New York, NY - Taking cognizance of the spate of arrests of political activists in Punjab, Voices for Freedom expresses concern at the arrest of political leader Bhai Daljit Singh and others in Punjab in the last few days. The government of Punjab and the police administration in particular are making allegations against a number of people and organizations but so far there have been no public statement detailing facts and investigation details.
According to the information available with Voices for Freedom, apart from Bhai Daljit Singh, his associates Adv. Jaspal Singh Manjhpur, Jaswinder Singh and Navdeep Singh have also been arrested. We are also concerned that computers and other records from the office of Shiromani Akali Dal (Panch Pardhani) in Ludhiana, district of Panjab in India, have also been confiscated.
As the arrests continue, Voices for Freedom, expresses serious concern about the constitutional and human rights of all those who have been detained. Reports of torture from Bhatinda and Mansa, districts of Punjab, are a cause for concern.
While Daljit Singh continues to be in police custody, it is feared that his arrest has been the result of his party -Shiromani Akali Dal (Panch Pardhani)'s continuous protests against the cultist activities of Dera Sauda, a cult headed by Gurmeet Ram Rahim, who is facing trial in cases of murder, rape and molestation in the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) court in Ambala. This cult has its headquarters in Sirsa in the state of Haryana. The promotion of such cult leaders in Punjab is on the rise and constitutes a direct infringement of the religious affairs of the Sikhs. Daljit Singh and his men have been urging Sikhs to stop the anti-Sikh activities of this cult consistently, democratically and peacefully through a sustained campaign.
The Ludhiana police have proclaimed that Daljit Singh was promoting militant activities in Punjab without giving any details. Upon his arrest from his house in Ludhiana, he was produced before a magistrate at the later's residence, without allowing him access to a lawyer. Similarly, his lawyer's plea to meet him, was turned down by the police, even though the police was aware that Advocate Kuldeep Singh Beehla has been his standing counsel since many years. The police has deliberately chosen the next remand date to be Sunday, 6th September, so that the remand extension can again be taken at a magistrate's residence, denying Daljit Singh and his three associates right to a lawyer. This is a clear denial of fundamental rights of any individual under detention.
Silencing the democratic voice of the people is a serious violation of the freedom of expression as enshrined in the Constitution of India as a fundamental right under Part III of the constitution.
Voices for Freedom (VFF) believes that the police claim that:
-distribution of T-Shirts and car stickers of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, as revival of militancy is nothing but ludicrous.
-seeking a separate homeland of the Sikhs, called Khalistan is not an offence.
It has been held by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in the case of Lt. Col. Partap Singh (Retd.) Versus Union Territory in Criminal Misc. No. 11926-M of 1991, that "mere demand for formation of a separate State through non-violent and peaceful means would not in any manner incite or create violence or possibly could have tendency to lead to the disruption of the state or public disorder or to undermine the sovereignty, territorial integrity of India or the security of the State"
VFF has written to the National Human Rights Commission and Attorney General of Punjab, Hardev Singh Mattewal, on the break 1down of the law and order situation and expressed grave concern on the judicial blackout on the recent spate of arrests.
Voices for Freedom is also concerned at the media trial of the all those detained, where selective leaks by the police and political administration is leading to bias against those arrested.
Ranjit Singh, Voices For Freedom