Dumbarton family in fight to free ‘tortured’ brother from Indian prison
Guri and Jagtar Johal and their parents who are fighting to bring their son home to Oxhill in Dumbarton.
February 28, 2018 – A Dumbarton man is languishing in prison in India. The fact that he is a Sikh should not concern us. If Jagtar Singh Johal were of Irish, Nigerian, Polish, Chinese or Pakistani origin, it would not and should not matter in regard to the way he is being treated by the Indian authorities. He is a British citizen, one of us.
One November 4 last year, Jagtar Singh Johal, a newlywed Sikh was out shopping with his wife and cousin in Punjab. It should have been a happy time for them both.
Suddenly, he was surrounded by a number of men who grabbed him, forced him into the back of an unmarked van and raced off with him in it. It was like a scene from McMafia.
Jagtar’s whereabouts were unknown until he was produced in court the next day, and it was revealed that the men who had abducted him were police officers, dressed in civilian clothing who had refused to identify themselves.
The days following his court appearance on 5 November, 2017, the Chief Minister of Punjab, Captain Amarinder Singh, along with senior police officials and Indian news outlets, began to report that Jagtar was guilty of helping plan the murders of various right wing leaders in India.
Not that he had been charged with these crimes but that he was guilty of them.
Remarkably, according to his family in Oxhill, Dumbarton, no due process was followed. There was no formal arrest but the State had already declared they had captured Jagtar as a ‘terrorist mastermind’ who was behind the killings in Punjab, which took place whilst he was in the U.K.
His brother Guri told The DEMOCRAT: “Jagtar continues to be tried in the Indian media and the State’s propaganda machine has been in full force against him, labelling him a terrorist, an extremist and a murderer. To this day, despite over a hundred days in detention, no evidence has been put forward by the police.
“In fact, the allegations against Jagtar have changed on a regular basis. Just this past week, Jagtar was taken to another secret hearing in which he was accused of further crimes, with no notice to his defence lawyer.”
Guri, who works at Strathclyde University, tells us it has been confirmed that Jagtar was physically tortured in police custody during the first four days of his abduction.
He said: “During the time Jagtar was tortured, he was held at an undisclosed location and was denied access to a lawyer. Jagtar has since confided in his lawyer that during these days of torture, he was also forced to sign several blank sheets of paper and was made to confess on video under duress.
“These forced ISIS style confession videos were then leaked to the right-wing State media, accompanied by terrifying hyper-nationalism, the kind viewed in the Gujrat riots in 2002 which continue to plague India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.”
The Indian State has strenuously denied all allegations of torture.
However, when Jagtar’s family and lawyer requested that an independent medical examination be carried out, the State’s legal team vigorously opposed the application without any specific reason, stating that the prison doctor had carried out a visual examination and there were no injuries.
His family believe Jagtar was targeted for his “social activism”. Guri said: “My brother, like thousands of Sikhs worldwide, continues to be haunted by the Sikh Genocide in 1984 and the ongoing persecution of Sikhs in India.
“While voices yearning to highlight the human rights violations in India continue to be stifled, Sikhs have turned to peaceful protests, demonstrations, online resources and social media to help bring attention to these issues.”
Currently, Jagtar remains incarcerated in Nabha Jail. While imprisoned, his family say he has not been allowed to have any private meetings with his lawyer or the British High Commission. “He is flanked by two senior police officers at every meeting,” said Guri.
The Johal family further claim there has been no openness and transparency in investigating the allegations of torture and mistreatment – nor the allegations against Jagtar.
Guri said: “The concerns about the utter failure in India to follow due process are worryingly echoed by the self-proclaimed largest democracy in the world’s failure to ratify the Convention on the Prevention of Torture.
“Jagtar should be with his wife and family in the UK and not in a High Security Prison. He should be enjoying his wedded life as opposed to being subject to third degree torture and detained without charge for over 100 days.”
To raise awareness of the Jagtar Singh Johal case, follow and share the #FreeJaggiNow campaign on social media: