Sunday, 15 April 2012

Follow Up Letter To Your MP and MEP

Courtesy of Glasgow Sikhs

Please send the follow up letter to your MP and MEP via about the sustained attack on Sikh Human Rights in India:

Download PDF version of letter

Download WORD version of letter

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

-          Dr. Martin Luther King, 16th April 1963


Sustained attack on Sikhs human rights in India

I write to inform you of the abandonment of human rights protection afforded to Sikhs across India. This is perhaps most starkly portrayed in the state of Punjab, where a mass of violations has occurred, and continues to do so, over the last 50 years. Although there are a catalogue of instances where such incidents have occurred, they are unfortunately not considered newsworthy; a worrying trend that shall be addressed later. During any long running campaign, there are spikes which occur. In the one being perpetrated against Sikhs, the most recent was the farcical decision to enforce the death penalty against Balwant Singh Rajoana. This letter shall address the Balwant Singh case before moving on to explore the persecution faced by Sikhs in general, detailing the most severe of the human rights infringements, showing the troubling trends which appear to be cyclical in nature, with no end in sight to these contraventions.

Balwant Singh was imprisoned and sentenced to death for involvement in a murder case in 1995. Despite the unnaturally long term of incarceration, he was scheduled to be executed on 31st March 2012, some 17 years after being convicted. Such time delays are a common occurrence when dealing with Sikh prisoners in India, and has been criticised by Amnesty International[1]. This policy of detention for an extended period time is clearly a breach of the right to a fair trial provision enshrined in Article 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Although not binding, the UDHR is set as a guideline for all members of the UN as a barometer for gauging bare minimum thresholds of human rights protection. Case law around the globe has deemed that keeping inmates on death row for any extended periods of time amounts to inhuman and degrading treatment[2]. Of course, the barbarity of the death penalty is obvious and many jurisdictions have expressed disgust at the practice.[3]

Right to a Fair Trial & Right to Liberty

In the past twenty years, India has gone as far as to amend its legal system in a crude attempt to legitimise its morally repugnant actions. For example, the Terrorism and Disruptive Activities Act allowed for the detention of a person merely on suspicion, a dossier compiled by Jaswant Singh Khalra discovered, through the examination of municipal records, that 3 000 Sikhs were arbitrarily arrested and never seen again.[4] Similarly, under draconian laws such as the National Security Act, persons were liable to be detained for up to a year without charge if found at the scene of a crime.[5]

Prohibition of Torture

Torture has been well known for decades to be an unreliable method of gathering intelligence, despite this fact, the State’s machinery in India have employed it almost as a de facto method of dealing with Sikh prisoners. Amnesty have informed of hundreds of people being arrested and routinely tortured during interrogation.[6] The witness reports are both tragic and disturbing, and although unpleasant, one has been included in order that the desperate reality of the victims of such actions is conveyed.

...the Senior Superintendent beat a Sikh youth with an iron rod, then he suddenly turned to her and struck her with the rod across the stomach. He rained blows on her stomach until she began to bleed through her vagina...Next morning she was taken to the factory Beiko again, her legs were cut open and chillies were pasted into her wounds, followed by further beating. With her legs crippled by rollers, she was molested and threatened with death.”[7]

Thousands of similarly harrowing victim reports are available from, each repulsive recollection of their experiences crystallising the fact that such actions are commonplace in Punjab, and India when dealing with Sikhs.

Rape is an extension of torture, and has similarly been employed relentlessly in cases involving Sikhs and the Indian State.[8] Well known underground operations were carried out by members of the security forces, whether they were rogue elements or not is unclear, due to the State’s blanket refusal to open any independent investigation into these most egregiously haunting claims[9]. Anecdotal evidence from both victims and retired members of the Security forces has filtered through and there has been repeated mention of “Operation Shudi Karan” (literally meaning to straighten out, or to purify), which is code used to refer to the mass rape of Sikh women.[10] Despite India being a signatory to The International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, and thus bound by Article 7[11], case law shows that custodial rape is rampant in India[12]

Right to Life

Perhaps the most sacrosanct human right is the very right to life. Every democratic state in the world in one way or another considers this to be true. It is somewhat unfortunate then, the largest democracy in the world, India, has gone as far as to alter its Constitution, allowing for the suspension of its right to life commitment under Article 21, as it has done on more than one occasion in the State of Punjab in recent history. Indeed, the State allows its Agents to indulge in whatever acts they choose. This includes the abduction of human rights activists such as Jagwinder Singh and Jaswant Singh Khalra, both of whom had chosen to speak out about the atrocities being committed as commonplace. Their actions resulted in both being abducted by officers of the police force disguised as civilians and them never being seen alive again. [13] Despite reports from human rights watchdogs stating that the state was inflicting “violence”, “targeted enforced disappearances”, “extra judicial executions” and “large scale lethal human rights violations”[14] the right to life for Sikhs in India, is nothing more than a decorative bauble adorning a crippled and corrupt legal system, designed to afford the State impunity from accountability. The most recent example being that of Jaspal Singh, an 18 year old college student killed on 29th March 2012 whilst campaigning against the death penalty imposed on Balwant Singh Rajoana when the police opened fire on the unarmed protestors with no legitimate cause, in contravention of the laws of the land.

Freedom of Expression

Despite the regularity of such occurrences, little is heard of them, due to the latest media blackout imposed across the whole of Punjab, by the State. Again, this is a tactic that is routinely fallen back on when the State finds its oppressive practices under the uncomfortable scrutiny of international spotlight. In 1984, during Operation Bluestar, all media agencies, domestic and international were expelled from Punjab prior to the attack on the central Sikh place of worship Harmandir Sahib and 40 other Gurdwaras. It is lamentable that in 2012, we find the same brutish methods being employed in a desperate attempt by officials to escape rebuke for its shameless actions.

The preceding paragraphs are but a mere drop in an ocean of blood that is dripping from the hands of the State of India, however horrific, these are merely extracts of daily occurrences. As such, I would once again urge you to liaise with your peers to raise the concerns outlined in this letter. Furthermore I would ask for you to lobby the institution of which you are a member and demand that the Indian government stop committing atrocities against Sikhs and other minorities in India.

I would request that you treat my personal details with the strictest of confidence, without exception. There have been a number of instances of UK Sikh citizens being imprisoned when travelling to India for raising concerns whilst in the UK about India’s human rights record[15].  The mere existence of a Non Resident Indian (NRI) blacklist[16] compiled by the State raises genuine fears of repeat occurrences.

Yours sincerely,