On October 2nd, British National Jagtar Singh Johal, known lovingly as Jaggi, travelled to India for his wedding. His trip was supposed to be a joyous occasion for the whole family; however the past month has turned into a living nightmare.
On November 4th, whilst out shopping with his wife, and a relative, Jagtar Singh had a bag thrown over his head as plain-clothes police officers abducted him. The family were not informed why they had picked him up or where Jagtar was taken.
It later transpired that he had remained in police custody for six days, before being presented to a Court on November 10th. There was no official charge sheet nor was there a relevant FIR (First Information Report) detailing why he was arrested. Bound and gagged at the mouth Jagtar Singh was denied both legal representation and British consular services. He was remanded for a further four days.
Indian media outlets reported that Jagtar was arrested due raising awareness about the 1984 Sikh Genocide via social media. However, after Chief Minister of Panjab, Captain Amarinder Singh, sensationally prejudiced the case by claiming Jagtar was behind the murder of right-wing RSS leaders, various reports ranging from accusations of conspiracy with Pakistan intelligence agencies; weapons dealing; and funding violence within the State were published.
All this information was disseminated without a single charge sheet.
On November 14th, Jagtar appeared in court again, and met his lawyer for the first time. His lawyer confirmed that Jagtar had been subjected to interrogation, including third degree torture by way of electrocution to the ears, nipples and genitals. His body parts were separated by force and he had endured psychological torture, sleep deprivation and constant verbal abuse.
Jagtar was remanded for a further three days, despite any official charge sheet or indication of why he was arrested. British consular services were again denied access.
Fully aware of the history of police impunity and violation of human rights in India, the global Sikh community acted swiftly to raise awareness. They took to social media as the #FreeJaggiNow campaign quickly gained momentum.
Protests were held in Amritsar and London as the Sikh community lobbied British MPs from across the political spectrum, who in turn urged the Foreign Secretary to intervene as a matter of urgency.
The British High Commissioner and Jagtar’s lawyer attended the court hearing on 17th November in which he was ordered to be released into judicial custody. However, later that day Jagtar was covertly transferred to Ludhiana police station and detained for seven days.
Sikh campaigners intensified their efforts as more protests took place in Washington DC, California, Ottawa and Melbourne. The British Prime Minister, Theresa May, made a statement over how concerned the British government was regarding the detainment and torture of Jagtar. In the House of Commons, Foreign Office Minister Rory Stewart threatened “extreme action” if the British citizen is being tortured.
On the 24th November, Jagtar spoke in court for the first time and stated his innocence. He requested a private meeting with the British High Commission. Despite the order from the Court, Jagtar was not allowed to meet British officials in private. Two senior Indian police officials were in attendance, thus defeating the purpose of the meeting.
This is not the first time a foreign national has been picked up and detained in this manner. In 2012 Sunderland shopkeeper Jaswant Singh Azad was picked up and initially charged with waging war against the State. He was released just over a year later as the courts concluded there was no case against him.
In 1999 Balbir Singh Bains from the UK was also detained for similar allegations. Whilst exonerating him five years later, Special Judge M L Sahni said the case was “a balloon of falsehoods”, adding “the prosecution story stands falsified”.
There have been other cases including Parmjit Singh Dhadi (UK), Mandeep Singh Dhaliwal (USA) and countless incidents from within India of Sikhs being abducted and tortured for a whole array of falsified allegations.
With the advent of social media, it has become increasingly more accessible to monitor how India violates not only its own constitution and penal codes, but also encroaches upon international conventions. It is no surprise that India has yet to ratify the UN Convention on Human Rights.
On November 28th Jagtar Singh was remanded for a further two days, followed by a similar order on November 30th, taking the total police detainment to almost a month, without a single charge sheet. British consular services have been refused to speak with their own citizen in private as the notorious police in India are granted free reigns by the judiciary system to coerce a statement.
For updates on the case please follow the #FreeJaggiNow campaign on Facebook and Twitter.