Amritsar Sahib (KP) – The recent death sentence that was handed to Babbar Jagtar Singh Hawara and Bhai Balwant Singh has once again proven that the policies of the Government of India are still to torture and oppress minority peoples and religions. The death sentence was delivered in the former Chief Minister of Punjab Beant Sinh’s assassination trial, which lasted over 11 years.
A special court was setup within the premises of the Burial Jail. Upon entering the court, Jagtar Singh Hawara and Balwant Singh greeted the Judge with “Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh!” (The Khalsa Belongs to God, Victory is his alone). According to the Defense Council, Amarjit Singh Chahal, both Jagtar Singh Hawara and Balwant Singh displayed no sign of grief and raised slogans expressing their rising spirits. The media or family members of the convicts were not allowed inside and were severely mistreated by the police along with the defense councils.
"This is exactly what Hawara wanted (martyrdom), but we were hoping for something else..."
- Daljit Singh, Hawara's Brother-in-Law.
"Beant will be eliminated each time he is born again..."
- Jagtar Singh Hawara and Baljit Singh
Both defense councils—Chahal and Arvind Thakar—held that they had boycotted the court proceeding as their treatment by the police inside the special court was indecent. Another defense council was told to leave the court as he was not carrying his identity card although his name was present in the jail list. Despite the boycott by the defense councils, the court case was decided without them, as was the verdict delivered on the 30th.
In addition to the death sentence for Jagtar Singh Hawara and Balwant Singh, the special Burial Jail court handed out imprisonment for life (until death) to Shamsher Singh, Lakhwinder Singh and Gurmeet Singh. The court held them guilty under Sections 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code. The sixth convict, Naseeb Singh, was given 10 years imprisonment—the term of which he has already completed under the Explosives Substances Act.
Life in prison in several states of India is limited to 14 years, but since all of the convicts have already spent over 11 years in prison, District and Sessions Judge (ADJ) Ravi Kumar Sondhi overrode the law and said that life in prison in this case is not limited to 14 years and the convicts will have to spend their life in prison until death.
Akal Takhat Sahib (highest temporal seat of the Sikhs) Jathedar, Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, while talking to the press from the Holy City, expressed shock over the death sentence. He said that the Court neglected the sentiments of the Sikhs while it was deliberating over the decision. Jathedar Vedanti alleged that the assassination took place in light of the atrocities committed by Beant Sinh who was responsible for the murder of thousands of Sikhs.
Commenting on the death sentence, Bhagwan Singh, a senior party member of the Shiromani Akal Dal (A) said that the court decision testifies that the Sikhs are still considered second class citizens in India. He said that several Congress and BJP leaders responsible for the holocaust against the Sikhs are roaming freely and enjoying their high status in the Indian Government. On the other hand, the Indian Government has announced death sentence to those who worked to execute Beant Sinh, the former Chief Minister of Punjab who was responsible for the deaths of thousands of Sikhs.
The International Human Rights Organization (IHRO) also expressed its opposition to the Court Sentence. IHRO officials held that every execution that takes place violates the fundamental rights of all humans. According to DS Gill, the chairperson of the organization, the court decision violated Article 21 of the constitution and Articles 6 and 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of the United Nations.
The IHRO has been working to abolish the death penalty in India. DS Gill told the press that capital punishments are delivered to silence the political resistance and to eliminate opponents. DS Gill also alleged that even Dilawar Singh, the “so-called” accused had nothing personal against Beant Sinh and the whole incident was plotted in the name of justice and to stop his atrocities against the Sikhs.
Beant Sinh, along with KP Gill, was responsible for the killings of thousands of innocent Sikhs. According to the records of Human Rights Activists such as Shaheed Jaswant Singh Khalra, Beant Sinh, along with KP Gill, was responsible for the deaths of over 150,000 Sikh men. During his term as Punjab’s Chief Minister, the Police were given full authority to detain and interrogate any Sikh they thought was involved in the freedom struggle in any way. This authority soon became the right to interrogate and Sikh period.
Beant Sinh also held close association with Indira Gandhi, the former Prime Minister of India, who was also guilty of atrocities that were committed against the Sikhs. Both Indira Gandhi and Beant Sinh, along with KP Gill and J. F. Reibero were the masterminds of Operation Blue Star. Most cases of human rights violations in Punjab took place under the term of Beant Sinh.
The death sentence of Jagtar Singh Hawara and Balwant Singh has received criticism from all political and religious organizations of the Sikhs. Jagtar Singh Hawara and others who have been convicted by the court have long earned the respect of the Sikh community. Capt. Amarinder Singh, former chief minister of the same party that was headed by Beant Sinh at one time, had too commended the character of Jagtar Singh Hawara.
A Khalsa Alliance representative while talking to the Panthic Weekly said that the court’s order of Jagtar Singh Hawara and Balwant Singh’s execution is nothing new. Not very long ago Sikhs like Bhai Sukhdev Singh Sukha, Harjinder Singh Jinda, Bhai Satwant Singh, Bhai Kehar Singh and several others faced similar treatment for their only crime of trying to stop the Indian Government’s oppression against the Sikh community—their own citizens.
The Sikhs have a long history of being tortured in the country of India and history shows that countries which create sub classes and try to sideline whole communities of their own citizens have a tendency of breaking up. It has happened before and if the Indian Government continues to give second class treatment to the Sikhs, the same will happen to India, said the Khalsa Alliance representative.