Press Trust of india

SGPC starts nationwide signature campaign to seek release of Sikh prisoners

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Amritsar: The SGPC on Thursday began a nationwide signature campaign for release of ‘Bandi Singhs’ (Sikh prisoners), which it claims are lodged in different prisons despite having completed their jail sentences.

Different centres were set up for the signature campaign in around 25 gurdwaras in Punjab and Haryana, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) officials said.

Several people signed the plea prepared by the Sikh body at these centres, they said.

In Anandpur Sahib, the signature campaign was started at Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib after an ‘ardas’ (Sikh prayer) was offered by Jathedar of this Takht, Giani Raghbir Singh.

Speaking on the occasion, SGPC chief Harjinder Singh Dhami said the apex gurdwara body has been raising its voice for the release of ‘Bandi Singhs’ for a long time and has sent resolutions passed during SGPC’s general houses to the governments.

He also accused the government of having a negative attitude towards the matter.

“The government are deliberately violating human rights and are not releasing ‘Bandi Singhs’,” Dhami said.

In his argument for Sikh prisoners’ release, he cited the release Rajiv Gandhi’s assassins and remission of sentence of convicts in the 2002 Bilkis Bano gang-rape case.

“To open the ears of the governments, the SGPC has now started a nationwide signature campaign, under which lakhs of proformas will be filled and will be handed over to the Governor of Punjab after a one-day protest at Chandigarh,” said Dhami.

He said that the body will ask people from across religions to support the initiative and will also approach the International Human Rights Organisation.

The SGPC and Shiromani Akali Dal have been seeking the release of Sikh prisoners including Balwant Singh Rajoana, a convict in former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh’s assassination case and Devinderpal Singh Bhullar, a 1993 Delhi bomb blast convict.

The SGPC, in a letter written in September, had sought time from the Prime Minister for a meeting to seek the release of Sikh prisoners.

In the letter, the SGPC had mentioned the names of nine Sikh prisoners, who, it claimed, had completed their sentences.

Besides the names of Rajoana and Bhullar, the SGPC had mentioned the names of Gurdeep Singh Khera, Jagtar Singh Hawara, Lakhwinder Singh Lakha, Gurmeet Singh, Shamsher Singh, Paramjeet Singh Bheora, and Jagtar Singh Tara.

Khera has been serving a life sentence for the last 32 years in a case registered under several sections including 302 of the IPC and TADA Act. He was shifted from the Karnataka jail to Amritsar jail in 2015.

Hawara is serving life term in ex-Punjab CM Beant Singh assassination case for the last 27 years in Tihar jail in Delhi while Lakha, Gurmeet, and Shamsher are also serving life term in the same case and are lodged in Burail jail in Chandigarh.

Bheora and Tara are also convict in the Beant Singh assassination case and are lodged in Burail jail in Chandigarh. Tara is also facing some terror cases in Patiala and Jalandhar.

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