Years after the violent pro-Khalistan movement, largely aided by the Sikh diaspora in Canada, was snuffed out, seemingly for ever, a U S -based organisation going by the name of Sikhs for Justice was caught campaigning in Punjab, for what it called “Referundum 2020”. The organisation's website and Facebook pages have long been blocked by the government
The SFJ's activists are distributing pamphlets and T-shirts in support of their campaign to get Punjab “independence” through democratic and peaceful means, according to their legal advisor Gurpatwant Singh Panun. Their volunteers are also obtaining signatures to request the United Nations to hold a referendum on right to self-determination for the Sikhs on the basis of the U.N Charter and International Convent on Civil and Political Rights.
A very few people in the state knew about this organisation till Augut 10 when Jalandhar zone inspector general of police Lok Nath Angra confirmed that a US resident, Harjap Singh Jaaphi, hailing from Bhilowal village near Chabbewal in Hoshiarpur district, was associated with SFJ and was a proclaimed offender in an old terror related case of murder.
Jaaphi and some others were arrested by the police, earlier in the month, and remanded to police custody .
"The youths arrested were working for Referendum 2020 launched by SFJ, and they were also planning to carry out some terror activity. Weapons were recovered from them," Angra said.
Hoshiarpur district police registered a case under provisions of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and Arms Act on August 6, and arrested three others —Jaspreet Singh Jassa of Chabbewal, Hardeep Singh Deepa of Jallowal, and Kuldeep Singh of MohalllaShekhan of Hoshiarpur—while recovering three pistols of 9mm and .32 bore, 28 cartridges, T-shirts and religious and other books.
They also arrested one Bikramjit Singh of Annaikot Kalan village of Gurdaspur district while recovering 40 rounds of .32 bore, T-shirts and flags. Hoshiarpur senior superintendent of police (SSP) K.S. Chahal said all of them were arrested from their respective houses.
But it has now become a story of police violating human rights and resorting to extreme and gruesome third degree torture.
According to advocate Navkiran Singh, general secretary, Lawyers for Human Rights International, based in Chandigarh, all the four accused were sent to judicial custody to central jail in Hoshiarpur after remaining in police remand from August 6 to August 15.
However, finding one of the accused Jaspreet Singh aka Jassa Singh in a bad physical and mental health condition on August 16, his lawyer filed an application for treatment and medical examination by a board of doctors. The same day, the court directed the jail authority to produce Jaspreet Singh before SMO, Civil Hospital, Hoshiarpur on August 18. The SMO, Hoshiarpur was directed to constitute a board of doctors to conduct the medical examination of Jaspreet Singh and report to the court on or before August 23. It also said Jaspreet Singh should be sent to some better institute for treatment if need be.
Hearing about the torture, a delegation of LHRI, visited the four arrested youth, and maintained Jaspreet was subjected to extreme torture in order to elicit a confession from him. According to Navkiran Singh, instead of giving him the medical examination as ordered by the court, “ the jail authorities produced him before SMO, Civil Hospital on August 18 and a symbolic ‘board of doctors’ was constituted. This expert ‘board of doctors’ believed that no immediate treatment was needed to Jaspreet Singh and that they could only advise after receiving his test reports as recommended by them, which were still pending. As a result, Jaspreet Singh was sent back to Central Jail, Hoshiarpur.” After the LHRI intervention, he was shifted to the civil hospital for treatment.
Says human rights advocate, Navkiran Singh, “This is the worst condition of a brutally tortured prisoner that I have ever seen in my 30 years of legal career”. LHRI will wait for the medical report, and may move the Punjab and Haryana High Court for a judicial enquiry.