SGPC starts nationwide signature campaign to seek release of Sikh prisoners

  • | Thursday | 1st December, 2022

Amritsar, Dec 1 (PTI) The SGPC on Thursday began a nationwide signature campaign for release of "Bandi Singhs" (Sikh prisoners), which it claims are lodged in different prisons despite having completed their jail sentences.Different centres were set up for the signature campaign in around 25 gurdwaras in Punjab and Haryana, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) officials said.Several people signed the plea prepared by the Sikh body at these centres, they said.In Anandpur Sahib, the signature campaign was started at Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib after an "ardas" (Sikh prayer) was offered by Jathedar of this Takht, Giani Raghbir Singh.Speaking on the occasion, SGPC chief Harjinder Singh Dhami said the release of Sikh prisoners, who have completed their sentences is a very important issue for the Sikh community and for which the signature campaign to create a mass movement will prove to be decisive.The apex gurdwara body has been raising its voice for the release of "Bandi Singhs" for a long time and has sent resolutions passed during SGPC"s general houses to the governments, he said.He also accused the government of having a negative attitude towards the matter."The adverse attitude adopted by the governments in this regard is a great injustice to the Sikh community. Despite great sacrifices made by the Sikh community for the country, they have to struggle for their rights. Biased policy of the governments in the case of Sikh prisoners is clearly visible and they are not being released in deliberate violation of human rights”, alleged Dhami.The governments are deliberately violating human rights and are not releasing "Bandi Singhs", Dhami alleged.He also cited the release Rajiv Gandhi"s assassins and remission of sentence of convicts in the 2002 Bilkis Bano gang-rape case to support his argument.To open the ears of the governments, the SGPC has now started a nationwide signature campaign, under which lakhs of proformas will be filled and will be handed over to the Governor of Punjab after a one-day protest at Chandigarh, said Dhami.He said that the body will ask people from across religions to support the initiative and will also approach the International Human Rights Organisation.He said the campaign in the next few days will be taken to different states in India through SGPC"s Sikh missions.Dhami said though it was decided to start it as a nationwide campaign, as per sentiments of the "Sangat", its reach will now be made across the world with digital mediums.He also said the proformas to be filled under the signature campaign will also be printed in Hindi and English languages, so that people from states outside Punjab can understand this cause closely and participate in it.He said a special online Google form has been prepared to connect people from abroad with this signature campaign and for which a link will be provided on the SGPC"s website and social media platforms.Meanwhile, Dhami also announced the setting up of a committee of legal experts for the release of the Sikh prisoners.The SGPC and Shiromani Akali Dal have been seeking the release of Sikh prisoners, including Balwant Singh Rajoana, a convict in former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh"s assassination case and Devinderpal Singh Bhullar, a 1993 Delhi bomb blast convict.The SGPC, in a letter written in September, had sought time from Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a meeting to seek the release of Sikh prisoners. In the letter, the SGPC had mentioned the names of nine Sikh prisoners, who, it claimed, had completed their sentences. Besides Rajoana and Bhullar, the SGPC had mentioned the names of Gurdeep Singh Khera, Jagtar Singh Hawara, Lakhwinder Singh Lakha, Gurmeet Singh, Shamsher Singh, Paramjeet Singh Bheora, and Jagtar Singh Tara. Khera has been serving a life sentence for the last 32 years in a case registered under several sections, including 302 of the IPC and TADA Act. He was shifted from the Karnataka jail to Amritsar jail in 2015.Hawara is serving life term in former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh"s assassination case and has been in Delhi"s Tihar Jail for the last 27 years while Lakha, Gurmeet Singh, and Shamsher Singh are also serving life terms in the same case but are lodged in Burail jail in Chandigarh.Bheora and Tara are also convicts in the Beant Singh assassination case and are lodged in Burail jail in Chandigarh. Tara is also facing some terror cases in Patiala and Jalandhar. PTI JMS CHS VSD RHL

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