The Dal Khalsa Monday announced a dharna at the doorsteps of Nawanshahr district and sessions court on February 13, days after three Sikh youths were sentenced to life imprisonment for waging war against the state.
Surjit Singh (27), Arvinder Singh (29) and Ranjit Singh (29) were held guilty based on books, literature, pamphlets that were recovered from them following their arrest in 2016. It was alleged that the youth had kept the literature to incite people to establish a separate state of Khalistan.
“‘Denouncing the judgment, the Dal Khalsa will hold a protest sit-in at the doorsteps of Nawanshahr court on February 13 from 11am to 3pm. The order of the court indicting the trio merely for possession of books related to Sikh struggle and other Khalistani literature is highly unjust, illegal and disturbing,” the party said in a statement.
Party chief advocate H S Cheema said the judgment has far reaching implications on the right to dissent and the right to free expression. The decision has clearly violated principles of natural justice and fair play. “We will not remain silent spectators and we will take all legal and civil steps against this unjust judicial overreach,” he said.
Dal Khalsa general secretary Paramjit Singh Tanda and organising secretary Ranbir Singh added that the Nawanshahr court judgment adds to the long list of unjust verdicts against the Sikhs. “The law of sedition is being abolished worldwide and there is a movement in this direction by civil liberties activists in India too. But this order has shown that regressive forces still want to live in the throes of imperialism,” the leader said.
“The three youth never indulged in any violent activity, neither did anyone else allegedly influenced by them. The court held the trio guilty on mere possession of pamphlets,” said Kanwarpal Singh, spokesperson, Dal Khalsa.
Paramjit Singh Mand, president, Sikh Youth of Punjab (SYP), said the silence of political parties and the SGPC over the judgment was highly disturbing.
The judgment was termed “rare” by experts as sentencing came primarily based on recovery of incriminating literature and not for any act of violence. “From the material on record, common intention and object which brought the accused together, could be easily gathered from the documentary evidence such as books, literature, pamphlets seized from them…To achieve their object regarding establishment of Khalistan on Baisakhi, they have kept the aforesaid material with them with the intention of using same for propaganda to incite people to resort to violence with the objective of waging war against the Government of India, to establish an independent state/nation by the name of Khalistan…” the court order read.
In May 2016, Nawanshahar police had registered a case against Arvinder and the two others under IPC sections 121, 121-A (waging, or attempting to wage war, or abetting waging of war, against the Government of India) and section 10/13 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
“Two prime ministers were killed and no charges of waging war against the state was levelled against the accused. In this, there was no recovery of any arms or explosives from these youth, but they were still charged with waging war against the country, which we fail to understand,” said advocate Kulwinder Kaur, who is handling the case on behalf of the three youths.
The families of the trio, meanwhile, have claimed that the youth had deep faith in Sikh religion and had nothing to do with any extremist activity.
As per Arvinder’s family, he had been working in Doha since 2011 and had returned to Punjab in late 2015 to get married. After around five months of his marriage, he was arrested and charged with waging war against state. The family claimed he had in his possession some books written by former Lt General KS Brar, who led the Operation Blue Star in 1984, some posters carrying the word Khalistan and literature related to Sikh religion. Police had said that he was trying to enroll Sikh youths from Punjab to join him to wage war against the state.
“Following his arrest, his father and grandfather died. Later, his wife also left our house, applied for and got divorce,” said Arvinder’s mother Sarabjit Kaur.
Earlier, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had denied bail to Arvinder holding that propaganda and incitement to violence on social media was equivalent to collecting men for waging war against the Government of India, as defined under IPC section 122.
“Now, I am rearing two cattle to earn a living,” Sarabjit Kaur said, adding that her son could have never been involved in anything nefarious as he “had never been in bad company even during his school days”.
Another youth, Surjit was a ‘Pathi’ (a clergy) before he was arrested by police. “Oh Path karda see te kadi kise jhagre vich ni pia, pata ni eh case kiddan aa giya ude te (He used to perform religious things and has never been involved in any anti-social activities. I don’t know his name got involved in this case),” said his father Tek Singh.
Ranjit Singh was also a Pathi. “We have joint family and anyone can ask about our family’s reputation in the village. We don’t know how our son’s name cropped up in this case,” Ranjit’s father Kashmir Singh said.
Senior advocate of Punjab and Haryana High Court RS Bains, said, ‘they are going to file an appeal in the high court because this case was prepared by police on filmy ground as how one can wage war against state just for keeping some literature and posters which is not even banned,” asked he.