At a time when former Chief Minister Beant Singh’s assassination convict Balwant Singh Rajoana has asked the SGPC to withdraw the mercy petition on his death row, the Sikh body has intensified its campaign to set him and other “Bandi Singhs” (Sikh political prisoners) free.
After performing ‘ardas’ at the Akal Takht, a seven-member delegation of the SGPC, led by its president Harjinder Singh Dhami, was flagged off for the Raj Bhawan in Chandigarh today. The delegation members were carrying bundles of signed forms on their heads
Rajoana has been lodged in 8×8 feet cell for the past 17 years. On the occasion of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev in 2019, the Centre issued a notification to commute his death sentence to life imprisonment, but it could not materialise. The government should implement the notification at the earliest. —Harjinder Singh Dhami, SGPC chief
The SGPC had initiated a signature campaign for the release of prisoners on December 1, 2022. By April, around 26 lakh Sikhs from across the globe had signed the petition demanding the release of nine “Bandi Singhs” who have completed their sentences and are still languishing in jails.
Although the bundles of forms were transported from Amritsar to Chandigarh by a truck, due to security concerns, the Raj Bhawan did not allow them to carry these in.
However, the forms were uploaded in a digital form and a pen drive submitted to the Governor, with a demand letter in the name of President of India Droupadi Murmu.
The letter contained the names of Rajoana, Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar, Gurdeep Singh Khera, Jagtar Singh Hawara, Lakhwinder Singh Lakha, Gurmeet Singh, Shamsher Singh, Paramjit Singh Bheora and Jagtar Singh Tara.
A week ago, Rajoana’s sister Kamaldeep Kaur had come up with a letter she claimed had been written by Rajoana and addressed to the Akal Takht Jathedar.
In the letter, the Jathedar was urged to direct the SGPC to withdraw the mercy petition that was lying pending for the past 12 years. Rajoana had threatened to go on hunger strike if the petition was not withdrawn.
Dhami said the SGPC’s general house members had shown solidarity with Rajoana.
“Rajoana has been lodged in 8×8 feet cell for the past 17 years. On the occasion of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev in 2019, the Centre has issued a notification to commute his death sentence to life imprisonment, but it could not materialise,” Dhami said.
The SGPC chief added: “The matter is at the discretion of the Ministry of Home Affairs after the Supreme Court’s directions in the case. Our delegation will soon meet the Union Home Minister as well to appeal that a decisive action on his and other Bandi Singhs be taken.”
Regarding the matter of attempted distortion in the Sikh Gurdwaras Act, 1925 by the state government, Dhami said it was an illegal move. The Governor’s intervention was sought as the government had acted beyond its authority by interfering in the legislation.