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Letter by Dal Khalsa to Amnesty International seeking intervention over hunger strike of Bhai Gurbaksh Singh

December 19, 2013 | By

Amritsar, Punjab (December 19, 2013): Upset over the deaf silence of the Government in redressing the prisoners issue and apprehensive of life of Gurbaksh Singh whose health is deteriorating rapidly, the Dal Khalsa has knocked the doors of Amnesty International urging it to intervene without delay.

Chief Spokesperson of Dal Khalsa, Kanwar Pal Singh has sent a letter to the Secretary General of Amnesty International. The text of letter is being reproduced here for the information of readers/visitors of the Sikh Siyasat News (SSN):-

The Secretary General
Amnesty International
1 Easton Street

Respected Sir:

As Gurbaksh Singh steadfastly maintains his grit and determination despite falling health and as his hunger strike completes 33 days, the Indian state merely continues to monitor his health and seems to be waiting in the wings to either let him die or to whisk him away to force-feed him as they did some days back. The government of Punjab continues to pay lip service and express sympathy without waking up from deep slumber. It is a classic case of lethargic executive insomnia and nonchalance.

The central government in Delhi and the Punjab government has not addressed the case of the 6 detainees whose release is sought by Gurbaksh Singh through his hunger strike. Therefore it is time for Amnesty International to intervene and intervene without delay.

It is significant to mention that upon his recent release on bail from prison, Gurbaksh Singh took cudgels on behalf of those detained in prisons for a long time and wrote to the administrator of Chandigarh on August 19 seeking release and mentioning that such long term serving prisoners be released or else he would be forced to sit on a hunger strike. Subsequently another memorandum was submitted by various Sikh organizations saying the same, but the Chandigarh administration who administers the Burail jail chose to remain silent.

Gurbaksh Singh said that it was the unconcerned behavior of the governments that forced him to take this “extreme step in a democratic setup”. Currently, Gurbaksh Singh is fasting unto death since November 14, 2013 at Gurdwara Amb Sahib, Mohali, near Chandigarh seeking the release of 6 Sikh prisoners who have not been released despite serving full term.

In this depressing and disgusting scenario, through this letter Dal Khalsa is knocking the doors of Amnesty International urging it to immediately initiate a world-wide campaign not only for the release of the 6 detainees whose details are attached to this appeal but also to save the life of human rights defender Bhai Gurbaksh Singh whose health is deteriorating by the hour.

The cases of Gurmeet Singh, Lakhwinder Singh and Shamsher Singh fall within the jurisdiction of the Union Territory administration of Chandigarh, Gurdeep Singh’s case is with the state government of Karnataka, Lal Singh’s case is with the government of Gujarat and that of Waryam Singh with the state government of Uttar Pradesh. Technically speaking, none of the cases are sub-judice and as such it is only the executive which has to take a final decision in the matter.

As documented by Amnesty International and various other international and national human rights bodies, Indian laws regarding release of indeterminate sentence prisoners are open to free executive interpretation, prevarication and whims and fancies of the home ministry of the government of India. It is not the completion of the sentence but the assessment of some secret arm of the state which decides release of prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment. Even parole is discriminatory and subjective. High profile prisoners like Sanjay Dutt may get parole and rightly so but others are invariably less fortunate as they do not have glamour attached to them, they do not get services of highly paid lawyers and get less media attention, and therefore languish in jails without a murmur from any quarter.

The continued detention of 6 prisoners, whose details are attached to this letter, not only violates the principle of equality enshrined in the Indian constitution but is also a clear violation of the UN Declaration of Human Rights. We have reason to believe that in case of these prisoners, they being Sikh activists who were fighters for the cause of self-determination of the Sikhs in the early eighties and nineties of the last century is the chief cause for their continued incarceration. India follows a policy of hatred and vendetta against such Sikh prisoners though we are conscious that there are a large number of such prisoners in many other parts of the country.

Justice Paramjeet Singh of Punjab and Haryana High Court while pronouncing judgment in the case of Lal Singh and Major Singh observed that,

“[t]he lifelong imprisonment pays a little regard to human right and human dignity. Life imprisonment must be reviewed after certain intervals say 14 years as per the […] Jail Rules as applicable in the State […], otherwise indeterminate imprisonment will be cruel and unusual punishment.”

He further noted in his decision that,

“[i]rreducible life sentence raises an issue under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, whereof Article 5 says, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”.

Justice Paramjeet Singh emphasized that

“[t]he essential core of the humanity is that everyone is redeemable. Indeterminate imprisonment removes any prospect of reward for change and is therefore, fundamentally inhumane.”

In his remarkable judgment pronounced on 23 August 2012, which has come as a fresh lease of internationalism in India, the judge continued,

“In real sense to my mind, never going to be released is equivalent to worse sanction than death sentence. So, it can be termed as cruel, barbaric, inhumane and against human dignity. Whole of the natural life imprisonment means nothing in life to a prisoner. It means he will die in prison. Such a punishment is untenable in a civilised society. To make the prisoner realise that world no longer exists for him, he is no longer a part of it, will certainly lead to inhumane living and against the principles of Article 21 of the Constitution, such action is not sustainable to my mind.”

Even in the case of Gurmeet Singh, Lakhwinder Singh and Shamsher Singh, among other things, Additional Sessions Judge, CBI court, Justice Ravi Kumar Sondhi in his judgment, has said,

“….their act and conduct coupled with their roles forces this court to say that at least these three convicts can be reformed and rehabilitated as a responsible citizen of India.”

We write to you with the hope that as the world prepares to usher in the New Year, may be the central government of India and the state government of Punjab would listen to you and initiate steps to release these prisoners on humanitarian grounds –a practice which is otherwise followed regularly but easily forgotten on political grounds.

When asked to explain his stand, human rights defender Bhai Gurbaksh Singh said, “Asin Jabar Da Mukabla Sabar Naal Karange” (We will respond to state terrorism with determined peace). We are now waiting for Amnesty International to respond to this wake-up call before it is too late.

We will be glad to furnish any further information that you may desire.

Yours sincerely

Kanwar Pal Singh
Chief Spokesperson
Dal Khalsa

Office address:

Freedom House,
Railway Road,
Amritsar, Punjab (India).

Cell- 098XXX-XXXXX

Dated- 17 Dec, 2013


Note: Cell number of Kanwar Pal Singh is retained to ensure privacy.

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