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Who were the blacklisted Sikhs? Centre won’t say Cites Privacy Clause To Deny RTI Info

October 14, 2019 05:36 AM



The Union ministry of home affairs (MHA) has refused to provide the details of its blacklist on Sikh foreign nationals and the changes that were made to it since 2001.

This has happened even though a Haryana resident had sought this information under the RTI Act, but the government has turned down his request by citing a clause in the law which allows it to withhold information that could infrige an individual’s privacy.

On September 13, it was widely reported that the Centre had removed 312 of the remaining 314 names in the blacklist. However, the Centre is yet to make the names public. Hisar resident Sandeep Kumar Gupta, in his RTI application to MHA on September 23, sought a “certified copy of the notification issued by the government regarding the blacklist of Sikhs along with amendments carried out in the blacklist since January 1, 2001”.

The RTI application was filed 10 days after it was reported that the blacklist had been drastically revised. Replying to the RTI plea on October 9, the Union ministry’s central public information officer and director (foreigners) Parmod Kumar said, “...the requisite matter is exempted from disclosure under section 8 (1) (a) of the RTI Act, 2005.”

An appeal can be filed to this reply.

The Union government started maintaining a blacklist of Sikhs after Operation Bluestar, during which the Indian Army stormed the Golden Temple in its pursuit of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. At the time, Sikhs living abroad had lodged strong protests outside Indian embassies and missions against the Army action in June 1984. Even as scores of Sikhs have been denied visas to visit their homes in Punjab, the list has never been made public by the Centre, even though it found its way to the media in July 2010.

At the time, it was sent to the Punjab government for review. The list was first reviewed in 2001by the then SAD Union minister, Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa. He had claimed that there were only 195 Sikhs in the blacklist. He had also claimed that the number was earlier 1,500. In September 2001, it was reported that after reviews of “several thousands of blacklisted Sikhs” living abroad, the number was pruned to 50. The Union home ministry had communicated this decision to Punjab government and the National Commission for Minorities (NCM).

NCM vice-chairman Tarlochan Singh had thanked then Union home minister L K Advani at the time.

In May 2011, then Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) president Paramjit Singh Sarna had issued a press note, stating that the Centre, vide a communication bearing no. 25022/30/2010-F (CC)(Voll.II), deleted the names of 117 blacklisted NRI Sikhs. He said this was done on directions issued by the Delhi high court on February 9, 2011, on a writ petition filed by him on behalf of NRI Sikhs.

In March 2016, it was reported that 21 more names had been removed from the list and then Punjab Congress president Amarinder Singh had sought its further review. On September 12, Union home ministry sources informed the media that the list had been reduced to just two names after removing 312 names out of 314 names. However even after a month, the names removed or retained have not been made public

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