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Execution of Sikh lecturer by Indian government feared imminent; Academic union due to debate case at national conference

May 9, 2013 | By

London, United Kingdom (May 09, 2013): Trauma Rehabilitation Network (TARAN) has released a press statement raising concerns over the suspected imminent execution of Sikh political prisoner, Prof. Devender Pal Singh Bhullar. The statement reads as follows:-

Prof. Devender Pal Singh Bhullar

Professor Davinder Pal Singh Bhullar, a college lecturer who tried to save 42 kidnapped students, now faces the first execution in India based on a split verdict, despite a campaign by Amnesty International and appeals by the Sikh community and human rights campaigners worldwide.

Now the University and College Union (UCU), representing 120,000 members in further and higher education in the UK, is set to debate the case at its annual Congress in Brighton at the end of May after two of its branches submitted emergency resolutions in support of Prof. Bhullar. But one of the proposers of the resolution fears that may be too late.

On the Green Mile, Delhi, sits a teacher who once tried to save 42 students at Guru Nanak Engineering College, who were illegally kidnapped and ‘disappeared’ by the police during the police state in Punjab in the 1990s. After his father and cousin were tortured to death, Bhullar fled to Germany requesting political asylum. The German government deported him back to India. They subsequently approved his asylum request but by then he was in custody facing trial.

Now he finds himself facing execution despite his deteriorating mental health and strong evidence of a seriously flawed legal process. For the first time in its history, India will be executing someone despite a split verdict. The presiding judge in his Indian Supreme court case, Justice Shah, found him not guilty: this should have caused ‘reasonable doubt’ in the case for commutation to life imprisonment. Recently the public prosecutor in his case went on record as saying that the majority judgment confirming the death sentence of Prof. Bhullar was “most inappropriate” and a “judicial error”. Amnesty International has raised this as an urgent appeal and grave cause for concern.

Even while on death row, Professor Bhullar has helped rickshaw drivers and other poor inmates whose families were suffering due to the minor charges they were incarcerated for. Several charities for prisoner welfare were set up on Bhullar’s initiative while in jail. In the past year he has suffered terrible mental illness, to the extent that the executioners were reportedly turned away by prison doctors several days ago.

Dozens of British citizens have been protesting daily in front of Downing Street since 12th April 2013, when the mercy petition for Professor Bhullar’s execution was rejected, and every evening prayers and hymns are sung. Over 100,000 people in Britain have signed petitions for David Cameron to intervene. Sir Graham Watson MEP, who leads in representing Europe’s interests in India, has gone on record on this potential miscarriage of justice and judiciary murder. On 28th February 2013, there was a historic Parliamentary debate tabled by John McDonnell MP, asking India to abolish the death penalty and specifically to redress the huge miscarriage of justice in the Bhullar case.

Now two branches of UCU have passed an emergency motion which will be voted on at UCU’s annual Congress. The London School of Economics and the University of Birmingham branches of UCU are asking Congress to call on the Indian government “not to execute Professor Bhullar, to remove him from death row immediately, and retry his case in accordance with international fair trial standards.”

Simarjit Kaur, of TARAN human rights group, said: “If Prof. Bhullar’s execution goes forward, the average Indian citizen’s rights will be diminished. The Sikh community, who have suffered massacres, will feel this is a personal attack upon them. Just days ago Sajan Kumar, a key defendant accused in the Delhi massacres where Sikhs were killed, has been acquitted despite widows who have testified as eyewitnesses against him. This is a complete double standard.”

Sue Blackwell, a Birmingham-based UCU activist, said: “I was horrified when I learnt of this case. I brought it to my union branch at Birmingham University and they unanimously voted to support Prof. Bhullar’s case and raise it at our annual Congress at the end of May. However, I am very afraid that it will be too late by then.”

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