Lahore — The statements of two remaining Indian nationals accused of hijacking an Indian airbus in July last year and diverting it to Lahore, were completed before the Special Court here today.
Later, the court adjourned the proceedings till the defense would submit the list of its witnesses.
On the next hearing, the Court would also examine the list of defense witnesses furnished by the first batch of Indian nationals involved in the hijacking of another Indian aircraft to Lahore in September, 1981.
Earlier yesterday one of the accused in the hijacking of the Indian aircraft in July last year said that he had been motivated to join the hijackers because the Indian Army had shaved his ‘Kesh’ (head) and beard in a malicious attempt to alter his religious identity.
Gurdeep Singh was among the four accused persons who recorded their statement before the special court. Three others, Malagar Singh, Gurvinder Singh and Harbhajan Singh, denied any involvement in the offense and said that they had been implicated simply because they belonged to the Sikh community and had served the passengers during their confinement as volunteers.
All four of them also filed written statements explaining their position.
Replying to court questions based on the evidence brought on record against him, Gurdeep Singh said that during army action in the Golden Temple, large scale arrests of the Sikhs were made all over India and he too was detained in occupied Jammu and tortured. During confinement, his head and beard were shaved and then he was let off.
The accused said that he came across with Perminder Singh and others on
Board the airbus, and then agreed to their hijacking plan to give vent to his resentment and anguish over the atrocities of the Indian Army. ;
In a 30 page written statement filed before the court, Gurdeep Singh gave a detailed account of the indiscriminate killing of the Sikhs across India and remarked that for the Sikh community, the independence of India in 1947 implied only a change to the slavery of the black “Hindus.”
He also referred to the Sikh struggle for genuine rights and for independent Khalistan.
Malagar Singh and Gurvinder Singh, both slightly above 18 years of age told the court that they happened to be traveling in the same plane individually and had no link with the hijackers. However, they said as members of the Sikh community, their sympathies were with Perminder Singh and his colleagues after they had taken a bold step to highlight the miserable plight of the Sikhs in India.
Accordingly, he when Perminder Singh called for volunteers to serve the passengers and also to ensure that nothing untoward happened in the aircraft, they offered themselves.
They denied that they had threatened the passengers or the crew. On the contrary they said, they had been courteous to all of them.
They denied that any hijacker had fired pistol shots in the plane.
Harbhajan Singh also denied any previous association with Perminder Singh. He said that he had joined as a volunteer to serve the passengers and had been implicated in the case on that account.
Earlier on Tuesday, the leader of nine Indian nationals facing trial told the special court that the Indian airbus had been hijacked under orders of the All India Sikh Students Federation high command, with a view to drawing the world attention to the miserable plight of the Sikhs in India and protesting the army attack on the Golden Temple, the holiest Sikh shrine in Amritsar.
Sardar Perminder Singh alias Harfan Maula, deposed that the hijacking | had been masterminded by him and three of his colleagues and a fifth Sikh youth joined them in the plane. The remaining four accused had no hand in the hijacking, he testified.
He said that when their objective of securing worldwide publicity for their cause had been attained, they surrendered unconditionally.
Sardar Perminder Singh was among three accused persons who made their statements before the court during the day.
Perminder Singh listed the names of his co hijackers as Daleep Singh, Rovinder Singh and Harmindar Singh. He said Gurdeep Singh a friend of Herminder, who happened to be traveling by the same aircraft, had agreed to the hijacking of the plane. The rest of the accused were not members of his group, he added.
Daleep Singh also made his statement before the court and confessed his involvement in the hijacking.
The third accused to make his statement in the course of the day was Manjeet Singh who said that he had boarded the airbus accidentally because a Boeing flight, in which his seat had been booked, was cancelled. He said that he had no hand in the hijacking nor was he associated with the hijackers in any manner.
Perminder Singh and Daleep Singh also filed written statements before the court giving the background of the accident. While replying to court questions based on the evidence brought on record by the prosecution, Perminder Singh denied that he had given the names of nine persons as his colleagues to the Pakistani authorities.
In this context he referred to the drastic cut in the percentage of the Sikhs in the Indian army and police force, abolition of the Sikh personal law and imposition of the Hindu personal law on them, enactment of various farm laws to harm the interests of the Sikh agriculturists in the Indian Punjab.
He alleged that although the Indian Sikhs working in other countries were remitting huge amount of foreign exchange to their country, they were not allowed to set up industries.
Above all he said since the Indian Government had unleashed a reign of terror and oppression against the Sikh community. In this respect, he listed a large number of incidents in which he alleged the innocent Sikhs were killed by the Indian army or police on petty grounds.
He said the Sikh youths were naturally concerned over these happenings and they felt their life, property and honor were not secure in India. Their peaceful attempts to gain their genuine rights yielded no result as the Indian government constantly turned a deaf ear to their demands and grievances he added.
The accused said that the desecration of the Golden Temple and the assassination of the popular Sikh leader, Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindrawale, in June last year, climaxed the atrocities of the Indian rulers which forced the Sikh youths to take some appropriate action to highlight their miseries. He said that the Indian plane was hijacked with the same objective.
He also said that he had given certain demands for releasing the passengers. However, he said, he did not give any ultimatum or time limit for their acceptance.
Perminder Singh told the court that he and his three co accused were members of the AISSF.
He further said in reply to a question they had entered the cockpit of the aircraft when flight bursar D. K. Mehta had come out. He added that at pistol point he asked the pilot to divert the plane to Lahore. The pilot did not resist and complied with his order.
In a 53 page written statement filed in the court to justify his action, Perminder Singh traced the origin of the Sikh religion and also gave an account of the sacrifices rendered by the Sikh community in the struggle for independence of the subcontinent.
IRONY OF FATE
In his statement, the accused said it was an irony of fate that shortsighted Sikh politicians at the time of independence were taken in by false promises of the top Hindu leaders Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Nehru who gave repeated assurances that the rights of the Sikh community would be fully safeguarded.
He, however, said that immediately after India gained independence the Indian Government embarked upon a calculated plan to eliminate the Sikhs or to weaken them economically, socially and politically.