Balwant Singh Rajoana has been on death row since August 2007

Babbar Khalsa International (BKI) operative Balwant Singh Rajoana, who has been on death row after he was convicted in the case related to the assassination of the former Punjab Chief Minister, Beant Singh, will hanged on March 31 in the Patiala high security prison.

Beant Singh was assassinated when a suicide bomber of the BKI detonated a device at the VIP entrance of the Punjab and Haryana civil secretariat on August 31, 1995. Deciding the case inside the Burail jail, a special Central Bureau of Investigation court on August 2007 handed death sentences to Rajoana and another BKI hitman Jagtar Singh Hawara, while co-accused Shamsher Singh, Gurmeet Singh and Lakhwinder Singh were awarded life imprisonment.

While the Punjab and Haryana High Court commuted Hawara's death sentence to imprisonment for life, Rajoana had refused to file an appeal. Instead, he made a statement that the death sentence passed on him be executed at the earliest. Disposing of the matter, Chandigarh's Additional district and session judge Shalini Nagpal fixed the date of execution for Rajoana as March 1. Rajoana has been in a condemned cell at the Patiala prison since he was convicted.

No hangman

The issuing of the death warrants against Rajoana has created a peculiar situation, as there is no hangman in any of the Punjab prisons. Further, the Patiala jail authorities have sought clarifications about carrying out a death sentence against a person who still faces another trial.

If the warrants are executed, Rajoana will be the first person to be sent to the gallows after Dhananjoy Chatterjee, convicted in a rape and murder case, was hanged in Kolkata in August 2004. There has been no hanging in any of Punjab's jails for the last 24 years. The last hanging in the State was carried out on June 16, 1989, when Gurcharan Singh and Pritam Singh were hanged for murder.

He will be a martyr

Meanwhile, reacting to the development, radical Sikh organisation Dal Khalsa said that if the government executed the black warrant, Balwant Singh Rajoana would be a martyr of the Sikh Panth who sacrificed his life to achieve the goal of Sikh independent homeland.

Through a statement, the outfit's senior leaders Satnam Singh Paonta Sahib and Kanwarpal Singh held Rajoana in high esteem and warned that the government would be responsible for the consequences. They said the hanging would a blot on the image of the Akali-Dal-led government — particularly on Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal. The leaders said it was ironic that the Indian justice system had, on the first day of Nanakshahi calendar Samat 544 (March 14), presented the Sikhs with the news of Rajoana's hanging.