The rejection of the mercy petition of Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar by President Pratibha Patil last week has undone the goodwill earned by the Centre for deleting the names of 142 Punjab NRI militants from the government’s blacklist earlier this month.
Bhullar, who was sentenced to death for the 1993 attack on former Indian Youth Congress chief Maninder Singh Bitta that left eight dead, has filed a review petition in the Apex Court.
His request for mercy was filed in 2003 but was turned down only last Friday. Various Sikh bodies have demanded that the government should also review its position and favourably consider his case.
The issue has overshadowed the goodwill gesture of the Centre, which had led to the obliteration of 142 names from the black list of Punjab militants.
In a letter to the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) on May 3,2011, joint secretary (Foreigners) GVV Sarma had stated that after reviewing a list of 169 Sikh NRIs included in the black list in consultation with the Punjab government and security agencies, it was decided to delete 142. This list includes the 25 names that were taken off last year.
The Centre’s order had paved the way for these militants to return to India. In practical terms, the order means that those against whom there were no cases pending could come back without any hassle while the remaining who face charges will have to contest them in the relevant courts.
The government’s action was widely welcomed by Sikh bodies that said it would help bring about a closure to what happened in the state in the eighties and early nineties.
Sources said that some of the delisted militants had perhaps been living in Pakistan. These include Paramjit Singh Panjvar, Wadhwa Singh Chacha, Mehtal Singh and Lakhbir Singh Rode, a relative of late Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. Various Sikh groups want that the government must treat them in the same way as it had treated Jagjit Singh Chauhan.
The delisted militants also include the Kanishka bomb case suspects Ripudaman Singh and Inderjit Singh Reyat besides Avtar Singh Tari, Parminder Singh alias Hijacker, Satnam Singh Babbar and Parminder Singh Bajwa.
However, the President’s rejection of Bhullar’s mercy petition has come as a sort of spoiler for the Sikhs who want the previous chapter to be forgotten and forgiven.
DSGMC president Parmajit Singh Sarna has written to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi seeking her intervention to ask the government to review the mercy petition and “if this gesture comes, it will mean much more to the millions of Sikhs than if it is granted by the court”.