Lincoln Tan

Lincoln Tan is the New Zealand Herald’s diversity, ethnic affairs and immigration senior reporter.

Leading Kiwi Sikh held on terrorism charges in India

Manpreet Singh has been strongly defended by colleagues. Photo / APN
Manpreet Singh has been strongly defended by colleagues. Photo / APN

A New Zealand Sikh community leader has been arrested in India on terrorism charges.

Manpreet Singh, a former president of the New Zealand Sikh Society Auckland and a JP, faces multiple charges including alleged involvement in seditious activities, masterminding a jailbreak and attempted murder of a jail staff, Punjab police said.

Singh, 69, was arrested on his arrival from Sydney at Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport on Sunday and declared a "proclaimed offender".

A senior police officer said Singh had been charged more than a decade ago under India's Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act but fled the country when he was released on bail in May 1999, Punjab News reported.

Singh was also a member of the All India Sikh Students Federation, which the Indian police claimed was a militant organisation. Indian police said how Singh got a passport to leave the country was being investigated.

Grant Ogilvie, spokesman for the New Zealand Police, said they had not received any request from India to help with the investigation.

Immigration New Zealand spokesman Marc Piercey said Singh had never been the subject of any immigration investigation.

In India, the All India Sikh Students Federation president Karnail Singh said the arrest was politically motivated. He believed the action against Manpreet Singh was an attempt to thwart the organisation's campaign for justice over the systemic killing of Sikhs in 1984.

Daljit Singh, chairman of the Supreme Sikh Council of New Zealand, said Manpreet Singh had been living in Australia for the last 18 months and had travelled to India with his two NZ-born sons, aged 16 and 13, to attend to "personal matters".

This was Manpreet Singh's second trip to India after spending a month there in 2009 "without any problems", Daljit Singh said.

He described Manpreet Singh as a "good man" and said it was wrong for Indian authorities to label him a terrorist or militant.

"What we know is that Manpreet had already been acquitted of those charges, but he did not sign the papers before he fled from India," Daljit said.

"That's the only reason why his name is still on India's blacklist."

Daljit Singh said he spoke to Manpreet on Tuesday night, and was told that he will be in custody until April 8 when he was due to reappear in court.

Several New Zealand Sikh organisationsare appealing to the New Zealand Embassy in Delhi to ensure Manpreet received "fair treatment", Daljit Singh said.

National Party Sikh MP Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi said:

"Obviously if there is a need for any help, I will be happy to intervene."

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- NZ Herald

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