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Protesters in Punjab seek the release of ‘Bandi Singhs’

NewsProtesters in Punjab seek the release of ‘Bandi Singhs’

NEW DELHI: For the last month, Qaumi Insaaf Morcha has been set up at the Mohali-Chandigarh border. The protesters seek the release of ‘Bandi Singhs’, Sikh political prisoners languishing in jails after having served their terms. These people were jailed in the 1980s and 1990s, the period of militancy in Punjab.
The Morcha is supported by radical Sikh organizations and farmers’ bodies. This week the sit-in protest hit the headlines after a violent clash with Chandigarh Police. The protesters were moving towards Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann’s residence in Chandigarh and amid this, stone pelting took place and water cannons were used to disperse protestors.
According to Chandigarh Police, Nihangs allegedly used swords and even horses to cross the barricades. Several policemen and Rapid Action Force personnel were also reported to be injured. The Chandigarh police vehicle was also vandalised. Media personnel were also reported to be injured in the clash.
The largest farmers’ union of Punjab Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan) has extended support for the “Morcha”. On 7 February at the state-level convention in Bathinda, support for releasing Sikh prisoners was announced. Farm union leaders are not only raising demands for Sikh prisoners but Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims etc, who have completed their jail terms are also supported by BKU (Ugrahan). “There is no question of those who have completed their jail sentence, to keep them in jail. We are a national organization, and people from all communities are part of our organization, that’s why we have included others,” said Joginder Singh Ugrahan, President of BKU (U). Sukhdev Singh Kakori, general secretary of BKU Ugrahan, while talking to the media said: “The Morcha only addresses one religion and that’s religious bigotry. We have a secular approach. We appeal to the people of Punjab to make it common cause then we would succeed”. The farm organization has also given a call for protests at district headquarters in the state on 13 February. Earlier other farm organizations like Kisan Mazdoor Sangrash Committee and Krantikari Kisan Union joined the protest in Mohali. According to Jaspal Singh Manjhpur, a lawyer and champion for the cause of Sikh prisoners, there are around 21 Sikh prisoners, serving life sentences in the jails. The Qaumi Insaaf Morcha is seeking the release of nine “Bandi Singhs”. “Releasing them is a political executive decision,” said Manjpur. Asked why the government is not releasing them, Jaspal Singh said: “There are political reasons behind this. Either they view loss in liberating them or they would release them before elections for political gains”.
Jagtar Singh Hawara, Balwant Singh Rajoana, Gurmeet Singh, Lakhwinder Singh Lakkha, Shamsher Singh, Paramjit Singh Bheora and Jagtar Singh Tara are convicted for hatching the plan to kill then CM of Punjab Beant Singh in 1995. Devinderpal Singh Bhullar was convicted for the 1993 bomb blast in New Delhi and Gurdeep Singh Khera was jailed for murder and violation of the Explosives Act.

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