September 30, 2019 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
Chandigarh: The Government of India (GoI) last Saturday (Sept. 28) announced that it has decided to grant premature release to 8 out of 22 Sikh political prisoners who were sentenced to imprisonment for life and are confined in various jails across the Indian sub-continent.
The information about GoI’s decision came into public domain through a news reported by an Indian news agency that was carried by various news outlets.
Neither the government, nor the reporting agency, disclosed the names of 8 Sikh political prisoners who are to be released.
In this situation certain media reports have surfaced that have referred to a list of 9 Sikh political prisoners which was submitted to Central government by the Punjab government. But this outdated list is adding to confusion.
Wrongful Reporting by Hindustan Times (HT):
A report in the Hindustan Times (HT) says: “Earlier, the Congress government led by Captain Amarinder Singh had recommended the release of Hardeep Singh and Baj Singh who are currently in Amritsar Jail; Waryam Singh who is being held in a jail in UP, Subegh Singh currently in Ludhiana jail; Nand Singh lodged in Patiala central jail; Lal Singh, Dilbagh Singh, Saran Singh who are lodged in Nabha Jail and Gurdeep Singh Kherav currently in a jail in Karnataka”.
HT Punjabi Report Goes A Step Further:
However, it is reported on Punjabi website of the Hindustan Times that: “Names of Sikh prisoners to be released are: Lal Singh, Dilbagh Singh, Saran Singh who are lodged in Nabha Jail; Hardeep Singh and Baaz Singh who are in Amritsar Jail; Nand Singh who is in Patiala Jail; Subegh Singh who is in Ludhiana Jail; Gurdeep Singh Khaira who is in confined in Karnataka Jail and Waryam Singh who is in Barailey Jail of Uttar Pradesh” (Translated from Punjabi to English by SSN).
What’s Wrong in HT’s Reporting:
Firstly, the report in English version of HT lists the names of Sikh prisoners whose names were recommended for release by the Punjab government while Punjabi version presents the same list as names of Sikh prisoners who will be released on the directions of the Central government.
But this does not stop here. Five out of these 9 named persons are already released after granting premature release.Same Names Reported by Rozana Ajit and News18 Channel:
Punjabi Vernacular Rozana Ajit, in its September 30 edition, has reported same names, as were reported by Hindustan Times on September 29. Rozana Ajit, like Hindustan Times, has reported the list of these 9 names with reference to recommendation sent by the Punjab government to the Central government.
A TV news channel News18 has also presented same list as the list of Sikh political prisoners who will be granted premature release and to be released from jail.
5 Persons Out of 9 Reported Name Are Already Released on Premature Release:
These media reports say that Hardeep Singh and Baj Singh are in currently Amritsar jail whereas they were granted premature release and were released in January 2016.
Similarly, these reports maintain that Waryam Singh is in a jail in UP whereas he was granted premature release in and was released in February 2016.
As per these reports Dilbagh Singh and Swaran Singh are in Nabha Jail while the fact is that Dilbagh Singh was released in December 2018 and Swaran Singh was released in September 2017 after duo were granted premature release.
Gurdeep Singh Khaira is in Amritsar Jail & Subegh Singh Is in Patiala Jail:
As per these news reports Gurdeep Singh Khaira is in a jail in Karnataka but the fact is that he was shifted to Punjab back in June 2015. As per list of Sikh Political Prisoners, as maintained by Advocate Jaspal Singh Manjhpur, Gurdeep Singh Khaira is presently lodged in Amritsar Jail.
Similarly, these reports say that Subegh Singh is in Ludhiana jail while the fact is that now he is lodged in Patiala jail.
Punjab Government’s Attempt for Gaining Credit?
As the reports suggest that the list of 9 Sikh prisoners was put forward by the Punjab government, it seems that the Punjab government was trying to gain credit by releasing the names before actual announcement by the Central government to create an impression that Sikh prisoners are being released on recommendation of the Punjab government. But this attempt stands exposed as 5 out of these 9 persons are already granted premature release and have already been released.
Amarinder Singh Led Government Not Serious About the Issue of Sikh Political Prisoners?
The present Punjab government led by Capt. Amarinder Singh assumed office in 2017. The list that is being reported in the media include three names who were released before 2017. Waryam Singh was released in 2015 while Hardeep Singh and Baj Singh were released in 2016.
The news report in Monday (Sept. 30) Rozana Ajit notes that the Congress party had forwarded the list of these 9 persons to the Central government on 14 September, 2019.
Punjab government’s sincerity comes under serious question if it made recommendation for release of those five persons who are already released from jail on premature release.
Neither Punjab Govt. Nor Badals Have the Information:
As the announcement about release of Sikh political prisoners came directly from the Home Ministry of the Central government, it seems that neither Punjab government nor the BJP ally Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) was part of final decision making process. It becomes evident from the fact that they have no clue about the names of Sikh prisoners who are to be released. Had they been part of final decision making process, they must have known the names.
New News Report in Hindustan Times Gives Different Names:
A report in Hindustan Times (Chandigarh print edition, dated September 30) reports: “India announced late on Saturday that eight Sikh prisoners housed in Indian jails – Lal Singh, Davindar Pal Singh Bhullar, Harjinder Singh, Gurdeep Singh Khera, Waryam Singh, Subheg Singh, Nand Singh and Balbir Singh – would be prematurely released in a special exemption coinciding with the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak”. This news is reported by Shishir Gupta from News Delhi.
Wait for Centre to Make Announcement of Names:
When asked to comment about the names of 8 Sikh political prisoners to be released by the Central government, Advocate Jaspal Singh Manjhpur- who maintains the list of Sikh political prisoners, said that it was better to wait for announcement of names by the Central government.
“At present there are 22 Sikh political prisoners who are undergoing imprisonment for life. Union Government has reportedly announced to release 8 of them on premature release. At the moment no one knows who will be those 8 persons and everybody is passing guesses. So, it’s better to wait for announcement of names by the Central government”, said Advocate Jaspal Singh Manjhpur.
“The list of 9 names reported by certain media section with reference to Punjab government seems to be an old list of recommendation because 5 of these persons- Waryam Singh (2015), Hardeep Singh and Baj Singh (both in 2016), Swaran Singh (2017) and Dilbagh Singh (2018) are already released”, he said.
“I expect that the announcement of release of 8 Sikh political prisoners would include names of those Sikh prisoners who are presently confined in jail and not the reported names of 5 Sikh prisoners who are already released; because there is no point in making an announcement for release of those 5 prisoners who are already released from jail a year or more back”, said he.
UPDATED LIST OF 22 SIKH POLITICAL PRISONERS WHO ARE UNDERGOING IMPRISONMENT FOR LIFE (As on 30 September, 2019):
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