June 14, 2011 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
Sacramento (June 14, 2011): An American Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (AGPC) delegation met with Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento) on Thursday at the West Sacramento Sikh Gurdwara to ask that she do everything possible to secure Davinderpal Singh Bhullar’s unconditional release.
“The Indian state stages acts of terror to discredit and destabilize its non-Hindu communities,” AGPC general secretary Bhajan Singh Bhinder told Matsui. “A state which engages in terrorism has abandoned all credibility and has zero right to hang someone on mere suspicion. The free world bears a moral obligation to ensure Bhullar’s safe release.”
Bhullar was accused in 1993 of bombing an All-India Youth Congress office. Declaring his total innocence, he sought political asylum in Germany but was illegally deported back to India. Imprisoned since 1995, Bhullar was convicted in 2000 based solely on a coerced confession. He disowned the confession, insisting he was tortured into signing blank pieces of paper that the police later filled out themselves. No other evidence was presented against him and not a single one of the prosecution’s 133 witnesses identified him as guilty of anything.
Nevertheless, Bhullar was sentenced to be hung and his execution is scheduled to occur any day. Although he was acquitted by the presiding judge of a three-judge panel of India’s Supreme Court, the other two upheld his conviction by asserting that requiring proof “beyond reasonable doubt” for a death sentence should be a “guideline, not a fetish.”
Matsui listened attentively as Bhinder and Gurtej Kaur, the daughter of Bhullar’s uncle Manjit Singh Sohi, explained that Obama’s state department has placed India on its “Watch List” of countries whose governments regularly tolerate or engage in extreme violations of religious liberties. Mastui promised to appoint a person to look into Bhullar’s situation and respond to the community as soon as possible. She also accepted a copy of a newly released report called “Faces of Terror in India,” which contends that cases like Bhullar’s are more often the rule than the exception in India.
West Sacrament Sikh Gurdwara President Balbir Singh Dhillon shared with Matsu his own ghastly story of being arrested and tortured by the Indian state in the mid-1990s. When visiting India, the California resident was falsely accused of possessing explosives, detained for three months and forced to remain in India for a full year before he could clear his name. Dhillon recalled how Robert Matsui, the congresswoman’s late husband, had joined over 60 other American representatives in signing a letter demanding his release.
“The major difference between the tragic stories of Balbir and Davinderpal is that Davinderpal has yet to escape the oppressive grip of the Indian state,” remarked Bhinder. “His entire family has endured unspeakable tyrannies, as in 1991 his father Balwant Singh and his uncle Manjit Singh Sohi were disappeared by police and tortured to death. Like minorities of every other sort, these Singhs were targeted for persecution because of their political beliefs, cultural differences and non-Hindu religious affiliation. Caste ideology is an anachronism, but it still guides the ruling elite, who use it to divide the whole Indian society against itself.”
The use of torture, execution and illegal disposal of the dead by Indian police is well-documented. Cables published by Wikileaks last year reveal that the U.S. embassy in Delhi has recently concluded that India “condones torture.” That determination was reached after the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) advised U.S. officials that Indian authorities commonly employ electrocution, beatings and sexual humiliation to torture detainees. Noting that all branches of India’s security forces engage in such misconduct, one ICRC cable stated: “The abuse always takes place in the presence of officers and … detainees were rarely militants (they are routinely killed).”
The report presented to Matsui, available online at www.sikhinformationcentre.org, highlights several incidents fabricated by the Indian state for the purpose of blaming on minorities. These include the Samjhauta Express bombing by an Indian Army officer, the smuggling by India’s central intelligence agency of high-powered weapons into Punjab to be used for planting on Sikhs, the capture and murder of Muslim civilians by the Indian Army for the purpose of framing them for the massacre of Sikhs and the inflammatory planting of severed cow heads at Hindu temples at the behest of top Congress politicians. Bhinder told Matsui he would encourage other minorities who have suffered persecution by the Indian state, such as Christians and Buddhists, to contact her office.
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