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Cablegate: Sikh Beheaded in Pakistan, Outrage in India

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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 NEW DELHI 000386

SIPDIS

C O R R E C T E D C O P Y- REMOVING CAPTION

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PTER PREL IN
SUBJECT: SIKH BEHEADED IN PAKISTAN, OUTRAGE IN INDIA
(CORRECTED COPY- REMOVING CAPTION)

REF: NEW DELHI 358

NEW DELHI 00000386 001.3 OF 002


1. SUMMARY: On the eve of the February 25 Foreign
S ecretary talks between India and Pakistan, reports of the
beheading of a Pakistani Sikh sparked outrage in India.
Protests and media coverage across India indicate a broad
level of anger at the beheading, directed equally at the
Taliban, Pakistan and the Indian government. Some observers
questioned the advisability of resuming talks with Pakistan.
Responding to the public anger, the Foreign Secretary told
the press that she expressed India's grave concern at the
incident during her February 25 talks with her Pakistani
counterpart (RefTel). External Affairs Minister Krishna made
a statement in Parliament strongly condemning the beheading.
END SUMMARY


Widespread Outrage
----

2. February 21 reports of the recovery of beheaded
bodies of one or more Pakistani Sikhs in the Tirah Valley of
the Khyber Agency triggered immediate outrage and protests in
India. Anger was directed at the Taliban for its inhuman
brutality, Pakistan for allowing such an atrocity to occur,
and the Indian government for not somehow preventing such
violence. While scattered protests occurred through the
Sikh-majority state of Punjab, expressions of anger were not
confined to Punjab alone. Protests in Delhi, Amritsar, and in
the Jammu region were covered prominently by media across
India. News stories and editorials in the vernacular and
regional media have taken up the story in many parts of
India. The beheading has led some commentators to question
the resumption of Foreign-Secretary level talks with
Pakistan.


3. Manjit Singh, president of the opposition Shiromani
Akali Dal's (SAD) Delhi wing, led a protest in the capital
and demanded that the GOI cease talks with Pakistan until
"they stop attacking India and minorities." On February 22,
senior leaders from the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) Punjab
wing protested at the Indo-Pak border crossing at Wagah.
Calling the act "barbaric and intolerable," they burnt
effigies symbolizing the Taliban. Members of Parliament from
the opposition BJP, SAD, and Bahujan Samaj Party met with PM
Singh, himself a Sikh, exhorting the GOI to do more. Senior
BJP leader S.S. Ahluwalia asked the PM to pressure the
Government of Pakistan to grant safe passage for Sikhs from
unsafe areas. On a visit to India, a sobbing Taranjit Singh,
Lahore-based sole Sikh anchor on Pakistan
government-controlled PTV and cousin of the beheaded victim
Jaspal Singh, called on the Indian government to grant asylum
or visas to Sikhs living around Peshawar, so they can settle
in India to escape on-going violent threats to minorities in
Pakistan.

GOI Reacts
----

4. External Affairs Minister Krishna made a statement
in the Lok Sabha (lower house of Parliament) on February 24
strongly condemning the beheading of Jaspal Singh. Krishna
claimed that Pakistan President Zardari condemned the murder
in strong terms and promised swift action. He also said that
the GOI would bring up the issue during talks with Pakistan.
In her news conference following the conclusion of the
February 25 Indo-Pak talks, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao
noted that she conveyed India's grave concern at the incident
and urged Pakistan to take steps to protect its minority
communities.

Do More!
----


NEW DELHI 00000386 002.3 OF 002


5. Comment: Contacts say that Sikh community does not
think the GOI is doing enough to protect the lives of Sikhs
living abroad. Reports that the Sikh community in the United
States has appealed to President Obama to step in and do more
to protect minorities living in Pakistan are making the press
rounds in India. As with previous such incidents of violence
against Indians in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, the anger
will likely pass unless there are more such occurrences, in
which case the pressure will again mount on GOI to "do
something." Stories about Indians being assaulted or killed
anywhere in the world frequently appear in the press with the
admonition that the GOI is not doing enough to protect its
citizens. END COMMENT
ROEMER

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