CONCERNS RAISED ABOUT FALSE IMPRISONMENT AND MISTREATMENT OF SCOTTISH SIKH MAN BY INDIAN POLICE The Sikh Federation (UK) is demanding action from both the British and Scottish governments in ensuring his immediate release to prevent further torture and hardship
London – 9 November 2017
A young Sikh man born and raised in Glasgow was picked up by plain clothes policemen five days ago on the 4 November in Jalandhar, Punjab, India. 30-year old Jagtar Singh Johal from Dumbarton travelled to Punjab with his family on 2 October for his wedding and had been there for nearly five weeks when he was swooped upon. He had previously travelled to Punjab earlier this year in April for his engagement and stayed there for seven weeks without any difficulties.
Whilst shopping in Jalandhar with his newly wed wife and a female cousin he was accosted, a sack thrown over his head, and he was forced into a van by men dressed in plain clothes. The family later found out the men were police officers. The family were also lied to about his whereabouts and his welfare. On 4 and 5 November they were unable to locate him. On 5 November he was presented in court and was placed in police remand for five days. However, his whereabouts and condition remain unknown and undisclosed.
His family from the UK have been in constant contact with the British High Commission in India and several UK MPs, including his local MP Martin Docherty-Hughes since the day of his abduction.
Martin Docherty-Hughes has expressed his concern at the present situation regarding his constituent and offered his full support to the family in the hope to achieve a positive outcome. He has also contacted the High Commission of India in London and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and will be speaking to his elder brother when his flight arrives from Delhi later today. His brothers Gurjit and Gurpreet, aged 29 and 32 from Glasgow concerned for the well being of their brother and other family members flew out to India on the next available flight the day after he was picked up to try and obtain more information and encourage the British authorities to take the matter more seriously. However, they have been forced to return back to the UK following threats and false accusations in what has proved a perilous trip.
The Indian authorities have declined to provide any information to the British High Commission or UK MPs regarding his whereabouts or condition raising the strong possibility he is being mistreated.
His family in India are being harassed by the police with his maternal aunt, her daughter and his wife being arrested when they refused to hand over his British passport. All three have now had to go into hiding to avoid further harassment and abuse.
His family in the UK have complained to the British High Commission about police harassment and intimidation. They have also raised serious concerns about the mistreatment of Jagtar at the hands of the notorious Punjab police and are concerned the British authorities are not doing enough for a law-abiding British citizen.
A further court appearance is arranged for Friday 10 November, which may provide the first opportunity for the British officials in India to visit and talk to Jagtar and provide legal assistance.
Lawyers familiar with police tactics have pointed out it is highly suspicious his arrest came four days after a ‘Jimmy’ Singh from Jammu handed himself to Indian police when he returned to India having spent several years living in the UK. It is highly probable he has returned to India on the understanding he will become an informant or been interrogated and provided names of others.
Police have suggested in Indian media reports that Jagtar’s only crime is he has been ‘running a magazine’ in the UK of atrocities during the 1984 Sikh Genocide and influencing the youth through social media. Sources in the UK suggest the Indian authorities are fabricating evidence or exaggerating his role. If the Indian authorities believed what he was doing in the UK amounted to breaking the law they should have raised this matter with the UK authorities so they could have taken appropriate action.
This young man should be enjoying married life, but finds himself the subject of some sort of conspiracy hatched by the Punjab police and leading politicians. Two days ago the Chief Minister of Punjab was prompted by the Punjab police chief DGP Suresh Arora in a press conference to specifically mention the young man by name and pass a public judgement.
Gurpreet Singh Johal, the elder brother said:
“Jagtar has not been charged, let alone had a trial, but the Chief Minister has made incendiary and prejudicial remarks to the media. Unless the British authorities quickly step in this will guarantee a law-abiding British citizen will be illegally detained for some time and will not receive a fair trial. He should be immediately released and returned to the UK.”
“It is also my understanding that my brother was not even named on the police First Information Request (FIR) equivalent of a warrant or charge sheet. This raises further questions that his detention is opportunist and the absence of any evidence against my brother”
The Chief Minister is getting a reputation for making outlandish and fabricated claims. He first targeted the highly respected Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan during his official visit to India. More recently he targeted Jagmeet Singh, the newly elected leader of the NDP in Canada. In comparison making false claims about an unknown 30 year old Sikh from Scotland who is not even known in active Sikh circles in Britain is easy.
Bhai Amrik Singh, the Chair of the Sikh Federation (UK) said:
“We are deeply concerned for the mental and physical well-being of this young man who got married on 18 October and was spending time with his wife before returning to the UK.”
“Punjab police are notorious for their brutality and use of torture during interrogation to extract information or obtain false confessions.”
“Given some of the media reports we are disturbed by the lack of urgency and action taken by the British High Commission in both Delhi, the mission in Chandigarh and the Foreign Office in London. They have failed to make contact with senior police officers to ensure the safety and wellbeing of this young British man.”
“The British authorities really need to pull their finger out and nip this in the bud as the Indian police and politicians are known to be corrupt to the core. They have no regard for a fair judicial process and obtaining evidence legally to establish if they have a case that will stand up in court. They use the media to spread false information as they need to be seen to be tough, so suspects can be held indefinitely even if the person is eventually proved to be found innocent.”
“The crime of raising awareness about the 1984 Sikh Genocide in the UK that Jagtar stands accused of, that has been reported by the Indian media is pathetic. Firstly it is not a crime, secondly it is not in India’s jurisdiction and thirdly could apply to hundreds of thousands of Sikhs in the Diaspora. In our view this illegal detention is designed to scaremonger and is another attempt to restrict human rights activists abroad from raising voices of opposition.”
Gurjeet Singh National Press Secretary Sikh Federation (UK)