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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Latest Breaking News from Punjab - Tuesday 26th June 2007

Khalsa Chetna marchers booked

Bathinda, A case has been registered against several persons, who raised anti-national slogans and distributed inflammatory material during the Khalsa Chetna March yesterday.
A case has been registered Sections 124(a) and 153(a) and 153 (b) of the IPC for anti-national activities and instigation against unidentified persons at Talwandi Sabo police station on the complaint of assistant sub -inspector Mohan Singh who was on duty there yesterday.
The peosons will be identified and traced from the video films and photographs of the march, the police said. Though the procession was peaceful, slogans in favour of ‘Khalistan’ and Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale were raised, to which the police had objected earlier.

Sarna to send dera chief’s apology to PM

Amritsar, Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) chief Parmjit Singh Sarna will send the original “fresh apology letter” of Dera Sacha Sauda, along with a forwarding letter, to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who had reportedly evinced keen interest in resolving the Sikh-Dera Sacha Sauda row, tomorrow mentioning his (Sarna’s) mediation efforts to resolve the deadlock.
Talking to The Tribune today, the DSGMC president claimed that Parkash Singh Badal had “complained” to the Prime Minister and Delhi’s Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit that he (Sarna) was creating hurdles in the way of a peaceful solution to the row. He said Dikshit called him (Sarna) in her office and sought his good offices to resolve the row. This was the background that Sarna was nominated convener of the Khalsa Action Committee (KAC) to help resolve the Sikh-Dera impasse.
Sarna said he was first approached by three dera functionaries, headed by Ram Karn Singh, and offered mediation on May 17. He accepted the mediation on the pre-condition of a clear-cut apology by Dera Sacha Sauda to the Sikh Sangat. However, for many days there was no word from the dera due to the strict pre-conditions. Later, a new panel of dera functionaries approached the DSGMC chief on June 11 and a meeting was arranged at the residence of a rich Sikh industrialist of New Delhi, who is close to both Badal and Sarna, in the presence of Harminder Singh Jassi, a Congress MLA from Bathinda anb close relative of Dera Sacha Sauda chief.
Sarna claimed that he took Baba Sukhchain Singh and Bhai Jasbir Singh Rode, former Jathedar of Akal Takht, and some senior members of the KAC into confidence before giving any word to the dera functionaries. However, he said after lot of efforts he was succeeded in getting the draft of apology approved in which the dera apologised to Guru Gobind Singh and the Sikh Panth for its alleged blasphemous act. Sarna claimed that SGPC chief Avtar Singh, too, appreciated his mediation efforts and approved the draft.
Now, the fresh apology on the official letter-head of the dera would be opened at a meeting of Sikh high priests who would meet here on June 27. However, it would be practically difficult for the Jathedars to accept the fresh apology in toto since the 14-member KAC, comprising Sikh hardliners, would assemble at the Akal Takht secretariat to compel the Sikh clergy to implement its own directive of May 20 in which they had called upon the Sikh masses to help in uprooting the cult of Dera Sacha Sauda.
Meanwhile, a meeting of the KAC has been convened at Jalandhar for June 29 to discuss the role of Sarna.

False Charges against Bhai Daljit Singh Bittu

On June 2nd, 2007, Daljit Singh Bittu, senior vice-president of the Sikh political party Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), was charged with sedition by police from Fategharh, Farrukhabad District, in the state of utter Pradesh, India.Mr. Bittu has been falsely charged.The events leading to the charge against Mr. Bittu are as follows:On May 31st, Mr. Bittu participated in a march protesting government refusal to curb the criminal activities and religious offenses of the Dera Sacha Sauda (DSS) organization. The lawful march lasted just one kilometer as participants marched from one gurdwara (Sikh place of worship) to another. Although some passionate participants shouted the slogan “Khalistan Zindabad” in reference to the desired independent Sikh nation, the entire march was peaceful.Two days later, Mr. Bittu was charged with sedition for taking part in the march. He committed no crime. He did not participate in violence, as the entire march was peaceful. He also did not participate in the shouting of pro-Khalistan slogans.The crime of sedition is clearly defined under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). This code forbids exciting or attempting to excite disaffection towards the Indian government, but it also says that "comments expressing disapprobation of the measures of the government with a view to obtain their alteration by lawful not constitute an offense." In short, it is not seditious to peacefully make comments strongly disapproving of government policies. This is exactly what Mr. Bittu, who has publicly and peacefully criticized government inaction regarding DSS, has done.Even if Mr. Bittu had shouted slogans alongside the other participants, which by all reports he did not, he still would have committed no crime. The Indian Supreme Court ruled in Balwant Singh vs. State of Punjab (1995) that the mere public use of the slogan "Khalistan Zindabad" is not illegal, saying: "It appears to us that the raising some slogans only a couple of times by the two lonesome appellants, which neither evoked any response nor any reaction from any one in the public can neither attract the provisions of Section 124A or of Section 153A IPC."Besides sedition, Mr. Bittu could only be charged with speaking his mind and participating in a public assembly. Yet these are considered rights of the people under Article 19, Clauses (1)(a) and (1)(b) of the Indian Constitution, which guarantee the right "to freedom of speech and expression" and "to assemble peaceably and without arms."The Indian government has a history of harassing Mr. Bittu for peacefully and publicly addressing grievances. In 2006, he protested the seizure of 376 acres of farmland by the government of Punjab and spoke to a group of affected farmers. He was then arrested and charged with sedition, and ultimately released on bail. U.S. congressman Edolphus Towns said of that case: "Mr. Bittu spoke out against the acquisition of the land of poor farmers by Punjab on behalf of private business firms. We have had cases in this country where the government has taken land by eminent domain for private usage, Mr. Speaker, and no one ever gets arrested for speaking out against it." Mr. Bittu has been arrested several other times for protesting government policies and served many years in prison for a variety of false charges, many of which have been dropped for lack of evidence.While Mr. Bittu’s arrest has been stayed until June 25, he has been directed to participate in all investigations and remains charged with sedition.In conclusion, Mr. Bittu has not done anything that can be legitimately considered a crime under U.S., international, or Indian law. In what is just one more incident of Indian government suppression of basic human rights, Mr. Bittu is being harassed solely for his dedication to promoting liberty through peaceful means.We urge the U.S. government to pressure India to drop charges against Mr. Bittu in the interest of the international promotion of democracy and basic human rights, including the rights to freedom of speech and self-determination.
Please contact the following agencies to urge that charges against Mr. Bittu be dropped:Indian EmbassyPhone: (202) 939-7000Fax: (202) 265-43512107 Massachusetts Avenue, NWWashington, DC 20008U.S. EmbassyShantipath, ChanakyapuriPhone: 011-2419-8000Fax: +91-11-2419-0017

Punjab Sikhs take out procession for arrest of dera Chief

BATHINDA: Hundreds of Sikhs under the aegis of Khalsa Action Committee on Sunday took out a peaceful protest march seeking the arrest of Dera Sacha Sauda chief - Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh.
The Sikhs began the march from the historic Gurdwara Zafar Nama, Dina Sahib in Moga district to Damdami Sahib in Bathinda's Talwandi Sabo as tight security arrangements were made along its route.
The hardliner Sikh bodies took out the procession despite SGPC appeal not to take out the procession because state government was trying legal means to arrest the Baba. Paramjit Singh Sarna president of Delhi Sikh Gurdawara Management Committee(DSGMC) who was initially teamed with Khalsa Action Committee didn't particiapate in today's march since he had also appealed to cancel the march in light of fresh apology sent by dera Sacha Sauda. Sarna had mediated in managing fresh apology.
The procession was peaceful. Elaborate security arrangements had been made by the Punjab police and central paramilitary forces along its 120-km route. The marchers will reach Damdama Sahib later in the evening.
Police diverted the procession from its planned route through the village of Salabatpura, 35 km from here, where the biggest campus of the Dera in Punjab is located.
A Bathinda court had last week issued non-bailable arrest warrants against the Dera chief after the Punjab police sought the same on the basis of a May 20 case registered against him here. He is accused of hurting the religious sentiments of Sikhs.
The Sikh-Dera controversy started on May 14 after the Dera chief attired himself like 10th Sikh guru Gobind Singh. This led to protests from the Sikh community. The Akal Takht - highest temporal seat of Sikhism - ordered that the godman and his followers be boycotted by all Sikhs.Violence also marked the controversy.
The Haryana government had also made elaborate security arrnagements around the dera Sacha Sauda in Sirsa.
Those leading the march, including Jasbir Singh Rode, Daljit Singh Bittu, co-convenor of the Committee and Bhai Mohkam Singh, spokesman of Damdami Taksal, have appealed to the participants to maintain peace and not to raise any kind of slogans. The protestors were scheduled to pass through Kangar, Salabatpura, Bhai Roopa, Rampura Phul, Mandi Kalan and Ram Nagar before reaching Talwandi Sabo, a temporal seat of the Sikhs. The route of the march however was changed to bypass Salabatpur where dera Sacha Sauda center is located.

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