New Delhi: Apparently bowing to pressure from ally Akali Dal ahead of next year’s Punjab polls, the Modi government has lifted travel bans imposed on a number of overseas Sikhs, who were allegedly involved in subversive activities in 1980s and 1990s and kept in watch list.
The blacklist, which was prepared at different levels by security agencies, has been maintained by the government on mostly Indian-origin people allegedly involved in subversive or anti-India activities abroad.
Such people, whose names figure in the blacklist, are barred from visiting India. Some names have been removed from the blacklist after detailed discussions among various stakeholders, a Home Ministry official said.
The blacklist has been pruned, reportedly following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention after Akali Dal supremo and Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal wrote a letter urging him to remove names of 36 Sikhs settled overseas from the travel ban.
Though the exact number of people whose names were removed from the blacklist is not known, officials said it was quite a sizeble number.
The move bears significance as assembly elections in Punjab are due early next year. BJP is part of the Badal government while Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal is the Akali Dal representative in the Modi Cabinet. The Punjab Chief Minister had urged Modi after he became Prime Minister in 2014 to direct the Home Ministry to evolve a mechanism for a regular review of all such cases. Badal had said he wanted removal of the names of persons from the list against whom no cases or legal proceedings were pending. Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal too had written a letter to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh to review the blacklist of Sikhs and delete names of the persons who were not wanted in any criminal case in the state.
A delegation of British Sikhs too had urged the Prime Minister for removing the names of Sikh individuals from the list. During the 1980s and 1990s, a large number of Sikh families had migrated to the US, Canada, the UK, Germany and other countries seeking political asylum. Many of the asylum seekers were booked in cases in India and have not been allowed to visit India in the past decades.
Officials said the blacklist contains several thousand names.