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Dharam Singh’s story is sadly like a recurring nightmare since the start of the Sikh Genocide in 1984. 

The only ray of light in this nightmare is the dream of freedom and justice that the family pray for. Like many people who had witnessed the atrocities against Sikhs since 1984, Bhai Dharam Singh campaigned for justice and became involved in the Sikh resistance movement in the 1980s and throughout the 1990s. Bhai Dharam Singh was first arrested in 1984 during the attack on Darbar Sahib alongside the many hundreds of thousands of people who were also arrested within the Darbar Sahib complex. As described in one of our previous posts, many of those arrested were sent to jails far away from loved ones to psychologically torment political prisoners and their loved ones. In the case of Bhai Dharam Singh, he was severely tortured and sent to Jodhpur Jail in Rajasthan for 5 years for reasons still unknown as there was no case registered against him.  

Bhai sahib’s softly spoken wife Bibi Mohinder Kaur told our team about the hardships her husband and their family have faced over the years. Upon release, Bhai sahib was arrested once more within a span of year. At that time, in 1990, police stated in case notes that Bhai sahib had been arrested after a ferocious gun battle between various ‘terrorists’ (Bhai sahib being among them) and the police. However in reality Bhai sahib was picked up from his village and had 18 fake murder cases planted on him. Bhai Dharam Singh was once again incarcerated in Amritsar Jail for 5 more years.

The family then filed a petition with the High Court asserting that the cases were fake and unjust and that Bhai Dharam Singh faced danger from Punjab Police, in other words, they would stop at no means to finally kill him. Bhai sahib’s family were successful, and finally Bhai Dharam Singh was released in 1995. Over the next ten years, he courageously fought against all 18 murder cases and was acquitted in all of them by 2005, thus proving his innocence. To pay for the legal fees, Bhai sahib had to sell all of his ancestral land, which is unfortunately a common method for many political prisoners. While the family thought this would be the end, the police were not going to let Bhai sahib go after winning the cases against them, as he was going to further appeal for compensation.

After being acquitted of all cases, the police did not stop harassing Bhai Dharam Singh and his family. They would repeatedly call him to a police station in Amritsar, which meant that he could not hold down a job as he would have to spend hours and sometimes days at the police station. Police repeatedly asked him what he was doing, if he had any links with other activists etc. Rather than trying to prevent any violent acts, which were usually fake cases planted on activists, police and authorities were actually fearful of a genuine political uprising. This is why many activists such as Bhai Dharam Singh are repeatedly tortured, imprisoned and then repeatedly harassed upon release to ensure that such activists do not have time to be part of a genuine and legitimate political struggle.   

Furthermore it is very common to arrest people who are somehow acquainted with well-known activists in the Sikh resistance movement. In the case of Bhai Dharam Singh, he had known Bhai Narain Singh for many, many years and both of them had witnessed the brutality of the authorities during the peak of the Sikh Genocide. They were lifelong friends and often engaged in intellectual debates in regards to issues facing the Sikh nation. In many instances, Bhai Dharam Singh had contributed to Narain Singh’s works of poetry and political literature. And it is this context which forms the background to Bhai Dharam Singh’s recent arrest in March 2013.

By January 2013, Bhai Dharam Singh had opened up a small general grocery story in a village near to his own. Yet Bhai Dharam Singh’s dream to lead a normal life with his family was not to last very long. In March 2013, Bhai Dharam Singh was arrested from his shop in front of his wife. Bibi Mohinder Kaur describes how police came on that winter’s day and they had no number plates on their vehicles to ensure no one identifies which particular district they are from. They clearly stated while arresting Bhai sahib, that they were arresting him so he would not be able to file a case against the police for the torture and fake cases he had endured. Had Bhai sahib been able to achieve this aim, it would have been a landmark victory for people who had suffered human rights abuses and whose lives have been turned upside down from illegal arrests and fake cases across the country. Instead he was arrested and implicated in fake case alongside his good friend Narain Singh and now very few people will know what Bhai sahib and many others like him have endured. The recent terrorism (Arms and Explosives Acts) charges placed on Bhai Dharam Singh have actually been created to discredit all the previous cases in which Bhai sahib fought hard to prove his innocence in. Taking into account the how the image of Sikhs, in particular baptised Amritdhari Sikhs has become synonymous with ‘terrorism’, Bhai Dharam Singh and Bhai Narain Singh’s arrests have provoked very little debate in the mainstream media. Rather it is another story of minorities that were allegedly working against national interests. Such fabricated stories work well for the terrorism and nationalism narrative that is consistently woven in the country. By the time, Bibi Mohinder Kaur finally had the chance to meet Bhai Dharam Singh in court, he been tortured so badly that he was unable to talk or speak. In addition, police and guards were reluctant to let Bibi Mohinder Kaur meet and talk to her husband properly. She was only allowed to see him from a distance…

Sadly the mainstream media will never report how writing or taking part in political activism is not terrorism. They will never reveal how Bhai sahib’s wife is unable to afford medicine for her deteriorating health or fees for her two children not that her husband has been imprisoned once again. How Bhai sahib and many others have endured cruel torture and imprisonment numerous times. And they will never report the unwavering positive spirit that resides in the minds and hearts of Bhai Dharam Singh, Bhai Narain Singh and many other political prisoners like them who have endured such harsh conditions for their fight for truth and empowerment for all. It is for people like them, that we appeal to the sangat for their support. These political activists should be free from the threat of torture, imprisonment and any other form of intimidation and they should be living with their families. These are some of the basic rights citizens are meant to have in a thriving democracy. As we have seen though, in many instances it seems to be the complete opposite for many courageous men and women who strive for truth, justice, equality and freedom for all. Thank you to all who support SOPW.         

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