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Courage of Conviction:
In The Matter of Balwant Singh

by I.J. SINGH

 

 

 

Beant Singh's assassin, Balwant Singh Rajoana, is to be hanged on Saturday, March 31, 2012, rules the court. 

But the jail authorities are reluctant to do it.

The political back and forth between the jail authorities and the courts continues. The courts have ordered a hanging; the jail authorities would like to defer the moment.

Why?

There is no doubt that Balwant Singh, by his own admission, is guilty in the killing of Beant Singh, the former Chief Minister of Punjab, almost a decade ago in 1995. 

Balwant Singh has not requested a delay. He has not appealed to a higher court. He has not petitioned for mercy.

Balwant Singh absolutely refuses to recognize the courts or the legal proceedings that convicted him and sentenced him to die.

He has repeatedly and clearly asked that no one intercede on his behalf.

It is not that Balwant Singh wants to die; it is that he is willing to do so.

It is that everyone is free to challenge the existing law, whether on taking a life, as Balwant Singh did, or going through a red light. Each carries a price that the law demands.

When a man deliberately decides to break a law, he must also be ready to pay the piper. And Balwant Singh is.

He committed a crime.

Why?

Because Beant Singh, the Chief Minister, was responsible for the arbitrary and capricious murder of so many innocent Sikhs ... all in the name of state security and peace. Something had to be done. The state mechanisms of justice had totally failed. And when all other means have failed, it is just and rightful to take to the sword.

This is what Balwant Singh did. That is why to the peasantry of Punjab, Balwant Singh has reached an iconic status.

But when the courts have so ruled, why do the jail-authorities cringe at carrying out the orders?

Simply because the jailers and those designated to carry out the hanging see the political realities. To most Sikhs Balwant Singh is a man who has done no wrong; he is a hero to so many that it would be politically unwise to hang him. Many would like to give him a medal instead.

From a hanging a popular backlash could result and that would hardly be conducive to peace.

His guilt is not at issue today. It is the shortsighted political decision that is to be rued.

A crime deserves punishment and alternatives to hanging exist. Before Indians in India - Sikhs and non-Sikhs - take umbrage at my words, if to them what I say sounds like interference in the internal affairs of their country, I ask them to think a little.

Not so long ago, when apartheid was the law of the land in South Africa, it was our moral duty to raise our voices against it - no matter if we were citizens of India, Germany, Africa or India. Why then should we hold our tongue in the case of miscarriage of justice in India?

South Africa is not the only nation whose genocidal policies raised our hackles. It became everyone’s cause, no matter the race, color, caste, creed, religion or geography and nationality.

Take careful note of the fact that India’s record of justice for its own people is horrendous. One example of many that exist:  the killing of several thousand Sikhs in its capital city of Delhi in 1984 when the police watched, if not aided and abetted, the murders.

And where is justice now, 28 years and a dozen inquiry commissions later? 

Still waiting!

I would be willing to bet that the ordinary Punjabi, the ordinary Sikh, grieves for Balwant Singh today while at the same time he salutes and celebrates the courage of his convictions.

Hanging of the man - Balwant Singh - who acted in the face of such unabating injustice would reopen fresh the wounds of the 1980’s.  And that is not the way to a future of peace.  It is the way to unending resentment and violence.

Is that what the policymakers in India want? I would think they are a lot smarter than that.

A government of the people ought to listen to the people; it needs to have an ear to the ground


March 28, 2012

ijsingh99@gmail.com

 

Conversation about this article

1: G.C. Singh (U.S.A.), March 28, 2012, 8:33 AM.

The courage and principled stand of Bhai Balwant Singh has already shaken New Delhi's and Punjab rulers. They will never hang him, because of the consequences that will follow. The dormant Sikh freedom movement has already got a shot in the arm, and the double standards of the Indian state and its judiciary have been fully exposed to the world.

2: Satvir Kaur (Boston, MA, U.S.A.), March 28, 2012, 9:25 AM.

It's good to hear that the hanging has been "stayed" but I wonder if this is a ploy to divert the protests so that the hanging can be held later, either secretly, or at a quieter time. I hope not!

3: Harpreet Singh (California, U.S.A.), March 28, 2012, 1:01 PM.

"Is that what the policymakers in India want?" I think they got what they wanted. Yes, they are a lot smarter than that. SGPC and the Punjab Govt. have both been played and have appealed for clemency. With the stay on execution, they have managed to make Sikhs look weak and powerless in front of the larger Hindu populace. This is exactly what Balwant Singh did NOT want! Why do we settle for half-way solutions? The right thing to do is demand an unconditional release. Either that or they can follow their so-called "law". We as individuals may not have the courage to lay down lives but when someone is willing to stand up for truth, the least we can do is support the truth and not muddy the waters with a mercy plea.

4: Harman Singh (California, U.S.A.), March 28, 2012, 1:30 PM.

I agree with Harpreet. We should demand unconditional release. It is ironic that Bhai Balwant Singh faces execution while Kishori Lal, the "Butcher of Delhi" of 1984 notoriety, walks free ... after having been given the death sentence by a Court of Law. So much for justice in India.

5: Raman Deep (Australia), March 28, 2012, 1:35 PM.

Bhai Balwant Singh is our soldier, our protector. He is not a criminal. People who think so are the country's worst enemies. This is nothing but abuse of a minority, albeit one that has disproportionately contributed to all that is positive in India today. Have you noticed? - Whenever there's need for a sacrifice for the greater good in that land, it is always - and only - a Sikh that steps forward, and delivers!

6: Ravinder Singh (Mumbai, India), March 29, 2012, 12:24 AM.

I fully support the author's views. Wish our leaders could be as straight-forward as he has, in simple and accurate terms, described our collective position.

7: Roop Dhillon (Reigate, United Kingdom), March 29, 2012, 5:20 AM.

I am a writer who has chosen Punjabi as his medium. Relgiously, I am a Sikh, and my soul is linked to the Punjab. However I am not Indian, I am English, so do not wish to get involved in the politics of India. However, it affects Sikhs everywhere, and from that point of view alone I watch the tamasha from the side. This latest chapter shows me the hypcorisy in India. I am not saying Balwant is innocent, what I am saying is the law must apply equally and India fails here. If he is to be hung, then so should all those who murdered Sikhs in 1984, even if they rule India. One cannot pick or choose. If they are not to be punished (unlikely 28 years later) then if India hangs this man, notwithstanding views on the death penalty, India cannot call itself a democracy. Badal is just playing everyone to stay in power. If Punjabis are blind to this and don't carry on the pressure now, not only will he carry on winning, nothing will ever change. Khalistan is not the end goal, but fairness for Sikhs and Punjab is. Otherwise 30 million people need to consider if they want to remain a part of India.

8: Kuldip (Crawley, United Kingdom), March 29, 2012, 5:32 AM.

What we must start doing is: 1) Stop calling ourselves Indian (I look across the Indo-Pak border and see more in common there than I do when I look within India)... not saying we are Pakistani, saying we never were connected to lands south of Punjab. 2) Stop speaking Hindi, watching Bollywood films and teaching our kids Hindi. 3) Continue educating the world about 1984. 4) Remove current Punjabi leaders. All our leaders need to be from highly educated Sikhs, preferably born outside of India, not the semi-literates that lead us now. 5) Create a new Sikh leadership, not based in Amritsar, but elsewhere. 6) Avoid investing in India.

9: Kim Singh (Manchester, United Kingdom), March 29, 2012, 8:25 AM.

Have to agree with brother Kuldip. And while we're on the topic, we should demand that Bollywood stop portraying Sikhs in their films in an inaccurate, negative way.

10: Hardeep Singh (Ontario, Canada), March 30, 2012, 5:04 AM.

This is not something new. India's has double standards. We became third class citizens the day the British left India. We have been cheated right and left of our rights. I salute the courageous stand taken by Sardar Balwant Singh. Only if we stand up for our rights will be achieve something. I pray to the Almighty that our own homeland becomes a reality and we will see India on it knees begging for help ... as always

11: Dr. Pargat Singh (Nottingham, United Kingdom), March 30, 2012, 2:25 PM.

Bhai Balwant Singh's principled stance is unifying Sikhs all over the world and this can only be a good thing. In the final analysis, Sikhi sidak will triumph.

12: Roop Dhillon (Reigate, United Kingdom), April 01, 2012, 3:09 AM.

See how the West ignores Sikhs in India. Have you noticed how the western media, including BBC, focus on Assad and Syria, but not one article about Balwant SIngh related abuses of protesters in India? Money talks, and the Indian Govt. want the world to invest in India, even if it kills its Chridtians, Muslims and Sikhs ... http://www.punjabizm.com/forums-westignores-66363-7-1.html

13: Karam Singh (Hamilton, Ontario, Canada), April 01, 2012, 5:06 AM.

Further to Roop's omments (# 12), it is worthy of note that the Canadian media did give some coverage to the Balwant Singh story, albeit in a distorted fashion. There is a reason for this anomaly. The Indian High Commission and India's regional Consulate offices have full time staff assigned to the job of, and are highly active in, spreading misinformation ... and liberally feed the local media with their own version of the events around Sikhs. The Canadian media is not a very sophisticated one, and a few third-rate journalists have readily made it their life-time preoccupation to hound the Sikhs at the beck and call of the Indians. Globe and Mail's Robert Matas, CBC's Terry Milewski, Vancouver Sun's Kim Bolan ... and, of course, National Post's Jonathan Kay, are the stars amongst these mercenaries.

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