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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Afzal Guru Hanged, Whose Conscience Satisfied? #deathpenalty


By N. Jayaram

09 February, 2013
Countercurrents.org

It was bad enough that Ajmal Kasab, the only Pakistani captured after the 2008 attacks in Bombay, was stealthily hanged without a public debate last November. It is far worse that the Kashmiri Afzal Guru was hanged on the morning of 9 February 2013 following his highly questionable conviction over the 2001 attack on the Indian parliament.
Many eminent lawyers, scholars and journalists have written extensively, pointing out gaping holes in the entire trial and appeal process as well as the rejection of petitions to the president of India on Afzal Guru’s behalf. They include senior lawyers Nandita Haksar and Indira Jaisingh, writers Arundhati Roy, Praful Bidwai and Nirmalangshu Mukherji and the late K.G. Kannabiran, a former president of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties.

Journals such as the Economic and Political Weekly and this website have periodically shed light on the case and established that the way Afzal Guru has been treated is a complete travesty of justice. Not only articles in journals and newspapers but books too have been written on the subject, including December 13: Terror Over Democracy by Nirmalangshu Mukherji (2005) and 13 December, a Reader: The Strange Case of the Attack on the Indian Parliament by Arundhati Roy (2006) detailing the role played by Delhi police officer Rajbir Singh in putting together the case, the acquittals that followed in the Delhi High Court (including that of S.A.R. Geelani, lecturer in Arabic at a Delhi college), the challenges in the Supreme Court and its confirmation of the death sentence for Afzal Guru despite the questionable nature of the evidence produced in the case. A website dedicated to the case has collected some of the pertinent writings:http://www.justiceforafzalguru.org/

The Supreme Court said: “The collective conscience of the society will be satisfied only if the death penalty is awarded to Afzal Guru.” It was, to say the least, unfortunate that a court of law decided to pander to its assumed notion of “collective conscience” rather than abide by points of law.

The ignominious role played by the national media in the wake of the 13 December 2001 parliament attack has also been well documented by Nirmalangshu Mukherji and others. The media seems to have eaten out of police officials’ hands instead of asking tough questions. As Sukumar Muralidharan of the International Federation of Journalists has pointed out, members of the profession failed to do what they ought to have at least after the High Court verdict – investigate the claims of the police and revisit the case they had not yet examined.

Afzal Guru’s execution is the second time after Ajmal Kasab’s on 21 November 2012 that the government has carried it out stealthily, ignoring the need to share the appeal process with the public, the lawyers for those convicted and their families. The execution of Dhananjoy Chatterjee on 14 August, 2004 following his conviction over the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl in 1990 followed a public discussion.

In many of the now steadily shrinking number of countries that retain the death penalty, long delays such as in the cases of Afzal Guru and Chatterjee would automatically have led to commutations. Nearly 150 countries are abolitionist in law or in practice, meaning that they have not carried out execution for many years or observe a moratorium.

Rather than moving in that direction, the Indian government has been riding roughshod over people’s aspirations. Following the massive nation-wide upsurge in the aftermath of a gang-rape (and eventually murder) in New Delhi on 16 December 2012, the government set up a committee headed by former Chief Justice of India, J.S. Verma, with Justice Leila Seth and former Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam assisting. But when the committee offered a detailed set of recommendations within a record time of a few weeks, recommendations which were widely praised by women’s organisations and lawyers’ collectives, the government stealthily put out an ordinance, circumventing the need to face parliament and draft a detailed bill.

Then when Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi came calling at the Sri Ram College of Commerce on 6 February 2006, Delhi Police sided with Hindutva elements and rough-handled those protesting against his visit. And hours after Afzal Guru’s execution, the same police again sided with the Saffron elements, arresting several peaceful protestors.

Meanwhile, the same day as the execution, in another part of India, namely Bangalore, hundreds of peaceful demonstrators against the evictions of 1,500 families from a shantytown were met by a few hundred policemen, who proceeded to make arrests. The police are siding with a company owned by the son of a former senior-most police official of Karnataka.

A respected reporter in Mangalore, Naveen Soorinje, who exposed a Hindutva attack on young people enjoying a birthday party last year, continues to be in prison even after the state cabinet withdrew the charges framed against him. There again, there are persisting allegations of police collusion with Hindutva elements.
Indian politicians have to realise that if they ride roughshod over democratic norms and ignore the rule of law today it can backfire on them when their opponents come to power and imitate their cynical actions.

Moreover if they think hanging Ajmal Kasab and Afzal Guru is easy, they need to figure out how to respond to those who ask why not Balwant Singh Rajoana (for the 1995 assassination of Punjab chief minister Beant Singh) and Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan (for the 1991 assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi). The Akali Dal, an ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party, has appealed against any move to hang Rajoana. The fury of Sikhs worldwide would certainly be too great for the Indian state to bear. The Tamil Nadu state assembly has gone on record in demanding that the three Tamils be spared.

With obvious electoral gains in mind, the Congress government has gone after soft Muslim targets. And the BJP is happy to make vociferous demands for the hanging of Muslims accused of terrorist acts while calibrating its stance in other instances.

How long will the people of India turn a blind eye to such cynicism? Instead of whipping up and pandering to mob demands, the Indian state ought to be pursuing peaceful development by fostering coexistence. But that would need a modicum of wisdom currently sadly lacking in the rulers in New Delhi.

N. Jayaram is a journalist now based in Bangalore after more than 23 years in East Asia (mainly Hong Kong and Beijing) and 11 years in New Delhi. He was with the Press Trust of India news agency for 15 years and Agence France-Presse for 11 years and is currently engaged in editing and translating for NGOs and academic institutions. He writes a blog: http://walkerjay.wordpress.com/

 

#India #Punjab #IndiraGandhi -Remembering A Dark Moment Of Our History


 

31 Oct 2012 | GOVERNANCE | By VBRAWAT, Halabol Blog

It was early morning of 31st October that Indira Gandhi was preparing herself for an interview to a foreign TV channel at her residence at Safdarjang Road and walking towards the office at Akbar Road.  As soon as she reached the gates of her house, the guards at duty, Satwant Singh and Beant Singh fired at her. Mrs Gandhi was rushed to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. The news of attempt on prime minister’s life spread like wild fire but unfortunately India under the strict government information control was just getting information through All India Radio and Doordarshan that Mrs Gandhi was attacked and doctors at AIIMS were trying to save her life.

There was no information and after some time people started spreading rumors. The BBC had declared that she was dead and this information had already been broadcasted by all the international radio stations but back home Doordarshan and Akashwani were just playing ‘bhakti sangeet’ and melancholy music.

The justification was that no senior politician was in the the capital. President Jail Singh was on an official visit to South Korea, while Rajiv Gandhi was campaigning in West Bengal. Vice Presidents and other senior leaders too were out of Delhi and hence no one was there to guide the government – resulting in total chaos that led to rumors in the street resulting in anti-Sikh violence. By the evening, the 6 pm news on the radio and TV officially announced that Mrs Indira Gandhi died in a terrorist attack at her residence around 9 am. By that time, the president and other senior leaders were back to Delhi.

In the late evening, President Jail Singh swore in Rajiv Gandhi the new prime minister of India along with a few other ministers. The fact is that there was no parliamentary board meeting that time but president Jail Singh fulfilled his loyalty to late Indira Gandhi by asking Rajiv to form the government. The anti-Sikh sentiments were running high during that period and slowly the country saw the worst ever governance at the Centre.

While Radio and TV were showing Indira Gandhi’s dead body over and over again, there was no constraint on the government not to broadcast the anti-Sikh sloganeering being raised by Congress workers. Jab Tak Suraj Chand Rahega, Indira Tera Naam Rahega… Khoon Ka Badla Khoon Se Lenge’, were some of the provocative slogans on the air. The local political leaders of the congress party had already started whipping up passions and Sikh establishments and business institutions were targeted. By the evening the Sikhs became an alien in this country. The country was moaning for Indira Gandhi but the Hindus had decided to teach the Sikhs a lesson for their act. Reasoning was lost in the din of noise and as the governance remained completely lost; the people were allowed to die on the street by the hooligans.

Innocent lives were lost. Children became orphans; women became widows and parents saw their children getting burnt in front of them. This was the scene at the street at India’s capital. Shamelessly, the government had no time and it looked like that it was instigating the crowd to act. There was no governance for the next three-four days. Aakashwani and Doordarshan were dutifully showing the crowd and their anti-Sikh chanting.

This continued till the cremation of Indira Gandhi took place in which a large number of international leaders too participated. The only thing was that there were not many Sikhs in the entire programme except for President Jail Singh and Congress leader Buta Singh. It is ironical how Sikhs were kept out and completely isolated for so many days in the Indian political establishment.

Rajiv spoke to the nation that ‘Indira was not just my mother but the mother of nation’. He spoke of everything except the violence on the street. The sarkari news agencies never bothered to inform people about the violence on the street. “The situation is tense but under control”, was a trademark statement. It was not just Delhi – the anti-Sikh violence took place everywhere with police and administration allowing things to happen.

Why innocent Sikhs should be punished by criminal mobs because a prime minister was assassinated by people who happened to be Sikhs. There was no sane voice who could tell the nation that entire community couldn’t be held for the crime of two individuals. There was no one in the government who could speak that the first thing for the new government to do was to restore law and order. Even when army was required, it looked, it was delayed deliberately. And at the end of the three days, India had debris of human masses – killed by the political people for their political purposes.

And as it happened, justifications were ready from the criminals. “The Sikhs need to be taught a lesson,” they said. They were celebrating and distributing sweets, when Mrs. Indira Gandhi was shot, said the others. “If we do not teach them a lesson, they will destroy India,” said many. And the pattern was similar to what the forces of Hindutva do. The fact is that they too participated in this whole exercise.

It needs to be understood that Indira Gandhi became a ‘Hindu’ leader when she was shot by her Sikh security guard and Rajiv became the aspiration of Hindus who were being threatened by the Sikhs. He was a son, an obedient one, who needed to be supported and it was that reason that during the subsequent general elections, the country gave a huge mandate to the Congress Party. It was an election which was built up on a hate campaign against a community and if I dare say a completely communally mandated one at that. The fact was that the Congress had realized the popular sentiments and communalized atmosphere in the country, and they felt it was the right time for them to strengthen that further and hence they promoted anti-Sikh sentiments and violence in different parts of the country.

The victims of the communal violence instigated by the political goons of the Congress Party have not yet got justice. Court proceedings are delayed while the criminals roam freely in Delhi. Some of them were awarded as key ministries in the subsequent cabinets as well as in the party. The scars of those pogroms are still in the hearts of the people because of the deliberate delays and attempts to save the criminals by the power elite of the country.

In fact, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi tried to justify anti-Sikh violence by, “Jab Ek Bada Ped Girta Hai Toh Aas-Paas Ki Dharti Hilti Hi Hai” [When a huge tree falls, it’s natural that the surrounding earth shakes]. It was not a speech of a seasoned political leader but a politician who was playing politics with the dead bodies. And a massive mandate does not justify the killing and violence. The Congress’s game was replicated by the BJP in Gujarat and the victims belonged to another minority this time.

It has to be understood that in the schemes of things of our major political parties, the value of a majority community is important and for that they are ready to dump the minority voices and their rights. Hence, Rajiv Gandhi and his Congress did not care for the Sikhs when the matter was communalized and the Hindus felt that the Congress needed to be strengthened. In the similar case of Gujarat, Modi sidetracked all the criticism of justice to Muslims and went on his tirade against them.

A similar pattern is being witnessed now in Haryana when no party is ready to take on the Khaps for their anti-constitutional statements and violence against Dalits. It effectively shows that the Indian state is primarily a Brahminical state that just works on the sentiments of the so called upper caste Hindus and only stereotypes the minorities. The difference between an act of violence by an individual is actually painted as the voice of the community and then punishment is given by the ‘people’ and is justified by the power elite as the sentiments of the ‘majority’.

It is not for nothing that when we see the pattern we find strange similarities of violence against minorities in Delhi and Gujarat. One shudders to think what would have happened if Gandhi was killed not by Nathuram Godse, a Brahmin but by some Muslim or Dalits?  But a Brahmin killing Gandhi did not result in violence against them in the country. In fact, there was justification of their theory of killing Gandhi.

India cannot become a truly democratic society if she fails to protect the people who do not practise the same religion or values as the power elite do. The rule of law must be applied in all circumstances and political deaths should not be used as hate propaganda against one community to get the political benefit for the other. The threat of communalism looms large on the country and can take it back to primitive age of horror and terror. It is time that Indians rise above their narrow communal mindset and behave as citizens of the country. All the citizens of the country need protection and failure to protect them by officials needs to be punished severely including formation of special courts for their trials.

The criminals of Delhi’s anti-Sikh riots must be punished at the earliest and all those innocents who lost their near and dear ones need to be rehabilitated and protected so that they continue to have faith in the constitution of the country and their hopes are not totally belied in the politicization of a crime.

 

 

 

Pardoning President – commutation of 30 death sentecnes


By Syed Nazakat and Vijaya Pushkarna
Story Dated: Monday, June 11, 2012

Commutation of 30 death sentences

Guns for her roses: Pratibha Patil

When President Pratibha Patil vacates the Rashtrapati Bhavan on July 25, she would have the dubious distinction of having commuted the highest number of death sentences to life imprisonment. During her tenure, she showed clemency to 30 convicts, condemned prisoners who had killed 60 people, including 22 women and children.
Among those granted pardon include Molai Ram and Santosh Yadav, who in 1996 had gangraped and murdered the 10-year-old daughter of a jailer on the premises of a prison in Madhya Pradesh where they were inmates; Dharmender Singh and Narendra Yadav of Uttar Pradesh, who had killed a couple, their two sons and 15-year-old daughter, whom they had earlier tried to rape; Piara Singh of Punjab and his three sons, who had massacred 17 persons of a wedding party on a personal rivalry; Sushil Murmu of Jharkhand, who had sacrificed a nine-year-old boy out of superstition; and Satish, who had raped and murdered a five-year-old girl in Uttar Pradesh in 2001.
For many people, the presidential pardons have come as a shock. “In many cases, the victims were raped, sexually assaulted and tortured before being murdered,” said a schoolteacher. “Pardoning them sends a wrong, sad message.”
Patil’s predecessors, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and K.R. Narayanan, had granted clemency in only one case each. Patil’s extraordinary generosity has led to a fresh debate on death penalty in India. The focus is now on what Patil has not done—she has not decided on the mercy petitions of Afzal Guru, convicted in the 2001 Parliament attack case; Khalistan separatist Devinder Singh Bhullar, who tried to kill Youth Congress president Maninder Singh Bitta in 1993; and Balwant Singh Rajoana, who assassinated Punjab chief minister Beant Singh in 1995.
The BJP, the main opposition party in Parliament, has been criticising the Centre for its ambivalent stance on the death penalty debate. BJP leader Prakash Javadekar says “those who have acted against the country” should be hanged immediately. When Home Minister P. Chidambaram was criticised for the delay in executing Ajmal Kasab, who was convicted in the 2008 Mumbai attacks case, he had told Parliament: “We have to decide as a nation whether we want to follow the rule of law or not.”
Patil, in her zeal to grant presidential pardons, appears to have squandered the chance to send out a clear signal on the issue. During her term, she rejected three mercy petitions and commuted sentences in 19 cases, involving 30 convicts. She, however, has not taken a call on 10 mercy petitions, including that of Afzal Guru.
Realising that the pardons could be politically explosive, Rashtrapati Bhavan officials are pulling out all the stops to give them a positive spin. Presidential spokesperson Archana Dutta told THE WEEK, “The President has adhered to the rule book while dealing with mercy petitions. It is incorrect to say that it is on account of her personal belief [against death penalty] that she has commuted these death sentences.”
Many people, however, disagree. “So many mercy pardons may send the wrong signal about our legal procedure,” said senior advocate Gopal Jain. “It is not clear what parameters she used to commute the death sentence in 19 cases and reject the other three.”
Said a senior politician: “Here is a President whose stint at the Rashtrapati Bhavan has been daubed with controversy on many fronts, including the recent land allocation issue. Her office is working overtime to contain bad press. The President could have absolved herself of her rather lacklustre tenure by taking decisive action on an issue that concerns the security of the people of this country. But, instead, she appears to have chosen to tread a safe, political path.”
Human rights and pro-life lobbies view the presidential pardons as an indication of the way India is moving in the larger debate favouring abolition of capital punishment. Although India has not abolished capital punishment, it has rarely been carried out after the 1983 Supreme Court ruling that death penalty should be imposed only in “the rarest of rare cases”. Since 1995, only one execution, that of Dhananjoy Chatterjee in August 2004, has taken place. Dhananjoy was convicted of raping and murdering a schoolgirl in 1990.
Under the law, the death penalty can be imposed for murder, gang robbery with murder, abetting the suicide of a child or insane person, waging war against the government, abetting mutiny by a member of the armed forces. Recently, special courts extended the penalty to cases of terrorism and the Supreme Court has recommended that it be extended to those found guilty of committing honour killings and to cops involved in brutal fake encounter killings.
Death penalty, however, has been a sensitive issue. In Tamil Naidu, widespread public rallies were conducted to seek clemency for the Rajiv Gandhi killers. A person even burned herself to death to protest the imminent hangings. Local politicians insisted that the hangings would be a “betrayal of the Tamils”, and would provoke popular fury.
A similar kind of fury was witnessed in Punjab when the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, which functions as a parliament of Sikhs, demanded that the state 
government fight to save Balwant Singh Rajoana, the assassin of Beant Singh. The Akal Takht, which is the highest temporal seat of Sikhs, has conferred the title of Zinda Shaheed, or living martyr, on him. In Kashmir, Afzal Guru’s death sentence has been an emotive issue. Few doubt Afzal’s involvement in the 2001 Parliament attack. But serious questions remain over the investigation and trial, carried out under the now-defunct Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act.

With widespread instances of custodial abuse, legal experts have been campaigning for the abolition of the death penalty. They argue that there is no empirical evidence to suggest that the death sentence works as a deterrent. The delays in carrying out the executions have also been pointed out. Said B.S. Bilowria, a Supreme Court lawyer: “The long delays in executing the death sentences are extra punishment. It is in addition to the punishment of death and, therefore, it becomes unconstitutional. You cannot give a person double punishment by first locking him in a prison cell for years and then hanging him after a decade or so.”

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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