Sikhs welcome acquittal, say trial against them ‘unfortunate’
The acquittal of Sikh activists Tejinderpal Singh (66) and Satnam Singh (67), both members of the radical outfit Dal Khalsa, buoyed many members of the Sikh community in Punjab, who said the men had already been punished in Pakistan.
The duo were part of a five-member team that hijacked a Delhi-Srinagar Indian Airlines flight on September 29, 1981, and forced it to land in Lahore, as a mark of protest against the arrest of militant Sikh leader Jarnail Singh Bhindrawale.
All were sentenced to life in jail by a Pakistan court. After being released in 1994, two of them, Karan Singh and Jasbir Singh, got asylum in Switzerland while a third, Gajinder Singh, chose to stay back in Pakistan and was granted an extension. Tejinderpal and Satnam returned to India.
“This is victory of truth, though it was unfortunate to begin trial against them even after they served the punishment,” said Dal Khalsa president Harpal Singh Cheema.
Gurdarshan Singh Dhillon, noted Sikh historian and former professor at Panjab University, called the trial unnecessary. “Their act of hijacking was result of the provocation created by the government and should not be tried. Still they were forced to take rounds of the court. I will appreciate the judge who acquitted them,” said Gurtej Singh, a former IAS officer and writer.
Satnam Singh, a resident of Himachal Pradesh, was the state president of the Shiromani Akali Dal, but founded the more radical Dal Khalsa in 1978. He demanded Khalistan, a separate nation for the Sikhs, besides supporting Bhindranwale. He was president of the Dal Khalsa from 2005 to 2007 and is an active member of the organisation.
Tejinderpal Singh hailed from Jalandhar and joined the Dal Khalsa in 1981. He is not in active politics anymore, and runs a shop selling religious literature in Jalandhar.