Union home minister Rajnath Singh has shown a positive inclination to review the cases of the Sikhs who have been under detention for long in cases related to militancy and anti-national activities.
The home minister gave this indication to a Sikh delegation that met him in New Delhi on Tuesday. The delegation comprised Takht Keshgarh Sahib jathedar Giani Mal Singh, Harmandir Sahib head priest Giani Jagtar Singh, Damdami Taksal head Baba Harnam Singh Dhuma, former Akal Takht jathedar Bhai Jasbir Singh Rode and others.
Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) president Manjit Singh GK and secretary Manjinder Singh Sirsa were also part of the delegation.
Prior to their meeting with the home minister, the delegation was given a brief by Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh, on whose instructions the leaders had assembled in the national capital.
While describing the meeting with Rajnath as "positive", Giani Gurbachan Singh said the home minister had agreed to review the cases of Sikh detainees within the parameters of law. The jathedar said the delegation submitted a list of 80 detainees whose release was being demanded.
The list includes those who were sentenced to life imprisonment in terrorist-related cases. The jathedar's contention is that those given life sentence and who have spent 15 to 20 years in jail should be deemed to have completed their sentence. The others in the list are the militants who have spent long years in prison as their cases are still pending in courts.
"We are basically demanding the release of those Sikhs who were arrested while protecting their religion and their places of worship," he said, when asked to specify the cases of the detainees whose release was being demanded.
Talking to mediapersons here on Wednesday, the jathedar made it clear that they were not demanding anything illegal. The home minister, too, had specified that he would go by the law while reviewing the cases, he added.
The jathedar said the minister had directed a senior ministry official to coordinate with the DSGMC and to study the feasibility (for release) of each case. From the DSGMC side, Sirsa would provide the details of the 80 detainees, including the state in which they were being detained, he added.
The jathedar has directed the DSGMC to take the help of the best lawyers to study each case minutely.
"Release of Sikh detainees is the most important issue before the 'quam'," the jathedar reiterated while referring to the fast-onto-death by former militant Gurbaksh Singh, who, too, is demanding the release of the Sikh detainees.
Though the jathedar himself did not go to meet the home minister, the request for the meeting was made on his behalf. The home minister responded to the request within hours.
The home ministry is yet to respond to SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar's request for a meeting with the home minister. Makkar had sent a communique to the minister on December 28.
Chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, too, has made a similar demand and has even written to the chief ministers of certain states to seek the release of Sikh detainees undergoing imprisonment in their respective states.