House of Commons debate on the #DeathPenalty and Human Rights violations in India


By , http://www.sikhsiyasat.net/

Published: March 2, 2013
    • London, United Kingdom (March 02, 2013): According to a press release by the organizers of the Kesri Lehar, a petition asking for the Abolition of the Death Penalty in India was debated in the Main Chamber of the House of Commons on Thursday, 28th February 2013.

The two and a half hour debate, started with an opening speech by Rt. Hon. John McDonnell, MP for Hayes and Harlington, who said that the national Kesri Lehar campaign urged the UK government to press the Indian Government to sign and ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which encompasses the death penalty.

Amongst the many issues on Human Right’s abuses raised during the debate, two prominent cases, currently on death row in India, that of Balwant Singh Rajoana, and, Professor Davinderpal Singh Bhullar were discussed at length.

Rt. Hon. John McDonnell referring the cases of Balwant Singh Rajowana and Prof Davinder Pal Singh Bhullar, said, “These two cases carry immense significance around the world, the Rajoana case for its historical context and the Bhullar case because it is almost now a symbol of the injustice meted out to so many Sikhs in recent decades.”

Bhai Balwant Singh Rajoana (quote from Will)

Bhai Balwant Singh Rajoana (quote from Will)

“If Balwant Singh Rajoana symbolises the suffering of the Sikhs in that period, Professor Bhullar symbolises the injustice meted out to Sikhs, over the years at the hands of the Indian police and the judicial system.”

Parliament was told that, “Balwant Singh was party to killing Beant Singh, the chief Minister of the Punjab. We now know that Beant Singh personally commanded the police and security forces in the killing and disappearance of possibly more than 20,000 Sikhs—men, women and children. Faced with the failure of the Indian authorities to take action against the former chief Minister for his crimes against humanity, Balwant Singh and a co-conspirator took the law into their own hands. Nobody, including Balwant Singh, claims that he is innocent of the killing, but Sikh organisations, human rights lawyers and human rights groups are urging the Indian Government to take into account the context of his actions, the scale of the human suffering that the Sikhs were enduring at the time, and the anger that young men such as Balwant Singh felt at the failure of the Indian state to bring to justice the chief Minister responsible for the atrocities against the Sikhs in the Punjab. On that basis, they plead for understanding and mercy on Balwant Singh’s behalf and that the death penalty is avoided at all costs.”

Free Professor Devender Pal Singh Bhullar

Free Professor Devender Pal Singh Bhullar

It was also pointed out to Parliament that, the German courts have now ruled that that deportation of Professor Bhullar was wrong. He has been convicted of involvement in an attempted political assassination solely on the basis of a confession, which he retracted, with not one of more than 100 witnesses identifying him at the scene, and on a split decision of the court judges. In split decisions in India, the practice of the courts is not to impose a death penalty, but Professor Bhullar has been sentenced, held in solitary confinement for eight years and, despite his deteriorating health, his plea for mercy has been rejected.

Despite a further petition to the Supreme Court, the fear is that the Indian authorities could move to execute him at any time. This is a shocking miscarriage of justice waiting to happen unless we can intervene effectively.

There is also concern that India is expanding the scope of the death penalty, new laws passed in 2011 which provide for the death penalty include for the making and selling of illicit liquor.

Rt. Hon. Virendra Sharma, MP for Ealing and Southall, stated that, “We must kill the myth that we are anti-India or that we are interfering in India’s internal affairs. We are taking a matter of principle and fighting for the rights of the people living in India and abroad.”, he further stated that, “We cannot always assume that the judicial system is faultless. Therefore, using death, an irrevocable act, as a punishment for a crime, puts the system at risk of punishing the innocent irreversibly.

On talking on the issue of the judiciary in India, Simon Hughes, MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, said that, a Supreme Court bench said that people’s faith in the judiciary was dwindling at an alarming rate, posing a grave threat to constitutional and democratic governance of the country.

The house noted that “Amnesty International points out that the use of the death penalty in India is “riddled with systemic flaws”.

MP for Slough, Fiona McTaggart expressed her worries that the rights of religious, ethnic and caste minorities in India are not sufficiently well protected. It seems to me that we have a responsibility to say to India, “We expect you, as the largest democracy in the world, to promote the standards of democracy and human rights that we expect, and to recognise that if the death penalty is used in this way, there is a risk that you will deepen the divisions between ethnic and religious communities in country. There is a risk that you will make your country less safe and less peaceful for all who live in it.”

Concluding the debate, Labour MP John McDonnell said, “To add weight to the British Government’s representations, I urge them to raise the issue again with our European partners and to seek a joint representation from Europe on the subject. I urge the British Government, working with other Governments, to raise this call within the United Nations. With the UN Commission on Human Rights meeting imminently, this is an ideal time to put this back on the UN agenda.”

It seems to me that we have a responsibility to say to India, “We expect you, as the largest democracy in the world, to promote the standards of democracy and human rights that we expect, and to recognise that if the death penalty is used in this way, there is a risk that you will deepen the divisions between ethnic and religious communities in country. There is a risk that you will make your country less safe and less peaceful for all who live in it.””

Richard Fuller, MP for Bedford, added that, there will be consequences for our relationships with India unless the Indian Parliament looks at this issue very seriously again and makes the changes that Members are asking it to do.

Rt. Hon. David Ward, MP for Bradford East, stated that, “I believe that it is our intrinsic right and, more importantly, our fundamental duty to speak up for all people, and especially for minorities who do not have suitable champions for their cause and who face persecution, wherever in the world that might occur and no matter what entrenched views or self-interest they might be battling against. The oppressors often have powerful weapons at their disposal to stifle debate… I have touched on the necessity for India to uphold the basic human rights that are espoused in the United Nations convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. This is an important issue for my constituents, especially those in the Sikh community, who have long borne the brunt of judicial and societal discrimination in parts of India.”

David Ward, went on to state that, “Over the past few years, I have been approached by a number of constituents about the cases involving Balwant Singh Rajoana and Professor Bhullar. I know those cases well, and I am sad that those people are still on death row. I must be honest and tell the House, however, that on researching this issue more thoroughly, I was deeply shocked to discover the sheer scale of the human rights abuses that the Indian Government have not acted against, over many years. I am a member of Amnesty International, and I regularly receive the evidence that it produces. It is shocking to learn of the extensive use of forced evictions, the excessive use of force, arbitrary arrest and detention, and the fundamental lack of due process that are still prevalent in India. Amnesty states: “Impunity for abuses and violations remained pervasive.” The continuing existence of India’s controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act gives the Indian army arbitrary powers and near-immunity from prosecution.”

Seema Malhotra, MP for Feltham and Heston, said. “We participate in many debates in this House, but this one is literally about life and death. I have had a long-standing personal opposition to the death penalty in all circumstances and I am proud to live in a country where it has been abolished. This is a matter of humanity and, as someone once said, it is not for the state to kill people who kill people to show that killing is wrong”

The execution of Balwant Singh and others would not end terrorism or causes of concern, and would damage the image of India

Another great concern is the fact that in the world’s greatest democracy we have recently seen innocent people suffering and being killed in the crossfire when peacefully protesting for improved human rights. Last year, a horrific case that touched us all deeply was the death of Jaspal Singh. Jaspal was an 18-year-old Sikh college student peacefully protesting against capital punishment last March who was killed when police opened fire on a crowd of just a few hundred to make them disperse.

India is a nation with more than 1,500 languages and dialects and is a showcase to the world in business, culture, arts and crafts. The Sikh community in India and around the world leads in business and agriculture, where it blazes a trail. The work of the Pingalwara charity in the Punjab shows the deepest compassion for those in the community with the least and those with the greatest disabilities. It is also leading the thinking about how to deal with environmental issues so that we can have a clean environment and tackle the vital questions of quality of life and the supply of water and good food for so many. The Sikh religion has at its heart the principles and values of equality that many of us hold so dear.

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Sikh community in India & Pak to protest against death sentence of Balwant Singh


NEW DELHI,South Asian News Agency  (SANA): Punjab and Haryana High Court has dismissed the plea of Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking stay order against the death penalty to Balwant Singh an accused of the Beant Singh murder case. Meanwhile Sikh community in Pakistan and India has announced to stage protests against the death sentence.

There were allegations on Sadar Balwant Singh that he killed the chief minister of East Punjab Sadar Beant Singh accusing him as killer of Sikh youth.

PIL filed application to get stay order against additional session judge orders who announced the death sentence on Mach 05, 2012 and ordered to hang Balwant on March 31.

PIL stated in plea before the high court that court may issue stay order against additional court decision till the decision of appeal in Supreme Court.

The advocate of PIL stated that they would challenge the HC orders in Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, Sikh community in Pakistan and India has announced to stage protests against the death sentence, stating that discrimination is being committed against Sikh community.

Sardar Beant Singh was involved in the killing of Sikh youths on the directions of government, who committed ethnic cleansing of Sikh youths. Prior to this Balwant Singh had said while giving statement in court that the bad treatment was being done with the minorities in India.

He further informed the court that he had no need of attorney because he knew what he has done, adding that they want to end the slavery of the Hindus and Burhamans, adding that the security of the Sikhs was the birth right which should be protected.

On this statement the court of Chandigarh had announced death sentence; upon which the Balwant Singh has recorded his last desire saying that he want to donate the eyes after death, adding that the eyes should be given to the his sister Kamal Deep Singh.

On the other hand the Sikh community in Pakistan has announced protest on 10:00 AM today (Friday). In this connection the rally would be taken out in Nankana Sahib District from Janam Asthan Temple to Tanbu Sahib Temple. On the other hand protest has been announced in India at large scale on the death sentence of Balwant Singh.

Death Penalty in the Land of Non-Violence


 

 By- Jasdev Singh Rai-Medical Doctor, with MA in politics, human rights activist and community worker

For a country that brands itself on Gandhi, non violence and cow protection, the death penalty in India and Balwant Singh Rajoana’s imminent hanging on 31 March might appear to be an aberration. Not quite so when Balwant Singh’s statement in the court is heard. He accepted being party to the assassination of the Chief Minister of Punjab, Beant Singh, on 31st August 1995. In court he said he had no faith in Indian justice and refused legal representation. He refuses to plead for clemency. This puts many Sikhs and indeed Punjabis who don’t want a hanging in Punjab in some quandary.

The death penalty is a retrogressive step in Punjab. Before any European countries got around to abolishing the death penalty (Portugal 1867), the Punjab under the Sikh ruler, Maharajah Ranjit Singh (1801-1839), had removed capital punishment. British colonialism restored the death penalty.

India has inherited a penal and judicial system from its colonial past. With the best it has also continued with the worst of laws. Laws and rules that were meant to prop up colonialism, such as prolonged detention without charge, laws against sedition (Scottish leader, Salmon, would have been incarcerated if not hung in India by now) and death penalty among others.

But India went further by enacting laws that assumed guilt until proven otherwise (TADA) and a constitutional amendment (59th ) for 2 years which removed the primary responsibility of the State (Article 21 Indian constitution) to protect life and liberty. Until the UN reminded Indian legislators of the State’s Raison d’eter. However plenty other Indian legal cocktails violate human rights.

In court Balwant Singh questioned India’s commitment to its own constitution, human rights and the law citing the assassinated Chief Minister’s actions. The Chief Minister, Beant Singh, won the election in Punjab in 1992 on a mandate of 9% of the potential electorate. Peaceful Sikh nationalists were detained and banned from standing.

The rest of Punjab reacted by boycotting the elections. India spun this by asserting the boycott was due to threats from Sikh militants. Repeated evidence and subsequent elections show that Sikh populations don’t get intimidated by such threats.

Beant Singh’s 9% electoral backing was hailed a return to democracy by many western countries and media. In Syria the west would call this overwhelming rejection of the regime! India obviously has a way with the west.

Beant Singh immediately gave the police force free reign to continue a policy of extrajudicial executions, torture and illegal detentions even more aggressively. During his four years, it is estimated that over 10000 young people were killed by police death squads given rewards for ‘eliminating suspects’, despite India’s repeated claims that there were only 300 armed Sikh Nationalists. Question, who were the other 9700 killed?

Balwant Singh, the assassin, said that someone had to stop the Chief Minister. The west mitigated Beant’s crimes with words such as ‘democratic mandate’. The Indian State gave him constitutional cover. In India, not only religious texts, but even the constitution can have schismatic interpretations depending on who it is interpreted for.

Meanwhile the Indian Supreme Court, priding itself with ‘judicial activism for human rights’, ostriched itself through this period despite daily press reports of ‘encounter’s, called ‘fake encounters’ by Amnesty and UN. India has even acquired a wikipedia page for this ‘incredible’ activity. In India everyone is equal before the law but the law is not equal before everyone.

Following the Chief Minister’s death by a human bomb, Dilawar Singh, Balwant’s accomplice, the ‘encounters’ fell dramatically. Real democracy returned and the police was largely reigned in.

Balwant Singh questioned the court about Indian justice. During the attack on the Golden Temple in 1984 over 3000 innocent pilgrims, mostly children, elderly and women were killed by the Indian armed forces. A 16,000 strong army using helicopters, tanks and heavy artillery called these ‘collateral damage’ fighting a mere 200 armed Sikhs. The Army Officers got promotions for ‘gallantry’. The Indian Army has always been too willing to kill its own citizens. Another colonial habit hard to give up.

When the Indian Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, who had ordered the attack on the Golden Temple, was assassinated in November 1984, about 4000 innocent Sikhs in Delhi were massacred by a mob fed with addresses of Sikhs, petrol, iron bars and tyres by the political establishment and the police. Burning people alive with tyres around their necks (necklacing) was started by ‘Non-violent’ India in November 1984 beating South Africa by a year.

Balwant Singh asked the judge what was Indian justice doing about the politicians and police who had masterminded or been responsible during the four days of massacres. In fact they climbed the ladder. Tytler, directly implicated, became Union Minister while Narahsima Rao, then Home Minister, went on to become India’s Prime Minister. Rao had failed to call in the army stationed only half an hour away.

Underneath the veneer of Gandhi and cow protection is a State whose mindless cruelty against minorities is baffling to an innocent observer. Perhaps that is the ironic ‘incredible’ in ‘Incredible India’ the slogan India uses to promote tourism. Killer police squads and non violent sadhus, all in one country.

India’s crimes against its own citizens and the silence of the ‘ethical west’ do not mitigate Balwant Singh’s actions. Like many Sikhs in history, he took full responsibility for what he did. He has refused anyone to plead on his behalf. But he has thrown a challenge to India and the world. ‘Show the same commitment to constitutionality, law and human rights when the Indian State, its forces, its bureaucrats and its politicians commit heinous crimes against humanity’.

The removal of death penalty from the penal code inherited from its colonial past could be the first step towards convincing ordinary people that non-violence is not merely rhetorical propaganda but really embedded in the culture of Indians. Or perhaps cows are more sacred than humans in India. ‘Incredible India?’, of course!

Article in Huffington Post

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