sabato 6 aprile 2013

Sikhs to protest outside parliament over India death penalty

A group of Sikhs are due to protest outside the Houses of Parliament, as part of a long-standing campaign to end the death penalty in India.
Rajoana's pending execution has stirred controversy
 in India (Photo: Rajesh Sachar)
Members of Kesri Lehar will condemn the death sentences imposed on four Sikhs, including one convicted for the assassination of an Indian politician.

The BBC's Robert Pigott says the threat of execution is seen by some Sikhs as a key part of oppression against them.

India's embassy says use of the death penalty is valid under its laws.

Saturday's protest, organised by campaign group Kesri Lehar, will draw attention to the fate of Bulwant Singh Rajoana, who was sentenced to death in 2007 for his role in the 1995 assassination of Beant Singh, the chief minister of Punjab state, in India.

According to BBC religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott, he has become a potent symbol to many Sikhs of what they claim has been a campaign of oppression against them, and of their call for an independent Sikh homeland in Punjab.

'Demonstrations planned'

However, our correspondent says that one leading academic has warned the continuing demonstrating focused on conditions in Punjab could alienate young Sikhs and undermine the creation of a well integrated British Sikh identity.

But he adds that the Sikh Council has denied the widespread interest in Punjab threatens the community's excellent record of integration.

Meanwhile, the Indian embassy said the death penalty had been challenged repeatedly, but had been found by the Supreme Court to be valid under the country's constitution.

Beant Singh was killed on 31 August 1995, along with 17 others by a suicide bomber identified as Dilawar Singh. Rajoana was convicted of acting as a back-up suicide bomber should Singh have failed.

Rajoana - whose hanging was postponed by Indian officials in March 2012 - has not appealed against his sentence.

Executions are comparatively rare in India where hundreds of convicts are awaiting the death penalty. Only two have taken place since 2004.

Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, the sole surviving attacker from the 2008 Mumbai attack, was executed in November 2012, while Kashmiri militant Afzal Guru was hanged in February.

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