Gurpreet Singh Johal: My Brother Is Facing The Death Penalty In India For A Crime He Did Not Commit, #FreeJaggiNow

During this whole ordeal, the British Government and Foreign Office officials have repeatedly let me and the whole family down

Gurpreet Singh Johal
January 29, 2021 | 4 min. read

My brother, Jagtar Singh Johal, a British citizen, who has been tortured and imprisoned in India for over 3 years, is facing the death penalty for crimes he stands accused of but did not commit. The Indian government has yet to produce any evidence and recently has accused him of now another crime that occurred while he was already wrongfully incarcerated in a maximum-security prison. 

During this whole ordeal, the British Government and the Foreign Office officials have repeatedly let me and the whole family down. 

Whilst they have claimed that Jagtar’s case is a priority for them, the reality has been very different. Their actions and continuous procrastination has highlighted how little they care for Jagtar’s life and well being. They have failed on many of the agreed strategies, actions, and follow-ups and now the Foreign Secretary has refused to meet with the family. To make matters worse, the Foreign Secretary’s colleagues in the Home Office are continuing legal appeals to have Jagtar’s wife returned to India.

A far cry from theextreme action’ promised by the government minister in the UK Parliament.

However, despite this lack of support from our government, we, with the support of our local MP, human rights charities, and Sikh organisations, continue to push for the truth and due process - which we hope will ultimately compel the UK government to call for Jagtar’s release sooner rather than later. 

Our brother, we all call him Jaggi, has done nothing wrong. He has committed no crimes either in India or the UK, he was not wanted or a person of interest by either government, yet he has been arbitrarily detained for over 1180 days since his unlawful abduction and arrest on November 4, 2017. 

He has endured endless mental torture as well as 3rd-degree physical torture for days, forcing him into giving a weak and unclear confession. Despite all this, and being publically called a “terrorist” by the Punjab Chief Minister as well as in the media, the state has yet to file any meaningful charges or allow any legal process to flow. All of which will, we believe, ultimately result in his full acquittal and a major embarrassment for the Indian authorities. 

It is true that Jaggi is not the first to experience the oppression and human rights abuses of the Indian police and justice system. Such abuses have been documented as systematic against Sikhs post-1984. However, the fact that Jaggi a British-born man, who only went to India to get married and now faces such a traumatic ordeal, has really highlighted the injustice and incompetence of both the Indian system and the British duty of care to its own citizens. 

The question is - why? Why is the UK government so placid about the life of its citizen? Especially when you compare their actions to others imprisoned abroad.

The difference is because it is India.  

The recent historic farmers’ protests have highlighted how Modi’s nationalist government does not care for due process or human rights. While the largest protest in human history is unfolding and the death toll surpasses 100, most global leaders remain silent, including the UK government. This level of capitulation to India by western democracies and self-described bastions of human rights is incredibly dangerous and borderline complicit. 

India is the world’s largest democracy in name only when you realize how they treat minorities. Whether it is gender inequality, female sexual abuse, atrocities against religious groups, or the criminalising of dissent and free speech - India fails on every metric and is only getting worse under the BJP. The fact humanitarian organisations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have regularly reported on them has resulted in the latter being banned and ejected from India

India is not a democracy as it claims to be, nor does it have an impartial judiciary. The press is not free but under the influence of political figures. So, what faith can we have with such a broken system, let alone expect it to deliver justice for Jaggi and many others like him languishing in Indian prisons for years? 

The family is hurting, but the community is resilient. 

We will not give up and stop until Jaggi is free, as well as other Sikh political prisoners.

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Gurpreet Singh Johal hails from Glasgow, Scotland. He is an Immigration Solicitor, founder of the Scottish charity Sikh Legal Assistance Board, the brother of Jagtar Singh Johal, and the family lead campaigner for the Free Jaggi Now campaign. You can find Gurpreet on Twitter at @GSJohal85.


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