Gurbaksh Singh Khalsa of Kurukshetra, who fasted for 44 days to seek release of Sikh prisoners who had completed their prison sentences, has stated that the onus to ensure permanent liberation of such detainees was on Akal Takht jathedar. Khalsa said that he would start his agitation again if the government and Sikh clergy failed to ensure permanent release of such prisoners, including those convicted for assassinating former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh, who were released on parole.
Speaking to TOI over phone, Khalsa said that Akal Takht jathedar Gurbachan Singh, while asking him to end his hunger strike at Gurdwara Amb Sahib in Mohali, had said that those convicts would be released and if they had to return to jail, they would come out very soon.”
“The jathedar assured that it was his responsibility to ensure permanent release of these Sikh detainees, and when I asked if it should be given in writing, SAD leaders and Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) members Avtar Singh Hit and Paramjit Singh Rana had asked me to have faith in the jathedar’s promise and they were a witness to that assurance,” Gurbaksh said.
Notably, Hit had issued a press release on December 25, 2013 when Gurmeet Singh – one of the convicts in Beant Singh assassination case – was granted parole for four weeks in which he had mentioned that the Akal Takht jathedar had promised to ensure permanent release of such detainees. The SAD leader from Delhi had even claimed that Khalsa agreed to jathedar’s suggestion only after intervention of DSGMC members. Hit also claimed that it was DSGMC’s intervention, which paved way for ending of Khalsa’s fast-unto-death.
“I had been cautioned by several people that these people (jathedars) were not known for keeping their promises. However, the jathedar should ensure to get his promise fulfilled, which he made in the gurdwara. If these detainees are not released permanently, we will start the agitation again,” said Gurbaksh, whose hunger strike witnessed a groundswell of support from Punjab and Haryana.
He said at that time that the jathedar had directed Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) to take all legal steps to ensure permanent release of Sikh convicts, who had completed their jail terms. “But the SGPC did not do anything. All legal initiatives are being taken by the activists and SGPC has not extended any help,” he remarked.
When contacted, Akal Takht jathedar Gurbachan Singh said that he had promised that detainees would be released on parole and their freedom would be possible only after completing legal formalities. “We have delivered our promise and SGPC is also making efforts,” he said. However, not only Khalsa, even Bandi Sikh Rihai Morcha committee member Harpal Singh Cheema also confirmed on Thursday that SGPC did not offer any help in getting the detainees released.