The Tribune – Clamour grows for Sikh convicts’ release

Jupinderjit Singh, Tribune News Service

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 10 September 2018. With the Tamil Nadu government deciding to release all seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, clamour has grown in Punjab for the release of Sikh convicts who have spent 20 years or considerable time in various jails.

Sikh activists and groups have sought the release of the convicts as a goodwill gesture also coinciding with the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev. Sikh groups have submitted a proposal regarding this to the state government through ministers Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa and Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa.

These two ministers held talks with the panthic groups recently to urge them to lift the dharna at Bargari.
The demand for the release of these convicts is already included in a charter of demands of various panthic organisations, who are sitting on a dharna at Bargari in Faridkot on the issue of sacrilege incidents.

However, the Police Department has opposed their release on the basis of field reports in each case on the impact of the move.

“From a list of 20 convicts whose release has been demanded, the state government can release two on their own besides pursuing the matter of their release with other state governments,” claimed Jaspal Singh Manjhpur, a human rights activist, who had compiled the list.

Most of these 20 convicts are incarcerated in different Punjab jails. Earlier they were in jails of the states where they were booked for crime but following agitations, including fast unto death, by Sikh activists Gurmukh Singh and Surat Singh Khalsa separately, the convicts were shifted to jails near their home.

Gurmukh Singh died earlier this year.

Manjhpur advocates immediate release of convicts Dilbagh Singh and Balbir Singh.

He said Dilbagh Singh of Atalan village in Smana Tehsil of Patiala had already completed five years of imprisonment under the Terrorist and Disruptive Actívities (Prevention) Act. “He is undergoing life imprisonment for a murder and has spent more than 15 years since 1999.

The government had released a police cat-turned-policemen-turned-killer after he spent nine years and a few months in a murder case. On the same lines, Dilbagh Singh and Balbir Singh can be released also,” he argues.

Balbir Singh, alias Bira, was arrested at the Ludhiana railway station in 2009 after he had shot at and injured two policemen. “He is undergoing life imprisonment but was acquitted of terror charges. He has spent more than nine years,” said Manjhpur.

Gurdeep Singh Bathinda, who is part of the protesting leaders at Bargari and also convener of a committee for release of Sikh convicts, said the Punjab government should follow the example of Tamil Nadu government to release the convicts.

“We had submitted a list of 20 convicts who were eligible for release to the previous and present governments in Punjab,” said Gurdeep.

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