TORONTO: A Canadian Sikh, vilified in India as a terrorist but charged only with entering that country illegally, arrived in Toronto yesterday evening after spending more than a year in an Indian prison.

Daljit Singh Sekhon, 25, told reporters at Pearson airport last night that he had been tortured while in police custody in India. He said he had been subjected to electric shock treatment, beaten with sticks and hung upside down.

Officials from the Canadian High Commission in Delhi had made repeated representations for the release of Mr. Sekhon who spent more than a year in prison in Gurdaspur in Punjab state, a spokesman for the Department of External Affairs said earlier yesterday.

I am really happy that the (Canadian) government got me out,” Mr, Sekhon said last night. He was greeted at the airport by a crowd of about 70 including his father and his siblings with whom he lives in Mississauga, Ont.

When he was arrested in India on Sept 4 of last year, Mr. Sekhon who was released into the custody of Canadian officials in Delhi on Thursday was described in the Indian press as a gun smuggler and a “terrorist” henchman.

”’Everyone with a beard and turban is said to be a “terrorist” in India,” Mr. Sekhon told reporters last night, explaining that he meant Sikhs. “But I am not a terrorist. “Young man said reports that he was carrying a gun when arrested were completely untrue. After his arrest, it was widely reported in India that Mr. Sekhon made a full confession to various charges and he was initially held under the country’s Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act, Arms Act and Foreigners Act.

But all but one of the charges against him was withdrawn and he was charged only with entering India without travel documents. On Sept 6, he received a one-year sentence on that charge the External Affairs spokesman said.

”Rightly or wrongly, he was subject to the normal judicial process in India,” the spokesman added.

Last month, Canadian officials began arguing for his release. “Since he had served his sentence there was no reason to hold him,” the spokesman said.

Mr. Sekhon said last night that he travelled to India in the spring 1987 to visit relatives. He immigrated to Canada from India in 1980, Gurdev SIngh Sekhon his father, told reporters.

Also at the airport to greet Mr. Sekhon was another Canadian Sikh, Balkar Singh who returned home to Toronto last month after spending almost a year in an Indian jail. The Canadian government had made numerous representations to the Indian Government on behalf of the Etobicoke taxi driver.

Mr. Singh who also said he was tortured by Indian authorities was arrested under India’s anti-terrorist laws, which allow suspects to be held for up to a year without charge. It was widely reported that he too had made a “full confession,” although he was never charged.

A recent Amnesty International report, which documents arbitrary arrest and widespread torture states that in Punjab, only six of 1,927 people arrested under the anti-terrorist act have been convicted.

The Indian press had reported that Mr. Singh was an emissary for the Khalistan Liberation Force and that he was carrying instructions from the Vancouver based International Sikh Youth Federation.

But Mr. Sekhon’s father said last night his son does not belong to

“Any type” of organization like that.

Article extracted from this publication >> November 25, 1988