The former militant is seeking the release of Sikh terrorists who have completed their jail terms

As Gurbaksh Singh Khalsa, a former Sikh militant on bail since 2010, completes a month of his fast-unto-death for the release of former Sikh militants who have completed their jail terms, his campaign has begun to draw attention. While some Sikhs have expressed solidarity with his cause, some have urging him to call off his fast.

When Gurbaksh quietly began his fast at Gurudwara Amb Sahib in Mohali, a sprinkling of fringe radical Sikh outfits rushed to support him and organised a march from Amritsar to Mohali. Subsequently, mainstream Sikh leaders such as the Jathedar of the Akal Takht, Gurbachan Singh, and Avtar Singh Makkar, president of the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC), urged him to call off his fast and offered to extend legal support for the cause.

Gurbaksh is seeking the release of six former militants, among them, Lakhvinder Singh, Shamsher Singh and Gurmit Singh, who received life terms in 1995 for their involvement in the assassination of former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh. The other three are Lal Singh, Warayam Singh and Gurdeep Singh, convicted for life under TADA. All six have completed their sentences. Gurbaksh also has a list of other 118 Sikh detainees in various jails, some of whom have completed their terms.

While the Punjab government is silent on the growing support for Gurbaksh, sources in the police maintained that the government cannot do much for the six former militants as cases against them were going on in other States. Senior police officers viewed the campaign as “an effort to thwart the legal process through emotional arm-twisting” and said they were keeping a close watch. On December 6, Gurbaksh Singh was arrested and taken to hospital but was released two days later. He has since resumed his fast.

Concern in some quarters that the deteriorating condition of Gurbaksh could lead to disturbance in State, voices from within the Sikh community have urged for a legal approach to deal with it.