BBC News – Sikh activist Jagtar Singh Johal filmed in police custody

The brother of Scottish Sikh activist Jagtar Singh Johal has condemned a video filmed in police custody

Mr Johal, from Dumbarton, has been held in Punjab since 4 November, accused of conspiracy to murder prominent right-wing Hindu leaders.

The 30-year-old has also been accused of involvement in the murder of a Christian priest.

Mr Johal’s lawyer has previously accused the police of torturing his client, who denies all the allegations.

In the latest development, a video of Mr Johal in custody has been screened on Indian TV.

Gurpreet Singh Johal said he was “shocked” when he saw the footage and claimed it jeopardises his brother’s right to a fair trial.

He told BBC Scotland: “The only thing I can see from the video is that it seems like a hostile situation.

“Allegedly there is a confession but I don’t see a confession there.

“There is nothing there.

“He is just saying that he has translated some articles for a website.”

He also questioned how anyone managed to film his brother while he is in custody and fears he has been “found guilty without a trial”.

He also urged the UK government to do more to help Mr Johal.

The Scottish government has previously said it is “deeply concerned” about Mr Johal’s detention.

Punjab Police have denied the torture allegations.

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-42293490

Advertisements

Dawn – Mayor of London brings peace tidings from India to Pakistan

Intikhab Hanif

Lahore-Panjab-Pakistan, 7 December 2017. Mayor of London Sadiq Khan arrived in Lahore via the Wagah border on an official visit on Wednesday, with the message that many Indians wanted good relations with Pakistan.

This is the first time a mayor of London has visited Lahore. Mr Khan is on a six-day mission to India and Pakistan to strengthen cultural and economic ties with the British capital. He had earlier stayed in India for three days where he met politicians and other important personages in Mumbai, Delhi and Amritsar.

Accompanied by a delegation of investors and officials, London’s mayor was received warmly at the Wagah border by Mayor of Lahore retired Colonel Mubashar Javed and senior officials of the Punjab government.

Earlier in the day, while visiting the Golden Temple at Amritsar in India, Mr Khan called on the British government on Wednesday to make a formal apology for the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre in which nearly 400 people were shot dead by British Indian army soldiers.

He called the massacre one of the most horrific events in Indian history. “It is wrong that successive British governments have fallen short of delivering a formal apology to the families of those who were killed,” he said.

Mr Khan later called on Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif at the latter’s Model Town residence and attended a luncheon there. British High Commissioner Thomas Drew was also present on the occasion.

The delegation included London’s Deputy Mayor for Business Rajesh Agrawal, Turkish Consul General Serder Deniz and US Consul General Elizabeth Kennedy.

Prior to Mr Khan’s arrival in the city, CM Sharif had tweeted: “We welcome Mayor Sadiq Khan from the historic city of London to the historic city of Lahore.” Mr Khan had a one-on-one meeting with the chief minister and later visited the Badshahi Mosque and the Lahore Fort, before attending a dialogue at Alhamra.

According to a spokesperson for the Punjab government, Mr Sharif said that Pakistan accorded great importance to its relations with the UK.

A large number of Pakistanis were settled in London, playing an important role in enhancing bilateral relations between the two countries, he said, adding that promoting cordial relations between the UK and Panjab was the need of the hour.

The chief minister was quoted as saying that Pakistan had achieved great success in its war on terrorism, and would win it by introducing various socio-economic reforms. The government, in collaboration with the Department for International Development of the UK, had already introduced far-reaching reforms in education, healthcare and skills development sectors. “We appreciate the cooperation of British people,” he said.

Earlier while meeting CM Sharif, the delegation of British investors had expressed interest in investing in projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The chief minister said that the CPEC had opened new avenues of foreign investment in Pakistan and British investors should fully avail the opportunity.

Mr Khan said that the cities of London and Lahore enjoyed good relations and expressed the desire to enhance cooperation and investment with Lahore in various sectors.

Speaking at a dinner reception given by the mayor of Lahore, Mr Khan said he was impressed by the hospitality of the people of Lahore. He was happy to note that Pakistan and its society were progressing.

“I am happy to know that Pakistan’s economy is growing,” he said, while thanking the mayor for according him a warm welcome. “I found Lahore as I had heard of it. It is the heart of Pakistan and is certainly the hub of Pakistani culture,” he said.

Lahore’s mayor thanked Mr Khan for visiting and shared that he wished to strengthen social and cultural ties with London.

Gifts were exchanged, owner of Peshawar Zalmi Javaid Afridi presented Mr Khan Shahid Afridi’s cricket bat, cap and shirt. Mr Khan was scheduled to leave for Islamabad after the reception, and to later visit Karachi.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1375089/mayor-of-london-brings-peace-tidings-from-india-to-pakistan

Sikh24.com – Jagtar Singh Johal indicted in another case; activists build momentum worldwide

P Singh

London-UK, 5 December 2017. Scottish Sikh youth Jagtar Singh Johal (Jaggi), who has been arrested by the Punjab police in serial murders in Punjab, has been now nominated by the Ludhiana Police in an FIR pertaining to shooting incident which occurred outside an RSS branch in Ludhiana.

The Ludhiana police succeeded in obtaining Jaggi’s two days police remand from the Court in this case on 3 December.

It may be recalled here that on January 18, 2016 two unidentified bike riders had fired bullets on an RSS branch situated in park of Kidwai Nagar of Ludhiana. An FIR No. 7/16 was registered in this concern in Police Station Division No. 8 of Ludhiana.

Scottish Sikh youth Jagtar Singh Johal was arrested in relation to this murder and he was named in FIRs in additional cases after his arrest.

Meanwhile, a lot of pressure is building in the UK as human rights activists are asking the Government to take up the case with the Indian Government.

The Sikh Federation (UK), which is involved in the case, has contacted over 150 MPs so far, asking them for support. The Sikh Federation (UK) launched Phase 2 of its campaign to gather support from UK Government officials.

Yesterday, programmes took place in various places abroad, including England, California, Australia and Germany to raise awareness for Jagtar Singh Johal. “We are looking forward to organizing protests outside Indian consulates if Jaggi is not given a fair trial.

All what we are asking for is that he has access to the UK FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office),” said Gurpreet Singh, a Sikh activist who came to Stockton Gurdwara from Yuba City to join program being held to raise awareness for Jaggi.

Sikh activists also carried out a campaign in Jaggi’s support this past Sunday. Hundreds of activists targeted Punjab Police and Chief Minister’s handle, appealing them to not abuse Jaggi’s human rights. Tweets were carried with the hashtag #FreeJaggiNow.

A petition started to UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson also crossed 46,000 signatures.

http://www.sikh24.com/2017/12/05/jaggi-indicted-in-another-case-activists-build-momentum-worldwide/#.WieKFjdrzIU

Ilford Recorder – Sikh running club holds event for Woodford Green girl with rare brain tumour

A Sikh running club gave back to the community recently by hosting a charity event to raise money for a young girl with an incurable brain tumour.

Rosaleen Fenton

04 December 2017. The Team Kaleigh 10K Challenge was organised to raise additional funds for seven-year-old Kaleigh Lau, of Snakes Lane East, Woodford Green.

In April last year, Kaleigh, was told she had Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), a very rare and aggressive tumour.

Since then she began to suffer double vision, unbalanced walking and her left hand became very weak.

Earlier this year, she started travelling to Mexico every month with her family, to try and find a way of halting the tumour through a pioneering treatment.

So far, Kaleigh has responded well to the treatment and now Team Kaleigh is raising money in order to ensure the seven-year-old can continue to travel abroad.

At Sikhs in the City Running Club on November 26, a whole host of friends, family and complete strangers united to run a challenging 10K on a blustery winter day.

Mayor of Redbridge Councillor Linda Huggett gave a rousing speech before starting the race and was on hand to present medals for every runner.

She said: “It’s amazing to see everyone here today and I congratulate every runner for their dedication and human spirit.”

Celebrated runners included Jog on Hijabi Lynne Northcott, who is preparing for the London Marathon whilst raising money for a Gambia water project for Penny Appeal, Timi Veerasamy from Dagenham 88 and prolific long distance running legend Harmander Singh.

Organiser Jason Li said that the most uplifting moment of the race was watching “brave Kaleigh take part and complete the course in her wheelchair”.

He added: “I’m just relieved the event ran like clockwork.

“The weather was cold but the sun was out. We had no rain and even little Kaleigh participated.

“Everyone looks so happy and there is a great spirit of togetherness – It’s been perfect.”

Kaleigh’s Father Scott Lau thanked everyone for their support: “We are very blessed to have so many people come out and support Kaleigh and her determination has spurred us on even more. It’s just been an amazing day.

“We will do whatever it takes to make life easier for Kaleigh and it’s just fantastic that we have so many unbelievable people joining us on this journey.

“I’m really proud of everybody and immensely inspired by my own daughter. This illness hasn’t got a cure at the moment and we want to make a change as Team Kaleigh.

“It’s been emotional and we are full of pride – thank you everyone.”

The route was run on Roding Lane South, Woodford Bridge Road and Woodford Avenue with several friendly volunteer marshalls manning road crossings.

Readers who wish to make a donation should state clearly your full name, add a reference: “TK 10K” with your deposit and if possible an email to jasonli.kaleighstrust@gmail.com so that it can be added to the event’s fundraising total.

Payee: Kaleigh Lau Account No: 98159575 Sort Code: 09-01-28

For event updates or to find out more about Kaleigh’s story and her new UK Petition, please visit her website at kaleigh.ethanet.co.uk

http://www.ilfordrecorder.co.uk/news/sikh-running-club-holds-event-for-woodford-green-girl-with-rare-brain-tumour-1-5307652

I News – What it’s like to experience Islamophobia as a Sikh

London-UK, 4 December 2017. The programme My Week As a Muslim caused outrage this autumn. It’s easy to see why: a white woman was ““browned up” as a Muslim, complete with hijab, prosthetic nose and false teeth. Instead of “disguising” someone in such a crude manner, why not actually ask Muslims about their experiences?

It also stereotyped Muslims as “brown” when Islam is a faith, not an ethnicity. While I understood the controversy, the programme was also a powerful reminder of the importance of empathy. For just one week this woman experienced the intolerance many Muslims face on a daily basis.

This includes being abused, spat at and labelled a terrorist. There is an old adage that to truly understand someone you need to walk a mile in their shoes. This went a step further, by asking someone to a mile in someone else’s skin.

I don’t need to wear a prosthetic nose or false teeth to begin to recognise what Islamophobia feels like. Although I am a practicing Sikh, I have been mistaken for a Muslim on many occasions. People see my skin colour and turban, and in their ignorance assume that I am both a Muslim and a terrorist. If the leap of assumptions wasn’t so hideous it would be funny.

‘You killed three thousand people’ One of my worst experiences came on an ordinary Friday evening. It was a few months after the 9/11 tragedy, when the atmosphere in the UK was one of fear and anger. I was on the Tube on my way to meet friends, with my headphones in and oblivious to everyone else. So far, so normal.

A man became extremely aggressive, shouting “you killed three thousand people”. He called me “scum” and every other name under the sun, becoming increasingly belligerent and threatening. I was left with an unwelcome dilemma: should I defend myself against the false “charge” of being a Muslim or the preposterous inference that all Muslims are terrorists? I was stumped.

As my fellow passengers became increasingly concerned for me, an American man, who I know was only trying to help, stepped in, also thinking I was Muslim. “Leave him alone, I’m an American and we all hated them [Muslims] at first but now I’m not angry. It wasn’t their fault.”

My attacker was by now screaming, his face turned red. He was about to punch me. He would have succeeded if a passenger hadn’t stepped in to defend me as I ran towards the platform, squeezing past the slamming doors.

Despite my best efforts to tap into the British spirit to keep calm and carry on, I was left completely shaken and it remains one of the most frightening experiences of my life. I didn’t report it, at the time I just wanted to get out of the situation. And I’ve regretted it ever since.

Always report

Reported hate crimes have risen by 29 per cent in the past year From then on, I’ve made it a principle to report any time I face hate crime. The police have not only taken it extremely seriously, but I have found even just the act of reporting cathartic and empowering. I deserve to take a stand and say “enough”.

Too often victims of hate crime stay silent. Statistics show a 29 per cent rise in hate crime over the past year and a rise in Islamophobia specifically. Despite this, there are still serious challenges with underreporting. Some think they won’t be taken seriously or feel unsure if what’s happened even constitutes a crime.

As someone who has been affected, as well as in my personal experience as a barrister, my message is simple: report it. Whether it’s online or offline, attacks on the basis of race or faith should never be tolerated. And if you see someone being targeted – step in. Hate crime is thankfully not endemic in our society and despite some horrible exceptions Britain is characterised by tolerance and respect.

The fact that hate crime is on the agenda shows that it is not acceptable in our society. Not only is the Government monitoring statistics but the police actively encouraging people to come forward by making it easier to report crimes, including setting up online apps. This all points to Britain’s proud history of creating a liberal society where all are treated equally under the rule of law.

Respect for those who are different is a value to be celebrated and it is clear that progress is being made in tackling the very antithesis to liberty: hate crime. We shouldn’t have to dress up as another ethnicity to know how important it is to defend the rights of one another. The only intolerance we should accept is for intolerance itself.

Jasvir Singh OBE is Co-Chair of the Faiths Forum for London and the Chair of City Sikhs, a national representative body for British Sikhs. He is also a practising family law barrister.

https://inews.co.uk/opinion/like-experience-islamophobia-sikh/

The Guardian – Our love turned us into pariahs but we never backed down

When Khurrum Rahman, a Muslim, and Rajinder, a Sikh, fell for each other at school, they became pariahs overnight. But the disapproval, threats and even violence only served to cement a bond that has lasted 24 years.

The year was 1993. I was 17, and heading for the sixth form at a new school in Hounslow, west London. I wasn’t expecting it to change my life. Looking back, I struggle to remember a white face there. It was a sea of brown, where Muslim, Sikh and Hindu students mixed easily: it seemed a surprisingly harmonious environment.

Beneath the surface, though, cultural tension lurked, particularly between the Muslims and the Sikhs. All I had to do was keep my head down and my mouth shut. I didn’t want any part in the school politics.

I remember the girls. They all seemed to wear black leather jackets and black platform shoes and they listened to R&B. Rajinder was different. She wore flowing flowery skirts and a faded jean jacket with scuffed Dr Martens boots and listened to Guns N’ Roses. I had never met anyone like her.

I was not one of those cool types who could approach a girl and ask her out; my deep-seated fear of rejection saw to that. However, peer pressure is a powerful thing.

My friends, her friends, hounded me until, at 12.40pm on 11 November, I was standing in front of her, mumbling and stumbling my way through those six terrifying words. “Will you go out with me?”

Word spread quickly. A Muslim boy and a Sikh girl amid the cultural tension and confusion. First the whispers started, then friends we held dear distanced themselves.

Even some teachers pulled us to one side to deliver a warning, masked as meaningful advice. Wrapped up in each other, we shut it all out, brazenly walking through the playground holding hands. We fell for each other quick and hard without a thought of the impact we were having on our communities.

At the end of the school day, we would go our separate ways. Rajinder would routinely be ignored on the bus and I would walk the mile home with cars slowing to give me the eye. I was being watched carefully. A few months in, the curtains on the veiled threats were pulled back.

It started with phone calls. I would scramble to the landline in fear of my parents answering and smile my way through the threats. The “older lot”, as they were affectionately known, colourful characters about whom I had heard many gang-related stories, came out of the woodwork and turned up at my house; let’s go for a walk.

Rather than having my parents find out about my relationship, I would agree readily.

On one occasion, I was bundled into a phone box, a kitchen knife touching my skin, as half a dozen of the older lot queued impatiently outside. On another memorable occasion, having recently passed my driving test, I was driving my mum’s cherry red Nissan.

My rear windscreen exploded at a junction and people with furious faces, armed with bats and bars, circled my car. I put my foot down and led them on a merry dance around the back streets of Hounslow, losing them somewhere en route to the police station.

I never blamed them. I never doubted their intentions. In their own misguided way, they were trying to protect one of theirs from one of us.

Like a typical teenager, I thought I was invincible. I never gave in to them. She meant too much to me. We continued in the same vein, the threats and intimidation slowly dissolving as our opposers found other battles to fight.

Two years into our relationship, we were walking aimlessly. Rajinder stopped at a bridal shop window and pointed at the mannequin wearing a white bridal gown. “That’s what I’ll wear,” she said, before pointing at the mannequin wearing a black tuxedo. “And you can wear that.”

We had never before talked about where our relationship was heading, but that seemingly innocuous comment made us face issues that we had long been avoiding.

It was time our parents found out.

They would be unhappy. We understood that. But it turned out to be so much more. We hadn’t realised that the effects of our actions would take such an emotional toll on our families. They had dreams for our future: plans, visions and hard-earned money from relentless overtime set aside for a path that we would never take.

My father, a man of few words, was stoic. His silence articulated what words never could. My mother, emotionally intelligent, searched desperately for a solution that wasn’t there.

Her father, immensely proud, watched all that he held dear crumble around him. Her mother was strong, honourable and fiercely protective of her family.

Each was behaving in accordance with their beliefs and ideologies as the criticism of our communities tightened around us.

It never felt like us against them. It wasn’t as romantic a notion as that. We finally understood the impact we were having on those closest to us. “Why can’t you be happy for us?” was never going to cut it.

We couldn’t blame them for their thinking, which was embedded long before our existence and which they had hoped to pass on. We never begrudged the way they felt. Simply, we had shattered their world.

There wasn’t any way we could mend what we had caused. It was worse for her, I know it was, for the sole reason that she was a girl. From all corners she was taunted and told in no uncertain terms that she was being used. That I, a Muslim boy, would never fully commit to a Sikh girl.

But I did. We did. Rajinder and I married. It didn’t change a thing. We achieved nothing other than proving a poor point. We needed our families. We needed their acceptance.

I can’t tell you exactly what changed. I think time played its part. Something adjusted and our tilted world straightened out. Over the years, a bond that had fractured was slowly mended. Through commitment and never giving up on one another, our families became part of our lives again.

Through it all, my wife and I have never been apart, never considered the alternative. We have been together for 24 years and married for 18. As I write this, she is next to me, invading my space on the footstool and snacking noisily on masala chai and low-fat crackers licked with Nutella.

Upstairs, my beautiful boys, six and one, sleep soundly. They celebrate Eid, Diwali, Christmas and everything else in between. They lead a culturally enriched life, the best of both wonderful worlds.

Both sets of grandparents dote on them. As a result of our marriage, there may be times where they face hardship, but we are raising them to be strong-willed, open-minded and to question everything.

Tonight, we are visiting my in-laws for dinner. Tomorrow, my parents are coming to ours for Sunday lunch. They are now fully immersed in our lives. The phone calls are frequent, the text messages often. Sometimes it gets too much. But we wouldn’t have it any other way.

East of Hounslow by Khurrum Rahman (Harlequin, £12.99). To order a copy for £11.04, go to guardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min. p&p of £1.99.

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/dec/02/our-love-turned-us-into-pariahs-but-we-never-backed-down

Sikh24.com – Jagtar Singh Jaggi’s police remand again extended for two days

Sikh24 Editors

Amritsar-Panjab-India, 1 December 2017. Scottish Sikh youth Jagtar Singh alias Jaggi was today once again produced before the Court of Judicial Magistrate Sumit Sabharwal by the police in an FIR No. 218/17 registered in the Police station of Salem Tabri. The FIR pertains to killings of Christian Pastor Sultan Masih in Ludhiana.

Interestingly, the Ludhiana police sought seven days extension in the Jagtar Singh Jaggi’s remand to recover his Scottish passport despite of the fact that the passport has been submitted to British High Commission in Delhi and the Baghapurana Court was also informed about it.

Judicial Magistrate extended Police remand of Jaggi for two days without paying attention to the contentions of defence lawyer Advocate Jaspal Singh Manjhpur.

Interacting with media, Advocate Jaspal Singh Manjhpur said that the Magistrate extended police remand of Jaggi without any consideration that Jaggi has not been allowed to meet with the High Commission in private.

Meanwhile, it has come to fore that the Ludhiana police on November 29 broke into the ancestral home of Jagtar Singh Jaggi and damaged household under the garb of search. It is unclear that what the police obtained during this search and what they bring away from Jaggi’s ancestral house.

http://www.sikh24.com/2017/12/01/jagtar-singh-jaggis-police-remain-again-extended-for-two-days/#.WiHg4TdrzIU

The Tribune – Government to hand over all targeted killings to NIA

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, 30 November 2017. Due to possible national and international ramifications of the conspiracy behind the targeted killings in the state, the Punjab Government has decided to hand over the investigation of seven cases to the National Investigation Agency (NIA).

Disclosing this here on Thursday, an official spokesperson said it had been decided to transfer the cases to the NIA under Section 6 of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Act, 2008, since the modus operandi in all cases was the same.

It had also been found that the inter-state as well as international perpetrators and terrorist angle involved in the criminal conspiracy, to disturb peace and communal harmony in the border state of Punjab by selectively targeting leaders of certain groups, were the same.

The decision to transfer the cases was taken after an NIA team, led by its Director Y C Modi, held discussions with officials of the Punjab Police on Monday.

The two teams mutually felt that the Central agency was better equipped to undertake further investigations into the cases. With handlers, conspirators and financers in all these targeted killings operating from foreign soil, the investigations needed to be more broad-based, they both agreed.

Following the decision, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has directed the Punjab Police to hand over all material in the cases to the NIA for further investigation into the cases, in which the police had recently arrested UK citizen Jagtar Singh Johal and some others to solve the cases of targeted killing of RSS/Shiv Sena/DSS leaders in the state between January 2016 and October 2017.

The Chief Minister has directed that complete support be extended to the NIA to uncover the full extent of the conspiracy to disturb Punjab’s peace and harmony.

The spokesperson said the move was aimed at ensuring that the foreign-based networks conspiring against Punjab were dismantled and action taken against foreign handlers (both organisations and individuals) through cooperation with the Ministry of External Affairs, Interpol, Europol, foreign governments, etc.

It was vital to crack down on such elements that are carrying out murder and mayhem, and revive terrorism in Punjab.

The seven cases being handed over to the NIA include killing of RSS leader Ravinder Gosain, in which the investigation had already been handed over to the agency before the terror module was busted by the Punjab Police. Gosain was killed in Ludhiana on October 17.

http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab/govt-to-hand-over-all-targeted-killings-to-nia/506201.html

Sikh24.com – UK’s First Permanent Sikh Art Gallery Opens Doors

Slough-Berkshire-UK, 22 November 2017. On November 4th & 5th, over 5,000 visitors attended the grand opening of UK’s first Sikh Art Gallery as it launched the ‘Without Shape Without Form’ exhibition. This modern 7,000 sq ft gallery located in Slough, UK took design inspiration from London’s renowned contemporary art gallery scene.

The Gallery will be the permanent home of the dramatic Sikh paintings of Kanwar Singh, the artist behind Art of Punjab. This already extensive collection of artwork is set to be expanded annually and will be the artist’s UK home base and exclusive site for launching new art as it is created.

The Gallery’s ongoing focus is two-fold, spreading knowledge of Sikh history with an emphasis on Gurbani and inspiring future generations to express their love of Sikhi through the arts.

One visitor commented,”Finally we have a Gurdwara investing in our next generation and promoting our heritage on a platform never seen in this country, I fully commend all those involved in the much needed initiative”.

Kanwar Singh, the artist behind the gallery was on site as it opened doors to the visitors showcasing a complete collection of his iconic Sikh history paintings, presented on an unprecedented scale. The highlight of this event was the unveiling of an exciting new collection of paintings created exclusively for the launch.

Kanwar Singh spoke about his ten year journey as an artist focused solely on the Sikh story.

http://www.sikh24.com/2017/11/22/uks-first-permanent-sikh-art-gallery-opens-doors/#.Whwd6jdrzIU

The Economic Times – Jagtar Singh Johal: A Scottish Sikh in a Punjab jail

Ishani Duttagupta

London-UK, 26 November 2017. The Sikh diaspora has been the pride of Punjab for more than a century. But the arrest of a 30-year-old Scottish Sikh of Indian origin has triggered a face-off between the Punjab government and sections of the diaspora across continents, with even British Prime Minister Theresa May weighing in.

Jagtar Singh Johal had flown down to Punjab for his wedding in October.

A month later, he was arrested over his alleged connection with a spate of what is suspected to be targeted killings in the state over the past two years, including of RSS and right-wing leaders like Brigadier (retd) Jagdish Gagneja in 2016 and Ravinder Gosain in October this year, and a pastor called Sultan Masih in July.

The Punjab Police suspect Johal’s hand behind the murders, especially in funding and arranging weapons for a terror outfit called the Khalistan Liberation Force.

Johal’s arrest was followed by allegations of his being tortured in custody.

This spread like wild fire across the diaspora, with British and Canadian politicians raising the issue of human rights violation. While May told BBC that she was aware of concerns about Johal, the matter was raised in the House of Commons by Martin Docherty-Hughes of the Scottish National Party (SNP).

He represents West Dunbartonshire, where Johal and his family are based. The British Foreign & Commonwealth Office has already conveyed their concerns to the Indian government.

Labour MP Preet Kaur Gill, the first Sikh woman to be elected to the House of Commons, too feels the Indian government should help ensure that Johal’s human rights are not violated.

“We don’t want an impasse between the two governments and would like to work closely with India on this issue. However, we would also like the Punjab Police and administration to be more democratic and transparent about the arrest of Johal,” Gill told ET Magazine from UK.

In His Defence

Punjabi and Sikh members of Gill’s constituency in Birmingham are concerned about issues like trial by the Indian media before formal charges are brought.

They fear Johal may be tortured by the police to obtain a confession. “We expect the Indian government and the Punjab government to adhere to democratic processes.

If there were concerns over Johal, who is a citizen of the UK, why were these not communicated to our government?” asks Gill.

Echoing her concerns is Johal’s brother Gurpreet Singh Johal, a solicitor in Scotland, who feels that since his brother was not in India when the alleged crimes were committed, he should not have been arrested in India.

“My parents and I are deeply concerned about legal processes in India. We fear my brother has been tortured by the Punjab Police who are refusing an independent medical examination,” Gurpreet told ET Magazine on phone from London.
He also expressed concerns about police officials and Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh publicly accusing his brother of various criminal activities before formal charges were filed.

“Just think of the social stigma that my brother will face when he comes out of all this. And it’s not just him, his newly wed wife is suffering the fallout of senior administration making unsubstantiated charges against my brother publicly,” he alleges.

The family, who sold their hospitality business in Scotland a few years back, was in Punjab in April this year for Johal’s engagement.

They own real estate in Punjab as well. “Even though we were born in the UK, my brother and I love India and along with our parents visit Punjab often. My wife is from Punjab and like me, my brother too decided to marry an Indian girl because of our strong ties with our land of origin,” says Gurpreet.

Johal’s mother-in-law Amandeep Kaur told ET Magazine that the family was not able to speak to her son-in-law privately and could only talk for a few moments when he was produced in court.

“My daughter, an innocent girl, was married for only a few days when this happened and we are all very worried about her. Instead of going to the UK to join her groom and his family and settling down in her new home, she is now facing this horrible ordeal and is in a state of shock.”

Jaspal Singh Manjhpur, Johal’s lawyer appearing at the Ludhiana court, meets him for an hour daily, and is concerned that no chargesheet has been filed. Since there are several more cases against him in both Jalandhar and Ludhiana, it could be a few months before the actual charges are known and he is sent to judicial custody from police custody.

“Initially he was not given access to legal representation and faced physical torture at the hands of policemen and is under severe mental torture. Since an independent medical board was initially denied to him, I’m not pressing for it now — it is too late to find any of the physical signs of torture like burn marks,” claims Manjhpur.

But senior Punjab Police officials say that Johal, who runs a website called Never Forget 1984, is “neck-deep” in the targeted killings of minority le ..

But senior Punjab Police officials say that Johal, who runs a website called Never Forget 1984, is “neck-deep” in the targeted killings of minority leaders, including Gagneja and Gosain of RSS and pastor Masih in Jalandhar and Ludhiana.

“People from Punjab have settled down in different parts of the world and people in our state have deep links with them. We welcome them when they visit our state and we never harass innocent people.

However, we have a strong body of evidence linking Johal to the targeted killings and the truth will be out as the cases against him progress,” a senior Punjab Police officer told ET Magazine in Chandigarh.

A UK Trial?

The police officer also expressed concern over a new wave of radicalisation in Punjab being run and funded by members of the Sikh diaspora through social media channels in a big way. “Our main concern is peace in our own state and we cannot let anyone get away after trying to entice our youth to commit crimes with help from across India’s borders,” he says.

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLA Kanwar Sandhu, however, is not fully convinced about the Punjab Police case. “Some of the killings that the police are talking about are probably the result of rivalry between businessmen or political parties and may not have any connection with the conspiracy that the police are talking about.”

Meanwhile, Sikhs of Indian origin around the world have sought justice for Johal. High-profile Canadian politician Jagmeet Singh, leader of the federal New Democratic Party (NDP), publicly lent his support.

Canadian members of parliament, Raj Grewal and Randeep Sarai, have communicated their concern over human rights issues to the Indian high commissioner in Canada, Vikas Swarup.

In the UK, the Sikh Federation has been garnering support for Johal’s cause among members of the community, and protest rallies were held in London near the Parliament and the foreign office.

“Johal is born in the UK, and Sikhs from Southall to Scotland have been coming out in his support in large numbers. We are demanding that the British government act on his behalf and demand his trial for the alleged crimes here in the UK and not in India,” says Jaspal Singh, legal advisor to Sikh Federation, UK.

He claims that a majority of UK’s 7,00,000 Sikhs support Johal and now the Punjab government is increasingly facing negative sentiments among its diaspora across Europe, Canada and Australia.

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/nri/nris-in-news/jagtar-singh-johal-a-scottish-sikh-in-a-punjab-jail/articleshow/61798950.cms