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With the imminent hanging of Balwant Singh Rajoana; Worldwide Sikh community vow to bring an end to the death penaalty in India

March 23, 2012 | By

London, England (March 23, 2012): In a communication sent to Sikh Siyasat by Sikh Federation UK (dated: 19 March, 2012) it is said that: “More than two-thirds of countries in the world have now abolished the death penalty in law or practice. However, India, the world’s so-called largest democracy is preparing to break its moratorium on the death penalty by hanging Balwant Singh on 31 March 2012 at 9am in Central Jail, Patiala.”

More than 1,000 Sikhs will lay siege to the Indian High Commission in Aldwych, London on Tuesday 20 March between 12 noon and 2pm to launch a campaign to oppose the death penalty in India. This will be followed by similar protests across Europe, Canada, USA, Australia and New Zealand. Politicians in the UK and across Europe are being encouraged to support the campaign.

The protests over the next ten days will culminate in a large Europe-wide demonstration outside the European Parliament in Brussels on Wednesday 28 March from 1 to 3pm. MEPs from across Europe will join the demonstration and show solidarity with the Sikh community by demanding the time has come for the death penalty in India to come to an end.

Balwant Singh was a close friend of Dilawar Singh, a serving police officer in the Punjab Police who in 1995 killed the then Chief Minister of Punjab, Beant Singh, who was responsible for the mass genocide of the Sikhs in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Other than Balwant Singh a number of Sikhs have been sent to the gallows by India in recent times for their role in targeting the likes of Indira Gandhi and General Vaidya who were directly responsible for the killing of thousands of innocent Sikhs in the Indian army assault on the Golden Temple Complex in June 1984.

In recent years Amnesty International has welcomed the lack of executions in India. Since 1995 there has been only one execution in India in August 2004. Amnesty has expressed its concern that at least 50 death sentences on average are passed each year by the Indian courts. There are currently estimated to be over 400 on death row in India.

If India executes Balwant Singh on 31 March it will signal to the world that when it comes to Sikh political prisoners India is prepared to break the moratorium to target the minority Sikh community and reverse the worldwide trend to abolish the death penalty.

There is a real risk this will open the flood gates and allow India to execute the likes of Professor Davinderpal Singh Bhullar. His case has been highlighted by Amnesty International in two urgent action appeals. He was illegally deported from Germany and has now been in prison for over 17 years and on death row in Tihar Central Prison, New Delhi for over nine years.

The announcement of the imminent execution of Balwant Singh comes on the back of the pre-mature release last month of Kishori Lal, who was awarded three separate death penalties for the murder and decapitation of three innocent Sikhs with a chopper knife on 1 November 1984. Many in the Sikh community feel the Indian authorities are blatantly targeting Sikhs and many countries around the world often stay silent as they do not want to jeopardise trade with India.

What is very clear is when Sikhs have been sent to the gallows the executions have always been politically motivated and designed to teach Sikhs a lesson. However, those that have killed innocent Sikhs and been involved in what can genuinely be called ‘terrorism’ or genocide either are not even prosecuted or as has been demonstrated are spared the death penalty.

The worldwide Sikh community is forming a coalition with governments and NGOs that wish to rid the world of the medieval justice of the death penalty and campaign to end the death penalty in India.

The sheer barbarity of taking another person’s life under sanction of law and taking an ‘eye for an eye’ has no place in a modern, progressive criminal justice system. The Indian State cannot give life so it cannot take it away either. India needs to abolish the death penalty and take a step towards joining the league of civilised countries.

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