New York: The decision of an immigration judge to grant political asylum to an activist of the All India Sikh Students Federation in India, was welcomed by Sikh Leaders in the United States,

Talking to the World Sikh News S. Jagjit Singh Mangat the president of Sikh cultural Society said “We are very glad that the immigration judges are now recognizing the persecution of the Sikhs in India’ He hoped that the granting of political asylum to Sukhdev Singh the third such case in recent times, would set a positive precedent for deciding such cases in the future,

S.Sukhdev Singh, a member of the All India Sikh Students Federation in India, was granted political asylum in the United States by Judge Howard Cohen here, on December22.

In his decision, the Judge found Sukhdev Singh had a “well-founded fear of persecution” if he returned to India. The Judge took this decision in spite of an advisory note by the State Department which claimed that the department was not aware of any persecution of the Sikhs in India.

In the note the immigration judge had been advised by the State department that “the allegations made in the application do not constitute a valid claim of persecution on the basis of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion”.

The department contended that the application failed to demonstrate that the applicant has a well-founded fear of persecution upon. His return to India”.

The State department said that its opinion was based on their information about the country’s conditions and the relevant facts as available to the department from its conduct of foreign affairs together with the information provided in the application.

The State departments’ position has been roundly criticized by Sikh leaders (W.S.N. Dec9) including, Gurcharan Singh Dhillon president of the World Sikh Organization who said “When the international human rights organizations like London based Amnesty International have documented the persecution of the Sikhs and the killing of Sikh youth in fake encounters in their homeland in Punjab. It is high time that the State Department should recognize the persecution of the Sikhs in India.

We will have to convey the facts to the free world and we will have to work to show the people in the U.S. that we are persecuted in India. He referred the recent report titled “Truth about state terrorism in Punjab” which was recently published by the W.S.O. as a step towards educating the American public.

S.Jagjit Singh Mangat, President of the Sikh Cultural Society in New York, which is the largest Sikh Gurdwara in the United States had said, if these Sikh young men were ever to be deported to India they would certainly face persecution.” The Sikhs were burnt alive in 1984 and this was shown on the American TV news, Our properties were torched, our women were raped, since then no Sikh is safe in India. Recently Sikh students in Bidar,Karnataka were beaten up and killed Sikh young men are killed in staged encounters in Punjab. All this has been documented by international human rights organizations including Amnesty International and these atrocities have been placed on the Congressional Record. When will the State department open its eyes and recognize the persecution of Sikhs in India?

S.Rajwant Singh the secretary of Guru Gobind Singh Foundation in Maryland had said,” The State Department’s statement is totally unjustified. The U.S. is expected to stand for the Human Rights of people all over the World and is a sanctuary of the persecuted. These Sikhs should not be deported to the mercy of a ruthless regime.” He also appealed to the Sikh community to wake up and untidily show the world how their brethren were being ruthlessly persecuted in India,

In his decision the Judge found that S. Sukhdev Singh had been arrested three times, tortured on two occasions and had “a well-founded fear of persecution upon his return to India”. He said that in spite of Sikh endeavoring to enter the United States on fraudulent papers he would let him in the country.

Singh was originally apprehended by the immigration and Naturalization service for traveling on a forged pass port at the John F.Kennedy airport on September 6, 1988. He acknowledged this and said he was fleeing the persecution and torture in India.

S.Sukhdev Singh had been arrested by the police in India as an AISSF activist on various occasions. The police had tortured him viciously. The World Sikh Organization had filed a letter expressing its

 apprehensions that Sikh would be tortured and killed if deported to India. Various members of the All India Sikh Students Federation have suffered the same fate in the past.

The A.LS.S.F. and the International Sikh Students’ Federation had also written to the Judge on his behalf. Sukhdev Attomey Lynn Neugebauer told the World Sikh News “I am glad that I was able to be of service to the Sikh community”.

Article extracted from this publication >>  January 6, 1989