On July 2, 2020, the Punjab Police arrested Italian resident Joginder Singh from his village in Akala, Distt Kapurthala while he was visiting India. He was arrested under the Unlawful Activities Preventions Act on charges of sedition and waging war against India as a prominent member of Sikhs For Justice. Sikhs For Justice is a New York-based organization behind the “Punjab Referendum 2020” campaign.
The allegations made against Joginder Singh are as follows
- Presenting a saropa to Sikhs For Justice coordinator Avtar Singh Pannu at a Gurdwara in Italy
- Participating in a Sikhs For Justice convention in Geneva, Switzerland on November 1, 2019
- Having a screenshot of a Western Union transfer between a Ran Singh and Sandeep Singh in the amount of 200 Euros on his phone.
Following the arrest, Bholath MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira visited the home of his constituent Joginder Singh, and met with his wife Gurmeet Kaur and village residents. During the visit, Khaira went live on Facebook and spoke in detail about the matter and also spoke with Gurmeet Kaur and the village leaders.
Gurmeet Kaur stated that she and her husband arrived in India on February 23, 2020. She claims that the family has no ties to terrorism in India nor Italy. Furthermore, she said that her husband has 3 stent implantations as a result of heart disease and is concerned for his well-being. She pleaded to Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amrinder Singh that her husband is innocent and should be given justice and that if anything puts his health at risk the Punjab Government will be held responsible.
Joginder Singh Gujjar has become the latest victim of the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. UAPA is the modern reincarnation of the “Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act” and the intermediate “Prevention of Terrorism Act”. UAPA is widely being used as a repression tool to intimidate and imprison minorities on weak grounds. Increasingly the Sikh youth is being charged under UAPA for possessing literature, photographs, or their social media activities. So far, 16 such cases have been registered under UAPA in Punjab against alleged Khalistanis.
UAPA gives the authorities the right to imprison people without charge and is often exercised before any actual crime is committed. An individual can be held in custody for up to 6 months before any charges are required to be presented to the court of law. UAPA enables the authorities to rule with absolute impunity. Under POTA, the predecessor to UAPA, of the 4349 individuals that were charged only 13 were convicted. Under TADA, the predecessor to POTA, the conviction rate was a mere 1%. The negligible conviction rates are a testament to the fact that these laws are being unjustly administered and widely hold no merit in the judicial system.