President Shiromani Akali Dal and Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal along with a delegation of Sikh leaders today called on Union Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj and demanded that issues of Sikh community residing in United States should also be part of agenda to be discussed with President Mr. Barack Obama by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his proposed visit to US besides seeking his immediate intervention for redrassal of these issues.During the meeting, Mr. Badal asked Mrs. Swaraj to put this issue on the priority agenda of Prime Ministerial visit to US. He demanded that there was need to take a sympathetic view on the issue of asylum seekers who sought political asylum in foreign countries either due to economic reasons or during 1984 or militancy era. He asked External Affairs Minister to grant Travel Documents and VISA to them besides allowing them to apply for Indian Citizenship as the case may be without delay. Last 10 years of Congress-led UPA government at the centre have miserably failed to address any issues concerning Sikhs, he said.
Badal also took up the issue of 41 Indians abducted and held captive in Iraq and took an update from the External Affairs Minister on the their status and efforts being made by the Government of India to free them as soon as possible.Highlighting the issue of racial attacks on Sikhs in different parts of the world, Mr. Badal stressed on the need to sensitize all officials in Indian Missions abroad to take up issues concerning Sikhs asking their respective governments to initiate campaigns for sensitizing their security agencies, police and spread overall awareness about Sikh people and Sikh religion. He said that there was a need to launch social campaigns by Indian Missions abroad about Sikhs and documentaries, films, and information on social media and other traditional media be released to increase awareness about Sikhs.He also laid emphasis on the need to take up the issue of Indian farmers in Georgia. He asked External Affairs Minister to take up the issue immediately with the Georgian government at diplomatic level. “A number Punjabis were invited by Georgia to own farmlands in Georgia a few years back. These Punjabis bought the land in Georgia and were doing farming there. Every year, these Punjabis come back to India for holidays but for the last six months they are not being given VISA by Georgia and their land is being confiscated”, he added.
Sushma Swaraj, External Affairs Minister assured Mr. Badal that the issue of political asylum seekers and also the blacklisted shall be considered sympathetically at the top priority and also the government’s top priority was to free all the abducted persons who are held captive in Iraq. She also assured that efforts would be made to sensitize foreign missions abroad about Sikhs and the situation in Georgia be handled amicably.Later talking to media, Mr. Badal demanded that Government of India should de-list persons who have never indulged into any extremist activities or violence and went abroad on economic reasons. He said that a number of persons who were dubbed as the sympathizers of extreme religious sentiments and were blacklisted and banned from entering India, over the decades, such persons have not been allowed to visit India again to meet their relatives or see their land.Member Rajya Sabha Naresh Gujaral, Former Union Minister Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, President DSGMC Manjit Singh GK and General Secretary Manjinder Singh Sirsa were also part of delegation.