A Punjab legislator Sunday came out in support of Joginder Singh Gujjar, alias Goga, days after he was booked and arrested by the Punjab Police on charges of sedition and waging war against India.
Punjab Police on July 2 had booked Gujjar, whom it said is a prominent and active member of the banned Sikh for Justice (SFJ) in a case under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). The case has been registered at Bholath in Kapurthala “based on reliable inputs of entry of Gujjar in India in February 2020,” the police had said. Gujjar, at the behest of SFJ legal advisor Gurpatwant Singh Pannu, had been providing financial assistance to the banned outfit’s operatives based in Punjab and abroad, it said. Gujjar was arrested Saturday from his village Akala and police claimed to have recovered some objectionable photographs and literature from him.
Now, Bholath MLA and former Leader of Opposition Sukhpal Singh Khaira has termed Gujjar’s arrest as vindictive.
In a letter to Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, Khaira said, “The truth is that this man living in Italy for the past 18 years is 65 years of age, illiterate and a heart patient with no criminal record throughout his life. The village panchayat, elders and his family have approached me for justice and have vehemently vouched for his innocence”.
As per police charges Gujjar took part in the SFJ convention held in Geneva on November 1, 2019. He has been charged for giving a “Siropa” to one Avtar Pannu of SFJ in a gurdwara in Italy. He has also been accused of sending 200 Euros to a one Sandip Singh of Jalandhar via Western Union.
Khaira claimed in his letter that all the charges levelled against Gujjar are frivolous in nature and do not call for such harsh criminal action against him, keeping in view the past track record and his ailing health.
“Participating in the SFJ Geneva convention may be wrong, presenting a “siropa” to some office bearer of SFJ may also be wrong, keeping a snapshot of a meagre transfer of 200 Euros may also be wrong and anti-national but do you think booking an illiterate 65-year-old heart patient with no criminal past under such a draconian law is justified in any manner,” he asked.
Khaira has alleged that the case has been registered under a well planned strategy of central agencies and the police to target, defame and paint Sikhs as a terrorist community. “For this purpose the newly adopted UAPA law is a handy tool as ordinary persons like Gujjar have no capacity to challenge the said law in any court,” he said.
The MLA has urged the CM to order an independent probe, if appropriate even by the vendetta commission head Justice Mehtab Singh Gill, to verify the authenticity of charges against Gujjar under UAPA.
Alongwith Gujjar, Punjab Police had also booked Pannu on charges of sedition and secessionism, a day after the Centre designated latter and eight others as terrorists under the provisions of the UAPA. The MHA designated Pannu a terrorist for actively running a secessionist campaign against India and motivating the Sikh youth from Punjab to join militant ranks.