Bandi Singhs, the term used for Sikh prisoners convicted for militant activities in the state of Punjab, have been languishing in Indian jails for over three decades. Activists are campaigning for their release, citing their deteriorating health and the fact that the militancy in Punjab has long ended.
The Sikh insurgency in Punjab started in the late 1970s and continued for over a decade. The Khalistan movement aimed to create a separate homeland for the Sikhs, an idea that was met with opposition from the Indian government. The insurgency was marked by violence and bloodshed on both sides, leading to the arrest and conviction of many Sikh militants.
The Plight of Bandi Singhs:
Many of the convicted Sikh militants, popularly known as Bandi Singhs, are still behind bars in various Indian prisons. They have been incarcerated for over three decades and have been suffering from various physical and mental ailments. The prolonged incarceration has taken a toll on their health, and they are in desperate need of medical attention and care.
The Call for Release:
Activists and Sikh groups have been campaigning for the release of these prisoners, citing their deteriorating health and the fact that the militancy in Punjab has long ended. In November 2020, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), a prominent Sikh organization, launched a campaign to secure the release of Bandi Singhs. The campaign, called “Save the Prisoners,” aims to bring attention to the plight of these prisoners and put pressure on the Indian government to release them.
The release of Bandi Singhs is not a straightforward process. The Indian government has been reluctant to release them, citing security concerns and the seriousness of the charges against them. The families of the prisoners have also faced challenges in securing legal representation and accessing the courts. Moreover, some prisoners have been denied parole and medical treatment, despite their deteriorating health.
The Way Forward:
The release of Bandi Singhs remains a sensitive issue, with both the Indian government and Sikh groups taking a firm stand. However, there have been some positive developments in recent years. In 2019, the Indian government released four Sikh prisoners who had completed their sentences. In 2020, the government also announced the setting up of a committee to review the cases of Sikh prisoners who have completed their sentences but are still in jail.
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