March 6, 2021 8:24:26 am
A Punjab Assembly committee will probe into the alleged torture and mistreatment of Sikh youths in Delhi’s Tihar Jail after the Republic Day violence and the “assault” of labour rights activists Nodeep Kaur and Shiv Kumar by the Haryana Police, Speaker Rana KP Singh Friday said.
“We will form a committee, which will get all the facts and hold in depth probe into this matter and submit the report to the Vidhan Sabha,” announced the Speaker.
Chief Minister Amarinder Singh backed the decision. “I agree with this. A House committee is necessary to look into this,” he said.
Earlier, the issue of alleged custodial torture of activists and others who were arrested in connection with farm agitation rocked the House with members demanding a resolution against such “torture”.
Raising the issue during the zero hour, Akali legislator Bikram Singh Majithia while demanding the resolution against “Haryana and Delhi governments” also sought the setting up a House committee to look into the matter.
Attacking AAP government in Delhi, Majithia said “around 150 Punjabi youth, which included both Sikhs and non-Sikhs” had alleged torture and humiliation in Tihar jail. He added that “beards of Sikh youth were pulled in Tihar jail” and their headgears allegedly disrespected.
AAP MLA and Leader of Opposition Harpal Singh Cheema termed the allegations as “baseless”. It followed a heated exchange between AAP and SAD legislators.
“After coming out of jail in Haryana, labour rights activists Nodeep Kaur said that she was attacked in jail and injuries inflicted on her private parts,” Majithia said, adding that activist Shiv Kumar also said he was tortured and not allowed to get treatment. “I propose that there should be a House resolution to condemn the torture,” Majithia said.
Kaur, who was granted bail by the Punjab and Haryana High court last month in a case registered under several charges, including attempt to murder, had alleged that she was beaten up by the Haryana Police after her arrest on January 12. Kumar, a co-accused in the same case, had also alleged that he was severely beaten up by police.
Kaur was arrested in Haryana’s Sonipat for allegedly “gheraoing” an industrial unit and demanding money from the company for employees.
The Akali leader also hit out at Delhi Home Minister Satyendar Jain saying that jails administration was under him. Majithia also alleged that the “public prosecutors of AAP government in Delhi” were opposing the bail pleas of the protestors arrested in connection with farm agitation.
Demanding formation a House committee on the issue, Majithia said Harpal Cheema should also be included in the Committee. “I know Cheema Sahib is first a Sikh and then a member of any political party,” Majithia said.
Refuting the allegations of any torture in Tihar jail, Cheema said it was true that jails were under Satyendar Jain, “but nothing like that happened.”
Cheema said AAP had provided for private lawyers who were making efforts to get the protestors out on bail and were even arranging for the meetings of their family members in jail by accompanying them. He said that “Delhi police was under Prime Minister and [Union Home Minister] Amit Shah of SAD’s former ally BJP”.
Cheema added, “We are supporting the farmers and Jain even turned down the Centre’s proposal to convert nine stadiums into temporary jails to detain protesting farmers…When it came to providing wifi, toilets, medical facilities [for the protestors at Delhi border], AAP arranged for these.”
Majithia got up again and said he had “record” of what he said. Turning to AAP MLAs, SAD legislator Gurpartap Singh Wadala said that when Majithia was saying that there was “record”, “You (AAP MLAs) should say that we will get the matter looked into.”
Referring to the US-based think tank Freedom House’s latest freedom score statistics, Wadala said India had “slipped” on “Freedom Index” . He said it was a matter of grave concern that “such an image of India was building in the world.” Calling it “autocracy” while citing the FIRs against rights activists, Wadala asked “Where is India heading for?”
“We want that Haryana and central governments should be condemned through a resolution,” said Wadala.
Calling it a “serious issue of police torture and brutality”, former leader of opposition and rebel AAP MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira also demanded a resolution to condemn the torture. Waving a photo, Khaira said a man Ranjit Singh from a village in Nawanshahr district was one of such victims where “local SHO was seen putting foot on his (Ranjit’s turban)”.
Congress MLA Angad Singh said Ranjit Singh was a resident of a village in Nawanshahr constituency and that he was booked in nine cases, out of which there was no bail so far in five cases. “They [protestors] should be given legal assistance,” said Angad.
AAP MLA Kanwar Sandhu, who is under suspension by the party, said that torture on social and rights activists had been “corroborated by the courts”. Sandhu said either a resolution should be passed or “a letter should be written to Haryana CM” on the issue. Sandhu said a House committee comprising of MLAs of all parties should be constituted so that if there was no action from any other side, at least the House committee should act.
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