January 6, 2011 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
Amritsar (06 January, 2011): On 04 January, 2011 Dal Khalsa’s Secretary, Kanwarpal Singh Bittu, wrote a letter to Amnesty International. In a 5 page letter addressed to the international watchdog’s Head Office in London, the Sikh group has asked to raise its concern about the human rights situation in Punjab “as we continue to live in dangerous times”.
Here is the full text of Letter:
We write with hope that Amnesty International would recognize the violation of rights of prisoners and political dissenters, taking place with impunity in Punjab in the recent times.
As we still live in the shadows of a past under the brutal jackboots of the entire Indian state machinery –politicians, police, paramilitary, bureaucrats and more, about which there has been absolutely no accountability and the issues that led to what came to be known as the Punjab problem still persist, the state of Punjab continues to reel under custodial torture, illegal detention, harassment and long confinement in jails under archaic laws.
Today it sounds clichéd to talk of respect for human rights in Punjab. It is distressing that since the last many years and decades, no international report of any human rights body has made any dent in the willfully negligent and pro-actively tortuous ways of the Punjab police.
In the year 2010, many illegal arrests have been made, many people have been tortured in the police custody and many a family has been subjected to harassment and humiliation. We provide a sample catalogue for your review and study:
Declare S. Daljit Singh Bittu as Prisoner of Conscience:
Sardar Daljit Singh Bittu –a leader of the political party –Shiromani Akali Dal (Panch Pardhani) was arrested on 27 August 2009, along with party colleague and press secretary Advocate Jaspal Singh Manjhpur, without any specific charges, under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967. His plea for bail is pending in the Punjab and Haryana High Court since the last 6 months. Four months into the arrest, another case under the same Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967 registered at Ropar police station, in which Daljit Singh’s name did not figure even in the FIR was slammed against him.
Daljit Singh is a political dissenter and he is inconvenient to the present establishment of Punjab. It is in pursuance of this undemocratic mission that the government continues to gag him and prolong his detention. Pertinently, Daljit Singh has already served more than 10 years in detention prior to the present arrest.
As Amnesty International takes cases of people who are arrested for their beliefs as “prisoners of conscience”, the case of Daljit Singh, is a fit one. The Dal Khalsa, in cooperation with the family and party members of Daljit Singh would provide you all the details of the case so that Daljit Singh can be declared a “prisoner of conscience”. This alone may bring him and his lawyer colleague respite, for the present government seems determined to extend his incarceration in view of the impending SGPC elections and concocted threat perception theories.
Police Brutalities against cross section of society:
In recent times, the police of Punjab with full patronage of the political leadership have perfected the art of public torture in full public view by resorting to cane-charge in the name of restoring law and order. This has been going on in full media glare without any shame, remorse and with full impunity. Here is a sample:
On 25 July 2010, protesting pharmacists were beaten up at Amritsar. On 25 July, protesting Unemployed Bachelor of Education teachers were severely thrashed at Ludhiana in full media glare.
On 31 July, unemployed linemen of Electricity Board were beaten up at Sunam. On 14 August, protesting ETT teachers were brutally lathi-charged at Ferozepur Cantt.
On 29 August, female Multi-purpose health workers were beaten up at Jalandhar. On 2 September 2010, employees of a Sugar Mill, who were protesting non-payment of salaries for 28 months, during the reported trip of the Chief Minister there, were brutally beaten up at Zira.
On 5 September, on the occasion of Teacher’s day, unemployed teachers protesting for their demands were cane-charged at Amritsar.
On November 14, at Nawanshahr ETT teachers were caned.
On 24 November, veterinary doctors who were protesting for regularization of their jobs against the Minister incharge of Animal Husbandry were severely and mercilessly beaten up at Bathinda.
On 26 November 2010, unemployed electricity linemen were cane-charged in Patiala.
Detention beyond punishment:
We also have the following classic examples of two prisoners, who have completed their jail terms, but who are not being released from jail, under one pretext or another, namely
Lal Singh @ Manjit Singh son of Bhag Singh resident of village Akalgarh, convicted for life imprisonment. From 5 Aug 1992 he has spent 18 years 4 months behind bars, even though the maximum imprisonment is 14 years. Presently, he is lodged in Nabha jail. Major Singh son of Gurmej Singh resident of Marauri, Bilsanda, Distt. Pilibhit U P. His present address is Village Kutiwal PS Lopoke, Amritsar. He is serving a life term in Nabha jail and since 14 May 1990 he had spent 20 years 7 months behind bars, even though, the maximum imprisonment is 14 years.
Unlawful Arrests and Detentions:
In the last one year, under one pretext or another, but ostensibly with the same-old reason of curbing militancy in Punjab, there have been a string of arrests. Here is a sample list:
Pal Singh son of Ranjit Singh of village Dhandowal near Shahkot Distt. Jaladhar arrested on 13 July 2010 from his village Dhandowal. He was released on 18 July and again arrested on 22 July 2010. But on 25 July, State Special Operation Cell stated that they have arrested Pal Singh. Pal Singh is a citizen of France. He is a member of socio-political organization named Shiromani Sikh Council. He raised the issue of ban on turban in France. He has been implicated in many cases and is presently in judicial custody at Amritsar prison.
Darshan Singh Dhadhi son of Teja Singh resident of Dhaliwal, district Jalandhar was detained on the morning of 24 July 2010 in the presence of elected village elders, but later on, shown as arrested with Pal Singh and Jagtar Singh s/o Gurdeep Singh village Thoba PS Ramdas district Amritsar.
Gurjant Singh son of Sewak Singh residence of village Jangpura, Mohali, arrested on 16 July 2010 from his village Jangpura.
Jaswinder Singh son of Baldev Singh of Rajpura, a computer café owner was also arrested on 16 July 2010 from Rajpura.
Manjinder Singh son of Manjit Singh of village Husainpura was arrested on 16 July 2010 from his home.
Significantly, on 18 July 2010, the police told the media that Gurjant Singh, Jaswinder Singh and Manjinder Singh were arrested from Ludhiana with arms. They are presently lodged at Nabha jail.
Gurmail Singh son of Arjan Singh village Buta Singh wala, PS Banur, Mohali was arrested at night between 16-17 July 2010 from his home and on 24th July police stated that he was arrested from village Dupana, PS Machhiwara and recovered arms.
Sher Singh son of Gurbakhsh Singh resident of village Bhutal Kalan near Lehragagha, Sangrur called by police to Lehragagha police on 28 June 2010. On 30th June police stated that they have arrested Sher Singh from Amritsar with arms.
Brutal Torture Documented by Doctors:
Kulwant Singh son of Sadha Singh resident of Varpal district Tarn Taran was arrested from Gurdwara Bhai Manjh on 21 July 2010, but he too was shown as arrested with Gurmukh Singh village Pandori Mehma District Tarn Taran on 25 July 2010 with a cache of arms in Balero jeep near Jalandhar city. On 30 July, 2010, Kulwant Singh was sent to Amritsar interrogation centre. He had severe torture marks on his body; he was suffering from breathlessness and had problems of urination too. He was sent to Guru Nanak Hospital, Amritsar, where the doctors confirmed that his kidneys have almost failed due to electricity shocks that he was administered while in police interrogation.
More impunity mooted by Punjab government:
As if the impunity enjoyed by the police in Punjab under various laws was not enough, in the year 2010, two new laws were passed by the Punjab legislature giving sweeping powers to the police.
Section 14 of the Punjab Special Security Group Bill says, “No suit, prosecution or other legal proceedings, shall lie against any member of the police force, on whom powers have been conferred or duties have been imposed under this Act.”
This clearly reminds of the provisions of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, to be applied for the police in Punjab. In the bill, framed with the avowed purpose of fighting terrorism, what constitutes, “anti-national force or unlawful activity” has not been explained, which is a clear indication that it will be used against ordinary citizens and particularly against political dissenters.
Similarly the Punjab Prevention of damage to Public and Private Property bill effectively kills the right of the people to peacefully protest against the government of Punjab on any issue. Section 3 of the said Act says, “Whosoever wants to organize a peaceful demonstration shall make an application to the District Magistrate (DM) for taking permission. The DM may allow or refuse the permission.”
When will Amnesty visit Punjab?
We are also concerned that Amnesty International Indian Section was closed down some months back due to the uncooperative attitude of the Indian establishment. We would also like Amnesty International to clear the air and inform us whether it is officially allowed to visit Punjab? If not, what steps are being taken and what steps can the people of Punjab take to force the government into positive action?
There is no doubt that over the years, Amnesty International has raised concern about the human rights situation in Punjab. It is our view that Amnesty International and other organizations need to do more as we continue to live in dangerous times. We look forward to the above cases finding a place in the annual report of Amnesty International and immediate Prisoner alerts in other cases. We also request Amnesty to write to the Governor of Punjab regarding the draconian provisions of the two new bills mentioned above.
Dal Khalsa is a political body of the Sikhs, seeking the right to self-determination of the Sikh people. Our being political does not in any way detract from the authenticity of the information mentioned above. We will be happy to maintain liaison with Amnesty International to pursue these cases.
Thank you and wish you and the entire Amnesty family a very happy New Year. May the New Year bring forth more respect for human rights world-wide and may many countries abolish death penalty as a result of your sustained campaign.
Secretary, Political Affairs
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