Former militant Gurbaksh Singh Khalsa (48), on a fast-unto-death since November 14, announced to end it on Friday after Gurmeet Singh (41), one of the assassins of former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh, walked out of the Burail jail here on Wednesday on 28-day parole for the first time in 18 years.
After being released temporarily, Gurmeet paid obeisance at Gurdwara Amb Sahib, the venue of Khalsa's hunger strike, in SAS Nagar. After meeting Khalsa, he left for his house in Patiala with his mother Surjeet Kaur and a group of relatives.
Khalsa has been demanding the release of six former militants lodged in various jails beyond the normal life sentence, including Gurmeet and Lal Singh, who was released last week from the Nabha jail on 42-day parole. Shamsher Singh and Lakhwinder Singh, two other assassins of Beant Singh, are expected to be released on parole on Thursday.
Earlier, two Sikh head priests - Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh and Takht Shri Keshgarh Sahib jathedar Giani Mal Singh, reached Gurdwara Amb Sahib early on Wednesday morning to persuade Khalsa to end his fast. The head priests held talks with Khalsa and the five-member committee supporting him.
"I have been approached by Singh Sahibs (head priests) to end my fast. As I am dedicated to the Akal Takht, I have decided to end my fast after paying obeisance at Akal Takht on Friday," Khalsa told the gathering from the first floor of the gurdwara serai.
Khalsa said he had been assured by the jathedar (Giani Gurbachan Singh) that two other prisoners lodged in the Burail jail would be released by Thursday, even as the Punjab government is following up the cases of two prisoners lodged in jails outside Punjab Gulbarga (Karnataka) and Bareilly (Uttar Pradesh).
Khalsa has got started akhand path at Harmandar Sahib in Amritsar. The bhog would take place on Friday. "I will end my fast by partaking of langar at Harmandar Sahib," he added.
Khalsa said he would go to various villages and towns to obtain information about Sikhs lodged in jails and ensure their release in case they had completed their sentence.
A section of Sikh hardliners disagreed with Khalsa's decision to call off his hunger strike. They wanted him to continue his protest till the release of all six former militants.
Sikhs for Human Rights chairman Harpal Singh Cheema, a member of the committee backing Khalsa, said the panel wanted him to fulfil the vows (to seek release of six ex-militants) taken during ardas before starting his fast. Cheema said the committee would support Khalsa in all the programmes he intended to undertake in future, adding that the committee was thankful to all organisations, singers and actors who had come out in support of Khalsa's cause.
Gurmeet to work for peace
Addressing the charged-up audience which gathered at the Gurdwara Amb Sahib serai on hearing the news of his release, Gurmeet Singh said he would work for peace in Punjab and the country. He thanked Khalsa and the entire Sikh community who got united for his release.
Gurmeet, who belongs to Patiala, worked as an engineer in a television manufacturing firm in SAS Nagar before he was arrested in the Beant Singh assassination case in 1995.