December 16, 2017 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
London: British Sikhs have reacted sharply to UK Foreign Minister Mark Field’s statement in which he said that Jagtar Singh Johal is “fine”. Notably, Jagtar Singh Johal was arrested by Punjab police on November 4 from Jalandhar and since then he is in the custody of Punjab police.
In a statement issued today Sikh Federation UK said: “We understand British consular staff met Jagtar yesterday who continues to be tortured and mistreated by Indian police”. He confirmed he is being held in solitary confinement and handcuffed 24 hours a day. Yesterday consular staff described Jagtar as “tired and nervous”. Consular staff concluded Jagtar was “vulnerable” when they first met him almost a month ago, but the Foreign Office has failed to act to bring an end to his physical and mental suffering”, the statement issued today reads further.
Sikh body noted that “[t]wo English-speaking senior Indian police officers were again present to listen to Jagtar’s every word so the meeting was not private. However, we understand Jagtar put himself at risk and indicated he wanted consular staff to act upon his assertion of third degree torture and mistreatment made a month ago to his lawyer”.
“As a direct result we understand a letter went yesterday from the British authorities expressing concern about the confidential police interview videos that have been released of Jagtar Singh to the Indian media and the impact these will have on the fairness of any trials he may face if he is charged”, the Sikh Federation UK added.
Bhai Narinderjit Singh, the General Secretary of the Sikh Federation (UK) said: “Mark Field should be ashamed that his irresponsible and insensitive comment earlier this week that Jagtar is “fine” has forced Jagtar to put himself at risk.”
“He has had to demand action on the third degree torture and mistreatment he has faced in front of senior Indian police officers responsible for his torture as there was no sign of him securing a private meeting with consular officials.”
“Mark Field’s comment now looks reckless and if Jagtar faces further hardship as a direct result of Foreign Office incompetence he should resign.”
Jagtar’s MP, Martin Docherty-Hughes who has led the political challenge for action to safeguard his constituent was furious by the comment by Mark Field earlier this week that his constituent was “fine”.
Earlier this week Preet Kaur Gill MP, the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for British Sikhs, received a letter from Mark Field, the Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific, dated 1 December astonishingly underplaying Jagtar’s situation by the Minister stating Jagtar has confirmed that he is “fine’”.
Preet has sent a strongly worded reply and said Jagtar’s family were deeply upset with what the Minister had written and were concerned that private access to Jagtar had to date not been secured by British consular staff and the allegations of third degree torture had still not been pursued.
In her letter Preet sets out a number hard hitting facts missing from the Minister’s letter and described his comment as irresponsible. She has said the Minister owes an apology to Jagtar’s family for his insensitive comment and strongly suggested the comment is immediately withdrawn.
Bhai Narinderjit Singh, the General Secretary of the Sikh Federation (UK) added: “The Foreign Minister should immediately withdraw his insensitive comment and apologise to the family.”
“Preet has said the Minister was irresponsible, but we would go further and suggest he has been negligent as Indian politicians have been lining up to quote the Foreign Minister and used it to justify third degree torture by Indian police against a British citizen.”