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Sikh detainees’ release: demand misinterpreted?

punjab Updated: Jan 07, 2015 12:07 IST
Harkirat Singh

The Akal Takht and the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) seem to have misinterpreted the demand of former militant Gurbaksh Singh for the release of the Sikhs who are held prisoners beyond normal life term.

The man who is on indefinite fast at Gurdwara Lakhnaur Sahib in Ambala since November 14 has demanded the release of only seven former militants held in Punjab and other states, while the Takht and the SGPC seems to have inflated the numbers and complicated matters for themselves.

Last week, Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh submitted a list of 80 Sikh detainees to Union home minister Rajnath Singh, claiming that “we are demanding the release of only those who went to prison defending their religion or place of worship”. A couple of days later, the SGPC came out with a list of 119 prisoners, most of whom are behind bars in Punjab.

In this confusion, it was forgotten that at no stage of his agitation did Gurbaksh Singh demand the release of so many Sikhs. The list he gave to the jathedar on October 19 last year has only seven names, and he wants these men freed not on parole but actually.

Gurbaksh’s list

Gurmit Singh of Patiala: On parole; was put in Chandigarh’s Burail jail in 1995 in the Beant Singh assassination case

Lakhwinder Singh of Narangwal Khurd (Ludhiana): On parole; was jailed in Burail since 1995 in the Beant Singh assassination case

Shamsher Singh of Kanwarpur near Rajpura (Patiala): On parole; was held in Burail since 1995 in Beant Singh assassination case

Lal Singh of Akalgarh near Phagwara (Nawanshahr): Was held in Gujarat in 1992 for smuggling arms and explosives, shifted to Punjab; now in Nabha high-security prison

Waryam Singh of Bari Barra, Shahjahanpur (Uttar Pradesh): Held in Bareilly since 1990; reported to be shifted to Pilibhit

Gurdip Singh of Jalupur Khera (Amritsar): Held at Gulbarga, Karnataka, since 1990

Devinderpal Singh Bhullar of Dayapur (Bathinda): In Delhi’s Tihar jail since 1994; given death penalty for bomb explosion outside Youth Congress headquarters; sentence commuted to life term on medical grounds

Names added

The list Gurbaksh Singh submitted in October last year is a revised one. The name of Devinderpal Singh Bhullar did not figure in the first and was added in August last year after reports of his deteriorating health came out.

Former militant Gurbaksh Singh had first gone on hunger strike in November 2013, for the release of Lakwinder, Shamsher and Gurmit, whom he had met in the Burail jail after his arrest in militant activities.

He had assured them he would work for their release after he got out; and for that he went on fast-unto-death at Gurdwara Aamb Sahib in SAS Nagar on November 14, 2013. He added the name of Lal Singh to his list on the advice of his supporters during the fast.

As his agitation progressed, Gurdip and Waryam also made it to the list. They have spent more than 20 years each in prison, with Waryam being around 90. On December 27, 2013, Gurbaksh Singh ended his fast on the 45th day after the Chandigarh administration released Lakhwinder and Shamsher on parole.

Gurmit and Lal Singh were out on bail.

Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh had persuaded him to end his fast and agreed to work for the actual release of all six former militants. Gurbaksh Singh had then said: “The struggle is not over until the release of all Sikhs held for long periods. Jathedar sahib has assured me he would ensure the freedom of Waryam and Gurdip.” When the jathedar did not issue a ‘hukamnama’ (edict) the Punjab chief minister the deputy CM as he wanted, he resumed his agitation, which entered its 54th day on Tuesday. His deteriorating health is a cause of worry to the jathedar.