The Independent – Scottish Sikh ‘faces further torture’ after being taken back into police custody in India, campaigners say

Jagtar Singh Johal tells lawyers he has been tortured with electricity

Lucinda Cameron, Hilary Duncanson

London, UK, 19 November 2017. A British Sikh man arrested in India and allegedly tortured by police has been returned to police custody, campaigners have claimed.

Jagtar Singh Johal was moved to judicial custody after appearing in court in Punjab on Friday, sparking hopes the “physical torture” will come to an end, the Sikh Federation UK said .

However, the federation said he was later returned to police custody for the next two days without charge after he was taken to an area magistrate by police from another district.

His legal team are said to be concerned this period will be used to try and “falsely link him” to unsolved cases in the area.

Mr Johal, from Dumbarton in West Dunbartonshire, was detained in Jalandhar in the state of Punjab on 4 November.

The federation says no official charges have been brought against him, but local media reported Mr Johal’s arrest was linked to the killing of Hindu leaders in Punjab.

Mr Johal, 30, who got married in India last month, has told lawyers he has been tortured with “body separation techniques and electrocution to body parts”.

The Sikh Federation said that following his court appearance in Punjab, he was sent to jail until 30 November, when he will reappear in court.

It said he has had a brief meeting with his in-laws and a UK official, but business cards from his lawyers and the British High Commission representative were later taken off him.

He is also being denied fresh warm clothing, it is claimed.

His lawyers are said to have applied for an independent medical examination of Mr Johal.

Bhai Amrik Singh, chair of the Sikh Federation UK, said: “Many are asking why Jagtar was not allowed the business cards for his two lawyers or for the British High Commission representative or allowed to accept clothes from his family.

“The Indian authorities clearly have much to hide and the British and Scottish governments must do much more to secure his release.

“We will be challenging the Foreign Secretary next Tuesday when he appears in the Commons to answer questions from MPs.”

Hundreds of Sikhs held a demonstration outside the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London in support of Mr Johal on Thursday.

An FCO spokesman said: “Our consular staff in New Delhi have visited a British man who has been detained in Punjab. We have met his family to update them, and have confirmed that he now has access to his lawyer.

“We take all allegations or concerns of torture and mistreatment very seriously and will follow up with action as appropriate.

“When considering how to act, we will avoid any action that might put the individual in question or any other person that may be affected at risk.”


The National – Fresh concerns over arrest in India of Jagtar Singh Johal

Kirsteen Paterson

Edinburgh-Scotland-UK, 18 November 2017. A Scot “tortured” in India was almost completely covered up when British officials met with him in an Indian facility, a leading Sikh MP claims.

Preet Kaur Gill, the first female Sikh elected to the House of Commons, says detained Jagtar Singh Johal has been classed as “vulnerable” amidst serious concern about his treatment by police in the Punjab.

The 30-year-old Dumbarton man was with his new wife and his cousin when he was arrested on the street on November 4.

Local reports state that he is accused of funding the purchase of weapons connected to the targeted killings of high-profile Hindus, and of “influencing the youth” by publishing material related to the deaths of thousands of Sikhs in pogroms in 1984.

His local MP Martin Docherty-Hughes has accused authorities in the Punjab of treating Jagtar as an “easy target” in a clampdown on critics of human rights abuses.

Meanwhile, his older brother Gurpreet Singh Johal has branded the arrest “opportunist” and says it has “broken” his family.

No charges have yet been brought and yesterday Jagtar, known as Jaggi, appeared for a third court hearing after claims of torture emerged.

He attended a lower court in Bagha Purana, Moga, flanked by a contingent of police officers. According to his lawyer, he has been subjected to electric shocks and “body separation techniques” while being held by police.

The internet marketer has been transferred out of their custody and into jail to await another court date on November 30, according to the Sikh Federation, which is running a #freejaggi campaign.

The organisation’s chair Bhai Amrik Singh said: “Hopefully the physical torture will now come to an end, but the mental torture of false imprisonment continues”.

The case has drawn strong criticism of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and British Consulate after no officials appeared at Jagtar’s first hearing.

Gurpreet said the UK Government had given the case “no attention” and failed to meet with him before these sessions.

In an interview with BBC Radio Scotland yesterday, MP Gill said officials had frustrated the judicial process by failing to turn up. She said: “Because of the British arriving late to court, that date was extended and so he had a further hearing date, to which they didn’t attend.”

On Thursday the FCO confirmed that staff had now met with Jagtar. Discussing this and torture claims, Gill, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Sikhs, said: “When they met him he was in the presence of two police officers. He was covered up and quite well padded up. All they could see was his face and his hands.

“Jagtar did ask that he wanted to see them on his own. They said they would try and do that.

“They assessed him as being vulnerable, which is really, really concerning.”

A coachload of Scots travelled to London to join a protest of around 400 people outside the FCO on Thursday, with the case attracting interest throughout the UK. Gill said: “There is a significant diaspora of Sikhs in this country. They want to know that they can come back and forth to their homeland”.

External Relations Secretary Fiona Hyslop says the Scottish Government is “deeply concerned” about the case, and that the First Minister has requested updates as more information is made available.

Meanwhile, Canada’s New Democratic Party (NDP), which is headed by Sikh Jagmeet Singh, has contacted his foreign affairs minister to suggest that the Canadian Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains could intervene.

In a letter, NDP politician Cheryl Hardcastle suggests Bains, who is in India, could “offer his assistance on the ground”.

Hardcastle says this would be justified because Canada is a signatory to the UN Convention Against Torture, adding: “We hope that Jagtar Singh Johal is allowed to have a fair trial, [and] is provided with access to an independent medical examiner as requested by his legal team.

“It is crucial that he not be subjected to any further torture while in custody of Punjab Police.”

Acknowledging international interest in the case, Docherty-Hughes said: “There has been an incredible response to the campaign to help Jagtar, with messages of support pouring in from people all over Scotland and across the world.

“Thanks to the strength of this campaign, the Foreign Office and British High Commission is now taking action to provide consular support to Jagtar. Whilst this is welcome news, concerns remain about the possible torture of my constituent during his detention in India.

The Hindustan Times – Despite ‘solving’ targeted killings, Punjab wants NIA to continue probe

Punjab police have last week nabbed five persons accused of killing people under a conspiracy to spread communal violence

Ravinder Vasudeva

Chandigarh-Panjab-India, 17 November 2017. Even after claiming to have solved the cases of targeted killings of right wing leaders in the state, the Punjab government still wants the National Investigating Agency (NIA) to go ahead with its probe in one of the cases, that of Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) local leader Ravinder Gosain’s murder in Ludhiana last month.

The probe into Gosain’s killing was handed over to NIA by the state after the RSS top brass raised this demand before chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh.

Punjab police have last week nabbed five persons accused of killing people under a conspiracy to spread communal violence.

“Though we have solved the cases and Gosain’s murderers are also the same men who killed the others, we still want the NIA to go deeper into the case.

The NIA has expertise in dealing with inter-country terror issues, thus it would be in the interest of the nation if the central agency investigates the case further as perpetrators of these killings are in other countries, including Italy, UK, USA, Germany and Canada,” director general of police Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) local leader Ravinder Gosain’s murdertold HT.

The DGP also wrote to the NIA on November 15, giving details of fresh findings, including the alleged role of Pakistan’s ISI and Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF), and requested to continue with the case. It was the reason why the NIA on Thursday issued a notification about formally taking over Gosain’s killing.

On a campaign run by some activists in the UK against the arrest of one of the accused, Jagtar Singh Johal alias Jaggi, in which claims are being made that Jaggi is “innocent” and being “tortured”, Arora again said the police have “all the evidence to establish his involvement”.

“Moreover, now when the NIA will probe the case, investigation done by Punjab Police will also remain under check,” he added.

Punjab last week have claimed to busted a terror module behind these killings and arrested four persons, including Jammu resident Jimmy Singh when he landed at Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi, upon returning from the UK. Jaggi, who is also a UK resident, was nabbed from Rama Mandi in Jalandhar district. He had landed in India on October 4 for his marriage.

Two alleged shooters, Hardeep Singh Shera and Ramandeep Singh alias Canadian, were arrested from Fatehgarh Sahib and Jalandhar, respectively. A gangster Dharmender Guggni lodged in Nabha jail has also been made accused.

BBC News – Scot back in police custody in India over fresh claims

Glasgow, 17 November 2017.  A Scottish Sikh is back in police custody in India, following new allegations against him.

Jagtar Singh Johal, 30, has been in custody for a fortnight. He appeared in court early on Friday and was sent to prison until 30 November.

However, he was returned to court to face new allegations over the death of a Christian priest in 2015.

He has not been charged with any crime and his lawyer claims his client has been tortured by police.

Indian police have accused Mr Johal of financing the purchase of weapons used to kill Hindu leaders, but his lawyer said he is now accused of involvement in the death of a priest in Ludhiana in July 2015.

Mr Johal was taken from a street in the Indian state on 4 November.

His family say he was there on holiday having married in the region in October.

Appearing earlier on Friday, Mr Johal was presented at a lower court in Bagha Purana, Moga.

He entered the court room flanked by half a dozen Punjabi officers.

Prosecutors did not ask for Mr Johal’s police custody to be extended.

During the brief hearing, he was transferred from police to judicial custody after the judge questioned the prosecution about claims the accused was tortured.

A British High Commission official was also in court and met with the accused.

The court also allowed Mr Johal’s mother-in-law and father-in-law to meet him briefly.

‘Concerns of torture’

Campaigners have called for the immediate intervention of the British Foreign Office in the case.

On Thursday about 400 British Sikhs demonstrated outside the Foreign Office in London demanding more be done to help him.

The Sikh Federation said it feared Mr Johal was being targeted over his work highlighting the Sikh genocide in 1984.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “Our consular staff in New Delhi have visited a British man who has been detained in Punjab. We have met his family to update them, and have confirmed that he now has access to his lawyer.”

On allegations of torture, the spokesman added: “We take all allegations or concerns of torture and mistreatment very seriously and will follow up with action as appropriate.

“When considering how to act, we will avoid any action that might put the individual in question or any other person that may be affected at risk.”

The Hindu – Separatist Alam Bhat faces 36th Public Safety Act (PSA)

Special Correspondent

Jammu-Jammu&Kashmir-India, 17 November 2017. Separatist leader and Muslim League head Masrat Alam Bhat was held under the Public Safety Act (PSA) on Wednesday for the 36th time and shifted to Jammu’s Kotbalwal Jail.

The J&K High Court had quashed the detention of Bhat under the PSA. However, a fresh PSA order was issued on Wednesday evening by the Deputy Commissioner, Kupwara, in an old case as “the government perceives him as a threat to peace of State”.

Mr Alam, behind bars since 2015, had been shifted to a Kupwara jail recently. He has over 29 FIRs against him, including cases of “waging war against the state”.

“The government has been sending us a clear message that court orders don’t matter to them and they do whatever they like to do. We are not surprised as it is the practice of the government to choke the voice and crush the sentiments of people,” a Muslim League spokesperson said.

The Telegraph – Sikh volunteers give aid to Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in Burma

Mark Molloy

16 November 2017

A team of Sikh volunteers are providing aid to some of the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution and violence in Burma (Myanmar).

Khalsa Aid, a UK-based international humanitarian relief organisation, have been helping refugees as they cross into neighbouring Bangladesh, where thousands are already living in overcrowded camps.

They were one of the first international organisations to reach the Bangladesh / Myanmar border in September, where refugees from the stateless minority have been waiting in lines stretching for kilometres across muddy rice fields.

The volunteers are returning next week to progress the project and focus on providing food and sanitation.

Volunteer Jeevanjot Singh, from the Indian branch of the organisation, was pictured sharing his last bottle of water with Rohingya refugees, who are described as the “world’s most persecuted minority”.

“We had come prepared for providing relief to some 50,000 people, but there are more than three lakh (300,000) here,” Amarpreet Singh, director of Khalsa Aid India, previously told The Indian Express.

“They are living without water, food, clothes and shelter. They are sitting wherever they can find a corner.

“It is raining, but people do not have anywhere to go. It is miserable to say the least. We will be providing them langar food (community kitchen) and shelter.

“We are arranging tarpaulins, but since the number of refugees have overwhelmingly exceeded our preparations, it [could take] some time to make arrangements.”

He also spoke of the overcrowded refugee camps, designed to accommodate 50,000 people, which are housing more than double that number.

“The priority is to not let anyone sleep without food,” he said. “Children are roaming without clothes and begging for food. Those who do not get space in camps are sitting along roads in hope of getting food from someone.”

The United Nations has described the treatment of Rohingya Muslims as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”, with Human Rights Watch accusing the Myanmar military of widespread rape of women and girls.

Rohingya Muslims are seen as illegal immigrants from the Indian subcontinent in the predominantly Buddhist Myanmar, where the government refuses to grant them citizenship status, effectively making them stateless.

The Herald – Jagtar Singh Johal ‘tortured and electrocuted’ by Indian police in Punjab

Glasgow-Scotland-UK, 14 November 2017. A Scot arrested while on holiday in India has been tortured under interrogation, it has been claimed.

The family of Jagtar Singh Johal say he has been electrocuted and subjected to severe physical torture since he was arrested and detained on November 4, accused of “influencing the youth through social media”.

The 30-year-old, from Dumbarton, had been in India to get married when he was seized in Jalandhar, in the state of Punjab, and forced into a van by plain-clothes officers.

But now his relatives fear that the police are torturing them in a bid to extract a false confession. They have also criticised the Foreign Office

Bhai Amrik Singh, chairman of the Sikh Federation (UK), said: “The Punjab police has been given a free hand to torture Jagtar for the last 10 days without the British High Commission taking any action to protect a law-abiding British citizen who had just been married and was spending time with his newly wed wife.”

“The callous actions of the Indian authorities are sickening, but the Foreign Office and the British High Commission appear to be under pressure not to act and will be accused of looking the other way.”

Mr Johal’s crimes reportedly include “running a magazine” in the UK of atrocities during the 1984 Sikh Genocide and “influencing the youth through social media”.

He appeared in court last Friday, where his family and lawyers said they were denied access to him. He is due to be held on remand until Friday.

The Sikh Federation (UK) has taken up the case and said that it was lobbying MPs to push Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to take action.

Martin Docherty-Hughes, SNP MP for West Dunbartonshire, has already said he “deeply concerned” about the situation and is supporting Mr Johal’s family.

Mr Singh said: “The Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary will feel our pressure in the next seven days in Parliament via hundreds of MPs who have been contacted by constituents who are unhappy with the lack of action to secure Jagtar’s immediate release and return to the UK.”

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We are in contact with the family of a British man who has been detained in India.

“Our staff have requested consular access from the Indian authorities so we can be assured of his welfare.”

He added: “We take all allegations or concerns of torture and mistreatment very seriously and will follow up with action as appropriate.

“When considering how to act, we will avoid any action that might put the individual in question or any other person that may be affected at risk.”

BBC News – Torture claims over Scottish activist held in India

The lawyer representing a Scottish Sikh activist being held in India claims his client has been tortured by police

Glasgow-Scotland-UK, 14 November 2017.Jagtar Singh Johal, from Dumbarton, was taken from a street in the state of Punjab on 4 November.

He not been charged with any crime, and his period on remand has now been extended until Friday.

The Sikh Federation has criticised the UK government’s response and said Mr Johal had made allegations of “extreme police torture”.

His lawyer claimed his client had been electrocuted and subjected to “body separation techniques”.

The Indian authorities have not responded to requests for comment on the allegations.

Last week the chief minister of Punjab and the local police chief released a statement saying they were holding Mr Johal on grounds of financing the purchase of weapons used in the killing of prominent Hindu leaders in Punjab.

The 30-year-old, who was born in Scotland but was in India for his wedding, denies the allegations.

His brother, Gurpreet Singh Johal, said the family have had no access to him since his arrest.

Mr Johal’s MP Martin Docherty-Hughes and Preet Gil MP, who chairs the all-party Parliamentary Group for British Sikhs, have expressed concerns about the case.

Feel pressure

Bhai Amrik Singh, the chair of the Sikh Federation (UK), said the British High Commission had not taken any action to protect a law-abiding British citizen.

He said the commission and the Foreign Office would be accused of “looking the other way”.

“The prime minister and foreign secretary will feel our pressure in the next seven days in parliament via hundreds of MPs who have been contacted by constituents who are unhappy with the lack of action to secure Jagtar’s immediate release and return to the UK,” he added.

It is running a lobbying campaign using the hashtag #FreeJaggiNow.

Mr Johal, who arrived in India last month, appeared in court the day after he was arrested by plain clothes officers.

According to the Sikh Federation, Punjab police asked for him to spend 10 days in remand but were granted five days by the judge.

Mr Johal returned to court on 10 November but the British High Commission representative, his lawyers and his family were all denied access to him.

Punjab police were then granted another four days remand.

Brutal torture

That period on remand has now been extended to 17 November.

In a statement posted on its official Facebook page, the Sikh Federation (UK) said: “In our view this is to allow the police to continue with their brutal torture to try and extract a false confession in the absence on any evidence against Jagtar Singh, who only visited Punjab this year to get engaged and married.

“His passport, that has been lodged by the family with the British High Commission in Delhi, proves he has not been to Pakistan as claimed by the police and the Chief Minister of Punjab.”

The Federation said the British High Commission and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office had failed to attend the hearing, which directly resulted in the further three-day police remand.

Last week the federation said it feared Mr Johal had been targeted over his work highlighting the Sikh genocide in 1984 and amid claims he was “influencing the youth through social media”.

The Foreign Office confirmed it is not updating its statement from the weekend.

It read: “We are in contact with the family of a British man who has been detained in India.

“Our staff are in contact with the Indian authorities regarding his case.”

Dawn – No trace of the missing

Op/Ed, 15 November 2017. Missing persons continue to remain undocumented and missing, and it appears that the courts and parliament are powerless to do anything about this terrible blot on Pakistan’s human rights record.

On Monday, seemingly helpless representatives of the federal and KP governments appeared in the Supreme Court empty-handed; they had been required by a special bench to present basic data on the country’s 45 declared internment centres.

The information that had been demanded included up-to-date lists of detainees, the offences they have been charged with, whether or not they had faced trial and the length of their incarceration, in sum, the bare minimum information the state should have for any individual in its custody.

But the court simply gave the representatives another fortnight to produce the data.

Meanwhile, following a meeting of the Senate Committee on Human Rights, Senator Farhatullah Babar has called for setting up a new commission on enforced disappearances because the existing one has failed to produce results and to publish a six-year-old report on missing persons.

Taken together, the events suggest a defiance of the law by some elements within the state and an abdication of duty by other parts of the state to ensure that citizens have their rights and institutions act according to the law.

What is particularly dispiriting is that despite the passage of several years and facilitation by the law, the state appears unwilling to take a reasonable position on the issue.

The first military operations in the country are now more than a decade old, while the Action in Aid of Civil Power Regulations, 2011, provided a legal framework to bring missing persons within the ambit of the law.

Surely, by now a reasonable solution to what is admittedly a vexing problem ought to have been found.

The only reasonable conclusion to be drawn at this stage, however, is that there are some state elements that reject the notion that accountability and transparency ought to apply to at least some security issues.

The public, the courts, parliament, the governments and, indeed, the families of the suspects, simply have to trust the judgement of nameless and faceless figures wielding great power over the lives of alleged terrorism, militancy and extremism suspects.

Certainly, the long fight against militancy calls for special measures and greater flexibility in dealing with an internal threat that is shadowy and evolving.

But the state’s duty is to progressively bring its actions within the ambit of the law, that is what separates the justness of the fight by the state from the terrorists, militants and extremists who seek to inflict harm on the country and its people.

Today, there is no justification for defiance of the law, just as there is no rationale for the continuing phenomenon of missing persons.

The Asian Age – Mob torches 30 Hindu houses in Bangladesh over Facebook post

Agitation over ‘a religiously defamatory post’ in Thakurpara village, Rangpur.

Dhaka-Bangladesh, 12 November 2017. A mob of protesters has set on fire at least 30 houses of Hindus in Bangladesh following rumours that a youth from the minority community published an offensive Facebook status, media reports said on Saturday.

One person was killed when police opened fire to disperse the crowd that launched the arson attack on the houses of Hindus on Friday the, Dhaka Tribune reported. The incident took place in Rangpur district’s Thakurpara village, about 300 km from Dhaka.

At least five persons were injured when police fired rubber bullets and lobbed tear gas shells to bring the situation under control, it said. The protesters claimed that they were infuriated by a defamatory status published from the Facebook account of a person who hails from the Thakurbari village a few days ago, the report said.

Before the police intervened, the perpetrators had torched at least 30 Hindu houses before looting and vandalising them, the report said. A crowd of 20,000 people had reportedly gathered from six to seven neighbouring villages before the attack was launched by a group of people, it said.

The police had a tough time dealing with the protesters and restoring the law and order situation in the area, the report said. Six persons with bullet injuries were rushed to a nearby hospital when one of them succumbed to his injuries, the report said. Police have detained 33 people in connection with the incident, bdnews24 reported.

There were traffic snarls after the mob blocked the Rangpur-Dinajpur highway to protest against the police action. A large number of police personnel have been deployed in the area where the situation was tense, Kotwali police station Officer-in-Charge (Operation) Moktarul Islam said.