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Sikh temple raid shadows Belgian royal visit to India
Author: Tejinder Singh
Nov 03 , 2008


King Albert II of Belgium will go to India on a nine-day state visit beginning November 3, accompanied by Queen Paola, Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht, and top businessmen and academics, according to sources in the Royal Palace in Brussels. The royal visit comes on the heels of raids last month from Belgian police on 19 houses in Brussels’s Vilvoorde region including Gurdwara (Sikh Temple) and Tubize (just outside Brussels.) The Sikh community expressed outrage at the handling of the affair at the Sikh Temple, alleging that the police went in with shoes on and forced the reader of the Holy Book to abandon the continued recital that was going on to observe 300 years anniversary of the Holy Book.


Mejindarpal Kaur, legal director of United Sikhs, a coalition of organisations and individuals said, “United Sikhs and the Sikh community are appalled by the police’s insensitivity in its actions during the raid ... United Sikhs is writing to the Belgian prime minister, seeking a full investigation of the incident, an apology from Belgian police and changes to the police procedures when handling places of worship of all communities.”


Resham Singh, President of Gurdwara Guru Nanak Sahib, Vilvorde said: “Our Gurdwara is a place of worship open to all. We do not inquire about the immigration status of the people coming to worship at the Gurdwara. Police should have been more sensitive during the raid; to enter a gurdwara with shoes on and to further stop an akhand paath is a serious violation of the religious rights of the Sikh community.”


Sunil Prasad, President of the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin regretted that police should have shown respect to the sanctity of the holy place while making arrests as this has upset many Indians in Belgium. But at other places the raids yielded some major suspects, according to reliable sources, and police also found at least 200 people in Belgium unlawfully and living in inhuman conditions. They were shacked up in safe houses, used as places of hiding for many illegals.


The migrants, mostly from Punjab, had been brought to Belgium through Moscow, Assistant prosecutor Tim de Wolf said. “We found 24 people crammed inside one windowless room, measuring around 12-square metres,” he said. De Wolf, who investigated the racket for a year, said the ring was believed to be capable of smuggling thousands of people into Britain every year.


The Indian embassy in Brussels refused to comment on the incident as R K Goel told this journalist, “The ministry is looking into the matter so we can not comment on the subject.” Prasad, President, GOPIO, said that all those paperless Indians who have been caught and detained by the Belgian police are economic migrants and were seeking better future in Europe. These misguided youths are the victims of human trafficking gangs in India and in Europe and these traffickersmust be dealt with without any leniency.


“One of the main reasons why economic migrants from Indiawant to migrate toUK is because UK is more friendly than many countries in Europe with respect to giving asylum. Also, because of a large Indian community in UK, it is natural that these immigrants want to come to UK and seek better life,” he said. Prasad, who is also the Secretary General of the Brussels Europe India Chamber of Commerce (EICC) said that as a result of economic slowdown there shall be more temptation from people from developing countries like India to reach Europe’s shore for greener future. He however suggested that the European Union in cooperation with the Government of India and the state of Punjab should launch an awareness campaign programme in Punjab to tell the youth about the dangers of becoming victim of the unscrupulous gangs.



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