London (PTI): A group of British MPs led by the UK’s first female Sikh MP Preet Kaur Gill has written to the country’s Foreign Office calling for an urgent investigation into the arrest of a British Sikh during his visit to Punjab.
The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for British Sikhs urge UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson to ensure that Jagtar Singh Johal, arrested earlier this month by Punjab Police for his alleged role in targeted killings in the state, has his rights as a British citizen protected.
“Given that the United Kingdom Government prides itself on its commitment to openness and transparency, we find it deeply concerning that the Indian Government have detained Jagtar in this manner…I and my colleagues urge you to investigate this matter with the utmost urgency and ensure that Jagtar’s rights as a British citizen are preserved,” writes Gill in the letter.
It is also signed by fellow British Sikh MP Tanmanjeet Dhesi and other MPs from the cross-party APPG, including Lucy Allan, Alison Thewliss and Pat McFadden.
The letter, which has also been shared with the Indian High Commission in London, claims a “catalogue of failures” by the local authorities in Punjab since the arrest of Jagtar on November 4 and the failure of British consular services in the state to make contact with him.
“India is the largest democracy in the world and is rightly often touted as an example to others. As such, it is completely unacceptable that neither Jagtar’s lawyer nor a representative of the British High Commission were permitted to attend court proceedings on Friday 10 November,” it notes.
The APPG also called on the Indian government to share any information on Jagtar’s connection to terrorist or criminal activity, as claimed by the local police, with its UK counterparts because both countries share a “deep and important intelligence partnership”.
Scottish-born Jagtar was in Jalandhar with his family for his wedding last month.
The 30-year-old, reportedly arrested by plainclothes police officials in the city, has also received the backing of his local MP in Scotland Martin Docherty-Hughes.
“I am deeply concerned about the circumstances of Jagtar Singh Johal’s arrest and imprisonment in India. This has been an extremely distressing time for my constituent’s family and I am doing everything in my power to support them as their Member of Parliament,” he said.
Sikh Federation UK, a representative group leading a #FreeJaggiNow social media campaign, has quoted his lawyer Jaspal Singh Manjhpur as saying that Jagtar has been subjected to physical and mental “torture” in jail.
The group has been lobbying for action from the British government to secure the release of a “law-abiding British citizen”.
The Punjab government has claimed that Jagtar is among a group of four suspects arrested on allegations of fanning communal disturbance in the state.
Amarinder Singh, chief minister of Punjab, said last week that those arrested were using encrypted mobile software and apps for communication with handlers based in Pakistan and had been trained abroad.
“Breakthrough in targeted killings with arrest of 4, conspiracy was hatched by #ISI on foreign soil to spread communal disturbances,” he said in a recent tweet.
The “targeted killings” refer to the deaths of Shiv Sena’s Amit Arora; RSS leaders Durgadas Gupta, Jagdish Gagneja and Ravinder Gosain; Sri Hindu Takht official Amit Sharma; Dera Sacha Sauda followers Satpal and Ramesh Kumar and Pastor Sultan Masih.