Nothing humanitarian behind sham clemency to Sikh prisoners

Sikh prisioner
Image Courtesy: DNA

The Indian government’s decision to commute death sentence of a convicted Sikh militant and release eight Sikh political prisoners on the occasion of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Devji is a pure political stunt full of hypocrisy.


Even from human rights perspective preached and practiced by the founder of Sikhism, the announcement made by the Ministry of Home Affairs is problematic.


When Guru Nanak Devji was arrested for standing up against tyrants and was later released, he ensured that all those detained in the same prison also be liberated.


So the question is why only the Sikh political prisoners are being released and not all political prisoners, including physically challenged Delhi University Professor, G.N. Saibaba who is ailing with numerous diseases. Saiababa who is being incarcerated under inhuman conditions for merely defending the rights of minorities and the oppressed communities has received tremendous support from everyone, including the members of Sikh community and yet the government remains adamant to persecute him. And the by the way, why only these particular eight prisoners while there are more Sikh political prisoners languishing inside the Indian jails?


If the government of India really cares for what Guru Nanak Devji taught, it would have been wiser to release Saibaba and other political activists being held indefinitely. Such selectivity goes against the spirit of Sikhism that takes into its embrace entire human race. Also, do we need to remind this government that it’s time to free all Kashmiri leaders being detained since August 5? The entire Kashmir has been turned into an open jail, so what is there to celebrate anyway?


Likewise, the decision to commute the life sentence of Balwant Singh Rajoana, a convict in the assassination of former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh’s assassination in 1995 raises several critical questions.


As against the compassion being shown for him, the current government hanged Yakub Memon to death in 2015 despite many mercy petitions. Memon was awarded death sentence in connection with 1993 Mumbai bombings in spite of many gaps and holes in the story. Unlike Rajoana who has always desired to be hanged and has never asked for mercy. Memon petitioned for clemency. It’s the leaders of the Akali Dal, the Sikh political party of Punjab and an alliance partner of the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party who were asking for clemency on his behalf.


Clearly, the BJP has favoured their allies and chose to ignore the pleas of a Muslim prisoner. Nothing  surprising though considering their anti-Muslim prejudices.


In the meantime, people have not forgotten how eight under trial Muslim prisoners were mysteriously killed in Bhopal in 2016 under a BJP government. They were all part of the Students Islamic Movement of India. The BJP government not only brushed aside the allegations of staged shootout under the garb of jail break theory, but also tried to justify their killings accusing them of being terrorists, whereas it was clearly a case of cold blooded murders.


As if this was not enough, the government also simultaneously decided to release five Punjab policemen — who were convicted for human rights abuse during their battle with Sikh militants between 1980s to 1990s. This was clearly done to balance their decision of releasing Sikh militants on humanitarian grounds. This is a perfect example of false equivalency on part of the BJP government that does not want to appear soft on terror and national security either. How can a government give clemency to the custodians of law and order whose job is to protect people and not to kill them? Their actions cannot be equated with that of the militants who were functioning outside the constructional framework.


The Sikhs who have seen and experienced the barbarity of the state cannot be fooled by these hollow gestures. By using an auspicious occasion of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Devji, this government is only trying to take political mileage while unable to hide its true colours.



Related Articles