NEW YORK, NY: A hearing was held at the District Immigration Court here on the deportation case of Jasbir Singh Sandhu on March 22, which was attended by a large number of community members from the United States and Canada. He as well as Dr. Gurpratap Singh Birk and Virinder Singh were arrested by the FBI for allegedly trying to assassinate the then Haryana Chief Bhajan Lal in New Orleans. Jasbir Singh and Virinder Singh are in the custody of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Balkar Singha Canadian citizen who was tortured badly by Punjab Police after his arrest was a witness before the court. He narrated how he was tortured at the Mal Mandi Interrogation Centre in Amnitsar by police. He was beaten up viciously and was released only after the intervention of the Canadian authorities. Balkar Singh was accompanied by Balbir Singh Brar of the Human Rights Group in Canada.

Jagjit Singh Mangat, President of the Sikh Cultural Society, Richmond Hill, Baldev Singh, trustee ‘of the Society, and Harbhajan Singh Gill, Vice President World Sikh Organization were amongst the community leaders present at the hearing.

The court also heard testimony from Balkar Singh and Gurdey Singh the father and brother of Jasbir Singh Sandhu.

The next hearing is on June 20. A separate hearing of Virinder Singh on March 23 could not be held and will be scheduled later.

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 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 by Rajiv Gandhi and is now the Federal Minister of Agriculture and Rehabilitation.

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 vs. Carolina” which allowed them to plead guilty while maintaining their innocence.

Dr. Birk is currently under detention at Lewisburg W.V.A. 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 at its servicing center in Manhattan.

Sikh leaders have expressed their apprehensions that if they were to be deported to India, they would be tortured and even killed by the police, just as Balkar Singh was tortured, and numerous other Sikh youths have been killed for their maintaining their identity and independent political views.

Article extracted from this publication >>  March 31, 1989