Over 20,000 people have signed an online petition on the White House website, seeking help of US President Barack Obama for the release of Jagtar Singh Hawara, assassin of former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh, who was recently ‘appointed’ the Akal Takht jathedar by the radical Sarbat Khalsa.
Launched by US-based separatist group Sikhs For Justice (SFJ), the online petition “urges the President to seek the release of jathedar Hawara from India”.
Hawara is undergoing “imprisonment till death” for the 1995 assassination.
The petition needs at least 1 lakh signatures – the minimum to get a response from the White House.
“The US administration is obligated to intervene in such matters under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. We are seeking President Obama’s support to secure the release of jathedar Hawara, who is now the supreme religious leader of Sikhs,” said Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, legal adviser to SFJ.
Hawara is the third person to be declared jathedar when lodged in jail. Jasbir Singh Rode was the first to be declared the Akal Takht jathedar when he was in jail. Bhai Ranjit Singh, who was convicted of assassination of the Nirankari sect chief, was appointed jathedar by the SGPC when he was in jail in the 1990s.