Rights body seeks release of Sikh prisoners

A London-based human rights organisation on Tuesday raised the issue of Sikh political prisoners languishing in India at the United Nations Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, and demanded their release at the earliest.

Speaking at the Council meeting, director of the Sikh Human Rights Group Jasdev Singh Rai said these are prisoners who remain detained in Indian prisons long after they have served their sentences. “Two and half years after Prime Minister Modi made a commitment to the Sikhs in London that these prisoners will be released, they continue to be in prisons,” Rai said.

Underlining some of the India’s incumbent government initiatives to resolve the issues that arose with the international Sikh community following the attack on the Golden Temple in 1984, Rai expressed dismay over the fact that India continues to hold several Sikhs in prisons in violation of their rights, “even when they have long served their sentences”.

“One prisoner Lal Singh, has been held for over 10 years beyond his term. The Government continues to treat him and others as political prisoners,” Rai said, urging India to show sincerity in resolving the rights issue and ensure early release of these prisoners.

Rai said the Indian authorities must realise that that these individuals are Indian citizens. “They cannot be subjected to commitments that are extra-constitutional, such as curtailing freedom of expression. They should be able to enjoy the same freedoms and rights as every citizen.”

Later in a statement issued to the media, the rights body also said at present the highest number and most horrendous of human rights violations are committed by non-State movements and actors. But the current mechanisms lack competence to effectively address this large emerging threat.

It urged the council to explore ways to protect people’s human rights from these movements. “We also request HRC to take note of countries like Canada who engage in political eugenics. They licentiously abuse anti-terrorism legislation inconsistent with permissible derogations to refuse entry to some people who have no record of illegality in their countries or anywhere in the world.”