India must Release all Prisoners of Conscience

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 Voorhees, NJ, USA: The American Sikh Council (ASC) continues to be very distressed and concerned about the various Sikh prisoners of conscience incarcerated by the Republic of India – ROI. No country which officially claims itself to be a republic can continue to function like an autocratic police state, where all dissenters are either jailed or snuffed out permanently in the name of so-called anti-nationalism.

 ROI is currently under an ever-increasing threat of an extremely virulent strain of Hindutva, where Brahmin-Hindu religious bigots who are the heads of various important sub-sects openly call for genocide against minorities such as Muslims and Sikhs. Nations across the world have called out against such hate-mongering and even warned that there are clear signs of an impending genocide particularly against Muslims and Sikhs. The party currently in power in the ROI is the BJP, a direct affiliate of the extreme right-wing RSS, whose political representative actually attended the recent Hindu rally in Haridwar in late December 2021, where various religious leaders were railing against Muslims. The PM of ROI is also a card-carrying member of the RSS.

 Sikhs who have been fighting against various injustices and the tyranny of the Indian state, continue to suffer at the hands of the oppressive regime which uses all the tools at its disposal to silence dissent.

 Prof. Davinderpal Singh Bhullar who has already spent 23 years and 10 months in jail and is still not being released even though he is innocent. ROI has made sure that it needs to set an example through fear, so whether it be Prof.

Bhullar or many other Sikhs prisoners of conscience rotting in Indian jails; the system does not want the Sikhs to breathe freely, rather they need to be taught a lesson so that they remain subservient to their Hindu masters in perpetuity, therefore the hypocritical nature of the legal system which will continue to oppress Sikhs even if it is on trumped charges.

 There is also the decades old case of the ‘Sikh detainees’ or ‘Bandhi Singhs’ who are prisoners of conscience arrested during the infamous Operation Blue Star, when ROI attacked the holy Darbar Sahib in June 1984. According to the Indian Express dated June 27, 2018, “Government records show 1,592 Sikhs were detained from the Golden Temple and nearby inns after Operation Blue Star ended on June 6, 1984.” There are many Sikhs (detainees) who have been left to die in jails across several states in India. Their only crime, that they were present as innocent pilgrims during that time, but picked up by the army and police on fabricated charges and put behind bars simply for being Sikhs. Many of them are in the seventies and older, yet no politician in Punjab or elsewhere has had the guts to have them released and give them justice and relief.

 The most recent prisoner of conscience is a British Sikh, namely Jagtar (Jaggi) Singh Johal a 34-year-old, born in Glasgow, Scotland, UK who was abducted and detained in Jalandhar, Punjab on November 4, 2017 while vacationing in Punjab.  Mr.Johal had already been in Punjab for nearly five weeks, since October 2, 2017 when while shopping in Jalandhar with his newly wed wife and a female cousin when he was abducted by plainclothes policemen in broad daylight. 

 Mr. Johal's crimes according to the Indian authorities reportedly include, ‘running a magazine’ in the UK of atrocities during the 1984 Sikh Genocide and ‘influencing the youth through social media’. Mr.Johal the alleged owner of the www.neverforget84.com has a fairly comprehensive website outlining all the serious human rights abuses meted out to the Sikhs of Punjab and elsewhere. There is absolutely nothing on the website that can be construed as subversive or influencing anyone in any negative manner. There are many websites in the diaspora focused on the ‘Sustained Sikh Genocide 1984 -1998’ detailing the atrocities perpetrated by the Indian Government on the Sikh nation.

Today, it has been over 4 years and 3 months with not a single legitimate charge against him, but he is being tortured and incarcerated indefinitely while British government seems to have lost its moral compass when it has allowed a foreign government to kidnap one of their native-born citizens, yet continue to dither on such an important human right violation.

 Starting with Prof. Davinderpal Singh Bhullar, all the Sikh detainees from 1984, Jagtar Singh Johal, any Sikh activist illegally incarcerated, and all the recent peaceful Sikh protestors involved in the world’s largest Kisan Protest who were unlawfully arrested, must be released unconditionally and compensated for all their suffering. If ROI truly wants to be considered the world’s largest democracy, then it must treat its minorities respectfully and particularly those that have given their lives repeatedly for the benefit of the majority. Otherwise, the powers to be are not only cutting their own feet but destabilizing their own setup at their own peril.

 All those rights to freedom of speech, right to dissent, right to protest and more, which are apparently guaranteed according to the ROI constitution seem to disappear when applied to minorities, while the same Hindutva touting majority can do no wrong and literally get away with murder!

 Token goodwill gestures are short-lived and the ordinary people have become very educated and aware, thanks to social media, and realize that the ‘state’ itself is creating and spreading terror among the populace and using religion to create fissures, so that citizens do not ask genuine questions, but instead are kept busy with fabricated divisions in society.

 The American Sikh Council (ASC) can only plead for good sense to prevail and sincerely hopes leaders of the ROI wake up and unify everyone through a legitimate and just system, but not through the use of the hollow insidious Hindutva police state which will only lead to the misery of millions of innocent souls, as the world has sadly continued to watch since 2014.  

 

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