Tuesday's edict from the Akal Takht jathedar and earlier appeal by Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal have failed to move Gurbaksh Singh Khalsa to end his fast-unto-death in SAS Nagar for the freedom of six former militants held beyond normal life sentence.
Sitting on hunger strike since November 14, Khalsa, who received the edict through fax, spurned it and invited the five head priests who had drafted it to SAS Nagar to discuss his cause. "I am dedicated to the Takht but I want the issue I fight for discussed. I want them (high priests) to meet me here (Gurdwara Amb Sahib)," Khalsa told the gathering at the gurdwara, venue of his agitation.
His reaction to the edict invited cheer from the crowd in saffron and blue, which broke into slogans of "Jo Bole So Nihal". The edict reads that the five head priests who converged at Akal Takht have directed Gurbaksh Singh Khalsa to call of his fast-unto-death since the release of the Sikhs he wants freed has started.
Earlier, Khalsa told HT he also wanted CM Badal to also meet him. On Sunday, Badal had appealed to Khalsa to end his fast. Of the six Khalsa wants freed, Lakhwinder Singh, Shamsher Singh and Gurmeet Singh are serving life term in Chandigarh's Burail jail for the assassination of chief minister Beant Singh in 1995; Waryam Singh is locked up in Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, and Gurdeep Singh Khaira is lodged in the Gulbarga jail in Karnataka. Lal Singh was released last week from the maximum security jail in Nabha.
Later, Khalsa led a march to the Burail jail to demand the release of the three militants lodged there. It the Chandigarh administration by surprise, and even police were not ready with barricades at the prison gates. Outside the jail, Chandigarh's additional inspector general of prisons Balbir Singh Dhol told Khalsa's aides that he couldn't skip the procedure for release on parole.
"The way things are moving shows the Punjab government is not serious about the issue," said Sikh for Human Rights chairman and Khalsa aide Harpal Singh Cheema, adding: "Its claims don't match its actions and it's passing the buck to the Chandigarh administration."
Post delaying parole
The slow pace of parole is because the official orders are being sent by post. The additional inspector general of prisons in Chandigarh confirmed that the communication to the district administrations in Ludhiana and Patiala was via this channel. "After receiving application for parole, we seek no objection from the district authority concerned through post, and get reply also by post," said IG Balbir Singh Dhol, adding: "It might take a few more days but we have to follow the jail manual."