Stifled Voices: Jagtar Singh Johal

A report by the Sikh Federation UK chapter recounts a chillingly true tale of horror. On November 4th, 2017 Jagtar Singh Johal of Dumbarton, Scotland was snatched off the street and thrown into a van by Police in the State of Punjab, India. The 30-year-old young man was in his family’s native region of Punjab shopping in the company of his new wife and cousin when he was snatched without warning in the city of Jalandhar. Mr. Johal’s supposed crimes? Running a publication detailing the very real atrocities that occurred during the Sikh Genocide of 1984, and subsequently causing a stir amongst young people regarding the subject. An MP for the West Dunbartonshire region by the name of Martin Docherty-Hughes, has expressed his solidarity with Mr. Johal and his family members, and has said he will use his power to contact higher authorities such as the Foreign Secretary and the Scottish government to ensure that Mr. Johal is in receipt of the proper protection during this time. Mr. Johal has now been in custody for 2 weeks, and is currently facing a prison sentence until November 30th, 2017. He remains to be officially charged with any crime and his lawyer claims he has been the subject of torture at the hands of Punjab Police. The police have accused Mr. Johal of financing the purchase of weapons for the purpose of killing Hindu leaders, which was apparently their main purpose in snatching him. Unfortunately at the present time, it is hugely concerning that the UK Government has failed to take action to ensure that Mr. Johal received the fair trial that he is entitled to as a Law-Abiding UK citizen, and Mr. Johal is just the face right now, of many who have been treated with hostility at the hands of the Indian government.

The Sikh Genocide of 1984 is not well-known across the globe, and as horrible as Mr. Johal’s story is, perhaps now is the time for the world to wake up and realize that the Sikh Genocide continues in different ways. In June 1984, Indira Gandhi ordered a military attack on Darbar Sahib, in Amritsar, Punjab, the most sacred place of worship for Sikhs. The attack resulted in thousands of civilian casualties, and as a result of her violent reign, she was assassinated on October 31st of that same year by two of her Sikh bodyguards. Following the assassination, groups of angered Hindu thugs committed an array of atrocities. They set fire to Sikh-owned businesses, forced Sikhs out of their own homes, cars and even off of public transit, after which many times they would then club them to death or set them ablaze before looking for their next victims. These thugs, alongside crooked law enforcement officers gang-raped Sikh women, Murdered Sikh men, and destroyed Gurudawaras, the Sikh place for worship. Former New York Times bureau chief in New Delhi, Barbara Crossette pointed out in a report for the World Policy Journal that “Almost as many Sikhs died in a few days in India in 1984 than all the deaths and disappearances in Chile during the 17-year military rule of Gen. Augusto Pinochet between 1973 and 1990,” a disturbing truth that India has yet to face. Today, survivors of the 1984 Genocide live in poverty or disenfranchisement, they move forward with no apology, and no one to account for the atrocities committed against them. India has the opportunity today, to recognize the events of 1984 as a massacre, a genocide, and not just a mere riot, and yet it fails to for fear of embarrassment. The government of India has a lot of work to do, as many of it’s citizens continue to live in neglect daily, not only the Sikh population.

Jagtar Singh Johal, is a voice for many voices that have been stifled and by telling the truth he abided by the Sikh principles of Nirbhau, Nirvair (Without Fear, Without Hate). We must protect everyone who becomes a victim for speaking the truth, as without the truth there is no hope or reason for those whose voices have been, and remain lost.

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