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Once forced to leave the country, Sikh man returns on red carpet laid by govt

Among the scores of NRIs who will be crossing over to Pakistan to visit the Kartarpur shrine with Punjab chief minister Capt. Amarinder Singh on Saturday, is a German citizen who fled India fearing police brutality in 1986.

Hardevender Singh (65) was 23-year old when he escaped India with the help of an agent. Sikh militancy was it's peak in mid-1980s and following Operation Blue Star at Gurudwara Harmandir Sahib or Golden Temple in Amritsar, hundreds of Sikh youths fled the country.

Mr. Singh is among the 312 Indian-origin Sikhs whose names were recently removed from an “adverse list,” maintained by the Indian security agencies of Sikh youths who were influenced by Khalistani (separate land for the Sikhs) propaganda in the 1980s. The list prepared by the intelligence agencies was available with all Indian missions and it was a major roadblock in availing visas even for their family members who were not on the list.

Mr. Singh said this was the second time in 15 days that he was visiting India after a gap of 33 years.

This time the invitation came from the Indian Embassy in Berlin.

"I cannot describe how good it feels to come back to the country I was born in. My younger brother, who I loved as a son died three years ago.....My mother died three months ago, I could never get a visa due to the blacklist....I can't describe the emptiness I felt when I entered the house in Jalandhar and didn't find them," Mr. Singh said as his eyes welled up.

He said he had no intention to flee India but was forced to do so as he was fed up of midnight knocks by police who accused him of sheltering Khalistani terrorists. "Even my parents were not spared. I was an electrician and was quite happy with my life. To escape police excesses I fled to Germany.....sought asylum and was granted citizenship after few years," said Mr. Singh stoking his long white beard. He added that he married a British woman and his son was a high ranking officer in the German army.

"I am glad the government invited me to be a part of the first official delegation to Kartarpur. After coming here I witnessed how Punjab has progressed," he said.

After he was removed from the blacklist in September, Mr. Singh undertook his first trip to India 15-days-ago.

"This is the place where our Gurus lived. I tried coming to India in the past but this government made it possible by abolishing the blacklist. They invited us for this grand event and told us to see things firsthand. The opening of the Kartarpur corridor will go a long way in forging friendship between India and Pakistan," said Mr. Singh.

On being asked if he concurred with apprehensions of the Government that the corridor will be used by Pakistan to stoke Khalistani propaganda, Mr. Singh said, "what happened at Harmandir Sahib (operation Bluestar) is still etched in the minds of people... But they should come here and see what has changed, India has always been the land of Khalistan."

He was among 65 NRIs who have come here on the invitation of the Centre as part of celebrations of the 550th birth anniversary of Sikh founder Guru Nanak Dev. They will be part of the delegation that will visit Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan on Saturday. Prime Minister will flag off the event.

Several Sikh groups had petitioned the Centre to review the list.


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Printable version | Jan 16, 2022 10:28:34 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/once-forced-to-leave-the-country-sikh-man-returns-on-red-carpet-laid-by-govt/article29929187.ece

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