From Our Staff Reporter

NEW YORK: There have been strong reactions from leaders of the Sikh community to the State department’s not recognizing that Jasbir Singh Sandhu and Virinder Singh, the two Sikhs facing deportation from the U.S. would be persecuted on the basis of their religion in India.

Dr. Gurcharan Singh Dhillon president of the World Sikh Organization said “When even 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 ware persecuted in India.” He referred to the recent report titled “Truth about state terrorism in Punjab” which was recently published by the WSO as a step towards educating the American public.

Jasbir Singh Sandhu and Virinder Singh along with Dr. Gurpratap Singh Birk and Sukhminder Singh were sentenced to varying prison terms after they pleaded no-contest to charges that they had conspired to assassinate the then Haryana state Chief Minister Bhajan Lal during his visit to New Orleans in 1985. Another accused Jatinder Singh Ahluwalia was acquitted by Judge Patrick E. Carr.

Lal had come for eye treatment and while in that country, he had earned a dubious title of “the most corrupt politician in India,” and a Sikh baiter. He was promoted and is now the Federal Minister of Environment.

Dr. Birk and others had maintained that they were innocent and said they came to New Orleans to stage a demonstration against Lal for his harassment and humiliation of the Sikhs in Haryana during the Asian Games in 1984. They pleaded no contest under the “Alford v\s North Carolina which allowed them to plead guilty while maintaining their innocence.

Dr. Birk is currently under detention at Lewisburg W.VA. He is scheduled to be released in May 1991. Sukwinder Singh is being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York. Jasbir Singh Sandhu and Virinder Singh have both served their three year sentences and have been on parole since September 2. They are now held by the Immigration and Naturalization Service at its servicing center in Manhattan.

In the letter 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 the application failed to demonstrate that “the applicant has 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 strength of the application may be affected by the hearings or the additional information subsequently presented by the applicants presented by the applicant, the State department said adding. That if the Judge believed that such information warranted further consideration the department would review the application again.

Jagjit Singh Mangat, President of the Sikh Cultural Society in New York, which is the largest Sikh Gurdwara in the US told the World Sikh News that 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 Sikhs 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 organization including Amnesty International and these atrocities has been placed on the Congressional record. When will the State department Open its eyes and recognize the persecution of the Sikhs in India.

Rajwant Singh the Secretary of Guru Gobind Singh Foundation in Maryland 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 united show the world how their brethren were being ruthlessly persecuted in India.

Dr. Gurmit Singh Aulakh of the Khalistan Council said, “The State department is somehow not performing its duty the way it should because the evidence of oppression fake encounters and genocide of the Sikh nation is right there.. The Amnesty International report of ‘88 and the Indian Government’s refusal to allow any outsiders into Punjab clearly indicate that there is something to hide. Government terrorism is perpetuated against the Sikhs and massacre of Sikh students in Bidar, South India, is a recent example.”

Article extracted from this publication >> December 9, 1988