The Tribune – Thirty-six years after plane hijacking, two Sikh militants face trial

Granted two-day bail; have already served life sentence in Pakistan

Satya Prakash

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, 18 July 2017. Thirty-six years after a Srinagar-bound Indian Airlines plane with 111 passengers and six crew members was hijacked and taken to Lahore, two of the five Sikh hijackers appeared before a Delhi court to face sedition charges.

Accused Satnam Singh and Tejinder Pal Singh, who have already served life term in Pakistan for the 1981 crime, appeared before Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Jyoti Kler, who granted them two-day interim bail.

After serving their sentence, Tejinder and Satnam had moved to Canada and the US, respectively, and were deported to India in 1998 and 1999. The other hijackers, Gajinder Singh, Jasbir Singh and Karan Singh, are not in India.

Belonging to the Dal Khalsa, the hijackers had demanded the release of then Damdami Taksal head Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, who was arrested on September 20 that year in a murder case.

Asking the investigating officer to file a report, the ACMM posted the matter for further hearing on July 20.

On behalf of the two accused, senior advocate Mohit Mathur and advocate Manisha Bhandari contended that the duo had already served life sentence and spent 35 years of their life in litigation.

Terming it a “classic example of double jeopardy”, the lawyers said the duo’s entire life would be spent in facing one trial after the other for the “same set of facts”.

Mathur said they couldn’t be tried again for the same incident under a different name, adding that the accused must be discharged.

Dal Khalsa spokesperson Kanwar Pal Singh, who accompanied the accused, said there had been a travesty of justice in the case as the Indian Government had put them on trial after 36 years on “sedition” charges, ignoring their life imprisonment in Pakistan for the same offence.

However, the prosecution and the court maintained that the principle of double jeopardy did not apply as the offences for which they were tried and convicted in Pakistan were different from the ones mentioned in the present chargesheet.

The Delhi Police had filed a supplementary chargesheet in a court on September 29, 2011, under sedition charges. After taking cognisance of the chargesheet, the court had asked the accused to appear before it on July 18 for a fresh trial in connection with the crime that took place on September 29, 1981.

In May 2017, the Delhi High Court had refused to quash the supplementary chargesheet against the accused and asked them to appear before the trial court.

Vancouver Sun – Film backed by Surrey businessman reveals truths about Sikh royal history

In 1843, five-year-old Maharaja Duleep Singh sat on the throne of the Sikh kingdom

Dana Gee

Vancouver, 18 July 2017. The Punjabi boy had ascended due to the death of his father, the Lion of Punjab, a.k.a. Ranjit Singh.

The boy ruled (sort of, he was five after all) for five years until war broke out and Britain got involved. The result was in that in 1849 Punjab was annexed to British India, and the boy was removed from the throne thus becoming the last ruler of the Sikh kingdom.

Duleep Singh’s mother (who was pretty much in charge) was imprisoned and Duleep Singh ended up in the guardianship of a British army surgeon and his wife. From tea and crumpets to Christianity, the couple taught him the way of the English.

In 1854, Duleep Singh and the doctor’s family went to England, and Duleep Singh met and charmed Queen Victoria. He was such a hit he became a kind of brother from another mother in the royal household: everybody wanted to hang with him, and he even went on holiday with the Queen and Prince Albert.

If you stopped the tale there you would still have a really good story, but an incomplete one.

A new film The Black Prince picks up the ball and completes the play, delivering the full story of Duleep Singh.

In the Kavi Raz written and directed movie, Duleep Singh’s story continues with the adopted Brit reuniting with his mother, and in turn reigniting his Sikhism. Soon he begins to question his own story and wants to connect with his roots. He makes financial demands, and faster than you can say ‘I’m not amused,’ he went from prince to pariah.

Duleep Singh’s plan was to return to the old country and set up royal shop again, but the English didn’t want trouble in the colonies and stopped him en route, putting him under house arrest. He eventually went to Paris, where he died penniless.

And to add a bit more meat to the story there is the question of the ownership of a big diamond called the Koh-i-noor (Mountain of Light).

“Everything is in there,” said Raz about Duleep Singh’s story. “Like I say, it is a Shakespearean tragedy that was just waiting to be told. There is just so much going on.”

The story is packed, but it has been parsed over the years leaving many Sikhs with that incomplete tale of a boy abandoning his homeland in favour of British finery and fancy parties.

“The general perception in the Sikh community was he betrayed the Sikh nation, he became a Christian of his own will, and he never looked back. What we try and portray in the film is ‘no, no that’s not true,’ ” said Raz during a phone interview from Toronto recently.

“I think a lot of Sikhs will be surprised when watching this film. I think it will correct a lot of the wrong notions that are out there. Maybe even start a debate, which is always a good thing.”

Executive producer Jasjeet Singh, who began researching the story back in 2011, says the story was given a British spin.

“People in Punjab didn’t know much,” said Singh who calls Freemont, California home.

“Most of the news that came to them was from the British, who said he was ‘a spoiled kid now. He doesn’t care about Punjab.’ The people were like, ‘OK he’s gone.’ The Indian historians were using the same historical documents that the British established.

“It’s a new story for everybody.” – India uses agents to interfere with politics in Canada

Sikh24 Editors

Ottawa-Canada, 13 July 2017. There have been reports of members of the Indian community in Canada being approached by men with links to the Indian High Commission in Ottawa, dissuading them from voting or supporting Jagmeet Singh’s leadership race for NDP party.

This appears to show India’s direct interference in the political process in Canada, attempting to work against Sikh members of parliament. The Canadian news outlet The Globe & Mail first published the revelation, and also reported that the Indian high commission refused numerous requests for comment on the matter.

Jagmeet Singh MPP, is currently a strong front runner in the NDP leadership in Canada and is seen as a high profile politician with far reaching success and support across Canada.

Unsurprisingly, however, he has been blacklisted from visiting India due to being a voice for human right’s abuses in India. He has often highlighted the severe persecution that minorities in India have had to suffer.

The plight of Jains, Dalits, Muslims and Christians is similar to the experience of the Sikhs in Punjab, who have faced large scale torture and extra-judicial killings by the Indian government.

Evidence of mass killings of male youth and discriminate policies against the people of Punjab have been widely reported by human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, who have documented an exorbitant number of such cases. Ironically, India is sometimes described as the world’s largest democracy.

Jagmeet Singh fondly displays a very large painting of Harmandar Sahib, Amritsar (the Golden Temple), on his office wall in parliament building in Toronto, the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

He says he emotionally views the painting daily, as he is currently unable to visit in person due to India’s ban on him travelling there.

India’s dubious accusations against Sikhs

Refusing entry to Sikhs like Jagmeet Singh for simply vocalizing criticism of India’s proven track record of abuse, simply further highlights, to countries like Canada, that India’s assertions against the Sikhs are highly questionable and casts a dark shadow on India’s approach to democratic values.

Strong indications of the Indian governments involvement in the bombing of a Canadian passenger plane in the 80s, which implicated many Sikh activists, was noted and recognized by the Canadian judiciary; so the lengths of India’s dangerous and underhanded deceptions are well known.

India’s efforts to attempt to interfere with Canadian politics against a Sikh MPP points further towards the lengths that India is prepared to go to undermine Sikhs, simply due to Sikhs being a strong voice of criticism against India’s record of abuse.

Only in the last few days, the Indian PM, Narendra Modi himself tried to sway the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, by making accusations against Sikh human rights organizations and activists by describing them as separatists and terrorists.

In the meantime, however, Jagmeet Singh’s popularity and supporter base grows as he receives more and more endorsements from politicians across Canada. He candidly acknowledges that his open minded and highly moralistic approach to politics is underpinned by his upbringing within the values of Sikhism. – Italy wants jathedar Badungar to approve “modified” kirpan

Ottawa-Canada, 5 July 2017. The World Sikh Organization of Canada has called on the Sikh community and Sikh authorities to reject the proposed Italian “modification” of the kirpan.

According to reports, an Italian delegation seeking approval of a modified kirpan met with Jathedar Gurbachan Singh on June 26, 2017, seeking the Akal Takht’s authorization for the modified design.

The modified kirpan would be produced in Italy, and issued to Sikhs with an individualized serial number and license. The proposed kirpan would be flexible and does not appear to have a tip or edge. Only these modified kirpans could be worn by Sikhs in Italy.

The WSO’s President, Mukhbir Singh has written to Jathedar Gurbachan Singh and SGPC President, Professor Kirpal Singh Badungar, encouraging them to strongly reject any attempt to re-design the kirpan or have the kirpan produced and issued by Italian authorities.

The text of his letter is published in it’s entirety:

Singh Sahib G. Gurbachan Singh
Jathedar, Sri Akal Takht Sahib
Sri Amritsar, Punjab

Dear Jathedar Sahib,

We are writing to express our concern with respect to the recent presentation by an Italian delegation led by Sardar Sukhdev Singh Kang of a “specially designed” kirpan for approval by Sri Akal Takht Sahib.

The kirpan being presented for approval is reportedly made of a flexible material and appears to have a rounded tip and no edge. Each kirpan is to be prepared in Italy, marked with a serial number, issued to Sikhs by the government, and will be accompanied by a “license”.

This type of interference in the Sikhs’ right to wear the kirpan is unprecedented and unacceptable. No government has the right to “issue” a kirpan to Gursikhs and furthermore, any government alteration or interference with the shape or attributes of a kirpan is intolerable.

Acceptance of this model will have severe and negative repercussions for Sikhs across the world.

In Canada, as you may be aware, Sikhs have worked towards the accommodation of the kirpan in public spaces such as hospitals, schools, courtrooms and hospitals.

While agreements have included limits on size or required that the kirpan be worn underneath the clothes, no attempt to alter or regulate the shape or attributes of the kirpan has ever been accepted by Sikhs. Though the process has taken years, the kirpan is now widely accepted and accommodated in Canada.

The Italian government’s attempt to design and issue kirpans to Sikhs on the pretext that the kirpan is too much like a “weapon” is a legally flawed argument. Workers who have a “good reason” to have tools like knives or blades are permitted to carry them by the authorities, however, the Italian court has ruled that Sikhs have not established a good reason to wear the kirpan.

This is a fundamentally flawed and incorrect conclusion that must be legally challenged. Accepting this decision and allowing the Italian government to interfere in the Sikhs’ right to wear the kirpan is the wrong approach and cannot be permitted. The WSO is prepared to assist Italian Sikhs in challenging the restrictions on the kirpan.

We are writing to inform you that Canadian Sikhs reject the Italian proposal to design and distribute the kirpan. Accepting such interference would have long term negative repercussions for Sikhs across the world. We expect the Singh Sahibans and Jathedar of Sri Akal Takht Sahib to strongly and clearly reject this proposal.

With best wishes and regards,

Mukhbir Singh
World Sikh Organization of Canada – Canadian Sikh Group Seeks Investigations into 1985 Air India Bombing

Sikh24 Editors

Toronto-Ontario-Canada, 24 June 2017. In a press note issued on June 23, the Shiromani Akali Dal Amritsar (SADA) Canada said that it favours the demand for a new Commission to inquire the 1985 Air India bombing.

“We stand in solidarity with the victims and families of the 1985 Air India bombing to demand a new Commission of Inquiry aiming to bring the perpetrators to justice,” Sukhminder Singh Hansra stated in the press note.

“While there were arrests and a lengthy court drama, the authorities were never able to bring the people who funded and executed this horrific terrorist attack to justice,” said said Sukhminder Singh Hansra president of SADA Canada.
“Previous investigations and inquiries by the federal government have sought to identify gaps in Canada’s security and intelligence system, but scarce little has been done to truly identify the killers.”

On June 23, 1985, 329 innocent people, most of them Canadians, lost their lives in the worst-ever terrorist attack in Canadian history. In 2006 the federal government called a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the bombing.

The Commission’s final Report, Air India Flight 182: A Canadian Tragedy, is a damning indictment of actions taken before and after the tragedy. On the 25th anniversary, Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized on behalf of the Government of Canada and all Canadians for the institutional failings and the treatment of the victims’ families thereafter.

“We’re calling upon the Trudeau government to offer up more than apologies,” added Hansra. “We want justice for the victims and families and the community who is suffering from such stigma for the past 32 years.

Demanding justice shouldn’t be seen as a political football to be avoided for fear of dropping the ball. We need courage from our leaders to dig deep, help us find the truth and bring real healing to us all,” the press note states.

“The Shiromani Akali Dal Amritsar Canada will continue lobbying federal members of parliament on the need for a new Commission of Inquiry until action is taken.” – Canada: Palbinder Kaur Shergill is the first turbaned Sikh woman judge of provincial Supreme Court

She has represented the interests of the Canadian Sikh community in many cases, including on the right of Sikh students to wear the kirpan in schools.

Vancouver-British Columbia-Candada, 24 June 2017. Indian-origin Palbinder Kaur Shergill on Friday became the first turbaned Sikh woman judge of the Supreme Court of British Columbia in Canada. Canada’s Minister of Justice and Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould announced the appointment on Friday under a new judicial application process that was introduced in October last year.

Shergill has been appointed with immediate effect, as sitting Justice EA Arnold-Bailey retired on May 31. She has represented the interests of the Canadian Sikh community in many cases, including one dealing with the right of Sikh students to wear the kirpan in schools.

Welcoming the decision, World Sikh Organisation President Mukhbir Singh said, “The appointment of Justice Shergill is another milestone for the Sikh community in Canada. It is a matter of great pride that today we have the first turbaned Sikh appointed to the judiciary in Canada.”

Shergill migrated to Canada with her parents from Rurka Kalan in Jalandhar at the age of four. She grew up in Williams Lake, British Columbia, and received her law degree from the University of Saskatchewan and now lives in Surrey.

A news release by the department of justice, Canada, said that before being appointed Supreme Court justice, Shergill practised as a lawyer and mediator with her law firm. She was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 2012 and is a recipient of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal for Community Service.

Justice Shergill has been involved with many legal and non-legal organisations, including the Cabinet of Canadians, the Trial Lawyers Association of BC, and the Canadian Bar Association, said the news release.

We welcome your comments at – SFJ Issues Defamation Notice to Indian High Commission In Canada

Sikhs for Justice –

Toronto-Ontario-Canada, 10 June 2017. A Canadian Human rights group served a demand letter on India’s High Commission in Ottawa seeking retraction and apology for its defamatory statement against “Sikhs For Justice” (SFJ) published in various newspapers on June 07-08.

The letter addressed to High Commissioner, Vikas Swarup, was served on June 09 at the office of Indian High Commission in Ottawa.

On June 07-8, various newspapers including Toronto Star and Ontario Herald published a story about CRPF Officer Dhillon’s visit to Canada.

According to the published news reports, “the High Commission of India in Ottawa would not comment on Ottawa’s treatment of Dhillon, but told the Star that the court petition brought by the Sikhs for Justice was “frivolous, malicious and baseless”.

SFJ’s June 09 demand letter claims that “the High Commission of India’s statement regarding Sikhs For Justice dated June 07-08 is defamatory per se. The Defamatory Statements were stated to discredit Sikhs for Justice’s reputation and undermine its ability to do its work.

Sikhs for Justice hereby gives notice pursuant to the Courts of Justice Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. C.43 that absent timely retraction and apology, Sikhs For Justice will be filing defamation lawsuit”.

“Indian High Commission has accused SFJ of filing a frivolous case in the Canadian court which is a very serious allegation” stated Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, legal advisor to SFJ.

“If Indian High Commission did not retract its statement and apologize within 10 days of being served with the Demand Letter, we will file a defamation lawsuit under the Canadian laws”, added Pannun.

“Nothing causes more damage to the reputation of a not-for-profit organization, whose purpose is the advancement of the human rights of minorities, including Sikhs, than defamatory statement like the one which you made and published.

You used your position of influence among the Indian diaspora as High Commission of India who controls Canadian Sikhs visas to India, to accuse, without any basis in fact, of SFJ of filing “frivolous, malicious and baseless” petition seeking arrest warrants of CRPF Officer TS Dhillon”, SFJ’s demand letter further states. – Across the globe Sikhs remember 1984 Amritsar attack

Sikh24 Editors

Amritsar Sahib-Panjab-India, 5 June 2017. In major cities throughout the world, tens of thousands of Sikhs solemnly gathered in remembrance of the attack on the Sri Harmandr Sahib (the GoldenTemple), in Amritsar in 1984.

London, Toronto, Amritsar, San Francisco and many others saw a similar sea of orange and blue and thousands flocked to the streets during parades, seminars and events. Tens of thousands in each city lined up the streets as kirtan (singing), simran (meditation) and speeches echoed through the air.

In Canada the mayor of Brampton, Linda Jeffrey, joined in the remembrance day parade, joining thousands of Sikhs in recalling when the Indian state killed thousands of innocent Sikhs in the holy shrine in Amritsar.

In June 1984 the Indian government attacked Gurdwaras across Punjab simultaneously on the day that Sikhs flock to Gurdwaras to remember the martyrdom of the fifth Guru, Guru Arjan Dev Ji.

The extra influx of gathering congregation resulted in the tragic slaughter of tens of thousands, which in-turn, triggered a decade of an armed uprising against the state by the Sikhs.

Vancouver Sun – How the Liberals’ alleged support of Sikh separatists is fuelling Canada-India tensions

Tom Blackwell

Vancouver, 29 May 2017. When Prime Minister Trudeau headed to the stage at the Sikh-Canadian community’s annual Khalsa Day celebration last month, he was thronged by a cheering, photo-seeking crowd.

It was little surprise, given the Liberal leader is not only a staunch supporter of multiculturalism but also has four MPs of Sikh origin in his cabinet.

Thousands of kilometres away in New Delhi, however, Trudeau’s appearance struck a decidedly more sour note.

The appearance was the latest irritation for an Indian government reportedly worried that the Liberals are too cozy with a peaceful but “growing” Sikh-separatist movement in Canada.

It came three weeks after the Ontario legislature passed a private-member’s motion, introduced by a Liberal MPP, that called the 1984 Sikh massacre in India an act of genocide, a politically explosive label.

India’s Foreign Ministry has issued separate protests to the Trudeau government about each episode, as the Liberals’ traditional politicking among a vote-rich community, combined with the sub-continent’s fraught history, throws a wrench into the two countries’ burgeoning friendship.

“All of those things add up (and) present a picture that isn’t particularly pretty when India is looking at it,” said Anirudh Bhattacharya, Canadian correspondent for the Hindustan Times newspaper.

“There was always a concern (in New Delhi) that this particular government would be somewhat beholden to the gatekeepers to the Sikh community, to some of the more radical groups.”

Tossed into the mix have been unsubstantiated allegations by Amarinder Singh, Punjab state’s newly elected “chief minister,” that Trudeau’s Sikh ministers are themselves separatists; and a thwarted terrorist cell in Punjab with alleged Canadian links.

Indian media reports suggest New Delhi was livid about Trudeau’s appearance at the Khalsa Day event April 30, though the public language was more circumspect. “We have taken it up with Canada in the past and the practice has not been discontinued,” said Vishwa Nath Goel of India’s high commission in Ottawa.

Quoting a Foreign Ministry statement, he was more blunt about the Ontario legislature’s Sikh genocide resolution on April 6.

“We reject this misguided motion which is based on a limited understanding of India, its constitution, society, ethos, rule of law and the judicial process,” said Goel.

But a spokesman for the group that organized the event Trudeau attended, and which backs the Ontario motion, said it’s only natural for the prime minister to appear at such functions, regardless of the religion.

The reaction from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP government simply follows a pattern of suppressing Sikhs and other minorities, which itself fuels widespread support in Canada for the creation of a separate Sikh country called Khalistan, said Balkaranjit Singh of the Ontario Sikhs and Gurdwara Council.

“There is a certain underlying policy and current going on (in India) that is continuously discriminating against a minority,” he said. “Yes, the Sikhs are left with no choice but to push for a separate homeland.”

Andrée-Lyne Hallé, the prime minister’s press secretary, argued that ties remain strong between the two countries, and portrayed Trudeau’s appearance at the commemoration of a Sikh holy day as routine.

“‎The prime minister marks and celebrates events and holidays celebrated by Canadians of all backgrounds,” she said.

The Sikh separatist cause had largely fallen quiet after years of turmoil that culminated in the bombing of an Air India flight from Canada in 1985, killing 329 people.

The attack was blamed on Canadian-based Sikh extremists, enraged by Indian troops storming the Golden Temple, Sikhism’s holiest site, to oust armed rebels in 1984, and incident’s bloody fallout.

After two Sikh bodyguards murdered prime minister Indira Gandhi, a wave of pogroms saw at least 3,000 Sikhs slaughtered by rampaging Hindus.

Sikh terrorism is a thing of the past in Canada, but most of the major Ontario gurdwaras (temples) are today controlled by non-violent Khalistanis, says Balraj Deol, editor of the Punjabi-language newspaper Khabarnama.

“Support for separatism is growing; it has grown considerably,” he said.

Yet Canadian Sikhs are in a different “silo” from the millions who live in Punjab itself, and have largely abandoned the struggle for an independent homeland, Deol said.

In March, Punjabis even elected the Congress party, perpetrators of the Golden Temple attack and implicated in the later massacre, to state government.

But Indian authorities are concerned that if the Khalistani movement builds in Canada, “it bleeds into the Punjab,” said Bhattacharya.

Singh argued that separatist sentiment is alive in Punjab, but vocal Sikh activists there have either been killed or emigrated, and those who remain are cowed into silence.

Meanwhile, Canada’s 460,000 Sikhs, politically active and concentrated in a few Ontario and British Columbia ridings, have long been courted by all parties.

Navdeep Bains, a leader of Sikh Liberals and now innovation minister, backed Trudeau in the 2013 leadership race.

The Liberal-sponsored resolution in Ontario’s legislature declaring the 1984 massacre a genocide, also supported by the NDP and Conservatives, was the first of its kind in the world and was seen as a jolt for the independence movement, said Deol.

An Indian prime minister did apologize for the riots in 2005 amid growing evidence of Congress party complicity in the savagery, but no one has ever been prosecuted for it.

Whether the episode qualifies as genocide is another question, and in New Delhi the terminology is seen as dividing religious groups at a time of relative peace, said Bhattacharya of the Hindustan Times.

Meanwhile, Indian police announced last week the arrest of two alleged Khalistani terrorists in the Punjab and a small cache of weapons, purportedly overseen by an Ontario-based “hardliner.”

Gill said the case looks on the surface like a fabrication, designed to cast aspersions on Canada.


The Tribune – Canadian court to hear plea against retired CRPF officer

Tribune News Service

Moga, 27 May 2017. A Canadian court has accepted an application accusing former CRPF IG Tejinder Singh Dhillon of extra-judicial torture of Sikh youths during militancy in Punjab.

The Canadian High Commission in New Delhi had initially refused visa to him, but after a protest by the Indian Government, the former not only granted it but also gave a complimentary ticket to the retired IG to visit the country.

Jatinder Singh Grewal of the Sikhs for Justice, a human rights group, today appeared before the Justice of Peace in Toronto and levelled the allegations of torture on the basis of a victim’s affidavit. The court has fixed May 29 as the date of hearing.

Dhillon is in Toronto to attend a wedding.