ACCORDING to recent estimates, there are more than 22 Indian states which areplagued with separatist movements. The most visible is Indian Occupied Kashmir, where Indian forces have tried to subdue the Muslims through brute force and since1989, when the Kashmiris arouse in open rebellion; more than 100,000 innocent Kashmiris have been martyred. Similarly, Sikhs are another community that faces Indian suppression. Notwithstanding that Sikh bravely fought for the Indian armed forces in all its wars, they had been marginalized.
In India, discrimination against Sikhs resulted in an independence movement led by Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwala. In June 1984, thethen Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi ordered the storming of the Golden Templewhere Jarnail Singh’s forces were entrenched. The insurgency was quelled but thousands of the followers of Bhindranwala and Sikh pilgrims trapped in the GoldenTemple were killed. Consequently, two of Indira Gandhi’s Sikh bodyguards avengedthe massacre at the Golden Temple by assassinating her in broad daylight.
Hermurder unleashed a frenzy of retaliation by Hindus who hunted, looted and killed Sikhs by the thousands. A Harvard Study into torture in Punjab during the Khalistanmovement provides insights into the methods and objective of those who tortured: “Invirtually all cases, detainees were forced to disrobe and were then beaten whitleather straps and/or wooden sticks. These acts were so common that most respondents did not even consider them acts of torture”“…The most common form of torture, reported by (75%) of the respondents, was leg stretching.
For this torture, detainees were forced to sit on the ground with their hands tied behind their backs. One police officer stood behind the detainee, pulling his or her head back by the hair, inserting his foot between the detainee’s tied handstand low back while forcing his knee into the mid-back. Two other policemen, one oneach side, stretched the legs as far apart as possible.” “Electric shocks were administered using wires that touched their earlobes, genitals, toes, and fingers.” According to one police officer, in his police station alone, between 4,000 and 5,000acts of torture were committed each year from 1985 to 1990.
The overwhelming majority of the victims of torture surveyed in this report were not suspected to becombatants in the Khalistan movement by the police. These victims included both men and women and the ages ranged from 17 to 82. The report concluded that the police arrested, detained without charges, systematically tortured and killed” thousands of Sikhs who were perceived to be sympathetic to the movement”. In subsequent years the separatism in India may have been quelled but the Sikh Diaspora which settled in Europe, USA and Canada, still bears the scars of 1984and has not forgotten the brutal assault on their community. Recently, the arrest of a30-year-old Scottish Sikh of Indian origin has triggered a face-off between the Punjab government and sections of the Sikh Diaspora across three continents, with even British Prime Minister Theresa May weighing in.Jagtar Singh Johal alias Jaggi had flown down to Punjab for his wedding in October 2017. A month later, he was arrested over his alleged connection with aspate of targeted killings in the Indian state of Punjab over the past two years,including RSS and right-wing leaders like Brigadier (r) Jagdish Gagneja in 2016 andRavinder Gosain in October 2017, and a pastor called Sultan Masih in July 2017. The Punjab police suspect Johal’s hand behind the murders, especially in funding andarranging weapons for a terror outfit called the Khalistan Liberation Force. British Prime Minister Theresa May told the British media that she was awareof concerns about Johal; the matter was raised in the House of Commons by MartinDocherty-Hughes of the Scottish National Party (SNP). He represents West Dunbartonshire, where Johal and his family are based. The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office has already conveyed their concerns to the Indiangovernment.Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLA Kanwar Sandhu is also not fully convinced about thePunjab police’s case. “Some of the killings that the police are talking about areprobably the result of rivalry between businessmen or political parties and may not have any connection with the conspiracy that the police are talking about.”Meanwhile, Sikhs of Indian origin around the world have sought justice for Johal.High-profile Canadian politician Jagmeet Singh, leader of the federal New Democratic Party (NDP), publicly lent his support.
Canadian members of parliament,Raj Grewal and Ran deep Sarai, have communicated their concern over human rightsissues to the Indian high commissioner in Canada, Vikas Swarup. In the UK, the Sikh Federation has been garnering support for Johal’s cause among members of the community, and protest rallies were held in London near the Parliament and theforeign office.In Jagtar Singh’s case, the whole establishment from the Executive to theJudiciary has been put into action against one man. Chief Minister Captain Amrinder Singh held a press conference after Jagtar Singh’s arrest, alleging that he was involved in a series of high profile crimes and that the crimes had been solved with Jagtar’s arrest.
It is extraordinary that the Chief Minister of the State would getinvolved in an individual case, let alone prejudice the case from the start by reportingto the world that Jag tar was guilty before charges have been made. Then there is theJudiciary, which, in the face of complaints of serious torture is extending police remand without charge, to enable the torture and mistreatment in police custody. This is in addition to the Police’ illegal abduction and torture of Jaggi to obtain his false confession.
They have also been harassing his family and threatening them with asimilar fate, which has led to many of Jagtar Singh’s family having to go into hiding. Interestingly, Jaggi’s case has parallels to that of Bhai Jaswant Singh Khalra.In 1995, the Punjab police abducted, tortured, and murdered human rights activistJaswant Singh Khalra for his work in documenting human rights abuses committed against the Sikhs during the Sikh struggle for a separate state. Khalra uncoveredevidence to prove that tens of thousands of Sikhs (non-combatant) had beenextrajudicially murdered and secretly cremated by the Punjab police. Khalra was alsolabelled as being a member of the Khalistan movement and additionally an agent ofPakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence by the Indian State, as Jagtar Singh has alsobeen accused.
These allegations, especially the ISI connection is designed todehumanise and discredit Jagtar Singh and essentially justify his persecution. In thecase of Jaswant Singh Khalra, these allegations were used to legitimise theabduction, torture and extrajudicial killing of the late human rights activist. The Indiangovernment has been targeting individuals like Mr Jaggi who are working for Sikhcause and trying to make them an example for others. It is a routine in India to maketerrorism cases against the die-hard and sincere members of the concerned minority.Its time that the world must rise to the occasion and acknowledge the Kashmirifreedom struggle as legitimate, just and rightful as well bring about an end to thesuppression of Indian minorities including the Sikhs.—Email