India's brutal campaign against Sikh lawyers, rights and Political Activists
Posted in: Asia
By IHRO - https://www.ihro.in/?q=node/106
Aug 1, 2008 - 10:43:50 PM
This paper on ‘The human rights situation in Punjab during 1984-94’ was presented at ICSSR Complex, Punjab University, Chandigarh, on July 2, 2006, by International Human Rights Organisation (IHRO) during a Panel Discussion held by The Voices For Freedom
India had launched a brutal campaign against Sikh lawyers, and human rights and political activists, in the state of Punjab. Main targets were those who have been opposing tooth and nail the state repression let loose on Sikh activists engaged in the ongoing Sikh struggle for an independent and sovereign state, and rendering legal aid to them in judicial courts. At least three Sikh lawyers, one human rights activist’s son and a journalist were liquidated at the hands of the Indian security forces as a result of this campaign. Many others were arrested, harassed and detained in jails only because of their activities as lawyers, journalists, leaders of political groups or religious organisations.
According to International Human Rights Organisation (IHRO), at least 13 lawyers and about 20 human rights and political activists were said to be on the police’s hit-list, and the then Punjab and Haryana High Court Bar Association president Gian Chand Dhuriwala had advised some of the “marked” lawyers to shift elsewhere for saving theirs lives. Three Sikh lawyers- Kulwant Singh of Ropar, along with his spouse and two-year-old son; Jagwinder Singh of Kapurthala and Ranbir Singh of Bathinda- were done to death by the police after clandestinely taking them into custody.
Earlier, Justice Ajit Singh Bains, a 70-year-old former High Court Judge and human rights activist, journalist Sukhdev Singh and advocates- Gurcharan Singh Ghuman and Jagmohan Singh- were arrested and detained in jails for months for their professional and human rights activities. Gurdip Singh, managing editor, Aj Di Awaz, has been terrorized into hibernation. Journalist Ram Singh Billing was picked up by the police, and he is feared to have been killed in custody. Avtar Singh Mander, a journalist of Ajit still remains disappeared at the hands of the police. And IHRO vice-president Dr. G. S. Mavi’s son Atamjit Singh, an 18-year-old BSc student, was picked up by the police and shot dead in cold blood in January 1992.
The murderous campaign reached its zenith when the police clandestinely liquidated the former Akal Takht (the highest temporal and spiritual seat of the Sikhs) Chief Gurdev Singh Kaonke in custody.
And, the then Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh used to issue “threats” to Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) chief Gurcharn Singh Tohra and Akali Dal president Simranjit Singh Mann to mend their ways. Otherwise, “they will be arrested under TADA,” had said Beant Singh. The chief minister had wanted them to shut their mouth so that his administration could go on unchecked particularly on the law and order front.
The energies of the IHRO were directed, during that period, against the manner in which New Delhi had tried to suppress and crush democracy in India, especially Punjab and Kashmir. Against this background, the IHRO had then become the target of the Indian State.
The residence of IHRO General Secretary Mohinder Singh Grewal was raided on March 21, 1993, by the Ludhiana police. They picked up his 74-year-old father Rajinder Singh and took him to the Crime Investigation Agency (CIA) staff. He was set free in the evening on the condition that we would produce Grewal, the next morning. Grewal went to the CIA police station along with his brother Apinder Singh, then a Councillor of the Ludhiana Municipal Corporation. The councillor was asked to leave, and Grewal was interrogated by a Delhi Police team, the whole day.
The police team questioned about Grewal’s telephonic conversation with his maternal uncle’s son Sukhminder Singh Sandhu, and then lodged in a New York jail. He was made to sit in the police station till 9:00 PM. Thereafter, he was released with an instruction to present himself the next day for further interrogation.
On March 23, the Delhi police team was assisted by a Superintendent of Police (Detective), Ludhiana, B. S. Gill. During interrogation, Grewal was manhandled and threatened for the consequences. Grewal informed Sukhminder’s defence lawyer Ms Mary Pike in USA about the incident vide his letter of March 25, saying: “B S Gill manhandled me and gave blows on my head. He asked me, “Have you stopped us by doing investigation reports against us (the police)? Could you do any thing in the case of Kulwant Singh Saini advocate? He also threatened that he would subject me to all methods of torture practically and thereby enable me to make a personal report on torture. He further threatened that he will also see D S Gill (Chairperson, IHRO), the same way soon.”
After this, taking him along, Grewal’s home was raided and his personal telephone directory confiscated. They had probably noted down the telephone numbers of his friends and relations. He was released in the evening and again asked to come the next morning.
On March 24, he was also interrogated by an Intelligence Bureau (IB) team for more than four hours. They asked him about the IHRO network in India and abroad. The police party allowed him to go home, asking him again to come to the CIA staff, the next afternoon. When Grewal went there on March 25, the investigation teams had left for Delhi.
After few days the Delhi team again visited Ludhiana. They tried to contact Grewal. He was not there then. The team, before leaving for Delhi, told Grewal’s brother that they would contact Grewal in the very near future for the further interrogation. The investigating team did not tell why they were after Grewal.
It was felt that he was being harassed and maltreated only because of his relation with Sukhminder Singh Sandhu. Grewal, along with D. S. Gill, was also a co-defender from India in the extradition proceedings pending against Sandhu and Ranjit Singh Gill in a US court.
Being the general secretary of the organization, Grewal was first among the investigators of the police crimes and was, therefore, targeted for exposing the police actions. Earlier, IHRO administration secretary Gurbhajan Singh Gill too was kept in illegal custody for a week. So, we (IHRO) saw a plot in it, thinking that “the police may implicate him or other IHRO activists in some criminal case or harm them physically.”
The IHRO chapters abroad, then, alerted the international public opinion and governments against the nefarious designs of the Indian administration and the police. And that lobby worked well, and that was why we could protect Grewal and other activists’ lives from the brutal police.
We, in IHRO, therefore, make fervent appeal to the international human rights agencies and defenders, including foreign missions here in India, of course, including The Voices For Freedom, to take notice of these state brutalities and to use their good offices for getting these matters judicially examined and then for pushing all those, including bureaucrats and politicians, found guilty.
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