Indian Courts Discriminating against Sikhs

Surrey/Brampton (May 9, 2019): The British Columbia Gurdwaras Council (BCGC) and Ontario Gurdwaras Committee (OGC) condemn the recent decision by the Supreme Court to transfer Jagtar Singh Johal’s and other Sikh political prisoners National Investigative Agency (NIA) cases to the Supreme Court in Delhi. Jagtar Singh, who went to India for his wedding, had a sack thrown over his head and was bundled into a van whilst out shopping with family, and is now being implicated in a murder case. He has reported torture and is seen as the latest in a long line of Sikh activists targeted by the Indian state.

While the news of Jagtar Singh Johal being transferred to Delhi from Punjab along with approximately 10 other Sikh political prisoners is disturbing, it is hardly surprising. The Indian state has continuously denied Sikh political prisoners the most basic of human rights and due process over the last 3 decades. Heavy-handed tactics used by state agencies against Sikh political prisoners include torture, rape, and extra-judicial murder (i.e. fake encounters). This transfer of Sikh political prisoners is a tactic to disrupt what little sense of normalcy and consistency they may have as they endure years of incarceration with sometimes not even a case registered against them.

BCGC spokesperson, Moninder Singh said today “The Indian state can never provide justice for the Sikh panth and its ongoing mistreatment of and discriminatory practices against Sikh political prisoners is evidence of this. Moving Jagtar Singh Johal and other Sikh political prisoners to Delhi is nothing but an underhanded tactic to move them away from their families, lawyers, and a sense of support they would receive from regular visits to them while incarcerated. This added stress and pressure put on the heads of Sikh activists in jail is nothing new, but nor can it simply be dismissed without an appropriate response from the Sikh community in fighting this unfair decision.”

Lawyer’s for Jagtar Singh Johal and other Sikh political prisoners were dumbfounded that they were only allowed to provide a defense response for 30 seconds before the panel of Judges approved the transfer. Even more bizarre were recent statements within the Indian media that witnesses in the cases lodged against Jagtar Singh Johal and other Sikh political prisoners had been murdered when no such news or evidence exists that anything of the sort has transpired.

OGC spokesperson, Amarjit Singh Mann stated, “We are still deeply concerned with the steps being taken by the Indian government and its judiciary in this unfair transfer of Sikh political prisoners. From appropriate legal representation not being allowed to fake news dictating decisions within the judiciary…how can we believe that the Indian legal system will ever treat Sikhs as equals? This is nothing more than an attempt to silence legitimate dissent and activism on the part of the Sikh community and it cannot be tolerated by those on the ground in Punjab or those of us in the diaspora as well.”

The BCGC and OGC would like to request that all Sikh communities across the world remain vigilant and aware of this ongoing issue and continue to support Sikh political prisoners that are languishing in Indian prisons. Whether you support a charity doing work in this spectrum or speak directly to the Sikh political prisoner’s families or lawyers, we all must engage with tann, mann, and dhann (our bodies, minds, and resources) to support their fair treatment and release.

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