What manliness you have shown by extinguishing a few sparks. You have made the fire brighter and more furious.
~ Guru Gobind Singh, in Zafarnama – his letter to the Mughal emperor of India in 1705.
Bhai Balwant Singh Rajoana is scheduled to be hanged on March 31 for his role in the 1995 assassination of Beant Singh, Chief Minister of Punjab at that time.
Balwant Singh’s story is available all over the web, but as a short synopsis, I refer to the Sikh Organization for Prisoner Welfare:
Balwant Singh Rajoana was a police officer and gunman for Chief Minister Beant Singh. Beant was responsible for overseeing the mass genocide of Sikhs and was responsible for giving police officers such as KPS Gill (known as ‘The Butcher of Punjab’), SSP Sumedh Saini, SSP Mohammad Izhar Alam (leader of the infamous Black Cats) and others a free reign to run operations that deliberately targeted the civilian population of Punjab. This lead to a period of forced disappearances, fake ‘encounter’ killings, brutal torture, illegal detention, mass rapes, illegal seizure of property and widespread intimidation of the Sikh population.
Balwant Singh Rajoana was arrested in 1995 and has never denied involvement in the assassination plot. He has refused to make any appeals and has not recognised the authority of the courts in what has been called a matter of Sikh National Security and Sovereignty. Balwant Singh Rajoana has openly called for the death penalty recognising it as the only form of justice available to him under the Indian legal system. This may seem strange, but Balwant Singh Rajoana is inspired by the rich history of the Sikhs and their Gurus who have laid down their lives in opposition to tyranny.
While Balwant Singh welcomes his sentence, protests are taking place in India and around the world (to my knowledge, rallies have been organized in London, Vancouver, San Francisco). Some of those who are protesting are seeking clemency even though Balwant Singh himself is refusing to appeal his sentence. Others are taking up this cause to protest capital punishment, or are using this cause to continue to rally for Khalistan (an independent Sikh state).
However, by far, Balwant Singh’s sentence only provides further evidence of Indian injustice. It is yet another example of the double-standard of the Indian state in which Sikhs convicted of crimes are given life or death sentences by the judiciary, while the state-sponsored killers and torturers of Sikhs over the last three decades have roamed free with impunity and are even promoted by the state.
A wonderful essay was written in The Langar Hall by blogger Jodha:
Bhai Balwant Singh Rajoana has shaken the Sikhs. From London to Ludhiana, from Surrey to San Francisco, Sikhs are showing that the spirit of the community is not dead. We are not so focused on elections, careers, wealth, and family to forget the soul of the nation.
Despite decades of the greatest of human rights violations against Sikhs by the Indian state and obfuscation of due justice in that regard, Sikhs are still rising to make their voices heard. I do not celebrate violence and destruction, and indeed, the backdrop on this story is full of horror and tragedy. What I celebrate now is one Sikh who, true to his Maker, resists injustice and is proudly making his stand in the full spirit of chardi kala.
Like Bhagat Singh, considered by most Indians as a national hero and who was executed by the British almost 81 years ago to the day, Balwant Singh Rajoana will be remembered in a similar way. To those who are taking up his cause, I applaud all of you.
Jo Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal!