Saturday, 28 April 2012


Sikh Channel YOUTH Discussion Show dispelling the opinion that Sikh Campaigns are branded "militant" and aggressive. Broadcast on 26 April 2012.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Delegation meet British PM over death row inmate
Former Leicester South MP Parmjit Singh Gill

A delegation has visited Downing Street to seek support for a campaign against the execution of a prisoner in India.
Former Leicester South MP Parmjit Singh Gill and Sital Singh Gill, general secretary of the Indian Workers Association in Leicestershire, spoke to David Cameron about the case of Balwant Singh Rajoana.
He is on death row in Punjab for his role in the 1995 murder of then state chief minister Beant Singh, who was killed by suicide bomber Dilawar Singh.
Rajoana was convicted of acting as back-up suicide bomber, should Singh have failed.
He has not appealed against the sentence, though other conspirators have had the death penalty commuted.
Mr Singh Gill said: "It was a very worthwhile and constructive trip to London.
"David Cameron listened to us and seemed very supportive.
"He made it absolutely clear that the UK was opposed to the death penalty."
The Leicester pair also discussed their fight with Liberal Democrat deputy leader Simon Hughes.
The Indian Workers Association is to follow up the meeting by writing to the Prime Minister, urging him to put pressure on the Indian government to abolish the death penalty.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Gurdaspur Firing Victim’s Kin Seek Time To Record Statement
Amritsar, Punjab: The family members of Jaspal Singh, an engineering student who was killed in police firing on March 29 following which curfew was imposed in the city, have sought time till April 25 to record their statements in front of the inquiry commission probing the incident.
Jalandhar Divisional Commissioner Anurag Verma, who is looking after the probe, said the victim’s father, Gurcharanjit Singh, wanted to record his statement in the presence of a senior Supreme Court lawyer, Navkiran Singh. The inquiry report has to be submitted to the state government within a month.

Senior officials, including Mohinder Singh Kainth and Varinder Pal Singh, former Gurdaspur Deputy Commissioner and Senior Superintendent of Police, respectively, have already recorded their statements.
Varinder Pal claimed the circumstances flared to such an extent that police was left with no option but to fire in the air to control the surging mob of Sikh activists. He, however, said the bullet that hit Jaspal Singh was not fired by any police official.
The statements of suspended DSP Manpreet Singh, the then SHO of Gurdaspur (City) police station Shama Singh, ASI Ajvinder Singh and Naib Tehsildar JP Salwan, who was the acting magistrate when the firing took place, were also recorded.
The deceased’s father wondered as to why the police did not use tear gas shells prior to actual firing even if in the air. “Police could have given a warning to the mob to disperse if it was feared that the situation may spin out of control. But, they started firing without any warning,” Gurcharanjit said.

United Sikhs writes to UK PM for support against Rajoana’s death penalty

London, UK
United Sikhs handed the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, a letter on Monday asking him to call on India to abolish the death penalty and to free Balwant Singh Rajoana, who is facing the death penalty.
“Bhai Balwant Singh has already served 17 years behind bars for his role in the political assassination of the former Chief Minister of Panjab, who he held responsible for the torture, kidnap and killing of innocent Sikh youths in the 90s,” said Mejindarpal Kaur, United Sikhs legal director, in the letter that was handed to the Prime Minister on Monday during a Vasakhi reception at his official residence at No. 10 Downing Street, which was attended by more than 200 UK Sikhs.
United Sikhs brought to the PM’s attention Amnesty International’s report on human rights violations in Panjab at the following link.
The PM was informed that Sikhs in the UK have signed petitions addressed to their MPs and MEPs asking them to intervene, to stop the execution of Balwant Singh Rajoana. UNITED SIKHS also reminded the PM about the continuing challenges to religious freedom globally, especially in the aftermath of 9/11.
“We congratulate you for declaring that there is a place for religion in the public place, even though it is a private matter,” Mejindarpal Kaur said to the Prime Minister whilst handing the letter, after presenting an oil painting by a volunteer, an artist trained at the renowned Slade School of Art (London) of a Sikh doing prayers during ishnaan (holy dip) in the Sarovar at Darbar Sahib, Amritsar. The Prime Minister was also presented a book titled ‘The Golden Temple of Amritsar, published by a social enterprise company, Kashi House.
“Since the Vasakhi of 1699, initiated Sikhs are mandated to wear the five Kakaar (or 5 Ks) (articles of faith) – Kesh (unshorn hair covered by a turban), Kirpan, Kangga and Kecchaera.
If a nation’s borders define its physical boundary, a Sikh, a member of a nation without borders, is defined by his/her identity. Any transgression of this is an attack on his/her being,” Mejindarpal added in the letter that highlighted, amongst others, the following three issues concerning the wearing of Kakaar in the UK :
·         Sikh students continue to be denied their right to wear the Kirpan in many schools even though there is a specific defense in the Offensive Weapons Act for the wearing of the Kirpan in schools.
·         Sikh prison officers and Sikh lawyers/legal officers on legal visits are not allowed to wear their Kirpan, even though PSO 4550 permits a Sikh chaplain to wear a Kirpan. This is despite a recommendation to approve the wearing of the Kirpan by prison staff following a comprehensive consultation that was carried out in 2008 by the National Offender Management Service (“NOMS”), an executive agency of the Ministry of Justice. This recommendation was reversed by a subsequent director general of NOMS.
·         Sikhs travelling through European airports continue to be humiliated and harassed by the indiscriminate removal of their turbans ever since the implementation of EU regulation 185/ 2010, which prohibits the use of hand held scanners as a primary screening technique in favour of mandatory hand searches. We thank your government for standing up for Sikhs and conducting an 18 months trial (ending in mid Aug 2012) to see if security could be achieved by not applying Reg 185 at 22 UK airports. We request your government to take the lead in Europe of by recommending that Para 4.1.17 of the reg 185n could be used to exempt Sikhs from arbitrary removal of their turbans.


Friday, 20 April 2012

Supreme Court reserves verdict on Bhullar’s plea
20 April 2012
Chandigarh: The judgment on Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar’s plea for life imprisonment was reserved by the Supreme Court on Thursday. He was awarded death penalty for a bomb attack on the then Youth Congress president MS Bitta in 1993.
An order was passed by the SC bench in lieu to the pleadings that Bhullar be spared from the gallows as he had virtually undergone life sentence due to the long delay in the rejection of his mercy plea. The Centre had opposed his plea, earlier.
The Centre was directed by the SC bench to have a timeframe for deciding mercy petitions. The additional solicitor-general sought three months for getting the government’s response to the suggestion.
The delay in mercy petitions against death sentences has affected people’s faith in the government’s ability to maintain law and order on such matters, court stated.
Bhullar’s wife had approached the SC seeking commutation of the death sentence on several grounds including his mental ailment. The 1993 bomb attack in Delhi had killed nine security personnel while 25 persons including Bitta were injured.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Superintendant of Patiala Jail Issued with Contempt of Court Notice

Superintendent of Patiala Jail, Lakhwinder Singh Jakhar, on Mon day sought more time from a local court to file his reply in the contempt of court notice issued against him for not following court orders regarding the hanging of Balwant Singh Rajoana, convicted in the Beant Singh assassination.
Jakhar, who was accompanied by his counsel and Additional Advocate General A S Grewal, sought more time from the court of Additional District and Sessions Judge Shalini S Nagpal to file his reply. The matter will now come up for hearing on April 25.

The court had issued notice to Jakhar on March 27, asking him to explain why proceedings under the Contempt of Court Act should not be initiated against him. He was supposed to file his reply on Sunday.

The court order had stated, “The Superintendent of Central Jail, Patiala, has not once, but on two occasions refused to execute the warrants of sentence of death by way of written communication dated March 19 and March 24. The publications intend to interfere with the due course of judicial proceedings, obstruct the administration of justice and also loswer the authority of the court.”

Monday, 16 April 2012

IMPORTANT - Share the Below Video about Gurdaspur Kand 2012

Courtesy of Sikh Youth Project

Sikh Leaders Released From Ludhiana Jail

LUDHIANA: During the Punjab bandh declared by various Sikh organizations protesting against the execution of Balwant Singh Rajoana, a co-accused in the Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh assassination case, many radical Sikh leaders were arrested. SAD (Delhi) leader Jaswinder Singh Baliyewal, Pardeep Singh Gosha, Akali Dal Panch Pardhani Chairman Daljeet Singh Bittu were released by the Punjab government on Sunday after they refused to get their bail orders issued themselves.Sikh leaders released from Central Jail Ludhiana
The release of these leaders was welcomed by the Sikh community and many supporters had gathered around the Central Jail situated on Tajpur road to welcome them. The released leaders said that their release is a victory of the Sikh community who refused to bow down before the Badal government.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Interview with Bhai Ranjit Singh

Interview by Sangat Tv with Bhai Ranjit Singh who was shot and beaten by Punjab Police during Gurdaspur Kand 2012

Follow Up Letter To Your MP and MEP

Courtesy of Glasgow Sikhs

Please send the follow up letter to your MP and MEP via about the sustained attack on Sikh Human Rights in India:

Download PDF version of letter

Download WORD version of letter

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

-          Dr. Martin Luther King, 16th April 1963


Sustained attack on Sikhs human rights in India

I write to inform you of the abandonment of human rights protection afforded to Sikhs across India. This is perhaps most starkly portrayed in the state of Punjab, where a mass of violations has occurred, and continues to do so, over the last 50 years. Although there are a catalogue of instances where such incidents have occurred, they are unfortunately not considered newsworthy; a worrying trend that shall be addressed later. During any long running campaign, there are spikes which occur. In the one being perpetrated against Sikhs, the most recent was the farcical decision to enforce the death penalty against Balwant Singh Rajoana. This letter shall address the Balwant Singh case before moving on to explore the persecution faced by Sikhs in general, detailing the most severe of the human rights infringements, showing the troubling trends which appear to be cyclical in nature, with no end in sight to these contraventions.

Balwant Singh was imprisoned and sentenced to death for involvement in a murder case in 1995. Despite the unnaturally long term of incarceration, he was scheduled to be executed on 31st March 2012, some 17 years after being convicted. Such time delays are a common occurrence when dealing with Sikh prisoners in India, and has been criticised by Amnesty International[1]. This policy of detention for an extended period time is clearly a breach of the right to a fair trial provision enshrined in Article 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Although not binding, the UDHR is set as a guideline for all members of the UN as a barometer for gauging bare minimum thresholds of human rights protection. Case law around the globe has deemed that keeping inmates on death row for any extended periods of time amounts to inhuman and degrading treatment[2]. Of course, the barbarity of the death penalty is obvious and many jurisdictions have expressed disgust at the practice.[3]

Right to a Fair Trial & Right to Liberty

In the past twenty years, India has gone as far as to amend its legal system in a crude attempt to legitimise its morally repugnant actions. For example, the Terrorism and Disruptive Activities Act allowed for the detention of a person merely on suspicion, a dossier compiled by Jaswant Singh Khalra discovered, through the examination of municipal records, that 3 000 Sikhs were arbitrarily arrested and never seen again.[4] Similarly, under draconian laws such as the National Security Act, persons were liable to be detained for up to a year without charge if found at the scene of a crime.[5]

Prohibition of Torture

Torture has been well known for decades to be an unreliable method of gathering intelligence, despite this fact, the State’s machinery in India have employed it almost as a de facto method of dealing with Sikh prisoners. Amnesty have informed of hundreds of people being arrested and routinely tortured during interrogation.[6] The witness reports are both tragic and disturbing, and although unpleasant, one has been included in order that the desperate reality of the victims of such actions is conveyed.

...the Senior Superintendent beat a Sikh youth with an iron rod, then he suddenly turned to her and struck her with the rod across the stomach. He rained blows on her stomach until she began to bleed through her vagina...Next morning she was taken to the factory Beiko again, her legs were cut open and chillies were pasted into her wounds, followed by further beating. With her legs crippled by rollers, she was molested and threatened with death.”[7]

Thousands of similarly harrowing victim reports are available from, each repulsive recollection of their experiences crystallising the fact that such actions are commonplace in Punjab, and India when dealing with Sikhs.

Rape is an extension of torture, and has similarly been employed relentlessly in cases involving Sikhs and the Indian State.[8] Well known underground operations were carried out by members of the security forces, whether they were rogue elements or not is unclear, due to the State’s blanket refusal to open any independent investigation into these most egregiously haunting claims[9]. Anecdotal evidence from both victims and retired members of the Security forces has filtered through and there has been repeated mention of “Operation Shudi Karan” (literally meaning to straighten out, or to purify), which is code used to refer to the mass rape of Sikh women.[10] Despite India being a signatory to The International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, and thus bound by Article 7[11], case law shows that custodial rape is rampant in India[12]

Right to Life

Perhaps the most sacrosanct human right is the very right to life. Every democratic state in the world in one way or another considers this to be true. It is somewhat unfortunate then, the largest democracy in the world, India, has gone as far as to alter its Constitution, allowing for the suspension of its right to life commitment under Article 21, as it has done on more than one occasion in the State of Punjab in recent history. Indeed, the State allows its Agents to indulge in whatever acts they choose. This includes the abduction of human rights activists such as Jagwinder Singh and Jaswant Singh Khalra, both of whom had chosen to speak out about the atrocities being committed as commonplace. Their actions resulted in both being abducted by officers of the police force disguised as civilians and them never being seen alive again. [13] Despite reports from human rights watchdogs stating that the state was inflicting “violence”, “targeted enforced disappearances”, “extra judicial executions” and “large scale lethal human rights violations”[14] the right to life for Sikhs in India, is nothing more than a decorative bauble adorning a crippled and corrupt legal system, designed to afford the State impunity from accountability. The most recent example being that of Jaspal Singh, an 18 year old college student killed on 29th March 2012 whilst campaigning against the death penalty imposed on Balwant Singh Rajoana when the police opened fire on the unarmed protestors with no legitimate cause, in contravention of the laws of the land.

Freedom of Expression

Despite the regularity of such occurrences, little is heard of them, due to the latest media blackout imposed across the whole of Punjab, by the State. Again, this is a tactic that is routinely fallen back on when the State finds its oppressive practices under the uncomfortable scrutiny of international spotlight. In 1984, during Operation Bluestar, all media agencies, domestic and international were expelled from Punjab prior to the attack on the central Sikh place of worship Harmandir Sahib and 40 other Gurdwaras. It is lamentable that in 2012, we find the same brutish methods being employed in a desperate attempt by officials to escape rebuke for its shameless actions.

The preceding paragraphs are but a mere drop in an ocean of blood that is dripping from the hands of the State of India, however horrific, these are merely extracts of daily occurrences. As such, I would once again urge you to liaise with your peers to raise the concerns outlined in this letter. Furthermore I would ask for you to lobby the institution of which you are a member and demand that the Indian government stop committing atrocities against Sikhs and other minorities in India.

I would request that you treat my personal details with the strictest of confidence, without exception. There have been a number of instances of UK Sikh citizens being imprisoned when travelling to India for raising concerns whilst in the UK about India’s human rights record[15].  The mere existence of a Non Resident Indian (NRI) blacklist[16] compiled by the State raises genuine fears of repeat occurrences.

Yours sincerely,

Friday, 13 April 2012

Baba Baljeet Singh Daduwal Interview after release.

Courtesy of Sikh Channel

13 April 2012
Interview with Baba Baljeet Singh Daduwal who was released after 15 days in Police custody.

Some Sikh Leaders released.
Punjab: Some Sikh Leaders released, others still in Detention
Published: April 13, 2012
Amritsar, Punjab (13 April, 2012): Bhai Mohkam Singh, former Damdami Taksal Spokesperson and Convener of Khalsa Action Committee and Sikh preacher Baba Baljeet Singh Daduwal were released from different jails of Punjab yesterday. Some other Sikh activists were also released. They were kept under so-called “preventive detention” since 28 and 29 March, 2012.

But many other Sikh leaders, including Bhai Daljit Singh, Chairman of Panch Pardhani and Bhai Harpal Singh Cheema, and hundreds of Sikh activists continue to be kept behind the bars as per directs of Badal regime.

These Sikh leaders were arrested by the Punjab police at the behest of Punjab government to prevent the mass mobilization against proposed hanging of Sikh political prisoner Bhai Balwant Singh Rajoana.

Bhai Mokham Singh released

Baba Baljeet Singh Daduwal released

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Vaisakhi Message from Bhai Balwant Singh Rajoana

Please distribute this Vaisakhi message leaflet from Bhai Balwant Singh Rajoana at your Gurdwara and Nagar Kirtan.

Leaflets can be requested by emailing from

Bhai Gurmeet Singh's Family Interview

Video Courtesy of Sikh Channel.
9 April 2012

Special Interview with Bhai Gurmeet Singh's family members from Chandigarh. Bhai Gurmeet Singh is in Burail Jail Chandigarh for the last 17 years

Bhai Gurmeet Singh is one of several Sikh men who have been convicted under Sections 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder) and 120 B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC in relation to the 1995 assassination of former Punjab Chief Minister Beant.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

London - Peaceful March 12 April 2012

Peaceful march from 10 Downing Street to the Houses of Parliament
12pm to 3pm on Thursday 12 April 2012

Contact Satnam Singh 07401373789 for details of the event.

Documentary - The Untold Story of Punjab.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Professor Bhullar’s death sentence: Hearing to continue.

Professor Bhullar’s death sentence: Hearing to continue in Supreme court of India

New Delhi, India (April 10, 2012): 

Hearing the plea against execution of death sentence awarded by an Indian court to Sikh activist (Prof.) Devender Pal Singh Bhullar, the Supreme Court of India today asked the Government of India (GOI) to furnish details of the number of constitutional review petitions disposed off by the President in 2011, besides other petitions pending with the government for the past several years. Prof. Bhullar is on death row since 2001 and his constitutional review petition was dismissed by President of India, as per recommendations by GOI, few months back. It is notable that Prof. Bhullar’s death sentence was confirmed by Supreme Court of India in 2002, in a split decision. He was convicted by trial court in the absence of reliable evidence and Presiding Judge of Supreme Court of India acquitted him from the case, but two other judges confirmed his death sentence.

As per information, today, the bench of Justices G. S. Singhvi and S. J. Mukhopadhyaya passed a written order to the effect after perusing minutely certain confidential files relating to the mercy pleas placed before it by Additional Solicitor General Harin Rawal. The apex court had on April 3 directed the Centre to furnish details of 18 constitutional review petitions, including that of Parliament attack death convict Afzal Guru pending before the President for 7 years.

These directions were passed by the court while dealing with the appeal filed by Professor Devender Pal Singh Bhullar’s wife, challenging the undue delay in disposal of her husband’s constitutional review petition by the President of India. But during today’s hearing, the GOI could place only certain details which were examined by the bench in the court.

Assisting the court as amicus curiae ( -an adviser to the court on some matter of law who is not a party to the case), senior counsel T. R. Andhiarujina said “it is inhuman” to keep the death convicts under prolonged incarceration by delaying a decision on the mercy petition whatever may be the nature of their crime, reports Press Trust of India (PTI).

“There is a need for laying down a certain time frame for deciding on such mercy petitions,” T. R. Andhiarujina is said to have added.

The court agreed with the view of the amicus that many death row convicts apparently do not want to risk their case by coming to the court lest their mercy applications are decided immediately by the government. The bench cited the instance of Professor Devender Pal Singh Bhullar. Prof. Bhullar’s constitutional review petition was rejected by President of India within days of his family filing a petition in the Supreme Court, to take the notice of undue delay in deciding the review petition moved on Professor Bhullar’s behalf.

Bhai Mandhir Singh, a youth leader of Akali Dal Panch Pardhani, informed Sikh Siyasat on phone, from Delhi, that the arguments would continue tomorrow.

As per information the court had earlier asked eminent jurist Ram Jethmalani to file written submissions on “whether the President should objectively apply mind while deciding constitutional review petitions”. The apex court had felt the role of the state was perhaps advisory and the final verdict is that of the President.

Appearing for Prof. Bhullar, senior counsel K. T. S. Tulsi had earlier told the court that between 1997 and 2011, the President has disposed off 32 review petitions, 13 of which were done after a 10-year wait. He submitted 14 other cases were disposed off after a delay ranging between four and 10 years while the remaining cases were disposed off between one-four years.

Professor Devender Pal Singh Bhullar, a victim of state repression, was deported from Germany in 1995, after his application for political asylum was rejected there. Later a Frankfurt court observed that German authorities were not aware of full facts at the time of his deportation, otherwise Professor DPS Bhullar was eligible to seek asylum in Germany on the ground that he was facing life threats in India.

The Supreme Court of India had on March 26, 2002, dismissed Bhullar’s appeal, in a split decision, against the death sentence awarded by a designated TADA court.
A review petition was filed with Supreme Court of India, which was dismissed on December 17, 2002 in a split decision, with Presiding judge of three judges bench acquitting Prof. Bhullar while two other judges confirming his death sentence.

Then a curative petition was moved in Supreme Court of India, that was rejected on March 12, 2003.

Meanwhile, various Sikh organizations formed Professor Devender Pal Singh Bhullar Defence Committee and decided to file a constitutional review petition before the President of India under Article 72, on January 14, 2003.

The President of India, after a lapse of over eight years, dismissed the petition on May 25, 2011.
Professor Devender Pal Singh Bhullar is currently undergoing treatment at the Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences at Shahdara in Delhi for hypertension, psychiatric illness and suicidal tendencies.

Earlier, in an affidavit in the Supreme Court, the Centre had justified the delay of over eight years in deciding Bhullar’s mercy plea and said “processing such petition is purely a Constitutional process which takes time”.

The Centre had told the court that no time limit can be fixed for disposal of these pleas of convicts on death row and the court cannot prescribe a time limit for it. It had submitted powers conferred on the President to decide a such plea are special powers which cannot be interfered with.

The GOI today contended that the legal process ends up with the final disposal of a case in Supreme court of India and the court can not review the decision formed by the President of India on clemency/review pleas of death row convict

Death Penalty - India's Myopia
Death penalty: the Indian authorities’ incredible myopia
N. Jayaram, 10 April 2012

How much longer will the Indian state cling to the machinery of death, both of the judicial and extra-judicial variety?
A country that has had several experiences with stoked fires that see it engulfed in conflagrations might be expected to have learned to forestall, or at the very least to rouse itself at the first spark of trouble. Not India.

The case of a Sikh militant sentenced to hang for the 1995 assassination of Punjab state chief minister Beant Singh shows the country’s leaders have failed to learn from history.

A judge in the city of Chandigarh confirmed in mid-March the death sentence on Balwant Singh Rajoana, setting March 31 as the date for his hanging. Immediately and predictably, almost the whole of Punjab state and the Sikh diaspora in far corners of the globe got mobilized to oppose the sentence. Internet-based networks have proliferated, with myriad pages each drawing tens of thousands of adherents.

Few among those posting on these pages oppose the death penalty in principle. Most have been using the occasion to harp on about long-held and serious grievances against the Indian state. They recall Operation Blue Star, the Indian army assault to flush out Sikh separatists from the Golden Temple in Amritsar in June 1984 that left hundreds dead. Later that year, following the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards, members of her Congress party carried out a pogrom against Sikhs, killing at least 3,000 men, women and children. Not only the Sikhs, who make up just two per cent of India’s population, but much of the rest of the country was appalled by the events.  These memories are being stirred up by militants exhorting Sikhs in Punjab and worldwide to mobilise against the Indian state.

The Punjab government of the main Sikh political Party, the Shiromani Akali Dal, has fallen in line with popular sentiment against the hanging of Balwant Singh Rajoana. Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal made a special statement in the state’s legislative assembly. “The jail superintendent is duty-bound to satisfy himself that no appeal for relief by any co-accused in such [a] case was under consideration of any court… The Superintendent of the Central Jail, Patiala, is of the view that … this case had many legal and constitutional shortcomings, loopholes and flaws, which made the execution of the court orders impossible within the ambit of law,” Badal is quoted as having said↑ .  It has taken a jail official to hold forth on the constitutionality of a death penalty case in the world’s largest democracy teeming with politicians and judges!

Rajoana has refused to appeal against his death sentence and India’s Supreme Court has rejected petitions filed by a lawyer and a human rights organisation seeking its intervention. Two Supreme Court judges said that only the convict can file an appeal. A strange stand for a court to take in a death penalty case! Even in China, which regularly gets the stick for being the world’s champion executioner, all death penalty cases have to be heard by the Supreme People’s Court↑ since 2007 and recent amendments seek to ensure that when a defendant does not appoint a lawyer, the courts or the prosecutors do so.

India had 110 reported death sentences↑ in 2011 and up to 500 people are believed to be on death row in the country.  Death sentences are mandatory for many crimes in India even though jurists worldwide acknowledge that such mandatory penalty is plainly unjust. Coincidentally, even as the Rajoana’s life hung in the balance, South African jurist Christof Heyns↑ , the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions was in India on a mission and pointed out that whereas the Indian Supreme Court had advised in 1980 that the death penalty should be used in the “rarest of rare” instances, “the list of crimes for which this sentence may be imposed is still much wider than the one provided for under international law.” ().

Moreover, as Amnesty International has pointed out↑ , India is among a few countries where the scope of the death penalty has actually been expanded. This makes a mockery of the “rarest of rare” precept set out in Bachan Singh vs State of Punjab.  Instead of defining and restricting – if not actually codifying or quantifying – the use of the death penalty, the Indian Supreme Court has left a gaping hole through which lower court judges seeking cheap publicity can swing their cynical gavels and claim that the case they are handling is one of the ‘rarest of rare’ variety.

Keeping people for long periods on death row amounts to psychological torture but India blithely holds hundreds, to whose ranks Rajoana returns, now that India’s Home (Interior) Ministry has decided to consider the petitions filed by a Sikh religious organisation to spare his life. It remains to be seen whether the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh makes up its mind or passes on the case to a successor government.

The Akali Dal’s electoral ally, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, has failed to commit itself openly in the Rajoana case. The BJP, the leading opposition party in the national parliament, tends to be virulently pro-death penalty when it comes to some Muslim convicts it deems ‘terrorists’. But this time, it has preferred pussyfooting round the issue, one or two of its leaders going so far as to vaguely suggest that clemency appeals were part of the process of law taking its course.

Clearly the Hindu nationalist understanding of how the law has to operate varies according to the religion of the person accused. It defends to the hilt Chief Minister Narendra Modi of Gujarat state who is widely blamed for the deaths of at least 2,000 Muslims in a pogrom in 2002 but opportunistically joins in the chorus for bringing to book Congress party leaders implicated in the anti-Sikh pogrom of 1984.

Such parochial approaches are to be seen among other groups too. In August 2011, after three Tamil men convicted for the 1991 assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi won a stay of execution from the Madras High Court, the legislature in Tamil Nadu state, of which Madras (renamed Chennai) is the capital, passed a unanimous resolution calling for the commutation of the death sentences on the three men. But Tamil politicians stay silent in the case of death penalties pronounced on people elsewhere in India. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah of Jammu and Kashmir state wondered aloud what the reaction would be should the legislature in his state pass a resolution similar to the one in Tamil Nadu, demanding commutation of the death penalty imposed on Mohammed Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri convicted of conspiracy in the December 2001 attack on the parliament in New Delhi.

The Sikh leaders calling for Rajoana’s life to be spared will likewise keep their counsels to themselves when someone elsewhere in India is condemned to death. Meanwhile, the Indian state keeps drifting, without making up its mind on the nearly 500 people on death row. The last time anyone was hanged was in 2004 in West Bengal state after a hysterical campaign partly led by the wife of the state’s Marxist chief minister against a man convicted of the rape and murder of a 14-year-old.

All the while, of course, democratic India continues to get rid of a lot of insurgent groups using a method popular with security forces in totalitarian regimes – extrajudicial killings, euphemistically referred to by Indian officials and the media as “encounters”.

In fact, chief minister Beant Singh, whose killing led to the death penalty being imposed on Rajoana, was accused of having unleashed state terror during his term of office in Punjab (1992-1995), giving the police a green light to carry out extra-judicial killings against Sikh militants. A number of fake “encounters” were later reported to have resulted in the deaths of innocent people labelled “separatists”.

The dithering over Rajoana’s case is once again stoking the separatist fire. How much longer will the Indian state cling to the machinery of death, both of the judicial and extra-judicial variety?