Thursday 29 October 2020

Release of killer cops reinforces narrative of two laws for Sikhs

- Posted on 22 June 2019

Jagtar Singh

Chandigarh, June 22: Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal on Friday was rightly angered at the premature release of four killer cops by the Punjab government convicted in a case of fake encounter.

After all, Sikh organisations have been agitating since 1999 for the release of Sikh prisoners who have now been in jail for more than 20 years. The first such protest was staged in Chandigarh jointly by Dal Khalsa and Akali Dal (Amritsar) on April 4, 1999 when Parkash Singh Badal headed the Akali Dal-BJP alliance government in the state.

Badal Junior also rightly asked Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh to explain to Punjabis why four cops who had killed the youth in a false encounter after adducting him in 1993, had been pardoned surreptitiously without any discussion on any public platform.

 These four former police officials included Ravinder Kumar Singh, Brij Lal Verma, Onkar Singh and Harinder Singh. They were sentenced by a CBI court in Patiala on December 1, 2014 in a 1993 encounter. Three of them are from Uttar Pradesh.

However, there are two issues in the context of the concern expressed by Sukhbir Singh Badal who is also the former deputy chief minister incharge of home department.

The case for the release of these four cops was moved towards the end of 2016. The record lists the period of having been in jail for more than two years as on January 3, 2017 that technically is jail roll. It is this date that is important. Sukhbir Singh Badal himself was the deputy chief minister at that time and the case concerned his department. He did not reject it.

It is equally wrong for Capt Amarinder Singh government to recommend pardon that paved way for Governor to release them.

It is wrong as the issue has political ramifications.

However, this is not the first such case.

One would have to go back to the release of  police cat turned cop Gurmeet Singh Pinky who after release at one stage claimed to be eye witness to several killings in fake encounters. these police cats were former militants. It is too well known that hundreds of people were killed in such fake encounters in Punjab during militancy.

However, it is the timing of his release that is important. He was prematurely released on May 24, 2014. Sukhbir Singh Badal was again the deputy chief minister at that time.

Using the term politics of opportunism for Shiromani Akali Dal is now just a cliché. This party with a glorious past has been reduced to a symbol of this politics of opportunism going by its record relating to recent past spanning a few years.

The issues are broader.

Two laws-one for the country and one for the Sikhs-used to be the dominant narrative in Punjab for years, rather beginning with the period before Operation Bluestar, the code-name for army attack on the Golden Temple complex in June 1984.

The release of these former cops reinforces that perception as several  Sikh prisoners have been languishing in jail for more than twenty years. Those sentenced to life imprisonment till death is a different case. These prisoners were jailed under TADA.

Their release was among three of the main issues on which the agitation was launched under the banner of Bargari Morcha with main focus on cases relating to sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib.

The political parties in Punjab should express some commitment to at least some issues rather than always playing opportunistic politics.

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