Save Bhullar – A Beginner’s Guide to the Case

bhullar.jpgThis post has been long overdue. Pagh salute to @SimNona for pushing me to finalize and publish it.

Larger and larger sections of the Sikh community are becoming familiar with the case. Despite the snide comments of the Indian media, even they have caught wind to the increasing T-shirts being seen far and wide, throughout Punjab. The Canadian youth, with the Sikh Activist Network at the forefront, have expressed their concern. The Sikh Federation has pushed for resolutions in the European Parliament and statements of concern by UK Parliamentarians. Amnesty International has weighed in with its opinion. This past weekend the mother of the discussed pleaded the case at the historic Stockton Gurdwara.

What am I talking about? The case of Professor Devender Pal Singh (Davinderpal Singh Bhullar).


Who is Professor Bhullar?

Professor Bhullar taught Electrical Engineering at Guru Nanak EngineeringCollege, Ludhiana. Davinderpal Singh was a committed teacher and Sikh. He was pained by the illegal killing of the Sikh youth and the genocidal campaign of state terrorism launched before and after 1984. He became involved in campus politics and Sikh youth movements.

Suspected, but with no evidence, of involvement in an attack on a particularly savage and brutal member of the Punjab Police, Sumedh Saini ordered the murder of Davinderpals father, friend, and uncle. Fearing for his own illegal murder, he attempted to escape Punjab and make his way to Canada.

Detained in Germany, he was extradited to India in 1995, despite appeals and attempts to gain a stay for political asylum. The German government has since tried to advocate for Professor Bhullar, as it is against German law to return someone to a country where they can be prosecuted by the death penalty. The letter the German Parliament sent to Government of India officials can be viewed here.

For the past 16 years he has been severely tortured in an Indian prison, which has resulted in neurological damage and depression.

What does his case concern?


Upon being returned to India, under torture, he was forced to sign (give a thumb print) on a blank pieces of paper [one can guess his physical state after the torture, if a professor could not sign and could only give a thumbprint] . Later he was informed (after the blank pieces of paper were filled in) that he had ‘confessed’ to a bomb blast that had occurred in 1993 in Delhi, near the Youth Congress Headquarters.

Despite no corroborative evidence and the fact that none of the 133 witnesses produced by the prosecution were able to identify him, the Indian Government went forward with its prosecution. The entire case is thus based on this alleged confession based on a thumb impression. This evidence is completely a fraud and not even allowable under Indian Law. Even this ‘fake confession’ was ‘retracted’ by the Davinderpal Singh, saying it was only under coercion that he was forced to assent. This would be thrown out of any court, including that of even India. A special exception is being made in this case, as the fraudulent ‘confession’ was made under the period when Punjab was under the draconian and spurious TADA (Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act), a law that has subsequently lapsed due to its numerous provisions, which were inconsistent with international legal principles.

That is it! That is the entire states case. And with this, a man will be put to death.

What is the latest news?

After a 3 judge bench decision in the Indian Supreme Court, split 2-1, with the lead judge Justice M.B. Shah not only called for a stay against the execution, but had even exonerated the accused and believed he should be released after over 15 years of incarceration and declared innocent. Justice M. B. Shah, who was heading three judges bench of the apex court, earlier had acquitted Prof. Bhullar. Justice Shah, rejecting the confessional statement and labeling it as bundle of lies and a tailor-made confession.

Interested in the comments by the majority ruling (the 2 judges)? Here you go with a RADICAL re-writing of notions of the meaning of a conviction. They wrote:

Exaggerated devotion [to] the rule of benefit of doubt must not nurture fanciful doubts or lingering suspicions Justice cannot be made sterile on the plea that it is better to let hundred guilty escape than punish an innocent Proof beyond reasonable doubt is a guideline, not a fetish.

Take a moment for that to seep in. Proof beyond reasonable doubt is not needed; it is just merely a nice guideline. One of the key principles of criminal justice is being re-written here.

As of May 26, 2011, the President of India, Mrs. Pratibha Patil, has rejected further review and all mercy petitions. She has stated that the Government of India is ready to execute Davinderpal Singh Bhullar.

Living on a hair, any day now, with no further notice, the Government of India can execute Davinderpal Pal Singh.

Why should you care?

Any body that cares about human rights, cares about South Asia, or even still believes in some idea called India should petition governments, world authorities, and media to publicize the case. This is NOT merely a Sikh issue. This is a HUMAN issue. Whatever your political bent; whatever your affiliation; whatever your allegiance. We need you to act!

What can you do?

Help publicize the case! Bring pressure to the Indian Government that the world is watching! There is an online petition, you can sign it here (as of the time of the writing of this post, there are nearly 5000 signers, far too few), but perhaps more important is raising the issue with political officials and your neighbors.

  • INFORM yourself read more!
  • EDUCATE others around you – yes facebook is a tool; no it is not enough (that’s slacktivism)
  • WRITE a letter to the editor in your local newspaper, show India, we are watching!
  • For US readers email your congressman/congresswoman, message President Obama, email your state assemblyman/woman, talk to your city council to pass a resolution. Move!
  • Take action! Apathy is the servant of the oppressor.

I just emailed my congressman. Leave a comment, if you actually follow through, just as you did to the professor about the book. This is far MORE important!

Maybe you have better suggestions for actions to be taken? Share them in the comments! Based on your feedback, suggestions, links, and ideas – I will update the post. This will be a bit of a ‘group-blog’ with the everyone in The Langar Hall (especially the commenters!).

List of links:

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22 Responses to “Save Bhullar – A Beginner’s Guide to the Case”

  1. A much needed post, Jodha, and a great run-down of the intricacies of this case, which as it turns out aren’t really all that intricate. I wholeheartedly agree that this is definitely a human rights issue. No quibble(s) today =)

    I have something to add that address the questions you raise about how to go about not only creating awareness, but having an impact:

    I have rarely read about activism in India on issues we in the diaspora have gotten behind, so it was refreshing when I came across this short informational piece in the Times of India that highlights what is happening within India:

    According to the article, The All India Sikh Students Federation (AISSF) and Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) have combined forces and are launching a "civil disobedience" movement and a "justice rally" starting on July 15. In addition, starting today, the AISSF launched a letter writing campaign.

    My suggestion is that we join them, at least in spirit by not only participating in marches, but also creating a cohesive “movement” through social media. Maybe there's a movement on twitter underway that I'm not aware of? The online petition, and sending messages to our congress people are an excellent start in showing people what they can do. Petitions and international fury make a considerable impact. The reason Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar were dropped from the Congress Party and Jagdish Tytler was forced to resign from his position as Indian Union Minister of State for Overseas Indian Affairs because of outrage mostly from the diaspora.

    I’ve only participated in one session of Jakara and been to a handful of public protests, so have absolutely no idea how to organize anything akin to a proper campaign, especially one rooted in social media. But am interested in hearing thoughts from commenters.

  2. Blighty Singh says:

    The matter's been brought up in the mother of all parliaments in London…….the bundestag in Berlin…….the Scottish parliament in Edinburgh………and the European parliaments in Brussels and Strasburg, British Secretaries of State have personally voiced their disapproval to the Indian Foreign Minister…………and the German government and various human rights organisations within Germany have been relentless in piling pressure on Delhi. This all came about when a couple of months ago the 3 Sikh TV stations in England (Sikh Channel……Sangat TV and Sikh TV)……which are simultaneously broadcast throught the wider European diaspora…..started their relentless campaign.
    At the end of the day……given the fact that we live in a United Europe and it is a fellow European member state : Germany, that acted illegaly according to European Law and deported Bhullar to India in the first place…… will be the joint European pressure that will save Bhullar's life. And I really do believe that the campaign will work and his life will be spared. I think the joint official European efforts are making it clear to New Delhi that the political and financial consequences of hanging Bullar will be too costly. At the end of the day India…and Indians generally are a besharm and heartless lot……Us Sikhs making a noise about it in London, Toronto or New York means nothing to the Indians. What matters to India is money, trade and arms. I think it realises that going ahead with the hanging will cost it dear in Europe on 2 fronts :
    a) ever being able to extradite anyone again
    2) unlocking the corrupt fortunes sitting in European bank accounts

    The other side effect of all this, of course, is that the many hundreds of thousands of Sikh illegals throughout Europe no longer need to worry about being deported back to India. That won't be happening.

  3. Taran Sidhu says:

    Wow – people can be so evil

  4. Mohinder Singh says:

    He should be spared the death sentence,not coz I think he is innocent but carrying out the sentence will make a martyr out of a confessed & convicted killer of 9 security personell.If he is kept in jail for the rest of his natural life,he will die ignonimously.BTW bleeding heart liberals on TLH & other sites should start thinking why Sikhs always glorify killers/criminals.In this case Mr.Bhullar was given a fair trial which led to the logic conclusion.What kind of supposidely educated person/prof.goes out and starts acting as judge,juror & executioner of innocent people,what was he teaching his students.When it is time to face music these JODHAS always cop out & start beging for mercy.

  5. Mohinder Singh says:

    @Jodha,U clarified it urself by stating every non -state agency.Well every non state agency has its own vested self interest,as for indian press it is no better than a two bit hooker,the more u pay the louder they will cheer.U are also calling for justice,but justice for who Jodha for a delusional criminal or 9 innocent people that he killed.

  6. Mohinder Singh says:

    @Jodha simple answers obfuscated by sentimental clap trap.One does not need exculpatory evidence when the suspect has already confessed and put his signature/thumbprint on confessional statement.By your own admission u have negated the non state parties and the indian press.However I still hope that Bhullar's sentence is commuted to life in prison for reason that I have already stated.Only then people will see the merciful face of Indian justice system & in time forget about someone known as Prof.Bhullar.

  7. Jodha says:

    @Mohinder – So be it for now. Our initial goal is same, even if for radically different reasons.

  8. Gurpreet says:

    I think social media is a good way of creating a movement behind this. In fact, the Sikh community has long supported Sikh rappers/musicians and comedians. Maybe it’s time for the Humbles, Sikh Knowledges, AKAamazings and jusreigns to now offer their support to human rights issues in the community by mobilizing their followers?

  9. Sim Nona says:

    Apathy is the servant of the oppressor…Nice

  10. DeepH says:

    I think a great idea would be to mobilize our sangat and door knock in our communities with information on Bhullar and this case. I know this many sound strange, but I think it may be an effective way to engage our respected communities and gauge interest as well.

    What are other tactics we can use to help bring awareness to this issue and mobilize our community behind Bhullar?

  11. […] wasnt quite the Bhullar I was looking for when I was googling information last week, but it did warrant a […]

  12. Blighty Singh says:

    "However the same non-sentimental factors for the reason behind their importance can be used by North American Sikhs to ratchet up the temperature "
    ^ Well I agree with you with regards to the United States of America. If the American cabinet took up the issue the way that the British cabinet have we all know Bhullar would be off death row right now. And I agree that Sikhs in America can do things that will raise international awareness to a whole new level. But Canada ? Come on now Jodha… honest. You know as well as I do that there would pretty much have to be the biggest earthquake the world has ever seen, in Canada, before the world even thinks about taking notice of it. Canada is a very nice country but……….there is a price for being a very nice country……..and that price is being ignored for being irrelevant. Sikh activism in Canada simply serves the purpose of making Sikh Canadians feel good about themselves…………….Internationally, it goes largely unnoticed. The American Sikhs though can do things that will get international (including India) attention. To get that 'attention' they need to do what the British sikhs did and come up with a strategy. The British sikh strategy was to get influential politicians to articulate our concerns for us. ( a sikh with a turban and beard appearing on the news talking about how bad india is, is like a famine appeal from Africa………..The public have seen it so many times the message pretty much flies over their head now). The American sikhs need to use their brains…….they need to sieze the moment. If I were an American…..I would write to, talk to, any left leaning Democrat politician…..and use the current anti-Fox News…..anti-Murdoch…rollercoaster to my advantage. I'd tell him how Murdoch's evil media claws in India (Star tv…..Star News) wants this man hanged…… he belongs to one of India's minorities. The left in England and America can smell the right wing's blood at the moment……..This could be a good time to articulate how News Corporation's Indian arm is calling for the legal murder of an innocent man.

  13. Amarinder Singh says:

    just a suggestion… some of my acquaintances have done this kind of activism business and i highly recommend writing up a template and posting it up here… it just enhances participation on an everyday readers part to just copy and paste a template and adding his or her congressmen's name and there own

  14. […] Langar Hall, a Sikh group blog, provides a very goodaccount of Devinderpal Singh’s casewhich demonstrates thesevere miscarriage of justice and whythe calls for clemency are […]

  15. Katherine says:

    Interesting coverage you have chosen for your post. Thanks for sharing it too.