The context of the Sikh prisoners / Bandi Singhs
The term 'Bandi Singh' is used for those Sikhs who have so far taken part in the struggle for the rights of the Sikh community and are imprisoned in jails by the Indian forces during this ongoing struggle. This also includes those Sikhs imprisoned in jails because of their independent views or for supporting the Sikh state, or simply for being Sikhs. Since the conflict of the Sikhs against the Indian government was about political rights, the imprisoned fighters of this struggle can be called 'political prisoners'. All over the world, the issue of political prisoners is treated with great seriousness and their treatment is never the same as that of ordinary prisoners. 'Political prisoners' hold political views different from those of the ruling party and are imprisoned while struggling to make those political views a reality. The Sikh political prisoners took the path of armed struggle as the path of struggle announced during the meeting of Sarbat Khalsa held at Sri Akal Takht Sahib on 26th January 1986. Many martyrdoms took place during the conflict, but many of the fighters who were deprived of martyrdom were imprisoned in the jails of India. These Bandi Singhs have spent nearly two to three decades across jails in India and during this long imprisonment, they have been subjected to various mental and physical tortures. Apart from these captive Bandi Singhs, there are many Sikhs who chose the path of peaceful struggle or only supported the ongoing struggle. However, even they were taken as prisoners and given long sentences. In the third category are the Bandi Singhs who are in jail or have been imprisoned only because they are Sikhs. Political conflicts continue around the world and people on the path of conflict are imprisoned by the ruling party, but according to the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ of 1948, of which India is also a signatory, they are entitled to a fair court hearing and legal course. Since they are fighting for a common (not personal) cause, they are not to be treated like ordinary prisoners. According to the same declaration, no one can be treated cruelly or with humiliation, nor can they be subjected to inhuman torture. On the contrary, Sikh political prisoners in Indian jails have been treated in just such a way that is very difficult to describe. Besides, many captive Sikhs are suffering from serious physical and mental problems. According to the Geneva Conventions on Human Rights, physical torture or harm to the self-esteem of the captured combatants of the other side during war is a violation of human rights and the laws of war. But Sikh political prisoners have been treated worse than ordinary prisoners, as an example of which we can see the issue of nine Bandi Singhs who are still in jail after serving almost twice the life imprisonment. Convicted Government officials themselves haven’t ever served more than 2 years for the same punishment for their actions and often, accused police officials who are part of the crimes are given amnesties despite their crimes. An example of which is the case of four police officials who were involved in the murder of a young man from Patiala. The CBI court had sentenced them to life imprisonment in 2014. However, they were released given amnesty in 2019. Sikh political prisoners on the other hand are not given parole even to attend the funerals of their own parents. Then there is also the case of Jagtar Singh/Jaggi Johal which took many years just for the charge sheet, a Sikh citizen of another country whohas been imprisoned in an Indian jail for five years now. This year, many Sikh organizations are organizing programs in favor of the Bandi Singhs on the occasion of 'International Human Rights Day'. Highlighting these events are the list of nine Bandi Singhs who have completed their sentences, but still suffering in jails: 1. Bhai Gurdeep Singh Khaira, Central Jail Amritsar, in prison for 32 years.
2. Prof Devinderpal Singh Bhullar, Central Jail Amritsar, in prison for 28 years.
3. Bhai Balwant Singh Rajoana, Central Jail, Patiala, in prison for 27 years.
4. Bhai Jagtar Singh Hawara, Central Jail, Tihar, Delhi, in prison for 27 years.
5. Bhai Lakhwinder Singh Lakha, Model Jail Burail, in prison for 27 years.
6. Bhai Gurmeet Singh Model Jail Burail, imprisoned for 27 years.
7. Bhai Shamsher Singh, Model Jail Burail, in prison for 27 years.
8. Bhai Paramjit Singh Bhiora, Model Jail Burail, in prison for 25 years.
9. Bhai Jagtar Singh Tara Model Jail Burail, in prison for 17 years.
Apart from these Bandi Singhs, hundreds of youths are locked up in Indian jails under laws like UAPA. Students should be aware of the dishonesty happening in their society. The first step on the road to liberation is to know about the restrictions placed on freedom and the structures that maintain those restrictions. We appeal to the Sikh community especially the students to remember the Bandi Singhs in their daily prayers and every justice-loving section of the society should strive for the release of the Bandi Singhs and other political prisoners. It is the duty of every Sikh to strive for the release of the Bandi Singhs who are serving jails for the protection of their nation, language, natural resources etc. and pray for their success.
– By student organization ‘SATH’