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TRUTH   JUSTICE   FREEDOM

"An officer asked my name and when I answered ‘Hardeep Singh’, I was slapped and my hands were tied behind my back. I knew at that moment that our lives were to be changed forever."

 

This is Bhai Hardeep Singh who has been incarcerated in Amritsar Jail for the last 14 years or so. He and his family have suffered so much throughout the Sikh Genocide and the effects still live on today. Bhai Hardeep Singh and his family regularly provided food for people involved in the resistance movement and for this act he and his whole family paid a very heavy price.

Bhai Sahib and his family were routinely harassed by police officers for giving food and one day they decided to arrest him. On a cold winter’s during amrit vela Bhai Hardeep Singh had awoken to complete his daily prayers and meditation. He was sitting by his bed when scores of police officers jumped over the courtyard wall of his modest home. An officer asked his name and when bhai sahib answered ‘Hardeep Singh’, he was immediately slapped and his hands were tied behind his back. Bhai sahib knew at that moment that his and his families lives were to be changed forever.

Bhai Hardeep Singh was taken in for questioning and was brutally tortured in various ways including the ‘roller ‘ technique, he was hung upside down for hours at a time, he was deprived of food and water, electrocuted, joints and muscles were broken. What was a few weeks seemed like infinity and bhai sahib thought that the police would end up killing him in a fake encounter as they kept threatening him with this possibility. Throughout the torture they kept asking him about people involved in the movement and if he knew of their plans and why he had even dared to provide them with food and shelter. For this apparent transgression, they were planning to implicate him in a number of cases.

During bhai sahib’s interrogation and subsequent imprisonment, his family was picked up and were also tortured. It was bhai sahib’s father Bhai Pavittar Singh (top right in photograph) who bore the brunt of the cruel violence. Bhai Pavittar Singh’s finger and toe nails were ripped off while he was repeatedly hit on the head so hard that it has caused a psychological imbalance. Since his torture Bhai Pavittar Singh is unable to carry out normal tasks and requires constant support for the simplest of things such as putting on clothes, taking a walk or talking to people. Bhai Hardeep Singh mother was also tortured for her part in giving food to activists and freedom fighters at the time and at present she is her husband’s constant support. In torturing the parents, siblings, other relatives and threatening them to give money or else they would kill Bhai Hardeep Singh, the police succeeded in destroying whole generations in one family. The police demanded 5 lakh rupees or else they would take Bhai Sahib out of jail and back into custody to kill him in a fake encounter rather than letting him stay alive in prison. The family feared for bhai sahib’s life and so ended up selling the little land they had. Upon giving the money, bhai sahib’s life was spared but he still had to endure the needless imprisonment, an imprisonment that continues to this day. However it must be noted, that many families went through the exact same thing and some families were simply too poor and could not save their loved ones. Others ended up in a vicious cycle, having saved a loved one already through paying the police off and now the police continued to blackmail them into giving more and more money until they had nothing left. Some families gave money but their loved ones were still killed by police for the sake of promotions that were given for ‘combatting terrorism’.  Bhai Hardeep also recalls how excessive dirt was thrown onto the kes (hair) of Singhs and Singhnis being tortured. As the torture continued the dirt would dry in the kes and could only be removed if their kes was cut. As this was not an option, once the detainees were thrown into jail, other Sikh prisoners would help the detainee by washing and cleaning their hair and then carefully brushing the hair to take out the dirt. This procedure would take days as the dirt had so much waste products mixed in and it had dried in the hair which made it very difficult to remove.

After a High Court order was made in bhai sahib’s favour, he was released in the on bail in 2000 after serving seven years of his life imprisonment. During this time bhai sahib married and was blessed with a wife and two adorable children. However as legal proceedings continued for his other cases, the court declared in 2006 that he had to complete the rest of his term in jail. Since 2006, Bhai Hardeep Singh has been granted parole for a few days at a time to visit family due to his excellent record. However this still does not constitute actual freedom. In total it has been 14 years, coming on to fifteen for doing absolutely nothing except giving food. No police officers have been held accountable for bhai sahib’s torture let alone the cruel and inhumane violence inflicted on the rest of his family. To this day, bhai sahib’s father has still not been able to mentally recover from the torture.

Since Bhai Hardeep Singh’s case has come to the attention of SOPW, we have been supporting his family in terms of welfare and educational fees for his family as well as his own legal fees. We are working hard to secure bhai sahib’s actual release. We owe such families this much, who have witnessed members of their family being tortured, those who sacrificed their livelihoods and time during the Sikh genocide.  

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