Fast will continue till five militants, who have completed their prison terms, are released

As his indefinite fast completed 20 days, Gurbaksh Singh, seeking the release of five former militants who have completed their prison terms, has become a rallying point for all religious, social and radical organisations of the Sikh community, even while the traditional Akali leadership has preferred to stay away.

Claiming to be a follower of the ideology of firebrand militant leader Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, who, according to Mr. Singh, stood for the downtrodden and less privileged Sikhs, the 46-year-old started his fast at Amb Sahib Gurdwara in Mohali on November 14. He announced that his fast would continue till the five former militants are released. They include Lakhvinder Singh, Shamsher Singh and Gurmit Singh, who received life terms in 1995 for their involvement in the assassination of Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh. The other two – Lal Singh and Gurdip Singh– received life sentences after being convicted by TADA courts.

Talking to The Hindu at his tent which was pitched at the entry of the shrine, Mr. Singh said on his call, the entire Sikh Panth united itself under the banner of Nishan sahib (the religious flag).

He said he deliberately chose the spot as he could not stay without the darshan of the Guru Granth Sahib. Pictorial posters displaying quotations from Sant Bhindranwale and messages from top militants, Jagtar Singh Hawara and Paramjit Singh Bheora, who were convicted in the Beant Singh assassination case, mark the protest site.

Mr. Singh rued that while every Sikh in his ardas prayed for ‘Sarbat da bhala’ (universal well being), nobody was bothered about the welfare of the Sikhs, who he said were still enduring slavery despite having made sacrifices for India’s freedom. He said the present case was a perfect example of discrimination, as the government did not release the five even after they had completed their sentences.

He announced that he would continue his peaceful struggle to ensure equal rights for the Sikhs, within the ambit of the constitution, even after the protest achieved its aim.

Gurbaksh Singh doubts if free trial would be granted to Lakhvinder Singh, Shamsher Singh and Gurmit Singh, especially since the assassin of the Chief Minister was also killed in the bomb attack. He quoted a former Director General of Police of Punjab, Shashi Kant, who, while visiting him, said the Jail superintendent at each place should have followed the rules and released the five former militants after they had completed their sentences.