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Media bias against the Sikhs in full swing – HT reporter takes the lead

December 26, 2013 | By

The issue of prolonged detention of Sikh political prisoners attained global attention during last few weeks after a Sikh farmer of Haryana pledged to fast until his death or the release of named prisoners who were not being released by the Indian State (provincial governments or the UT administration/s) despite serving the minimum mandatory terms of their sentences.

Gurbaksh Singh Khalsa struggle triggered a wave of awareness among the Sikh circles across the globe.

The issue was able to catch attention of various sections of global media, including CNN and BBC Asian Network.

Indian Media turned blind eye on the issue and struggle:

On the one hand the global media paid attention to the issue but on the other hand the Indian media turned blind eye over the issue. The peaceful struggle of Bhai Gurbaksh Singh Khalsa was not adequately reported in Indian media as a result most the people in Indian remained unaware of the developments taking place in Punjab.

This attitude of Indian media was discussed in a radio discussion hosted on the BBC Asian Network.

BBC radio host Nihal rightly noted in the radio show that Indian media’s distance from the issue has given a sense of bias to the Sikhs.

Biased reports by Indian media tend to present Sikhs in bad light:

Notably, when two of the Sikh prisoners were released on parole by the respective governments Indian media took a sharp notice of the developments. The manner in which the issue was reported by Indian Media poses moral questions over the impartiality of the media sections.

Lal Singh – a responsible citizen or a terrorist:

Bhai Lal Singh who had availed 20 peaceful parole releases before the recent parole on December 20 was termed as a “terrorist” by the certain sections of Indian media. The only sensible reason of terming his a terrorist was that he was convicted under TADA Act for illegal possession of arms.

But the use of term ‘terrorist’ for a person who has availed 20 peaceful paroles, whose jail conduct is good, whose police, village panchayat, Deputy Commissioner and SDM’s reports are positive and affirm his good conduct, poses questions over the intentions of reporter/ correspondent as well as the media hub publishing such reports.

It may be recalled that Punjab and Haryana High Court had declared it twice that Lal Singh’s case was a fit case of permanent release from prison.

Reporting related to parole of Bhai Gurmeet Singh:

Indian media in general reported the release of Bhai Gurmeet Singh on parole with a negative impression, though there were some neutral reports as well (especially a detailed report by Times of India).

Pawan Sharma’s blindly biased report published by HT:

A news reported (on Dec. 26) by Pawan Sharma, correspondent of Hindustan Times (HT) from Chandigarh, is perfect example of blind bias of the Indian media. The report is full of vilified propaganda and wrongful-statements.

Pawan Sharma questions that more than 40 days long complete hunger strike by Gurbaksh Singh Khalsa “was a fast of fierce?”. He says that as per doctors of Fortis Hospital Gurbaksh Singh did not lose more than 4 Kgs weight. Pawan Sharma suggests that Gurbaksh Singh Khalsa was not on fast during the entire period, though Pawan Sharma’s suggestion/ claim has no factual basis.

Pawan Sharma’s statement that Bhai Gurbaksh Singh lost not more than 4 kgs weight is factually incorrect. According to the organizers of the morcha Bhai Gurbaksh Singh was weighed 75 kgs immediately after the initiation of his fast on Novemebr 14, 2013. His weight was 60 kgs on December 25 when he announced to take medical assistance.

Sikh Siyasat representatives who observed the entire morcha during last 42 days said that Bhai Gurbaksh Singh’s weight was monitored by the organizers of the morcha on daily basis. Notably the administration did not start conducting medical examination, including weight check, for initial 10 days.

After 10 days when a team of governments doctors (not from Fortis Hospital,which is a private hospital) checked Gurbaksh Singh’s weight, his weight was 65 Kgs.

It is notable that doctors from Fortis Hospital got involved just a few days back, after the Punjab government showed it’s concerns over the issue. According to Pawan Sharma’s own statement if Gurbaksh Singh Khasla was actually on fast unto death he should have lost at least 12 kgs weight and the fact is that Gurbaksh Singh had lost 15 kgs from November 14 to December 25, 2013.

Issue of indeterminate life sentence – and Pawan Sharma’s claims: 

Pawan Sharma has accused the organizers of this movement for lying. Pawan Sharma writes: “misinformation was at the core of Khalsa’s fast from the beginning of his fast on November 14. He and his advisor had been demanding six prisoner’s release on the grounds that they had completed their life terms”.

“However, the law of the land is that period of imprisonment for life equivalent to jail for entire remaining natural life, unless the competent authorities commutes the sentence. Life imprisonment thus means for entire life” he writes further.

This is partial truth and Pawan Sharma wanted to misguide the readers by showing just one side of the picture and hiding the other.

It is pertinent to note that the Jail manuals, which also form part of the Law of the land, mandates that the case of a life term convict should be considered for permanent release after the concerned convict has completed 14 years in prison. This process is called premature release; and Pawan Sharma did not mention it.

It is further notable that premature release process is different from the commutation of sentence by appropriate authorisers that was mention as the only possibility of early release by Pawan Sharma. (Power to grant commutation lies with to the Governor of concerned state and/or the President of India under the provisions of the Constitution of India; whereas premature release is a procedure provided for by applicable jail manual/s. There are other differences as well).

Sikh Siyasat News (SSN) had even published a detailed news-report December 13, 2013 explaining the issued related to ‘term of life-imprisonment’, ‘premature release’, ‘nature of decision to grant pre-mature release’, ‘Supreme Court of India’s guidelines about the grant of pre-mature release’, ‘double standards of Indian state while applying the procedure of pre-mature release’ and an analysis of ‘indeterminate life-imprisonment sentence’ from human rights angle.

Some of the part of this report are reproduced as follows for the information readers, as it would help readers to attain clarity on the issue and analyise the claims made by Pawan Gupta (HT) while accusing organizers of the Bandi Singhs Rihai Morcha for spreading ‘misinformation’:

Term of Life Imprisonment in India and Pre-Mature release:

In India, life sentence is considered to be for entire life, but there are provisions that provide for early release of the prisoners – called “pre-mature release”.

Advocate Jaspal Singh Manjhpur told Sikh Siaysat News (SSN) that there are provisions for granting ‘parole’ (temporary release from jail for limited period on condition of return to jail) to the prisoners four months after the date of sentencing after being convicted by the trial court/s.

Then according to various jail manuals applicable in India there are provisions for pre-mature release of life term convicts. According to applicable jail manuals the map of a life term convicts proceeds from the jails after completing 14 years of imprisonment for considering his case for pre-mature release.

Pre-mature release – a political decision:

Advocate Jaspal Singh Manjhpur told Sikh Siyasat News (SSN) that the decision to grant pre-mature release are taken by the executive (government authorities) and thus these are considered to be a political decision. But as the nature of decision being ‘quasi-judicial’, the Indian Supreme Court of India has laid down specific guideline to guide the executive (governments) to exercise this power.

Guidelines of Supreme Court of India regarding premature release:

Five guidelines issue by the Supreme court of India in this regard reads as under:

1. Whether the offense is an individual act of crime without affecting the society at large.

2. Whether there is any fruitful purpose of confining of this convict any more.

3. Whether there is any chance of future re-occurrence of committing crime.

4. Whether the convict has lost his potentiality in committing crime.

5. Social-economic condition of the convict’s family.

Double standards while applying SCI guidelines – Cases Kishori Lal and Lal Singh:

Experience shows these guidelines are largely subject interpretation of the concerned authorities.

Kishori Lal a butcher by profession was sentenced to death on seven counts of murder in cases related to November 1984 massacre of the Sikhs. His death sentences were converted to life imprisonment by Indian court.

Recently the Delhi government recommended his pre-mature release, though his crime was part of wide-spread and systematic genocidal violence targeting Sikhs throughout India in which thousands of the Sikhs were massacred in brutal ways.

On the other hand Lal Singh, a Sikh, was sentenced to life imprisonment by a Gujrat Court for recovery of arms being smuggled from Pakistan to India. Despite completing more than 20 years in prisoner he is still confined in Jail.

The Gujrat Government rejected his case of his pre-mature release and even filed an irrational reply to the Punjab and Haryana High Court claiming that his case does not comply the standards laid by the Supreme Court of India.

Interestingly while rejecting Gujrat government’s reply the Punjab and Haryana High Court opined that Lal Singh’s case was a fit case for ‘pre-mature’ release. But he is still languishing in Maximum Security Jail, Nabha as the Gujrat government has approached the Supreme Court of India against the decision of High court and SCI has installed stay on the high court order.

Vital Stance against Indeterminate Life Sentence:

Recently (in August 2012), the Punjab and Haryana High Court issued a stance against indeterminate life imprisonment terming it to be even worse than death sentence.

While pronouncing a decision clearing pre-mature release of Lal Singh (not released yet) and Major Singh (released by Uttar Pardesh government), Justice Paramjeet Singh of the Punjab and Haryana High Court 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.

Irreducible life sentence and Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

The learned High Court judge further noted in his decision that [i]rreducible life sentence raises an issue under the UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS: Article 5 whereof says that “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”.

Irreducible life sentence – Worse than death sentence; cruel, barbaric and inhumane:

He further noted 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 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 the 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” Justice Paramjeet Singh noted (Excerpts from a joint decision in cases: (1) Lal Singh @ Manjit Singh v. State of Gujarat and others (2) Major Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh and others – pronounced on 23 August, 2012 by Justice Paramjeet Singh of Punjab and Haryana High Court).

Undermining the political aspects of the issue:

It is notable that any excessive emphasis on legal aspects of the issue at hand tends to undermine it’s political nature. It must be remembers that in the background acts of these Sikh convicts lies the unsettled political issue, but the Indian media totally and deliberately ignores this aspect altogether.

Not for the first time:

It is not for the first time that Indian media has adopted biased approach against the Sikhs. You may visit following links to find some other reports by the Sikh Siyasat News (SSN) exposing biased approach of the Indian Media: – Indian Media | Media War Against the Sikhs.

What to do?:

Sikh Siyasat News (SSN) suggests it’s reader to take strong notice of biased approach of Indian media and to share the factual information with others in order expose the bias.

Readers may write letters to the concerned reporters, editors and publishers to raise appropriate concerns.

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