoric and promoting anti-Semitism. In addition, few Sikhs with pro-Khalistani sentiments are always ready to support the candidature of a Khalistani element, making victory a super easy affair for Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi. Unfortunately, without noticing Dhesi’s brazen appeasement and indulging in vote bank politics, few Indians have been falling prey into the Khalistani trap and trusting the propaganda peddled by him. The consequences have started to emerge now as the above-mentioned meeting organised on 9th February was also attended by an Indian, who made severe anti-India comments at the platform.
During our research, we were unable to find interventions made in similar intensity on atrocities of minorities in Pakistan or Pakistani Punjab. Dhesi, in order to please his Pakistani constituents, has maintained an abominable silence over Sikh and Hindu massacres in Pakistan and the plight of minorities including Shias, Hazaras, Baloch, Ahmadiyya, etc. in the country.
The selective outrage of Dhesi by attacking specific countries and groups while keeping a mum over other graver developments reflects that Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi’s politics is not of principles, but of pandering to his Pakistani origin vote bank.
A couple of nationalist activists from Punjab have also demanded the Indian government to impose sanctions against him. Earlier, similar demands were made by Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on imposing sanctions on Khalistani elements based out of Canada. Additionally, the Government of India shall raise the issue with the UK government and ensure that the Indian citizens involved in aiding these elements are identified and prosecuted. It should also come up with a plan to comprehensively counter the Khalistani propaganda.