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26 February 2013

The Sikh Federation (UK) has produced and distributed a 7,500 word briefing to over 100 UK Members of Parliament in the last 24 hours for those who can attend to use during a debate in the UK Parliament on the Abolition of the Death Penalty in India. The two and a half hour debate is scheduled to take place in the main chamber of the House of Commons on Thursday 28 February 2013.

The briefing begins by stating:

Punishment by death is against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and a premeditated and cold-blooded killing of a human being by the state.

To highlight the significance of the issue the Sikh Federation (UK) briefing quotes the Times of India as reporting in February 2013 that India is currently reporting one death penalty sentence every third day.

The briefing provides general background on the Death Penalty in India and extensive details on the case history and current situation of Professor Davinderpal Singh Bhullar that many others misrepresent or are simply unaware of.

Bhai Amrik Singh, the Chair of the Sikh Federation (UK), said:

We expect at least one hour of the debating time to be focused on Professor Davinderpal Singh Bhullar alone. There is much that can be taken from his case history to show the fundamental failings of the Indian judicial system. If there is any justice in India the Professor should be released without any further delay.

MPs are also expected to cover the case of Balwant Singh Rajoana and the worldwide protests by Sikhs to stop his hanging last year. The briefing sets out that Dilawar Singh and Balwant Singh Rajoana witnessed the former Chief Minister of Punjab, Beant Singh, order the mass killing of innocent Sikhs - men, women, and children and goes on to say:

During Beant Singhs tenure it has been widely reported the police and paramilitary forces were responsible for the killing of more than twenty-five thousand Sikhs who were either disappeared or were killed and their bodies cremated by the police in extrajudicial executions.

The briefing also provides specific examples of extra-judicial killings of Sikhs by the police in the last two years to demonstrate the Indian authorities have returned to eliminating Sikhs and political opponents through extra-judicial killings without having to take cases to court and secure prosecutions.

UK MPs are expected to widen the debate and some may go as far as to question the Indian State as a democracy with the widespread criminalisation of politics and a judicial system that has all but failed.

It is rumoured that many pro-Indian UK politicians are making excuses and will stay away from the debate. Privately they are believed to be furious a debate is taking place that will inevitably result in criticism of India. They are saying it will be a one-sided debate as the UK Government will have no choice but to condemn India for retaining the death penalty and other human rights violations.

The Sikh Federation (UK) briefing concludes by asking UK MPs to raise a number of questions and make proposals that will exert pressure on the UK Government to work with EU Member States and other nations across the globe opposed to the death penalty to take the issue up at the United Nations.

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One of the example letters received by the Sikh Federation (UK) from an MP

Thank you for contacting me about the debate that is taking place on 28 February in the main Chamber of the House of Commons about the Abolition of the Death Penalty in India. I can confirm that I fully intend to speak during this debate. I think that the death penalty is an abuse of human rights and oppose it wherever it is in use all over the world.

As you know, I share your horror at the thought of the death sentence being carried out and have raised the case of Balwant Singh a number of times with Ministers, urging the UK government to urgently press the Indian government, in the strongest possible terms, to commute his sentence. I also raised the issue with the Indian High Commissioner and have successfully pressed him to meet with me and a number of MPs to discuss the use of the death penalty in India.

I am pleased that due to such pressure, and the campaigns carried out by a number of organisations and individuals such as yourself, it was announced by the Indian authorities that the execution of Balwant Singh will be put on hold. I understand however, that the threat of the death penalty still remains and this is an ongoing issue.

I have also written on several occasions to the Minister at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to raise this issue, and last year I presented a petition against the death penalty to the Prime Minister at No.10 Downing Street.

I assure you that I will continue to pursue the matter.

Thank you again for contacting me with these concerns. I depend on knowing the views of my constituents as it helps me to become a better MP. If I can be of any further help regarding this or any other issue then please do not hesitate to contact me again.

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